‘m trying to get my Cuesta Grade back up after two years of inertness. The yard switchers I got running at the club a week ago – took some coaxing but eventually they were moving smooth. The steam engines I had real concerns over. Their motors were a bit more buried – no popping the shells and thumbing the armatures of these brutes over.
I got the Salinas switcher running after pushing, coaxing and cursing at the club Monday night. I was using the main at Martin. At first it was sputtering progress. And then, suddenly, she was running like silk. I decided that I should just let her go – someone else was in the process of getting a train rolling in Calypso but there was room for the two of us on the sprawling layout. I opened the throttle, checked my immediate turnout out of Weirton, then ran to staging to set the route through the main. Back there, everyone always leaves the throats set to last in.
I was just coming out of our little staging hole when I heard it – the beep of a booster shorting. And I was all the way across the room, on the other side of the aircraft carrier peninsula. I ran back to my engine as quickly as I could but by then the damage was done. The turnout out of West Mingo was set for the siding. My steamer had gone to ground, still shorting, and the result was that both truck sets were a mangled mess.
I will admit that I was a mixture of frustration and anger. How many times do we have to tell the membership to always realign the turnouts to the main? We keep saying this and people are always leaving them open. In the real world, this can result in death and destruction. Here, only destruction – the loss of my beloved Mikado.
I put it aside (I was too worked up to even deal with it, looking at those backfolded blobs of plastic with metal wheels jutting from them). I worked a little scenery and talked with people and eventually worked out something for myself.
Yes, operators should always realign turnouts to the main.
But as an operator, I need to stay with my train. I can’t be on the other side of the building, not when running precious equipment. Even though this was a turnout that dropped me, derailments can (and often do) occur, especially with something as ungainly as a steam engine under full test power. I should have stayed with it. So a lesson on me.
Once I came to that realization and calmed down a bit more, I took a good solid look at the damage. Yes, the trucks were melted to the bottom of the tender but a little pulling cracked them neatly off. Tossing that debris aside, I realized that the draw bar was intact. If I could replace the trucks…
Kato doesn’t sell them anymore.
But a little searching through my home stuff (all those drawers of boxes and cars and such) revealed a couple of spare Mikados in various levels of hanger-queenedness. But the strange find – a Pensy Mikado I simply don’t recall owning. It’s got trucks. So I’ll swap them at the club on Wednesday and see how they work.
Oh, and I’ll walk with my train.
And check for turnouts you might have left open.