On Sheet – Back to Basics

On Sheet – Back to Basics

o you might have read about our crazy op session the other night (detailed and derailed HERE). So it was a tough night – I ran around sweating like a pig, even though my only job (the Shelfton Turn) ran ten feet out, switched in one quick runaround to hit all the trailing turnouts, dropped and came back in to work a short branch run to Iron City Brewery. Total wait time – one and a half hours. Total running time – thirty minutes. Not such a good night.

But club fun night wasn’t over. I stayed until 11pm so that the freight carding guys could run the last two freights (they’d rather run two trains across thirty or more minutes then change some of the waybills). And someone wanted to talk my ear off. Finally everyone left (at 11:15pm). Got out of the car in the cold rain to lock the gate. I decided (on the way home) that I’d just skip the blog until morning and go to bed. Rolled into the blankets at midnight.

At 12:40 am, the phone goes off (first the cell – I checked – it was the talker guy mentioned above – what could he want?). Tossed the phone and went back to bed. I heard it ring again and put the cover over my head. Then the house phone rang. WTF does he want? Thinking it must be important, that maybe he’s on the side of the road, disabled, dying, I picked up.

So the punchline is that with all the talking, he left something at the club. He went back, opened the gate, got his stuff, then left. But now he was standing in the colder, heavier rain, trying to get the gate lock back on. The lock wouldn’t engage. He asked me how he’s supposed to lock it?

Why is everyone so helpless? I just locked in in the cold dark wet too.

So I told him easy, easy. I started explaining the tricks of the lock, that he should get in his car, turn on the dome light and open up the combination again to make sure it was working right. Sometimes that’s what it takes. And I know that other people will be out tomorrow and I was going to tell him to just leave it on the gate and they’d deal with it in under sunny skies.

And that’s when he started yelling at me, about cheap locks and why isn’t it maintained and why can’t he just lock it like a normal lock? I mean, filling-my-ear screaming. I start to get pissed (man, he got me out of bed to deal with this). I start to tell him to shut up and he’s bellowing more at me, loud.

“That’s it,” I shouted back and slammed the phone down. Lay in bed and heard the cell and the landline both ring one last time. I lay in bed, window open, listening to the patter of rain, seething.

Okay, there is a point to this story.

Today I had other things I was going to do. I was going to work on my Tuscarora and review a club member’s timetable. But I was still pissed at getting yelled at that I couldn’t focus. So I’d been thinking of swapping out my LM&O reefer used on the Tuscarora with a PFE reefer from my home layout. Looked through my collection and found a really nice reefer, an old 1930’s roller I could dust up and make pretty for the branch. But the reason it wasn’t in use was because it had crummy trucks with Rapido couplers. Worse, I couldn’t just swap them for better trucks. The trucks were mounted on a shaft with tabs at the end, not a simple pin. This would require using the original trucks and swapping couplers.

And that’s the point of this – I whiled away the day in this one-shot basic project. I first tried to build a coupler in the old mount but that wouldn’t work – it was not the right size and wouldn’t stay in. But in my toolbox I found some body-mount couplers I’d bought twenty years ago. They’d work. Sawed off the old couplers – committed now. Drilled a pilot hole on one end of the underdeck and screwed the box in place. Putting the trucks back on showed that they were riding a half-knuckle high. So I got some scrap polystyrene (I’d like to say I carefully measured the width I needed but, no, I just looked through the scraps and decided, “Yes, this looks right”). Drilled a pilot hole through the shim and then made a coupler sandwich which – God loves fools and modelers who don’t measure – allowed the couplers to mate perfectly. Then I swapped out the grubby pig-iron wheels for some nice Fox Valley’s that fit like a charm. So the decking is done. Now I just need to weather the car and we’re good to go.

In all aspects of this hobby, it is sometimes best to step away, to try something new. I haven’t worked on couplers for years (most cars come as Kadees these days). Two days ago, I thought about bringing in the PFE. Now it’s a reality. And I feel better about everything (well, I’m blocking calls from the gate crasher – I’m not really interested in his side of the story). But yes, I have a very comfortable level of satisfaction over taking on this new project and working it to completion today.

World’s greatest hobby.