Fall 1982 - Page 4
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Bob Higgins has developed the most consistent method yet to test model locomotives, b ut you need to understand H OW w e d o it so you can transfer o ur re sults to the " real w orld" o f Y OUR model railroad . .
Testing is a bout e qual p arts a rt a nd science, regardless . ... Nearly all of us are willing to accept the logic of the s trengths a nd w eaknesses of testing as long as the tests are in some o ther field t han o ur o wn. Consider, as examples of w hat I 'm saying, the controversy over intelligence tests a nd atomic blast testing. We d on ' t have that extreme controversy a bout o ur m odel locomotive tests b ut, boy do w e g et letters . ... In general, the letters complain t hat t he " toy" locomotives w e t est operate far, far too m uch like models or even brass engines . The most common question r uns s omething like this: " My Life-Like, Bachmann a nd Tyco engines s urge a nd wobble a nd barely r un , yet y our t est reports s how t hem to have nearly as good a slow s peed p erformance a nd p ulling p ower as a n Atlas o r P rotoPower c an-motored diesel. H ow d o y our e ngines perform so well?" The first a nswer w e h ave to offer is t hat t he n umbes d o n ot lie - our test results are truly production line models. There's also a truly big " but"; w e test EVERY locomotive twice; once directly " out-of-the-box" (just like t hat first column of figures in EVERY t est says) a nd w e t h en t est them again " Lubed a nd T un ed" ( and with a dded w eight w here w e can a dd it). I f y ou think w e d isassemble every engine, clean it, a djust a ny s loppy gears, improve a ny p oor electrical contact a nd a dd w eight as t hough it were a contest e ntry y ou really DO UNDERSTAND OUR TESTS, because that's precisely w hat w e d o to every engine. We do the best w e can to make that engine r un as best as it can w ithout a dding a ny special parts, wires, gears, motors or o ther " trick" s tuff - just LaBelle' s n umber 106 g rease (we have yet to find ANYTHING t hat m akes as m uch of a n i mprovement a s this ol1e b rand of grease) and, i f t he motor will n ot be overstressed by additional weight, w e a dd as much as the motor will allow (before overheating) o r (the usual limiting factor) as m uch as w e can squeeze inside the body o r s uperstruc ture. Can you make y our locomotives r un t hat well? Probably 110t , u nless you have several years of experience in determining just w hat t he problems might be with gear m esh, electrical pickup, a nearly-overloaded motor, etc., etc. We tell you precisely w hat we found wrong with a ny locomotive w e t est b ut t hat fault may not a ppear o n the exact same brand a nd m odel t hat y ou o wn - some
o ther fault o r faults may lie in y our model. You can certainly benefit from o ur experience (really, Bob Higgins and o ur e ditor's experience in designing locomotives and judging locomotive contest entrants) by reading EVERY t est (even if it's a locomotive you d on't care about) to see just w hat the wide range of POSSIBLE faults there are with model locomotives. No, w e d o NOT offer a locomotive-testing service to help you make yo ur m od e ls r un b etter or to help yo u find faults. We do publish a magazine that tells you how to do that for yourself. I f y ou're still s tumped, t hen w e can only suggest that you find a dealer w ho will either help you himself or that can recommend someone w ho can (for money). Remember, this is supposed to be a HOBBY and part of that hobby 's fun is also s upposed to b e the challenge of getting the most from what you purchase. The only person w ho is going to make a $40 r eady-to-run plastic locomotive run like a $400 d ealer tuned (for $100 or so if you can find a dealer willing to tune) brass import is YOU. T hat 's yet a nother reason w hy Model Railroading magazine exists; to h elp you discover the incredible array of parts a nd tricks yo u can use to m ake yo ur locomotives r un better. No magazine in the history of the hobby has devoted the effort we do to s howing you precisely h ow to IMPROVE the performance of model locomotives. Every performance test lists the improvements Bob Higgins found necessary PLUS we include an ave rage of TWO p erformance-improvemel1t t ests in EVERY iss u e; things like can motor installation s, d ual-motors, flywheels a nd e ven better track a nd electrical systems all make yo ur models r un better. This issue, w e feature o ur u sual three locomotive tests plus two tests on improved versions of existing locomotives a nd a third on special weight-addition (page 51). The next issue will have more of o ur usual performance-improvemel1t tests wi th how-to photo features so you can do w hat we did . The device that looks like a child's tee ter totter (and is nearly the same size) in the photograph is one of two locomotive test rigs that Bob Higgins created for National Model Railroad Association performance contests. This rig was photographed at the 1981 NMRA national convention in San Mateo, California during a n idle m oment b etwee n locomotive tests . The rig Bob Hig gi ns uses for ALL o ur tests looks just like this one. The hardwood platform
resists w arping w hile steel b ars p rovide t he " rails" - the bars are a djustab le to allow testing of a ny l ocomotive from N scale t hrough 0 scale with special track gauges to insure precise g auge . T he rig is simply tilted u pward to provide a n u phill grade that tests the model locomotive 's ability to climb grades. The m a ximum g rade the locomotive will climb is s hown in every test report. The ESTIMATED n umber o f cars that locomotive will pull is c alculated from the weight that locomotive will pull. The weight it will pull is a s imply physics calculation derived from the g rade it climbs with experience-proven factors for the weight of the locomotive itself a nd, if fitted, a t ender a dded to the mathematical calculations. Again, it's Bob H iggins' experiel1ce o ver more t han t wo decades of testing locomotives at contests a nd commercially (and seeing those tests results proven on club a nd h ome la youts) t hat m akes o ur tests w hat they are: the best in the business. Here's the r ub . .. O ur t est rig is virtually " perfect," w ith no d ust, n o curves, no o ut -of-gauge track, n o w ierd p ower packs, no strange deposits o n t he track from cigarette smoke, clipper oil o r d roppings from ceiling tiles. In o ther w ords, o ur test rig is o nly vaguely like yo ur h ome la yout. I t h as to be that way because the only thing you (or a nyone else) can control in a testing situation is preciSion - dirt, d ust, oil a nd o ther contamination is j ust n ot t he kind of thing w e can a dd i nto o ur t esting procedure. W hat's it all mean? Simply that you can ONLY u se o ur tests to compare to o ur tests; they simple do N OT a pply directly to y our locomoti ves a nd layout. You can, however, TRANSLATE o ur " perfect" w orld results to y our real world by selecting o ne p articular b rand a nd type locomotive (that w e h ave tested al1d t hat you own) as the " s tandard" of comparison. I f, t hen, w e t est a nother l ocomotive a nd find that it r uns s lower b ut p ulls more t han y our " s tandard ," y ou can expect similar differel1ces o n your o wn layout. D on't g et carried away with the n umb ers to the left of the decimal point either - we leave them there, rather than r ounding t hem off because we have them. You c annot see the difference between a n H O scale 2-miles p er h our a nd a n H O scale 3 m ph, let alone the difference between 2.56 a nd 2.67 m ph. We'll talk a bout o ur t est procedures some more in the next issue. eN