Reliability for computer control
Electronics is always 100% reliable, right?
- Don't skimp on wiring. It is a job for the life of the railway; you don't want to do it twice.
- 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!
- Make sure that the point motors operate every time. 99% isn't good enough.
I imagine most modellers will know a lot more than me about making track reliable. I have picked up the following tips.
- Don't have step changes in rail height. check fishplate joins carefully - particularly if plastic fishplates have been used for isolation.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Computerised control demands reliable operation. The rolling stock has a major part to play!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Couplings must not dip into the well between the rails. There are obstructions there on points etc.
- 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.