On Sheet – The Tragedy of Tuscarora

On Sheet – The Tragedy of Tuscarora

sat down to run my Tuscarora at the club (where I keep it). It was a slow night so I ran it myself, a one-man job. Details are HERE.

As mentioned, at the end of the session, the control tower with its computerized lever control died again. Since then, the engineer who constructed it has been over and picking through it. Unfortunately, it’s not the same problem (a bad solder joint) as the last time. We spent a couple of hours fussing over it. Right now he’s in “thinking” mode. He’s sent me some more questions about the failures (I’ll need to go to the club and make it crash and really see what happens). But yes, this is my fear – I’ve built the Tuscarora but my engineer friend is getting old. What happens if it fails after he’s passed?

These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

This is the problem with the sudden burst of technology our hobby has experienced. Back then, we had a real clock fixed up to be a fast clock – mechanically. My engines were all DC, and I could break them apart as easily as an infantryman could field strip a rifle. i put my engines through a constant rotation of inspection, getting the fuzz and gunk out of their gearing and making them run top-notch. I remember going to bed after a relaxing repair session and smelling the oil on my fingertips in the dark.

Now, with DCC, the decoder makes breaking into engines a lot more difficult. My older ones are directly wired. Some of the others have the chips soldered to the frames. I can’t really split the shell and paw through the pieces anymore.

And layouts – yes, back in the DC days, it was simply two power packs feeding DPDT toggles, going directly to the blocks. Outside of the packs themselves, every inch of my layout made sense to me. If I had a problem, it was no effort to trace it down. But now, with boosters and such, we’ve ceded control of our layouts to distant digital providers with chat-bot support staffs.

And, in the case of Tuscarora, it comes down to a micro computer (which has died before) resting on a circuit board (with a dozen chips which have unseated in the past) feeding wiring to capacitors for turnouts and god-knows-what for my signals. Essentially the power goes under the layout and trains go zoom-zoom. On good days. Right now very little is moving.

Yes, I love the ability to hop from cab to cab. And it’s great to not worry about blocks and power distribution. I love running helpers. I love sound. There is so much good that comes from technology.

But there is also a cost in the form of risk. And I’m paying that cost now.


P.S. Weird night. It ran for thirty minutes perfectly while my engineer and I tested it. Then it failed for thirty minutes. And suddenly it was running again. I actually ran a full 90 minute session (detailed HERE). But for the life of me (and us) we haven’t figured it out. Some of my operators drive a long way to run on this small layout and I hate to disappoint. The debugging continues…