Author Topic: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley  (Read 6973 times)

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kelticsylk

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Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« on: February 25, 2012, 12:21:26 AM »
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One of the things I've always wanted to model is a traction system. Most people know it by the name the trolley or street car. It was one of those things I grew up with in Philadelphia. As I recall, the PTC (Philadelphia Transit Co.) trolley ran on Frankford Ave well into the 1960's. In some other sections of the city you can still ride a trolley.
When we went to visit my uncle we had to go way out the other side of the city. We would take the Frankford "EL" to 69th street and catch the PST (Philadelphia Suburban Transit) which was known locally as the Red Arrow Lines. The Red Arrow part of the ride was my favorite. The cars went fast and were red and cream with the red arrow insignia on the sides, not at all like the too familiar cream over green PTC trolleys. That was long ago, before SEPTA took over all public transit and "Lightweight Rail Vehicles" came on the scene.

Fortunately for me on this project, there are N scale trolleys. I have seen quite a few traction models in 1:160 on the Internet. Some are scratchbuilt, others are modified from factory products. Some even get their power from the overhead wire. Not sure I'll go that far, but I am attempting to incorporate a trolley line into my N scale Allegheny Eastern. The obvious site for this is the Altoona section of the layout. Like most towns back in the day, the city of Altoona had its own trolley line.The Altoona area is served by the Altoona & Logan Valley transit system, now known as ARTA, though for last several decades it has used buses. Unlike Philadelphia where trolleys still run, the last trolley on the Logan Valley ran in 1954. On the Allegheny Eastern it's not 1954 yet, so the trolleys have a reprieve from the scrappers torch.

This is an early mock-up of downtown Altoona when I was just starting to develop the Logan Valley idea. The scene is supposed to be 11th Avenue and 13th Street. The white and red building is the PRR station...
The two PCC cars are supposed to be Logan Valley cars. They should be cream over orange, instead they wear PTC livery. They also should not be PCC cars, Logan Valley used very distinctive double ended trolleys made by Osgood-Bradley.

I may worry about this in the future but I'm quite happy with the cars as they are. Reminds me of Phildelphia.

The track you see is made by a Japanese company called Tomix. It's called Super Mini Tram Track. It comes out of the box looking like a section of city street. The track itself bears some semblance to the "girder rail" used in street trackage. I purchased the 103mm radius curves, which is a tad over 4 inches. Tomix produces double track but it doesn't look like what you see in the mockup. I just set up two single sections and overlapped them when I realized that would look more "realistic". To actually lay track like this would mean carving up lots of new and relatively expensive track sections.

This is what the "starter kit" I purchased looks like...
You can see how the curves contrast with a piece of wider radius Bachmann track. Beneath the tracks is a 1:160 scale drawing of the mockup. Even though the Tomix curve is tight, it's nowhere near tight enough to fit those streets. Working it into a city scape requires a bit of imagineering. The straight sections are fine, just about right in width. It's just those "huge" 4 inch curves. You either have to make your streets wide like boulevards, or find a way to make the track look like it fits narrow streets.
The track snaps together like the Kato or Bachmann products. The seams are almost invisible and the plastic is the color of wet concrete. It would easy to repaint the plastic to look more like a typical city street. Add some details and you can use it as is. The little clips are for holding double track sections together. You would simply buy the 140mm radius track and lay it next to the 103 curve. You can see what this looks like in this image from the Easy Trolley site...

You can get more information on the Tomix products at http://www.trainweb.org/tomix/ I purchased my track from a store on EBay. You can save some money and not buy the Tomix power supply or the wire leads. I just soldered wire to the bottom of the rails under the plastic. I'm using an old MRC transistor throttle I've had for years.

As you can see from some of the the photos, a Bachmann PCC car can easily negotiate a 4" radius curve. The minimum radius for real street car trackage can go as low as 35 feet. That's about 2 5/8" in N scale. Since I may want tighter curves on the Logan Valley I decided to see just how small a curve these little trolleys can handle....

It turns out that an unmodified PCC car can negotiate a 3" radius curve with no problems. Of course I wrecked a perfectly good set of trolley trucks before I found this out. I listened to somebody that told me I had to tweak them to make the cars follow tight curves. Leave the trucks alone.

I did modify my PCC cars, but not to negotiate tighter curves. There are problems with buying second hand Bachmann products. Things like split gears in both trucks on both models. This causes the drive to lock up and not move anymore. It was sort of a Bachmann "feature". They used to sell things that way. Fortunately the trucks are easy to replace with spare parts from Bachmann. Just make sure you specify that you want the NEW version of the part. Otherwise you may just get another set of freshly split gears.

The other modification had to do with aesthetics. The models just don't look quite right. PCC's ride VERY low. Their trucks are hardly visible from certain angles, as can be seen in this photo of a Johnstown Transit unit...

The Bachmann model, however, looks like the monster truck version of a PCC

This really bothered me, so I changed it. I removed the body shell and cut about 1/16th of an inch or so from the TOP of the chassis. This lowers the body to a more reasonable height.
Warning...Using a hand saw to cut the alloy they use in the chassis will take hours. A Dremel with cutting disk will speed things up considerably. Take your time, however, no use destroying a perfectly good mechanism.

I was not able to get the Bachmanns to negotiate a scale 35 foot curve using the stock trucks. They would just stop dead. As it stands the little beasts will handle a 40 foot curve and that's what they are running on now...
Unlike 80 foot passenger cars, trolleys always look better negotiating tight turns

The Logan Valley is still under development (like everything else here).  Right now it loops through downtown Altoona and runs to East Altoona, across the mainline from the roundhouse. That's about 20 feet one way. It loops past the Blair Furnace area and back to Altoona on a parallel track. Unlike the real Logan Valley double ended cars, the single ended cars on the model have to be turned around by using loops
You'll notice I have not included any turnouts, using a "double track" dogbone instead of loops at each end. Trolley turnouts for street trackage are nothing like railroad turnouts. They are single point switches.
Tomix does make turnouts for the Tram track, but they don't resemble the real thing. They remind me of those tight G scale turnouts used in garden railroads. Beyond the streets, trolley lines followed standard railroad practice and the turnouts look the same as any railroad.

I'm temporarily using code 80 track for the trolley line. I thought I could live with it as most of the track will be buried in the street. After working with code 55, the stuff seems absolutely clunky. It's much harder to work with and looks terrible. I'm gonna scrap it and replace it with code 55 on "private" right of way. The Tomix track will work for some sections that run in the streets, but I may need to make something up for tighter curves. The one think I would like to do with the Tomix track is simulate the bricks that were often used around street trackage.
It may be straightforward to apply this detail to the straight sections of track. Curves are a totally different story...The brick courses curve with the track.

While this kind of detail is available in other scales, the trouble is N scale bricks are so small. It might not be possible to replicate brickwork that wouldn't look out of scale. I've looked at some brick sheeting, but it doesn't look like real brick to me. I hear there is a new product coming out that may be just what I was looking for, but I haven't seen it yet. Either way there is still the problem of using brick at curves. I have seen modelers get around this by using "asphalt" at the curves, but I'd rather use brick if I can.

If you'd like more information on trolley modeling check out http://www.eastpenn.org/index.html, just one many traction modeling sites. A Google search using "trolley model" or "traction model" will turn up all kinds of stuff.

Frank Musick
« Last Edit: February 25, 2012, 03:32:46 PM by kelticsylk »

C855B

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2012, 01:01:08 AM »
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Hmm... bricks on curves... Frank, take a look at this thread: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=23354.0

Having a Silhouette score the brick pattern along with the parting lines for the rails might be the answer.
...mike

http://www.gibboncozadandwestern.com

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SkipGear

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2012, 01:40:26 AM »
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Invest in the Spectrum Peter Witt from Bachmann. They were designed with the smallest Tomix track in mind and run much better than the standard line stuff. Besides that they come with DCC already should you need it.



Tony Hines

Philip H

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2012, 12:22:32 PM »
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Frank,
That's a really comprehensive post, both on your experiences with the Tomix track, and with your research on the prototype. I agree with Tony that the Peter Witt is a vast improvement over the PCC car.
Philip H.
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wm3798

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2012, 01:07:38 PM »
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Not if he wants PCC cars...  It would be nice if Bachmann would give the PCC the Spectrum treatment.

Despite all the progress the Bach Mann has made on their newer stuff, it infuriates me that they keep pumping out the old school GP40, U36 and other such dreck.

The GP9, RS3 and Peter Witt (not to mention their steam offerings) prove that they have it in them, but they can't seem to let go of the train set crap.

Lee
Rockin' It Old School

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

kelticsylk

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2012, 03:27:59 PM »
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Tony and Phillip,
I have seen the Peter Witt cars. They are beautiful but I was put off by the price (slim budget) and decided to wait for a second hand unit. Aside from budget constraints I really don't mind modifying the older stuff. It's the kind of "old school" model railroading I'm used to.

Lee is right, I do like the Witt car, but I really wanted to run PCC's. I also wish Bachmann would update the whole line, but then I would still wait until the better units became available second hand. I don't regret buying the PCC models. I know that there are other folks out there in the same situation and maybe now they have an alternative to throwing away a perfectly good model. The revised trucks are available for about $3 from the Bachmann site. Including spare parts the PCC's cost less than $15 each plus a bit of "sweat equity" on my part.

For me, part of the enjoyment is making something from whatever is available. I think it's one of the things that set model railroading apart from other hobbies.

Frank Musick
« Last Edit: February 25, 2012, 03:55:09 PM by kelticsylk »

rogergperkins

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2012, 04:13:01 PM »
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Kato offered a European style street car and coach.
I purchased a set, but could never determine how to incorporate a street car system into my layout design.
My city is a bit small of public mass transit.

kelticsylk

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2012, 11:01:59 PM »
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Kato offered a European style street car and coach.
I purchased a set, but could never determine how to incorporate a street car system into my layout design.
My city is a bit small of public mass transit.

It really doesn't take a lot of space to model a trolley line. Most people will create a simple oval and just run the trolley continuously around that loop. That's pretty much what the Logan Valley does. It's just that the loop is stretched along an entire third of the layout. The overall size of the Allegheny Eastern can sometimes take away from the smaller areas that would make complete layouts on their own. The benchwork is actually a set of mobile tables bolted together with a fifteen foot long bookcase supporting the aisle side of Altoona Yard. It's a rather old school layout design...
The city of Altoona fits on a small portion of the 4' x 8' table that supports it. The portion used by the Logan Valley is even smaller. Suppose I stayed within that area instead of running the 20 feet to the loop at Antis. It might look like this...
For the city streets I'm showing Tomix Tram track. I added a section where there is no street just to add some interest. This is what a traction company would call "private" right of way. The track on private right of way looks just like any railroad track except it can be built lighter. The trolley line could use 40 pound rail instead of 152 pound rail like the Pennsy used on it's main line. Here I use flex track and ballast. Doesn't necessarily need roadbed. While some lines were built with expensive road bed, these were usually high speed interurbans like the Pacific Electric, the North Shore or Philadelphia Suburban Transit. They were the exception. Many a right of way just ran across the terrain with the minimum of fills and cuts. Electric traction can handle changes in elevation that would stop a Shay dead in it's tracks. No need for a perfectly level run.

Compared to even a shortline railroad, street car systems are simplicity itself. Many just connected two points via single track with stops along the way. A train could be a single car and most of the time it was. The car went from one end of the line to the other where it stopped and reversed to return. Most street cars are double ended with double poles for just this reason. The motorman switches poles at each end of the line so the car can head back the way it came. It seems almost toylike, like a test track at the hobby shop, but that is how many traction companies operated. The chief function was to get people from one place to another. Unlike freight, people can move under their own power. There is none of the complication required to transfer freight from one place to another. The only simpler operation would be a bus company, which is why so many trolley lines converted to buses. Buses, unlike trolleys, are not restricted to the rails and can go around traffic and other obstacles. No wire, no track. The government builds and maintains the right of way, even running plows when it snows. Doesn't get any easier than that.

If I had decided to use double ended trolleys and make the plan even simpler I could have done away with the loops altogether...

The simplest plan would have been just a straight section of track down the middle of the city. The trolley would start from the right end, run down the street. stopping at every block to pick up and discharge passengers. On the left end it stop, wait until the next scheduled run and reverse the process. It may sound absolutely boring, but it would still be an effective model of a street car line.

Frank Musick

kelticsylk

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2012, 11:18:15 PM »
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Hmm... bricks on curves... Frank, take a look at this thread: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=23354.0

Having a Silhouette score the brick pattern along with the parting lines for the rails might be the answer.

Holy...That is awesome! It's almost like a laser etched the plastic. I hooked and I have even read more than a few pages. I have seen people mention using these sorts of machines for modeling, but this is the first time I've seen it outlined in photos. This looks to a fantastic modeling tool for all kinds of goodies. Aside from the street trackage I can see doing Altoona depot and the East Altoona roundhouse. God knows what else you could create with these contraptions.

Now if I can just find one at bargain prices...

Thanks for the link!

Frank Musick

coosvalley

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2012, 09:25:15 PM »
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Really cool post, thanks for sharing....

 :o :o :o

Do you know what is the largest radii tram curve they make ?




S Class

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2012, 01:42:24 AM »
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because of this thread i just found a german site that sells Combino 3 and 5 section trams like they use currently in melbourne, you mongrel now how do you expect me to go and buy those like I really want to?
Regards
Tony A

kelticsylk

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2012, 11:29:12 AM »
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Really cool post, thanks for sharing....

 :o :o :o

Do you know what is the largest radii tram curve they make ?

From what I can find the widest curve is 177mm or just shy of 7 inches. About 93 scale feet.

kelticsylk

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2012, 11:51:10 AM »
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because of this thread i just found a german site that sells Combino 3 and 5 section trams like they use currently in melbourne, you mongrel now how do you expect me to go and buy those like I really want to?

The price is a bit steep. Cheapest is 109 Euro's about $136 Australian. The shipping charges are for Europe, God knows what it would be for Oz.
It would be great for their customers if they had point and click purchasing. Looks like their sales department is stuck in the 20th century.

Couldn't find any online shops that sell them.

kelticsylk

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2012, 12:16:52 PM »
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Found a drawing of a double ended PCC used by Philadelphia Suburban Transit in September 1959 RMC.


Looks like I'll be cutting up my Bachmanns for a kitbash! One other advantage of buying second hand equipment.  If I had paid full price for a trolley model I would be REALLY hesitant about cutting two of the the shells up.

The cars are still not the Osgood Bradley units used by the real line, but I can live with that. I like PCC's.

This will allow me to drop the return loop at Blair Furnace and operate more like the real Logan Valley.I can remove the second track through Juniata (there was no double track on the A&LV. Gives me an excuse to use a passing siding there instead. Operating interest!. That sort of meet (or pass) is something that doesn't happen often (if at all) on the four track Pennsy mainline. It also opens some space for something like the carbarn/powerhouse I want to model at that end. The trolley could be made to run unattended when desired by putting an auto-reverse circuit in the wiring.

Now if there was some way to make the poles switch automatically at the end of the run.

Frank Musick

wcfn100

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Re: Tomix Tram Track and The Altoona & Logan Valley
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2012, 08:49:45 PM »
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FWIW, on my long list, is to do a model of a 'Knoxville' car.



Not exactly the same but pretty darn close.  The WCF&N only had right side entry doors, but that's easily changed on the drawing if I plan ahead.

IFIAK, the Bachmann Brill can be used as a drive if enough material can be cut away.

But the big cars are up first.  :)





Jason