A Sturdy Portable Layout for Train Shows
When my wife and I heard that Abracadata was looking for someone to build an N-scale layout for them to take to shows, we postponed our current projects for 4½ weeks and asked for the job. We got it, and began work immediately. Phone calls to Whistle Stop in Portland and a few other places confirmed what I'd already suspected: at that time (1996), the best locos for running for many hours at a time nonstop were Atlas GPs—their newest technology. We got a GP7 and a GP30 and some rolling stock to go with them. We also got Bachmann's Brill St. trolley and Main St. trolley and told them to run whichever runs best and to oil and clean them responsibly, and if either ever gave them trouble, they could utilize Bachmann's lifetime guarantee; they could send in the problem trolley for fixing/replacement and still have the other one for their shows. We also asked what would be the best throttle to run two trains at once for many hours at a time without overheating or other symptoms—throwing the overload protector at shows must not occur. They said that a 1-amp MRC Dualpower #2800 would do the trick because the Atlas GPs wouldn't need over ¼ to 1/3 amp each. We followed this advice as well.
Since the desired layout size was 36" by 24" (I later asked for, and got, the 24" changed to 26"), we knew that there would be a tendency for sharp-curve-based problems. And there was: the car behind the Rio Grande GP30 tried to derail.
I once fixed a similar problem on an N-scale Atlas Rio Grande RS3 by ignoring the instructions for body-mounting the coupler and, instead, I truck-mounted a different coupler. I was using it for a switcher that did delayed-action car spotting. The method worked. So I considered doing the same for the GP30, but decided I'd try something different this time since body-mounted couplers look better:
I added a lot of lead weight (would you believe I filled it half full?) to the boxcar behind the GP30 until it was simply too heavy to derail. I made a note to tell them to expect to replace wheel sets occasionally because of all the wear this might cause. Much testing confirmed that this method would work to preclude derailments. However, other derailments happened for a different reason. Three Con-cor flatcars were derailing because of Con-cor's shallow wheel flanges. Tests confirmed that replacing these with Micro-Trains wheel sets would fix this problem, so I effected this change as well.
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