Written by Charles Bartel
Summer is coming, and before we know it, the Fair will be here. And I truly want to run my Chessie engine at the fair. It looked so good pulling Gary Schneider's heavy weight coaches at the February train show. But that engine was sidetracked with unknown issues during the February train show. As some may know, I bit the bullet big time last year and had 6 engines upgraded with the Revolution control system. I pushed Winona Garden Railway to get these engines done so I could run them at the November show which was canceled due to some weather interference! So I sat on these engines until the February show, my first chance to run them.
I put the steamer on and was having a good time running that passenger train, blowing the whistle and ringing the bell (one of the reasons to get the Revolution or any remote system) as the train went by those kids with their nose as close to the track as we would let them. And those of you that were there know that the train just stopped! Dead stop, no sound, nothing, naada. And there was what I thought was the smell of fried electronics. With a heavy heart, I took it off the rails and put a different engine on.
So, with the summer coming, the engine was sent to the repair shop at Winona. John, master mechanic, listened to my tale of woe. Thinking I would see him pull apart the engine boiler allowing me to see inside, I was disappointed when he pulls the tender apart. Turns out everything is in the tender. The heat and smell that I felt and thought I smelled was the cab light next to the plastic cab roof! So much for the calibrated nose picking up failed electronics! And John stated based on past experience he knew what the probable cause was - a blown fuse. Sure enough that was it. It is a surface mounted component which makes it difficult for the local shops to replace. John was going to replace the board with one he had in stock if it had a steam sound. As luck would have it, he did not have a steam unit. So, it was remove the card and send it back to the Crest shop for repair. And we are down for several weeks. (Will not be able to go back until late June given the current activities.)
However, he dangled the carrot in front of me that if he put a battery system in, he would jumper the fuse out as he has done on all of his engines, and if we had the time, he would do it while we waited! And you know that cartoon of the good side of you talking in one ear, and the devil side of you in the other ear? Picture John talking to me in one ear, and Gary Schneider talking to me in the other ear about the advantages of a battery powered engine! It was not a win/win discussion for not spending money. It took about 15 minutes, with the final hammer blow from Gary. We can take our engines over to Gary Ludwig's and run on his track right now. He has his bridge installed and is ready to go! And down the street, maybe we can hit Bob up for some track time. With the gravel in the yard, and the track in the boxes, it's going to be late summer before I have a train running in the yard. Getting track rights just could not be beat! And so, kicking and screaming at the cost, the tender was upgraded with a battery!
Now the Winona Garden Railway has a good size double track layout just steps away from the shop door. And the battery was already charged. It took about 15 seconds to walk from the door to the track. And away we went. John said I was the first to run this season and go slow as he did not know the condition of the track. So around we went at a slow speed. Found a bridge pier that had been damaged during the winter, but other than that, we were clear. The speed was increased to about peak speed for that engine and around we went. With the side rods not quite a blur, whistle blowing, and the bell ringing, it was quite a site. I see all of the advantages of the battery, and I like the idea of taking it with me to visit other layouts.
I might do one or two others, but I have too many engines to do them all. It would be different if I was just starting my engine collection. In any case, my steamer is up and running. I can even turn it on in the basement without track and blow the whistle and ring the bell. Little things bring pleasure to me.