Wednesday, 16 August 2017

That damned 'Pig'!

When I last mentioned 3607, my modified Austrains roundtop 'Pig' back in November 2014, all was not well, a situation that persisted for some time. It had reached the basic painting stage, as shown below:

But try as I might, I could not get the damned thing to run smoothly. It had a bind in the mechanism that I just could not find, despite completely dismantling it a couple of time and checking it very carefully and even resetting and twiddling with the CVs on the Tsunami chip. Becoming quite discouraged I consigned it to the back of the display cupboard and got on with other projects. About six months later I returned to it and spent a couple of fruitless weeks fiddling with it, all without much success (as it turned out the problems were multiple, see below), but it did make it onto the layout for extended testing and a record shot.

I could get it to run reasonably well on the workbench on DC, but put it on the layout and it ran like a demented duck with five broken wings... I even consulted the experts (thanks Marcus!), but all to no avail. 

By October 2015, a little progress had been made after a few more complete dismantling and reassemblies and it was starting to run 'sort of OK' occasionally, so I resolved to finish off the weathering and at least finish it off cosmetically. I wanted to create a fairly clean locomotive, as per this John Stormont photo of 3607 at Cootamundra in 1954, originally printed in the January 1990 edition of the RTM's 'Round House' magazine.

This photo from mid-October 2015 shows progress at that date. I used a variety of washes of gloss blacks and some sprayed Tamiya X-19 Smoke to achieve the 'freshly blackoiled' look, but as this photo shows I still had a little detail work to do to blend all the weathering together, plus fit cabside numbers, headlight and window glass, Eveleigh builder's plate and employ a crew.

A few days later and she was visually complete, representing a clean locomotive that had at least one trip under her belt. But it still wouldn't run satisfactorily!

Fast forward to April 2017 and nothing had changed, she looked nice, but was very unreliable, running very jerkily and not being a very useful engine at all, other than as a photographic prop!

Then, a chance comment on my Facebook page set me off in another direction! At last, breakthrough! After investigating, I came to the conclusion that one of the driving wheelsets was 'out of quarter' and, after swapping over the two leading wheelsets with the driving wheels in my 'spare' 36 class, I got it to run smoothly... on the workbench!

However, once placed on the layout, it was still very unreliable, despite extra pick-ups on the tender and a 'stay-alive' chip. Another month or two passed with not much change, it would run smoothly when it chose to run, but that was not often! It was very obviously a pick-up problem, but, considering the number of extra pick-ups I had added, this should not be occurring. Perhaps the standard Austrains brass tender wheels, despite much cleaning, were the problem, so I decided to replace them with some spare nickel-silver On Track wheels sets I had on hand from the original run LLV louvred vans. Being the same axle lengths and wheel diameters, they just dropped straight in and nickel-silver is reputedly a far better conductor of electricity than is brass. That part of the exercise successfully completed, I checked them for electrical continuity with my multi-meter. The electrical continuity of one side of the tender wheels was perfect, but, on the other side, nothing! On removing the bogies and checking the joint between the wire to the chip and the wipers (hidden out of sight on top of the bogie and only visible once the bogies had been removed, something it had not occurred to me to do previously!) I discovered that the connections to both bogies had broken off! No wonder the b^%$#y thing wouldn't run! A quick resolder and back on the track and perfection, it now runs like a dream! After three years of frustration, I finally have a reliable, smooth running roundtop Pig!

The District Locomotive Superintendent is now 'over the moon', as he, at last, has a locomotive that is reliable as well as pretty to help move the traffic! 

Here she is, standing in No.1 road at New Yard with a goods train, waiting for permission to depart, alongside Cowra stalwart, 5597. (The story of how 5597, a real 'Franken55', plus the scenery on 
New Yard, came to be, will be the subjects of future posts).


  1. Fantastic James! Glad you had the breakthroughs! Frustration is a killer in this hobby and you stuck with it for three years!


  2. Sounds very much like how they were in service James, while the 1:1 gauge versions did not rely on electrical pick ups, they could lay down on you in an instant, and not give any indication as to why.

    Happened to me on at least three different ones, heading south and all good as far as Bargo then laid down with lack of steam, the injector also dropped off so a compulsory stop, raised steam and water, get to Moss Vale no problems then acted up going up Exeter.

    The rotter was withdrawn after its return to Enfield, first time I had problems with that engine, 3647 but I never had a full good trip on 3658 mongrel engine.

    Ps, love the conversion on 07, worked on it in BP form to Goulburn and a good engine.

  3. Well sleuthed out James. Your 3 years of experimentation with possible fixes condensed into a very helpful guide. Should be essential reading for all owners of RTR plastic locos. Thanks for sharing