Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Straco Layout, Part 1 - Outlining the plan

As if there was any doubt, I've decided to go ahead and build a simple layout for the Straco Express. This cheap Japanese HO-scale electric train is only marginally operational, and needs as many favorable conditions as possible to work.

You can read more about the strange origins of this train set -- possibly built by Bandai for the J. Strauss Company -- in my earlier posts.

What I'd really like to do is just let the train run around a completed circle of track -- at least once. But there are some basic issues I need to address:

1) The metal that the track's made of is very thin, and easily bent. I need to straighten virtually every piece I intend to use.

This is what I have to work with.
Note how the rail at left is splayed out,
compared to the one at right.
2) The metal that the track's made of is really thin, so every time a section was disconnected over the years, it pulled apart a little bit. This meant that when sections were reconnected, they didn't fit tightly together, weakening the electrical circuit. And each time the track sections were pulled apart, the connections just got looser. I'll need to crimp the tubular track back into place with needle nose pliers.

3) The track's old, so there is some corrosion (which hinders electrical contact), and there's some dirt build-up (which also hinders electrical contact). I'll have to give the exposed metal a good cleaning.

4) The track's mismatched. I'm actually having to use track from at least two different sources, and there's a small difference in height. Which means I might have to shim up the slimmer pieces to ensure a smooth transition.

5) The rolling stock's too light. While the locomotive has plenty of weight, the cars it pull don't. So it takes very little irregularity in the rails to have the wheels jump the track. I can't really add weight to the cars, as the locomotive's motor has just enough power to pull them as is. I'll need to make sure the track is as flat and smooth as possible.

So the plan is to build a simple flat surface I can affix the re-straightened and cleaned up track to. It may take a little while. I'll provide updates as the project progresses.

Everyone needs a hobby, I guess!

Read more about the whole project here.


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