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Well I'm home with my daughter today who's got the flu, and it's raining and I need a project

I'd like to add something like the cable, rope, or whatever it might be, to the bell and whistle on a Mikado and a Pacific. I've done this with engines that have shorter runs, like a Bachmann ten wheeler, by stripping a length of stranded wire and separating out some strands to retwist. But I can't get it to look good on a long steam engine, especially one where the bell is mounted on the smokebox. Also it's very hard to strip the insulation of a long piece of small wire

How were the whistle and bell operated on big steam? I'm guessing they probably had some kind of solid bar linkage. I was thinking of using thin unwound guitar strings, which are pretty stiff, and which I have a million of, and maybe mounting them through the eyelet ends of a few fishing hooks. Cut the hook off and drill a small hole in the boiler shell for the hooks

But I don't actually know how they would have been connected to the cab and I've had a hard time finding good images
 

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I read somewhere....

Take a piece of stranded electrical wire and undo it. Then take two of the fine strands and twist them together to look like a cord. You can shape these to drape nicely. Disclaimer: I haven't tried it yet.

I think most big steam had a "ringer" which blew compressed air on a cam-like piece to keep the bell swinging and a cord the crew would pull to start it going, or for ringing it a couple times without turning on the ringer. Of course, any of the experts can tell you how they really did it.
 

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What I used to do on model ships to get that realistic drooping cord was to use regular heavy thread, once I had it with the proper "droop" I applied thinned down white glue to it with a q-tip or brush, when it dried, it was stiff. lot less hastle than wire.
 

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On the big ones (and later ones), they usually used a steam-powered ringer, rather than a cable. So, you may be able to skip it altogether, or just run a piece of piping to the ringer. Can you find a prototype photo or plan in the MR database?
 

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Model ship rigging works really well for simulating rope, also, if you don't have any, waxed twine works to. Depending on where the whistle is mounted on the boiler, you can also make a linkage out of some brass rod. As for the bell, a mechanical ringer of some kind was pretty much standard on large locomotives, so you can probably skip that.
 

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Generally the whistle valve has a lever on it that's connected to the cab with a piece of cable about 1/4 inch around or so. On small or early engines, this cable simply runs through a hole in the front wall of the cab on the engineman's side, and continues on to the back of the cab ... the engineer pulls down on the cable to open the valve. On later and larger locomotives, this cable connects to a short lever on the front wall of the cab (inside) that's attached to the end of a rod that goes horizontally across the cab wall to the engineman's side, and has a longer lever at the other end. The two levers point straight down from the ends of the long rod; there's a hole in the cab wall for the cable... lifting the right hand lever upwards lifts the left hand one and pulls on the cable. The rod is suspended in brackets that allow it to turn, and the longer lever has a piece of rope that connects it to the back wall of the cab so that it loops over the engineman's head. In this way, when the engineman pulls on the rope he has a mechanical advantage (and a lot longer rope travel) for the short distance that the whistle valve moves, and can open and close it smoothly. (It also allows for fine adjustments as you pull for "quilling" the whistle.) There's another arrangement where the long lever sticks out 90 degrees to the front of the cab, and the rope comes straight down over the engineer's head, usually with a wooden handle on the end... and the short lever points up instead of down. Now when the engineer pulls down on the rope, the short lever moves backwards from the hole in the wall, pulling on the cable "overhand." On larger locomotives, the cable might be replaced by a rod linkage, but otherwise things work the same way.

Most mechanical bells were rung with compressed air, either by a mechanism that rocked the whole bell, or simply made the clapper move inside the stationary bell .... much the same arrangement as a modern locomotive. Bells that had a mechansim that rocked the whole bell back and forth tend to be older, and therefore found on (comparatively) smaller locomotives .... and generally have a hand rope as well, both as a backup, and because with this type of mechanism, it's occasionally necessary to give a pull on the rope to start the process going once the air's turned on.

In this photo you can see an engine with the first lever arrangement, where the rod traverses the front of the cab, the short lever (and the whistle) are on the fireman's side, the long lever is on the engineman's side, and both levers are pointing down. They've added a pulley to the cab roof, behind the long lever, so that the engineman pulls straight down (instead of backwards) to get the whole travel by lifting the long lever upwards, and the rope isn't hanging in his face.

http://photos.nerail.org/showpic/?2007080707581322947.jpg

Matthew (OV)
 

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Found another photo ... you can see part of the lever linkage, where the cable comes through the wall from the whistle, on the left side of the cab. There's a rope that runs from where the whistle rope is attached to the back wall of the cab diagonally across toward the fireman's side; this is to allow the engineer to give that pull on the rope to start the bell ringing mentioned before (or, I suppose, to ring the bell by hand if the air ringer didn't work or whatever...)

http://www.nanosphoto.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-3800

Matthew (OV)
 

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Here's a shot showing the cable to a bell on the front of a Nickle Plate 2-8-2. The cable was usually attached at the domes along its run to hold it in place and runs from the cab.



Of course as already mentioned many bells had automatic ringers.
 

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Lownote,
Guitar strings,ah now you've got me thinking,I too have bundles.I think you may have hit on somthing there what with all the different gauges and plain, wire wound and tape wound there are a lot of modelling possibilities!!!
Model trains great
Model trains and guitars..better.
Model trains,guitars and Harleys...heaven.
regards
Bunny
 

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There was a guy on here awhile back, used guitar strings for the BX armored wire for the gauge lights, headlight, etc on the locomotive.... the larger around ones were just the right size for 1:20.3.

Another trick, if you want to represent stranded cable for the whistle is to lay out a piece of kite twine, and lay on (or dip it in) thick silver/gray paint..... roll it between your fingers, and then lay it out straight.... when it dries it's hard and more cable-like, and resembles the metal cable.

I just used a piece of the nasty solid wire AMS uses for the caboose's lighting wires .... easy enough to pull the insulation right off.

Matthew (OV)
 

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After a posting I made here some time ago of one of my locomotives, some expressed an interest in how I made and attached the cords to the bell and whistle. I’m re-posting my reply here in case any of you missed the original.





I stripped the insulation off some light electrical wire and unraveled the copper strands. I cut them to about twice the length I'd eventually need. I then clamped them - four strands parallel to each other about an eighth of an inch apart - in a vice and chucked the other ends together into my variable-speed Dremel tool and turned it on at its lowest speed.


The trick is to keep the cord taut but allow it to "shrink" as it winds up. Don't let it double up on itself. Practice will make perfect. The resulting cord is surprisingly stiff and will keep its shape when you hang it. With copper wire, there's no fuzz and it's totally water-proof.


I spray paint it a dark color (being sure to cover all of the copper - even a tiny uncovered spot will really shine out in the sunlight and destroy the illusion) followed with a light color dry brushed on to emphasize the twists in the "rope."





To attach the cord, I just put a ninety-degree "hook" in the last 16th of an inch or so, stick it through the hole in the arm and bend it back on itself. A drop of CA glue secures it. A pair of tweezers helps to keep it in place until the glue sets. Finally, I lightly run my finger up and down the cord until it has a natural looking drape, both vertically and horizontally.





Hope this helps. As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to shoot 'em at me.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Jack it was your site that inspired my question, I love the way you did that and it looks fantastic. I just could not strip a long enough section of wire. Your work is inspiring in general.


The guitar string worked pretty well--it looks much more like steel cable than rope though. The drape is settling in by itself, although it's still not quite right

http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/magic/westover/images/annielg.jpg

I didn't notice till later that the seed end of a maple "helicopter" has lodged in the space between the whistle and the whistle lever

I this image you can see a "cable" for the bell on an Aristo Pacific. I cut the eyelets off some small fishing hooks, drilled the boiler shell, epoxied the eyelets in the holes, and ran the guitar string through the eyelets.

http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/magic/westover/images/prezlg.jpg

I'm not very good at this but someone who was could do a lot with guitar strings.

The wheels and drive rods on that Pacific are painted with "neolube," jack, on your recommendation. It's very cool stuff. Now I need to try to weather it a little
 

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Big65 -- Yea, that's what I was thinking of!
 

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That looks great Jack, thanks for the pictures and the technique.

Is the CA glue ok outside? I guess the paint keeps the sunlight from letting it come apart. Did you consider solder, or would it wick too much?

Regards, Greg
 

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You usually don't leave your loco out all day every day, so even it UV did bother ca, it likely wouldn't bother the model.
 

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Actually, I have met a number of people who leave cars and locos out. And it's apparently not a matter of it sunlight degrades CA, it's when.

Regards, Greg
 
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