Sunday, August 05, 2007

How does this thing even run?

Here is a motor to a 1903 Carlisle and Finch interurban. It is factory original, but it looks more like something that was built out of one of those "50 more projects you'll never get around to" handbooks for boys. The main frame element is a wood block to insulate the two sides (this is 2-rail, after all). The axle is electrically isolated using fiberboard tubes to support the ends of brass stub axles. The reserve unit consists of little more than some brass wipers nailed into a small piece of wood touching a drum contactor. I mean, honestly. Could you imagine Lionel doing something this cheezy? Or Ives? The reverse is built into a motorman's controller just like Lionel 2 7/8" gauge cars. Ok, I'll admit that is a nice touch.

By all rights this shouldn't work, or work very well, or certainly not work for 104 years. I have seen cases where the axle ends wear into the frames, causing excessive friction and truck misalignment to the point where the mechanism freezes. My friend's interurban is like that and runs fine upside down but not when placed on a track. My axle bearing wear isn't so bad but would only run upside down as well. Then a miracle very slowly occurred. Ever few months I would give it a go, and it would sorta grumble a bit and occasionally move a few inches. Then one day it slowly moved a whole 3 feet until it hit a curve. Then a few months later I tried again and it worked its way around the whole layout. Well in point of fact it didn't because I had too many obstructions for something this big, but when it proved it could run I moved some elevated posts and cleared a path. And it kept running better. The best part is it actually sounds like a real old streetcar (if you haven't been to a streetcar museum, go! Now!). I still don't know what its problem was and why it doesn't have one now, and I am not about to start poking and prodding around to figure it out. If you want to see how it runs check it out on youtube at the link provided, all 18 second of it.

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