Unitrack and Steam lessons learned?

Randy Clark Mar 30, 2019

  1. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member

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    I am really starting to wonder if tearing out all my mainline flextrack andd replacing it with Unitrack and super elevated curves was such a good idea. I don't recall having so many problems with licking the points on switches and pilot trucks and leading drivers hopping the rails.

    Diesels are easy. THe trocks swivel in all directions. you all already know, big steam is another srory. Even identical steam locos act differently on unitrack curves.

    I probably should have started with a stronger frame and smooth plywood base for my roadbed. R ight now I have a 1"x4" frame with 2x2 cross members with 2" pink foam recessed down level with the top of the 4x4 in most places. Where elevation and inclines are placed I doubled up on the foarm and flexed it to gain elevation.

    I may be old but I am still learning.
     
  2. Carl Sowell

    Carl Sowell TrainBoard Supporter

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    Hey Randy,

    Don't get discouraged. Here is a short video of my DIY SP AC-9, big steam, on a totally Unitrack layout. The track is laid on 2" pink foam. Yes, steamers can bring forth many opportunities but well worth it, in my opinion. My photography skills suck but then I was attempting to handle a Digitrax throttle, camera, and cup of coffee. This is only a 3 minute video.


    The second video is to show off the diesels in operation.


    Main thing Randy is don't get down on your work, you can work out the problems.

    Carl
     
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  3. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member

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    I thought I recognized some of that scenery. In all honesty, some of my Kato switches are ancient and have seen many many trains run over them. Literally hours and hours at a time. I have 2 major mountains in corners (smart huh) that give me the most grief. One lifts off and weighs about 30 lb and the other is permanent with an 18" radius super elevated Kato horseshoe in the tunnel. I pulled the superelevated track out from under the removable mountain and replaced it with standard unitrack. Those problems went away immediately. I really think the steamers don't run as smooth on superelevated track. I 'm going to follow some of Fifer's practices and do some sanding and levelling out of some foam and try to retrack a horseshoe in a remote corner. Shen I am running trains and watching tv, it's to my back so it really needs to be bullet proof.

    In reality what got me wound up tonight was that remote corner and dirty wheels on a FEF3 hoping off a Kato double crossover.

    I wish I had enough room for 1% grades which would make life much easier in big steam. The wife won't grant me anymore real estate.

    Right now, 20 Reefers and a FEF3 are running just fine.
     
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  4. Onizukachan

    Onizukachan TrainBoard Supporter

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    Come to my house, run trains on my Partial V6 on the kitchen table (not enough room for the full thing) and you’ll go home counting your blessings... seriously though, I think we all run into the moment when we wanna throw in the towel.
    Mine was when I accidentally glued the ac12 driver rods together with bullfrog snot. Luckily my wife has better vision, and more patience than I do. She fixed it for me.
     
  5. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

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    Which Kato turnouts are you using?

    I have no problems with the number six.

    The number four has more than a few problems with it. There has been discussion here and elsewhere regarding how to deal with it.

    The most frequent problem that I have with the number four is that it does not always go to the diverging properly and I must push the points manually to the stock rail. The second most frequent problem is pushed rolling stock that picks the points. After that, every once in a while, the pilots on a B-mann consolidated, ten wheeler or mogul will pick the points. Oddly enough, this does not occur with MP eight wheelers or moguls. I do have MP Pacifics and mikados, but, I do not often run them over the Kato number four.

    I do not run big steam any more, so I do not have much on that subject.
     
  6. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I'm just getting started with Unitrack. I bought two No.4s and discovered that the points on one close fine and the other does not. I've not yet hacked on one to improve its reliability. I have found that the Kato No. 4 is unforgiving to locomotives with out-of-gauge wheelsets. My SD-35s would routinely derail until I regauged the wheels, but they're fine now and after properly gauging the wheels, my Bachmann 4-8-2 will also work through a No. 4, but all at slower speeds.

    It's clear to me that I don't want Unitrack No. 4s on my mainline. My track plan allows only one to be placed at a spot where I can't fit a No. 6 and the mainline route will be the "normal" (non-diverging) straight route.
     
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  7. Carl Sowell

    Carl Sowell TrainBoard Supporter

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    The #4's are not very friendly, however I have not seen or attempted to use any lately. Perhaps KATO addressed the issues, or not. At any rate if you have not seen a demo of how to "fix" the points problem, here is one made by my friend Mike Fifer. Just posting this as info and you may have seen it previously.




    PS: I failed to mention on the AC-9 video that I have since corrected the low rider look of the loco. I jacked up the cab end to be level, looks much better.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2019
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  8. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for Mike's video Carl. He achieves the perfect result with his filing. I've seen some less attractive work elsewhere with an excessively deep notch and I want to avoid that. Like most things, it'll probably take me a number of tries to get it right.
     
  9. arbomambo

    arbomambo TrainBoard Member

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  10. Carl Sowell

    Carl Sowell TrainBoard Supporter

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    Bruce,

    I should have given you credit for this "fix", but Mike eluded to the fact that he was re-hashing your original video. At any rate, thanks for sharing.

    Carl
     
  11. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    They want gradual transitions. If the inside rail drops too fast, it's not parallel to the outside rail. The longer the fixed wheelbase, the more difference that makes. No diesel truck has the wheelbase of a Northern's drivers.
     
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  12. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Bruce, did you also notch the stock rail on the side that would help a train passing straight through (aka Normal position)? That rail is curved, so I'm not sure how easily it would want to slide out, nor if notching it is even necessary?
     
  13. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member

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    ACPTUSA, you hit it on the head. Most diesels I run are modern and 6 axle. They take any curve or switch with ease. Right now I am running all steam and hopefully soon I can stop tweaking mainline track age. Tonight has been pretty good. Been running 2 FEFs (switch them out every couple hours) with no issues. Probably 5 hours.
    Things probably aren't as bad as they sound here at home.
     
  14. arbomambo

    arbomambo TrainBoard Member

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    I did. I want to make sure that any equipment can navigate the switch, regardless of which way it is thrown. Notching the main route rail helps ensure this.
     
  15. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you. So then the curved stock rail slides out as easily as the straight one?
     

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