It Started With An Itch – Part V
Part IV Of Gary’s Blog – The trains are running, but not very well …..
In front of me lay a sea of shiny, brand new, track. There were bends, loops, straight runs, even two sets of points. What right thinking train engine would turn down a chance to exercise their wheels over that?
Well Bonny at least tried but Lindy wasn’t having any of it. Whilst my steam engine, connected up to three carriages (I had not yet learnt that it’s better to test run a train on its own), had at least moved a bit, my diesel powered little monster refused to even budge. She just sat there looking back up at me as if say “You want me to do what …. from here!”.
Now, by this point in my fledgling career as an engine driver, I had started to read a few railway modelling magazines. And, although more than slightly thrown by the magnificent layouts that they each portrayed, I had nevertheless picked up the odd hint or two that model engines don’t always play nicely. This could be for any number of reasons, running from sheer intransigence to mechanical problems. If my trains behaviour was a symptom of the latter then I was in trouble, not having any idea at all where to start. But if it was simply a case of the former, well my two pet cats took quite a lot of pride in exhibiting very similar characteristics and if they were no problem to control?
But, trying to remain positive. Bonny had at least made an attempt at locomotion. So, having removed the sulking Lindisfarne from the track, I once again did the ‘Make it so’ thing with the E-link computer software hoping like mad that, separated from the influence of her stroppy minded sibling, Bon Accord would now agree to perform as required. But, alas, she did not!
Upon a set of rails, loosely arranged across a living room floor, both of my trains had run around like headless chickens. But now, upon the ‘Permanent Way’ (At least my grasp of the hobby speak was beginning to improve!), they were revealing a desire to partake in healthy exercise that was very much on par with my own! All the fun was rapidly going out of life.
A quick flick back through the magazines later, I started paying closer attention to the track. Was it level? Were all the bits nicely tucked up into each other? Was it dirty? The answers? A no, no and yes. Well one positive out of three wasn’t too bad. Was it?
The first two problems were interrelated. Even so, it took quite a while to resolve them. I had possibly been a tad too enthusiastic when fixing everything down and so adjusting things was a bit of a challenge. Painful though that this exercise undoubtedly was, it did have the benefit of helping me to also identify locations where problem number three had raised its ugly head. Track with smears of glue spread across them were found as so too were many that had enough fingerprints over them to keep Scotland Yard happily occupied for years. An unwelcome, but extremely valuable, lesson was being learnt.
Bonny and the black hearted Lindy had by now retreated back into their respective cardboard engine sheds. Where, sitting peering out of their plastic windows, they both observed my efforts to tidy up their play pen with such an air of casual indifference that my cats became jealous. Here was I, getting all sweaty and frustrated as I worked to make their track all nice and tidy for them. Surely, the very least that they could do was to look interested!
Trembling slightly, if this didn’t work I would be doomed to studying technical specifications deep into the night, I placed Bon Accord back on the layout. With her blue livery shining, she gleamed brightly back at me, watching closely as I set up the computer and relaunched the Rail Track programme. This was it. The moment of truth had arrived (Again). Come on Bonny!
With a tentative finger, I slowly increased her throttle power. I didn’t dare to look but I could hear that my efforts were being rewarded sounds were most definitely coming from her direction. I raised my eyes and got all excited as I saw that her wheels were beginning to do the turning thing. My lovely little steam engine was moving!
I began pushing the throttle lever upwards again and each time that I did, so Bon Accord’s speed increased. One lap of the track was completed, and then another. Had I got this thing sussed or what? My confidence level was now soaring through the roof and so I decided to slow her down; the computer image of a lever sliding down the screen rather than up. Bon Accord responded immediately, obeying my every command as I played away inside my virtual reality cab. What a thorough bred she was! There might not have been any smoke, clouds of steam or indeed any means of cooking a bacon sandwich but life at this moment still felt very good.
But just then Bonny started to splutter and jerk. What was wrong? I increased her speed and she was back to running like a champion. However, when I slowed her back down, so her break dancing routine recommenced. My, all too brief, moment in heaven was clearly over!
I experimented with her for quite some time and although Bonny’s ‘sweet’ speed wasn’t that low, any time she dropped below it, on certain stretches of track, problems occurred. So, I subjected those sections to a very close re-examination. However, of errant paint or glue there was no sign and a C.I.D officer could forensic away for a century and no DNA would be found. Oook !
Deciding to live with it for now, I exchanged Bonny for Lindisfarne and, dialling in her code to the computer, urged her to give the track a go. Initially she was slow in responding, but gradually, as her speed built up, so she too began to fly around the track just as her sister engine had done. It was becoming very apparent that, if I wanted to do nothing more with my trains than play Scalextric’s with them, then it was a case of job done. However, if I desired my layout to allow them to run more realistically, I still had some work to do. Problem though was, just what?