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First a little background:

Back in Feb 2006 I purchased and built an Aster Berkshire - the experience was great, the quality excellent, and I felt the locomotive was a good value considering the tremendous effort required to produce such a kit. The initial runs of the locomotive were successful, but eventually I encountered three problems that dulled my enthusiasm, though 2 of these problems were completely my own doing:

1. The axle pump couldn't even come close to keeping up with the water needs and I was constantly having to stop and pump more water.

2. The front truck would derail on my layout despite being level, smooth, and 7.5' radius.
3. After a few initial good runs the loco started loosing power - perhaps due to blockage in one of the passages.


I rebuilt the cylinders and solved the power issue, but was perplexed by the front truck issue. Most of my layout is temporary and only set up during the holidays. The permanent section is a small twice round, so not very interesting for running a Berk. Since I never was able to get the truck to track on my extended holiday layout I pushed the Berk aside and took up other train projects. But the quest to get the Berk running on my layout never completely faded.


I had also contacted Aster regarding the Axle pump and learned the O-ring groves were cut too deep on some Berks, so they sent me a replacement pump ram. Also included was a new banjo fitting. I ignored the banjo and replaced the ram, but saw no significant improvement. Since the Berk still wouldn't make it around my layout I again pushed it aside.

Well, now the good news........I fixed the layout and pilot truck tracking issue (some minor track changes and some minor front truck changes), and installed the part from Aster that I should have installed to begin with, and now the train tracks fine without derailing, and the axle pump can keep up. However, I noticed a lack of pulling power and a leak on the left cylinder. When I rebuilt the cylinders I tried using only steam oil to seal the gaskets on the left side. It was an experiment and it failed. So, last night after dinner I removed the left cylinder, completely rebuild it using gaskets cut from a dollar bill, and re-installed the cylinder. Today was the test run. With 19 cars in tow (the most Joel and I could come up with), she effortlessly walked away!
I couldn't be happier!

Now time to start building those coal cars and heavyweight passenger cars I have lying around.



Getting up to speed:


Pass:




And into the tight uphill curve:
 

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BTW - I should give credit to Joel who shot these videos. However it was almost a very bad day....Joel was walking backwards while recording a pass.....I thought he knew where my steamup box was....



The train, the track, and Joel all escaped injury...otherwise I might have had to kill him.
 

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Mark,

Cracking! Glad you finally got a chance to give the Berk a proper shakedown run. How did the wicks work out for you? I normally found that each engine was a bit different in their steaming capabilities, resulting in different wick packing.

Congrats and job well done, beware of trackside objects too!
 

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Thanks Ryan! And thanks to your dad for getting me back on track with the wicks. As you might be able to see in the videos, the safeties were almost constantly lifting - and I was holding a steady 4 bar. Due to the layout I couldn't quite get up to full speed, and the safeties would occasionally shut off, so I think I'm pretty close on the wicks. My concern is if I try to dial down the fire then I won't have enough on a bigger layout, but I'll prob give it a go anyway. Currently I'm using approx 1/2 the bundle as your dad suggested - which is very loosely packed compared to what I was running.

Oh, regarding the front truck:
as you know centering and down force is supplied by C18 pushing on A5. However, in the stock configuration the centering force is achieve by downward pressure on the inside wheel. If you have ever ridden a bike fast through a turn you know that weighting the outside peg (even though you lean to the inside) helps keep the wheels from sliding out. Even though the train is on rails, it seemed putting pressure on the outside wheel (so it didn't climb the rail) was more productive than the inside rail. This can be achieved by simply installing A5 upside down. I also slightly bent C18 down to increase down force as you and your dad had suggested long ago.
 

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That is a great running Aster Berkshire that you have built. I have watched Steve S. run his factory built Aster Berk several times. It is a great performer and Steve loves those 45 minute long runs.


I once thought about building an Aster Berkshire from kit, like you did, but after reading about your experiences with your kit build, I resign to the fact that my kit building experience and long term patience are not up to the task.

Thanks for posting the videos. I enjoyed them.
 

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Mark,

Really happy to hear that everything worked out for you. SO far I haven't had to flip my part A5 around, of course I may have installed it backwards to begin with! I ended up making a new leaf spring (c18) from some 20 ga stainless that I had here, no more having to bend it back down with a screw driver every time you go to pick it up to move it.

When's the lettering going back on?
 

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Awesome engine, great run and good recovery from backwards fall !!!!!!! My good friend Art Gibson is giving "Backwards fall recovery" lessons for all who may be concerned.
 

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Posted By Steve S. on 12/31/2008 7:24 AM
Awesome engine, great run and good recovery from backwards fall !!!!!!! My good friend Art Gibson is giving "Backwards fall recovery" lessons for all who may be concerned.



That sounds like an undiscovered Kung Fu move!
 

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Posted By Mark Scrivener on 12/30/2008 11:38 PM
BTW - I should give credit to Joel who shot these videos. However it was almost a very bad day....Joel was walking backwards while recording a pass.....I thought he knew where my steamup box was.... NEVER LOOK WHERE YOU'VE BEEN ALWAYS WHERE YOU ARE GOING!!!!!lol THE REGAL




The train, the track, and Joel all escaped injury...otherwise I might have had to kill him.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Posted By rbednarik on 12/31/2008 7:05 AM
...When's the lettering going back on?


Plan is to letter her "Polar Express" using the same font as Nickle Plate. I have the font, have mocked it up, and have the kit to make dry transfers from laser printer output. However, before I put the lettering on I want to finish wiring up the headlamps (castings are machined out and Richard is making me some reflectors), fine tune the RC install, get the whistle working again (dual chime from Bob), replace some broken hand rail stanchions, etc. But since my holiday layout comes down on the 5th, I'm trying to enjoy as much run time between now and then. Most of these projects are well suited for the long rainy days we get in Jan and Feb.
 
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