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Overhead and Third Rail

17656 Views 102 Replies 27 Participants Last post by  Brian Considine
Is it true that the lack of an easy to acquire and use overhead or third rail electrical supply in model form, makes it unlikely that electric locos and MU's will ever sell strongly in the UK?

I am sceptical, for the simple reason that having seen a fair number of privately owned, typically family European mainland layouts, although electric traction is a commonplace, the overhead lines are rarely modelled. It's just too vulnerable on a layout used by children; and even where it is an 'adult' layout with good attention to scenics, the most you might see are the masts on the far side from the operator position. Exhibition layouts are a different matter: but we should never forget these are a very small percentage of all layouts built.
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QUOTE (alastairq @ 21 Aug 2007, 17:11) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>don't forget to zig-zag the wires on straight runs, to avoid grooving the pan head
Have you ever tried to get catenary straight?

I'm using sommerfeldt on my HOm and it is a bit fiddly but does look good when up but it certainly wouldn't be good for kids as it restricts access to trains and would be prone to damage.
When you consider how oversize the wires have to be anyway I would say the best course for a beginners system would be just masts and either some metal clips or just fishing line to tie the pantographs at a set height. See the pics without wires here,
My HOm went to it's first show with just the masts, see topic in international section, and noone commented on the lack of wires. I'm in the process of adding the wires now as I like seeing the pantographs work but the wires are only on the scenic section to allow access to stock in the fiddleyard. Ramps at either end pick up the pantograph.

I've used third rail on one layout and started using PECO components but decided they were too delicate for the intended users so I drilled holes in the ends of sleepers and knocked in small brass pins and soldered the rail to them. Third rail is slightly raised above the running rail and makes cleaning track difficult so the stronger soldered rail is a real bonus.
I can't see rtr third rail being moulded in being viable as there are too many variations around points etc also it would be very hard to mould in securely as it isn't retained on every sleeper like the running rails.
Even the PECO stuff isn't a scale model as it clips around the rail while the real stuff just sits on top of the insulator pots. Soldering the rail on the pins actually looks better than the PECO stuff in my opinion, is actually very quick to install and makes it easy to accomodate all the end ramps etc.
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QUOTE (John Webb @ 22 Aug 2007, 11:20) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Regarding the prototype third rail - there is a metal clip on top of the insulator in which the almost square conductor rail sits. I am almost certain that the bottom of the conductor rail is shaped in some way to ensure it cannot move out of the said clip once in place.
The metal piece you mention is actually just a U shape bracket that the rail rests on, it's not actually fixed to it at all. If a train has a damaged shoe or dragging equipment it can knock the third rail off and then it can damage other pickup shoes.
I agree with the comments above about the non uniformity of third rail around pointwork and this also sometimes leads to units getting 'gapped' with all shoes in the gaps between ramps! Oops!
There are also gaps at intervals especially near access points to allow staff to safely cross tracks without the additional hazard of live rails.
I used to work a box on a Juice line but moved to a safer location where the trains still carry their own engines! I still make occasional trips into juice territory and you need to be especially careful where the rail is on the Cess side as you get off.
The sommerfeldt book is an excellent purchase.
I would still advocate brass pins as the easiest and most robust solution, if you want to represent those clips then some U brass channel on the top of each pin would work and you could use very short sections of plastic tube to represent the insulator pot.
Pics on here of different types of conductor rail.
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Here's a couple of pictures of third rail on a model I built, the first one has the Peco pots and the lower one has gthe soldered rail on brass pins. This was a simulator to test rules knowledge so the spacing of signals isn't prototypical.

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QUOTE (Gordon H @ 29 Aug 2007, 12:58) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Carstairs (complete), Deepcar (partial), High Gill (complete, but no longer in existence) - to name but three!
It would be an interesting challenge to the manufacturers if it ever happened!

The Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne had a huge HO Swiss layout and that did have catenary in the hidden fiddle yards, it wasn't scale in the hidden bits though and was the inspiration for my Swiss HOm where I've used code 75 rail in the tunnel and to lead the pantographs onto the scale stuff on view.
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QUOTE (jim s-w @ 28 Aug 2007, 21:14) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Hi John

Its not so much the wires that are the problem as dead scale OLE is nigh on invisible in 4mm scale (the contact wire is 0.25mm) What gives away its presence is the movement of the pantograph.

Ah a possible solution! How about a loco with a small motorised cam that makes the pantograph move slightly to simulate scale wires!
Add this to digital control of the pantographs , like some LGB locos, so they are correct for direction of travel etc.
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Nice work I actually thought the first pic was full size for a while!
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