Operations with Magnets

Discussion in 'Model Rail Operations' started by Gary S., Apr 11, 2007.

  1. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Seems this forum isn't getting near as much action as I had hoped for.

    Here's something for those who are building operation-oriented layouts, I have some thoughts pertaining to the placement and use of magnets for uncoupling. I would appreciate some discussion from anyone else interested in the subject.

    First, I will discuss what I did on my layout (I have since discovered that I could have done things a little simpler, which I will discuss in the next post). Anyway, good food for thought.



    Looking at my diagram, assume there is a run-around track near the spurs which can be used to orient the engine for trailing point maneuvers as needed.

    Scenario #1 : Setting out cars on spur 1 or 2. If train is traveling to the left, we are already set up for trailing point set-outs. If train is traveling to the right, we need to do a run-around to make the spurs trailing point.

    Loco is oriented on the left end of the cars. Stop with the righthand coupler of the car to be set out over Magnet B. Uncouple.

    For spur 1: Pull to the left past spur 1, then back into spur 1, uncouple the car to be dropped off over Magnet 1 and push car to location using delayed action.

    For spur 2: Pull to the left past spur 2, then back into spur 2, uncouple the car over Magnet 2 and push car to location using delayed action.

    Scenario #2 : Setting out cars on spur 3. If train is taveling to the right, we are already set up for trailing point set-outs on spur 3. If train is traveling to the left, we need to do a run-around with the loco to make the spur a trailing point spur.

    Loco is oriented on the right end of the cars. Stop with the rear coupler of the car to be set out over Magnet A. Uncouple. Pull to the right past spur 3, then back into spur 3, uncouple the car over Magnet 3 and push car to location using delayed action.


    I think that sums up the possibilities for a simple drop-off of a single car in these spurs. Now, add in pick-ups, setting out multiple cars that are spread throughout the train, cars that are being held at the industry but are in the way and need to be moved then put back, all these things add greatly to the fun of switching.

    So, I have 5 magnets to switch these three spurs, 2 electros and 3 perms. But I think it can be done a bit simpler with only the two electromagnets. See next post.

    Attached Files:

  2. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    With only the two electromagnets at A and B, let’s consider the same scenarios:

    Looking at my diagram, assume there is a run-around track near the spurs which can be used to orient the engine for trailing point maneuvers as needed.

    Scenario #1 : Setting out cars on spur 1 or 2. If train is traveling to the left, we are already set up for trailing point set-outs. If train is traveling to the right, we need to do a run-around to make the spurs trailing point.

    Loco is oriented on the left end of the cars. Stop with the right end coupler of the car to be set out over Magnet B. Uncouple.

    For spur 1: Pull to the left past Magnet A and stop with the left end coupler of the car to be dropped off over Magnet A. Uncouple the car over Magnet A and get the couplers in delayed mode. Push car into spur 1 and drop at the industry location.

    For spur 2: Same as spur 1 but push car into spur 2

    Scenario #2 : Setting out cars on spur 3. If train is traveling to the right, we are already set up for trailing point set-outs on spur 3. If train is traveling to the left, we need to do a run-around with the loco to make the spur a trailing point spur.

    Loco is oriented on the right end of the cars. Stop with the left end coupler of the car to be set out over Magnet A. Uncouple. Pull to the right past Magnet B, stopping the coupler of the car to be set out over Magnet B. Uncouple the car to be set out, get in delayed mode, then back into spur 3 and push car to the location.

    Now, I am thinking that my 5 uncoupler arrangement may be a bit more versatile for dealing with pick-ups and hold cars, and whatever maneuvering is needed, but I will have to deal with possible unwanted uncouplings over the perm magnets.

    Would love to hear comments, I am just making all this up as I go. It seems like the logical ways this stuff could and should be done.

    Attached Files:

  3. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Another issues concerns length of spurs and magnet placement. I referred to this a bit in another thread. The diagram shows what I feel is important for spacing.

    Another concern is the end of the spur. I think there should be a bumper placed on the end at the place where the last car would be spotted. This would help with coupling up to cars that need to be picked up. If the bumper is haphazardly placed, or if there is no bumper, sometimes the cars will be pushed back some before they actually couple up. This could cause the couplers of other cars being used as a handle to end up over the uncoupling magnet. A bumper would prevent this, and would situate the handle cars where the couplers would not be over the magnet.

    Now, using electromagnets as in the second diagram above would render this topic void.

    Attached Files:

  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

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    Gary

    Thanks for your informative post and lessons learned.

    I have heard reports of 2 other issues using Kadee/MT couplers in everyday operation.

    1) when using the delayed feature, sometimes the engine doesn't push quite as smoothly as needed. The car separates from the delayed position, and then re-couples when the couplers contact each other. This seems to happen more often with very free-rolling trucks. Of course, any downgrade while pushing will kill the delayed push, too.

    2) especially in HOn3 and N with lighter cars, cars will "bounce" instead of automatically coupling.

    Have you had much experience with either of these issues? What did you do about it?

    thanks in advance
  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

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    Gary...

    Looks like fodder for an interesting discussion.

    I have tried magnets at a variety of layouts, and they are not for me. I think that the railroad is hands-on, so I should be too...! ;) Perhaps it is that the level of trackwork and slow speed characteristics of the locos that are required are (currently) beyond my capability... If I had to pick between your two installation options, I would say the one with two elecro-magents only would be my choice due to its simplicity.

    Also, the length of the spur versus length of cars plus placement of the magnet can be affected by whether the industry receives a 40 foot boxcar one week, and a 60 footer the next.

    Anyway, back to the discussion...

    I agree that this adds to the fun, but in most cases I believe the train would leave the yard blocked so that if there are multiple set-outs, they are already together in the consist.

    You could also add some rules, much as the prototype does, concerning the order and handling of the various cars. E.g. cattle cars to be directly behind the loco (1930s CNR rule); how close petroleum tankers can be to loco and/or caboose (various roads); whether the engine is allowed on the siding or has to use idler cars to lift the required cars, etc, etc.

    Hope that helps. It's only my $0.02 ;) :D

    Andrew
  6. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    I think that both of these items are related. Number 1 and 2 have happened on my layout occasionally even with my HO scale cars, mainly the very-free-rolling cars.

    It seems that we all want to have extremely free-rolling trucks on our cars. I conjecture that having just a bit of friction is actually better when doing an operations oriented layout. Especially on a layout with no grades which make the locos struggle to pull a bunch of cars uphill. When the rolling stock has more inertia and a bit of resistance, it will solve many of the coupling/uncoupling issues. Less unwanted coupling when going over magnets because there is more tension in the couplers. Less problems with the delayed action because the cars are not as likely to seperate. And better coupling because the "loose" car is less likely to be nudged away.

    I think the worst culprit when using delayed action and free-rolling cars is when the loco enters a switch... (I only have experience with atlas code 83 switches) the loco tends to wiggle and drag and clunk and even have intermittent power as it goes through, causing bad things at the coupler. This applies to delayed action and to unwanted uncouplings while pulling over permanent magnets.

    I am going to add more weight to my cars. Right now they are weighted close to NMRA standards, but I am going to experiment with adding 33% more. The extra drag shouldn't affect my layout because it has no grades and max train length is around 15 cars.
  7. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Andrew:

    I agree that rolling stock of various lengths is going to affect the ability to place the permanent magnet in the "perfect" spot. all of my cars are of the 40 foot variety. For a mixture of lengths, the "two electromagnet" set-up is probably best.

    I'm not sure why I am so interested in the automatic uncoupling versus the uncoupling pick. So far, if my layout and operations were to end up just like the few operating sessions I have had, with the limited amount of problems i have experienced, I would be happy. But I think I can make it even better by tinkering with a few things.

    It surprises me just how little interest there seems to be in operational aspects such as these topics, both on the internet and in the magazines.
  8. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Fred, I am sure you are aware, but one more issue that affects the situation is dirty track and loco wheels, which makes the loco jerk around and disturbs the tension between couplers.
  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

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    I agree that there is a bit of a gap when it comes to articles on running the layout, versus just building it. One of the things I like the most about model railroading is the social part of getting together to run some trains.

    I operate a number of layouts (as my modules are still not done hamr):

    - www.hotrak.ca setups (about every 6 weeks)
    - Wednesday night round robin (but only about once per 2 months)
    - Friday night round robin (about once per 6 weeks)
    - others as available...! ;)

    We use a variety of switch lists, and car cards & waybills. I have only been to one layout in recent memory that used magnets; all others were picks or other hands-on. Several guys have clipped the Kadee gladhands, so remote/magnet uncoupling is not even possible.

    MR had an interesting article some time ago about the paperwork aspect of operating a railroad, and two guys who had small layouts to run using all the proper forms and so on. Very interesting. I'd like to replicate this part of the railroad, but not so much for actual operations, but just so I can understand it better.

    Andrew
  10. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Andrew, it is great that you have the chance to run trains so much with a variety of people. I'm sure you get tons of valuable experience. That must be one of the reasons why I respect your opinions here on the Gauge!

    I haven't had the oppurtunity to run trains on anyone else's layout, I'm just learning as I go, trying things, and learning from the experience and from the people here. I did find a club that is only 12 miles from my house, and they have a 50x50 foot building with a huge HO scale layout under construction. I went and visited them, they took my email address and said "we'll be in contact with you." and that is the last I ever heard from them. I should probably go back over there and check with them, but human nature being as it is, a little voice is telling me "hmmm, they must not have liked you."

    I was going to do a poll in the general area concerning people's interest in operations, but couldn't figure out how to post a poll.
  11. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    I've put permanent magnets just clear of the fouling point on each of the tracks in my staging yard, just in case I feel like using it as a flat classification yard. :D However, the real reason is to make it easier to break-up passenger trains: the diaphrams between cars prevent the use of a pick or portable magnetic wand, and even the big 0-5-0 isn't of much use for this task. Because my layout is operated with walk-around throttles, operators use a Rix uncoupling tool for almost all set-outs. The major exception is the silo track at GERN Industries, where a permanent magnet is installed to provide delayed uncoupling.
    [​IMG]

    As noted, coupling can be even more of a nuisance, with some free-rolling cars bouncing away until they run out of track. :rolleyes: Luckily, I have lots of older cars that stay put, sometimes even when something is trying to move them. :oops: I'd very seriously consider using Sergent couplers on my next layout, although they wouldn't offer any improvement as far as the passenger cars go.;)

    Wayne
  12. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Man, that Gern Industries is a beautiful thing!

    Wayne, do you feel that weighting cars a little heavier than NMRA standards is something worth trying to help with the magnetic uncouplers as mentioned?
  13. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    It might help a bit, Gary, but the real culprit is the free-rolling trucks. It also helps to maintain the Kadee couplers, as they'll compound the problem if they're not centering automatically. The LPBs don't do very well when it comes to kicking couplers back into line. :rolleyes:

    Wayne
  14. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

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    Gary, have you used Kdee permanent magnets only, or have you tried others not made for a mrr?

    Loren
  15. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    On the layout, I am only using the Kadee permanent magnets (of course i am using the double coil electros too.) instead of other types of magnets. I did some experimenting with different magnets of the cheaper variety, and I could make them work, but not as well as I liked. The best I could do was put a magnet on each side of the track, but it had to stick up above the ties and was U G L Y so I abandoned the project. I have read where others have been successful with various types of "craft" (refrigerator?) magnets.

    It wouldn't hurt for you to get some cheapies and experiment. Home Depot carries several sizes and types and they are pretty cheap. I found them on the "fastener" aisle. I use them now to hold parts together as the glue dries using various metal plates and such to sandwich things in place.
  16. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    I was thinking that more weight would create more friction in the trucks. Maybe not enough though. Another thought I had was to put a thin spring wire about 1.25 inches long from under one axle, over the truck, then back down under the other axle, putting a little pressure on the wheelsets. Or, what about something to gum up the truck/axle point junction? A spot of heavy grease? Vasoline? A piece of carpet fuzz jammed in there?

    Somebody mentioned placing a small piece of wire insualtion over the axle up against the wheel, then putting the wheelset back in the truck to create friction. I tried, but it was a pain and very tedious to get it right.
  17. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

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    I asked because I have already tried them too. One type work well, but they were so thick I had to dig a hole in the tabletop and the cork roadbed. Way to much work for me. Now I put them under the packages of track nails, in case I knock them over.

    Loren
  18. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Loren, have you already installed your uncoupling magnets? Are did you decide to go with manual uncoupling?

    With the Kadee permanent magnets, if you use the "intensifier plate," the magnet will be a tad thicker than the cork roadbed and you have to recess them into the benchwork top. Since I am using foam, it was pretty easy.
  19. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

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    Gary

    Thanks for all the good info. I do want to avoid having to reach in to the layout for coupling and uncoupling. Looks like the smart thing is to mock everything up with flex track and between the rail magnets before hand-laying and burying electro- or permanent magnets.

    Since my biggest track is code 70, does anybody know whether the MT N uncoupling magnets will work for HO or HOn3? I generally have mounted (but not always) the more-to-scale Kadee #711s on my HO equipment. My HOn3 is presently a mixed bag of Kadee #714s (again, over scale) and MT N couplers. Although pretty accurate scale-wise, I'm not sure the N couplers are going to work out on my steep grades and possibly too-short transitions.

    In N, some folks use a little spring to put on the end of truck axles (one per car is often enough) to prevent the "Slinky" effect surges when the train is in motion and the bouncing when trying to couple. I think (my memory fades more than it used to) that MT actually makes these springs for the axle tips.

    - Always try to learn from others instead of making your own mistakes. There isn't enough life in a lifetime to learn everything the hard way. And the consequences are easier.
  20. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

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    Gary, right now I am using manual uncoupling. I have never had good luck with magnets, and unwanted uncoupling frustrates the daylights out of me. But, I do plan on getting a couple Kadee permanent magnets to experiment with again. Actually, I would like to go with the Sergent couplers, but the price is way out of my range.

    Loren