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Real Trains Plymouth and Riding Car Modifications

Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:16 pm
by DL3762
Hello all. I have been reading these forums for some time, but I've finally gotten around to posting something.

My father and I purchased Real Trains electric Plymouth number 0072, along with a three-seat riding car, in 2011. We have attended several meets since around 2010, but I don't remember seeing any other Plymouths out there, so I don't know how common the locomotives are, but maybe some of these ideas will help someone anyway. Information is useless unless shared.

One of the more recent modifications we made was to add ditch lights. The stock headlight is positioned on the front of the cab, which is pretty far back; as a result, the low hood casts a long shadow, obscuring the track immediately in front of the locomotive.
My father bored the housings, which are mostly straightforward and likely self-explanatory. Most of the depth is bored a close fit against the OD of the lamps; there is a shoulder on the front end to retain the lamps, which are held in place by a spring between the back of the lamp and the back of the housing. The mount is a piece of angle, which threads into Nylock nuts on the bottom of the locomotive base plate (running board?). The only thing not shown is the wiring: the wires pass through a hole in the bottom of the cylindrical housing, run just below the base plate/running board, and come up through the motor hole. The wires are just visible in the background of the first image, passing through into the cab alongside the thicker motor wires.

The ditchlights can be toggled between "Auto" and "Off" using what used to be the Brake switch on the handheld locomotive controller. The original 3-position Brake switch was replaced with a 2-position switch we had lying around (I do not know the part number or manufacturer). Additionally, if the headlight switch is set to "Dim", the ditch lights cannot be turned on.
The voltmeter in the picture is not stock: it is a backlit model better suited for running at night, which is the most pleasant time out here in Phoenix.
When on, the ditch lights are controlled by an Arduino microcomputer (a long-standing joke my father makes is that a young person's solution to every problem - from powering a light to drilling a hole - is to "Put a computer on it", and yet he always seems to be the first to reach for the ATTiny :lol:), which was originally programmed to flash for 30 seconds after the bell or horn was actuated. This duration proved too long, so we shortened it to 20 seconds. It seems not all FRA regulations scale equally.

Since the ditch lights were going to be LEDs, we went ahead and replaced the original halogen headlight with an LED as well. The entire project has been a wonderful success: the ditch lights illuminate just about everything in front of the locomotive, and the replacement lamp draws much less power for the same illumination. The part numbers are given in the control circuit diagram.
Locomotive Ditch Light Control Circuit.png
Control Circuit Diagram
I will make a video of the lights flashing once we have the locomotive back together. It is currently apart for a motor controller replacement project, which I will document more when it is finished (the new controller is in the mail).

edit: as a side note, I realized after submitting that I'd forgotten to resize the pictures before uploading them. I will try to remember to do that in the future.

Re: Real Trains Plymouth and Riding Car Modifications

Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 6:32 pm
by Marty_Knox
I have one of the Tom Artzberger/Hartford Shops electric Plymouths. My grandkids love it! My nephew, a mechanical engineer, put it together as a student project. I haven't got around to adding lights yet, but I did buy a Plymouth RoadRunner horn for it!

Re: Real Trains Plymouth and Riding Car Modifications

Posted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 4:51 pm
by DL3762
The first major modification we made was to add brakes. We purchased the Real Trains brake mounting kit (shoes and hangars) either with the locomotive or shortly after it arrived. I learned to tap while preparing the holes in the truck frames, sitting under a pop-up canopy in the driveway of our old house back in Oceanside.

We finally installed the kit just a few years ago, but without linkage, the shoes just hung slack, rubbing against the wheels. I did some research, and we finally settled on a pneumatic system using some Clippard parts. I thought the reservoir would look best as a black tank on the locomotive; my father wanted as much capacity as possible, and argued for a series of copper pipe runs under the riding car, supported by steel plates held up by screws running through the side of the riding car. The tops of the plates and the bottom of the riding car have runs of weather stripping applied to act as a cushion and to hold the pipes more securely in place.
There are no rigid connections in the reservoir; the individual pipes are connected by flexible tubing to allow for disconnect and drainage of every part. The barbed connectors for the tubing go into holes drilled and tapped through the sides of the pipe caps, with a sealant applied to all.
Air filters are mounted both upstream and downstream from the reservoir, secured by more screws through the sides of the riding car.
The Schrader valve, brake valve, and reservoir and cylinder pressure gauges are mounted to the front of the riding car, protected by welded steel shields.
The cylinder we chose was too big to fit between the brake hangers, so we made separate mounting plates which bolt into the hangers. Each plate is drilled and tapped to receive one end of the cylinder, which is offset from the center to as not to interfere with the bolt which holds the truck to the frame. The band-aid wrapped around the cylinder is a seal to keep dust and debris from entering the cylinder.


Re: Real Trains Plymouth and Riding Car Modifications

Posted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 5:13 pm
by DL3762
The system works well enough. We intended it mostly as a parking brake (our long-term goal is a pilgrimage to Train Mountain), and it is quite capable of holding the train. The reservoir has enough capacity for well over 100 application cycles (I lost count while testing in the garage), and the cylinders are very powerful.

There are a few limitations and issues:
  • Without a regulator or a more sophisticated valve, every application is essentially a full emergency application. The cylinders apply enough force to lock the wheels until the system gets down to around 37 PSI, which takes at least 80 cycles based on our usual starting pressure of 110+ PSI. This makes the system unsuitable for use as running brakes, but is not a problem for us as we have an electric motor and use that for braking while on the move.
  • The flexible tubing kinked in several places until we added some springs around the bends to support the tubing. The springs are visible in some of the pictures, and appear to have eliminated the problem.
  • Because of the way the brake shoes are mounted, even though the cylinders now hold the hangers apart, the shoes still rest against the wheels ever so lightly. Probably not enough to cause measurable wear, and certainly not enough to cause any drag on the train. It is really only noticeable while loading or unloading the car, as the brake shoes are closer to eye level then, and the rubbing can sometimes be heard while moving the car by hand. Again, no actual drag.
  • While this isn't a design issue, the Schrader valve leaks badly. We fitted an isolation valve immediately downstream of the first filter to mitigate this.
Despite initial concerns, the shields on the front of the riding car have not interfered with cornering so far. At least, none of the curves at Maricopa Live Steamers (which I guess would be "The other MLS" to people near Montreal) are tight enough to come close.

Below is a P&ID with part numbers.
Riding Car Brake System P&ID.png

Re: Real Trains Plymouth and Riding Car Modifications

Posted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 5:54 pm
by DL3762
My father built a 1:1 wooden replica of a FRED in 2007 as a visual aid for teaching the Railroading Merit Badge (which we did for 9 years back in California). Naturally, once we got a train of our own, a smaller FRED was in order. Unfortunately, technology in the year 2011 required that he use a large number of small LEDs instead of one of the high-power lamps available today. As a result, the FREDs we use are not really scale in appearance. They are, however, very bright, and can run for a very long time on the 12V batteries we use.

The FREDs have Velcro on the back and bottom sides; the batteries have Velcro on the top, back, and bottom sides. As a side note, we have a few other batteries with similar arrangements using magnets, for holding our GoPro cameras to the locomotive, automobiles, sides of caboose at the Verde Canyon Railway, &c. As we typically run with just the locomotive and riding car, the FRED is usually mounted on the side of the battery, which is held to the carpet of the riding car by the aforementioned Velcro.
Back when we were running with the Chula Vista Live Steamers in California, we would sometimes run with a gon behind us, so the FRED would be attached to the top of the battery in order to be seen over the wall of the gon (the battery would be inside, not out on the coupler).
The FREDs work well. They are bright enough to be seen clearly on even the brightest Phoenix summer day, and draw little enough power that, to my memory, we've never had one hooked up long enough to drain one of the batteries (I recall leaving one hooked up in the dining room for a few days, but I don't think it ever actually stopped flashing until we got sick of it and unplugged it). Assuming no other losses, the 5Ah batteries we use could run the lights for just over 13 days straight.

Circuit diagram
EOTD For Scale Live Steam_1.png
Circuit board layout
EOTD For Scale Live Steam_2.png
Every once in a while, we talk about making some new FREDs to scale (though perhaps 2.5" and not 1.5" scale), using a single high-powered LED, but as of right now that remains as much a fantasy as the tens of steam locomotives I've drawn up over the years.