Tuesday, March 06, 2018

A Hair-raising Distler/Cragstan Repair

I've tried to keep a tight focus what I acquire for the Straco Express display layout. But somehow I ended up with a few outliers, like a mid-1960s Cragstan freight set.


Sure, it's a little outside the scope of the Straco Express layout project,
but this Cragstan/Distler set did come complete in the original box.
This set was made by the German toy company Distler. The overall build quality is much higher than that of Cragstan's Japanese suppliers. The car and locomotive bodies are plastic. It's a thick, sturdy plastic that would hold up well in play.

Those elastic bands that transfer power to the axles are the first things to go.
The Japanese locomotives -- and the Distler tinplate F3 -- I have all use some type of gear drive.

This locomotive uses a belt drive. Rubber bands loop around the wheel axles and the drive rod that extends from the motor.

This set is over a half-century old, and the original belts have long since dry-rotted. But apparently, they didn't hold up to continued use, even when new.

I've seen several examples of this set with all its component parts. Every single one has a small bag with spare drive belts.

The set I have also came with replacement belts. Of course, after all this time even the replacement belts that came with my set are dry-rotted. So I need to find a solution.

Most rubber bands are simply too big. I couldn't loop it around multiple times. That made the rubber band bind to itself as it was turned. The wheels hardly turned.

I thought the rubber bands used with braces might work. They're very small and strong. The drug store didn't have any in stock, but they did have very small hair bands.

These are made of silicon rather than rubber. This keeps the bands from catching on the hairs. And as it turned out, it was just about the right size for the locomotive.

So for a dollar, I got a pack of 75 bands. That should be more than enough to keep this loco running for some time!

I used two polybands. This powers both axles and gives the locomotive a little more energy.


Ready to roll. You can see the lead and trailing trucks on the body.



The Cragstan/Distler set came with wider radius track than I have on the Straco Express layout. Fortunately, the locomotive has both leading and trailing trucks. These help keep the engine from derailing, even on the tighter curves of the Japanese track.

I'm glad to get this train rolling again. I know most collectors are content to just have something nice to put on the shelf. But these are toys and were meant to be run. So I'm happiest when they're doing what they were designed to.

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