Thursday, September 10, 2015

Summer of the switchers.

During the long Labor day weekend I got a chance to run up to Malvern.

The other night after running down to El Dorado to see the BN NW2's that arrived, I got to chatting with the foreman about the NW2's.  He told me that they were just on loan for a short time to see how they'd perform compared to the BN (ex-SLSF) MP15DC's that they'd been using a couple of years earlier.
Speaking of the MP's I asked where they were at?
He replied that they are back on the BN for now until they make a decision.  But the way he made it sound as we chatted, is that the MP's were going to get the yard duty.  The crews said they were much stronger than the NW2's and and that they were newer as well.  So we'll wait and see.  If this pans out, this will be the first new switchers on The Rock since the SW1500's arrived.

On another note, the foreman had asked me if I'd seen the other switcher that came through El Dorado the other day?  The only thing he could tell me was it was bound for the W&OV.  He laughed and then said "The SB crew got confused and brought it clear down here instead of dropping it off at the siding in Haskell.  So while it was down here in El Dorado, we got a chance to inspect it up close and personal". 

He went on to say "When the Razorback came to town the next day to pick up the daily allotment of cars, we tagged it in to the consist and they headed back north to Malvern with it in tow".  Of course knowing what power the W&OV favored, I asked him if it was an ALCo?!  He shrugged his shoulders and said "I know it wasn't an EMD unit like the BN NW2's were, cause it smoked worse than George Burns with a cigar!"

OMG!  They got an ALCo switcher!  But what model?  S2, S4, T6???  I heard Homer talking about an ALCo switcher a few months ago when the RS11 showed up....
I got get up there!

What seemed like DAYS later, I pulled into the W&OV's parking lot and was greeted with a pleasant surprise!
Sitting right in front of the house was an ALCo S2 in the old Erie Lackawana paint scheme!  What a sight!  I grabbed the camera and started shooting!

I dug out the ladder and sat it up in the bed of the truck.

Then I ran back up the hill a bit and got another shot before the sun went behind a cloud.

If it wasn't for my Arkansas license plate on the truck, I'd swear I was back east somewhere, and back in time!  Solid ALCo, sweet!  I know where I'll be spending a lot of time over the next few weeks.


The long awaited ALCo S2 from Atlas!!  What a nice model.
What little I ran it I do like it but.....
There's always a but somewhere isn't there?

The first thing I noticed about this model was how fragile it was.  While it looks good, it's also pretty fragile.  So far I haven't broke anything, but damn do you have to be careful.

The next thing I noticed was the WIRES.  Wires on the truck connection, in 2015? Really?
Well I understand the need for them, I guess?  But really, Wires?

OK, ok I'm over it.  

The next thing was the way you needed to remove the board to replace the chip. Remove the tape on the board, scotch tape, not Kapton.  Then un-clip the board off the standoffs and then you had to undo the wires that are held into the board to keep them out of the way!  Then you had to twist the board a bit so that it would come out of the frame where the cab sits just to be able to get to the chip.

Once the I got it to where I could replace it, I noticed in the Digitrax instructions that I was to note which pin was #1.   I put my reading glasses on and I did find it. Even after finding it I still managed to get the chip plugged in, in reverse, UGH! But I gotta say, barring the issues getting to it, it was the easiest chip install I've ever done.

OK, once I got the chip installed properly and got it put back together and it does run pretty good, just as an Atlas should run. Hooray!!  The first thing I noticed was that it wasn't running very smoothly, kind of as if one of the truck towers were slipping?

It made a funny noise and one of the trucks are not swiveling as smoothly as the other does.
So I played with it a bit thinking it might loosen up some. 
I coupled it up to ten cars in El Dorado, it seemed to walk away with them until I hit the slight grade up to the drill track and then it just sat there and spun it's wheels.

So one of two things I need to check on.
1) See if one of the trucks are actually slipping
2) Check to see if I got the wires to the trucks pulled back a but too much when I installed the new chip and taped them in place like they were before.  Thus preventing the trucks from swiveling easily from the tension on the wires.

If this doesn't improve the running and pulling power then I will need to dig a little deeper.  I know that it's been reported that these little units can pull at lease 20 cars, if not more on level tracks and I have my cars all weighted close to NMRA specs, give or take a bit.

If nothing improves the pulling power I see two options:  There is room to add some weight or The W&OV is going to have to purchase a second unit!  Hmmm?

I will say out of the box that they run better than the KATO NW2's that I played with.  Not meaning smoothly, but they traverse the PECO tracks and turnouts a lot better.

On to another subject.
I plan to continue with the "Second Hand Patched Job, Pressed Into Service" look that I plan to portray with the W&OV units.  The S2 will be no different.  

For the W&OV, it's only been a short time since they started up and I wanted it to look as if they are kind of strapped for cash yet.  So most of their units will still wear the paint and the road number that they carried from their previous owner, but will receive a hastily applied W&OV logo, more than likely applied with nothing more than spray can!  

I'm kind of loosely following suit what the Arkansas & Missouri did when they started up operations. The A&M chose to use solid ALCo power, so did the W&OV.
But unlike the A&M who got things painted pretty quickly, the W&OV did not and will not for some time, nor will they show their pride like the A&M does.  To the W&OV, it's a business and a job. 

Since it's Spring of 1983, I figured it might be plausible that they would have acquired most of their units from Conrail or from other roads that were thinning out their older ALCo units, or they were gotten from EMD or GE from trade-ins, hence the presence of mainly Eastern roads, like Lehigh Valley, Lehigh & Hudson River, Eire Lackawanna, as well as Central Vermont  and Maine Central.

The W&OV roster is made up of mainly C-420's and RS-11's for road power.  The S2[s] will be used for the Malvern switcher[s] 

Here's what I have in mind for a modest patch job on the S2:



And of course, it will have a much more weathered appearance as well.