South Downs Railway

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Reliability for computer control

Electronics Reliability

Electronics is always 100% reliable, right?

  1. Don't skimp on wiring. It is a job for the life of the railway; you don't want to do it twice.
  2. Make sure there are no loose wire strands (e.g. at terminal strips) that could short out. Screw terminal strips ("chocolate blocks") are very good at creating these!
  3. Make sure that the point motors operate every time. 99% isn't good enough.

Track reliability

I imagine most modellers will know a lot more than me about making track reliable. I have picked up the following tips.

  1. Don't have step changes in rail height. check fishplate joins carefully - particularly if plastic fishplates have been used for isolation.
  2. Rail height through points at crossings is critical . Mark the rail tops with a magic marker, then file out the whole point with a flat file until all the marking has gone.
  3. Avoid sudden changes in angle. Be particularly using flexitrack on curves: it is hard to get the last 10mm to follow the radius. I removed the sleepers and "pre bent" each rail to try to help here.
  4. The very end of the point switch blade can stick out. If this happens, insert a piece of cardboard behind it then gently file the blade.

Rolling Stock Reliability

Computerised control demands reliable operation. The rolling stock has a major part to play!

  1. Locomotives need reliable pick-ups. Headlight flickering is a plausible way to check for pickup issues; the light should stay solidly lit all the time.
  2. All wheels need to be checked on a "back to back" gauge. Simply insert the gauge and adjust till the wheels are set correctly. it is surprising just how far out they can be.
  3. Bogies need to be able to turn freely. If they foul the body - for example because of "flash" on the body or bogie - then it may stick and derail at a corner.
  4. Couplings must not dip into the well between the rails. There are obstructions there on points etc.
  5. The rolling stock must not be so closely coupled that the buffers "bind" on tight radius bends. I have bends down around 11 inches (270mm) and a buffer-buffer distance of 3.5mm is an absolute minimum.

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