Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fast Tracks Handlaid Switch Review

So I made my first switch using Fast Tracks

Here's the link:

I got the kit to make #6 Code 100 switches in HO Scale.

First thoughts:

1.  They messed up my initial order and it cost me an extra $45 to send back the wrong rail and receive the correct rail.

2.  The customer service takes some patience to contact, mainly because the guy you speak with is the guy who makes the stuff.

3.  That being said, he knows what he's talking about.  Leave a message and he will call you back.

4.  Print the diagram for the switch you are making.  I happened to have legal sized paper and printed mine on one page and it is absolutely a timesaver and really helps you understand what you are doing.

5.  Make your first switch in front of your computer using the videos that come with kit.  I watched all of them first and then watched each one as I completed each step.  Certain videos are out of order on purpose, mainly the ones demonstrating how to actually make the points.  Watch those very carefully.

6.  I used both my 30 watt iron and my 250 watt gun.  I found the iron sometimes not powerful enough to get the solder to flow.  The big gun is too powerful for much of the build and I actually melted a couple pc board ties with it.

Things I learned:

1.  Tinning the parts where ever you can makes things just a but easier and prevents globs of solder from forming.

2.  The Plio Bond glue is good stuff.  Make sure you shake it just like the video tells you and clean your tip everytime you use it.  Keep the box so you can stand the glue upright when not in use.  Be patient with glue, it is contact cement so give it the time to cure on both parts before connecting them.  I had some quicksticks come apart a couple time because I didn't let the glue set long enough.

3.  After I made my switch and installed it into my test track I learned right away that my points weren't sharp enough.  Just a touch from my moto-tool cutoff wheel corrected this problem.

4.  I did not make hinged point rails and have now found out that they are hard to switch positions.  I tried a ground throw, but a plastic ground throw doesn't do the trick.  I still have no intention of ever make hinged point rails at this time because the continuous ones look and perform so well.  The problem of throwing the switch is one that I can solve, just haven't gotten to that yet.

5.  The conditions I tested my first switch on are harsh.  It's carpet taped directly to carpet with no road bed.  That's my standard for testing reliability.  I post more about how and why I do this later, but for now I'll say it's mainly to test my equipment to make sure everything meets operating standards.  I also use the Life Like track with plastic road bed and standard flex track directly on carpet to incorporate a number of grade changes and soft track sections.  Anything that works on my test track works everywhere.  The switch is working better than an Atlas Snap switch that I had in there before.

6.  As poorly as I made my first switch, it's a big improvement over a ready to run snap switch.

7.  Making Fast Tracks is a good example of a skill with a learning curve.  I expect my next one to be a huge jump in quality.

8.  The form needs to be brushed thoroughly with the wire brush that comes with it.  I couldn't understand why the rails were so tough to get into the form until after I was done.  When finished I scrubbed and washed the form with a wire brush and soap to clean the acid paste flux out of it and noticed that there had been fine machining particles in the sharp places.  Rail fits much easier now.

9.  Having the rail fit well into the form will eliminate 75% of the problem I had with gaps between the rail and the PC Board ties.

10.  Fast Track swtiches are super forgiving on mistakes, which is awesome because I made so many.  I re-did a bunch of soldering outside the form with no problems.  I used my moto-tool to fine tune sharpness with no problems.

11.  Here's a tip on the point form tool:  take a thick shop rag and lay it across your bench vice and gently secure the point form tool in the vice before filing.  Then use both hands on the file to make the point.  It vastly improves the accuracy of the filing.  Also use a brass wire brush to clean the file, it does a much better job than the steel brush.

And that's my first the next one I should have more useful info and I'll do some pix to go with it.

Final thought:

I invested about $450 into everything I got.  I got enough stuff to make 15 switches and all the one-time buy tools.  That seems like a lot of money, but 10 of those switches are being bought by a couple friends which helped me with the cost.  In my group of modelers, I'm the switch guy now and that should make this investment even up for me over another couple batches.

More to come about Fast first review says Fast Tracks is some good stuff and it was fun.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My workbench has 2 sides, one side is where I work and the other side is where my 4 year daughter sits and creates various things from her imagination.

There are some extra cabs of various types in a basket close to her side and there is an Athearn DD40 that I was going to replace the cab on it.  I was looking at it and asked her what she thought I should do.  She picked a cab out of the basket and said:

"Daddy this is where the people go on that train.  You need to put this one."

It was a cab and platform for an MP15DC.  I had already cut the existing cab and rear off the shell.

"Trust me Daddy, this is where the people go."

There are about 10 other more realistic choices in the basket and I started to make an excuse, and she said:

"Daddy. This is the right one."

Who can argue?

So all I could do was agree and start making it so the cab from an MP15DC could be mounted on a DD40.  She also pointed out that I would need to install a large wire screen mesh grill on what will now be the front end of an MP40DC....

that wasn't the end of her imagination for the day....

And so I received yet another set of instructions from my 4 year daughter who is a very creative mechanical engineer....

We have a hidden test track in my office that runs under some furniture which is high enough for her to crawl under.  She likes to stage freight cars in hidden places.  It was a little dark under there and she needed a flashlight to find something the other day.

I just so happen to have a super beat up spot light MOW car with a caboose cabin and large light on it. I got it in a batch from ebay and have it all in pieces and was working to restore it.

At the same time I was experimenting with a rectifier and a bunch of LED's that I was going to use for someting else.  She picked an extra large LED out of my bin and told me that that should be the spotlight on this MOW car.

The LED she chose is 28,500mcd and as big as one of those erasers that you put on top on a pencil.  I hooked it into my circuit and showed it to her; it's blinding bright.

She said: "Daddy we are going to need at least 2 of those in case there are any ghosts."

Fortunately I have another spotlight car and now both of those cars are about as bright as a surefire flashlight.

She did approve of the small on/off switch mounted on  the deck of each car.