Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Epic Battle

If you've ever built a model railroad, and who hasn't, you know there are a lot of things that involve mass production. Whether you're fabricating grab irons for your boxcar fleet, or installing couplers, or putting in switch throws, there's a fair amount of repetitive motions.

That being the case, you'd think that you could make your parts, set up the assembly line, and start cranking things out. But there's always that one piece that doesn't want to be like all the others. There's that one coupler box that wants to pop apart when all the other ones snap together tight. Or the switch throw, that no matter how much you tweak it the points just don't close one way or the other.

Such was the case last night as I endeavored to install the slide switches in the new engine terminal. I put in three with virtually no effort. Drill a hole, insert the throw rod, wire the contacts and in she goes. Then came Number Four.

I don't know if it was just getting late, or if the second cup of coffee wore off, or just what the problem was, but this particular switch just didn't want to go in. At first, it was a simple matter of the points not closing in one direction. This is usually fixed by adding a bend here or there in the rod. Well, that got it closed the way I wanted, but shot the other direction.

So I tried a different approach, running the throw rod through the handle the other way. Well, in handling the switch this time, I managed to break off one of the, back to the soldering iron. I put Humpty Dumpty back together, and still no throw. Grrr. Turned out the rod I used was too small for the hole I drilled, and it was slopping around just enough to keep the points from moving or holding tight.

One Bigger Throw Rod Later...

I carefully bent the rod to go precisely from the slide switch to the points, gingerly clipped everything together, then ever so cautiously pressed the slide switch into the hole in the benchwork... At which point the slide switch itself decided it was time to self destruct. As I could hear the little spring and contacts clatter on the floor, I looked up to the ceiling, uttered a few utterances, and decided it was time to go to bed.

Finally this morning, with a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I resolved to start fresh with a new slide switch. Five minutes later, it was done. And so it goes...


  1. Well, your yard master appreciates your toil!

    I can't wait to get to work now.

  2. Been there more times than I can count. Hope the crew appreciates your efforts with the next ops session...

  3. I have just started installing slide switch ground throws myself (see my web page at, a variation of your method (thanks!), and I hope they get easier as I go along. My first one actually had a lot of sloppiness to it, but it works.

  4. It seems to me that it's always the last one, or, as you found out, the last one of the day that gives you the most problems. Just when you think you're finished, oh, no! In other words, I can empathize with your pain. You did the right thing by calling it a night and going to bed.

  5. Yes, when it's the last one giving you grief, you know it's time to quit, because it means you've "jumped the shark" in terms of modeling for the day.