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Just Wondering

11433 Views 87 Replies 29 Participants Last post by  rbednarik
I was wondering if it might not be a good option for Accucraft to offer their engines in a "Custom tuned version"? When someone places their order they could take their chances on getting a good runner, or pay extra upfront and be assured that it would be. There are other products that are offered this way, why not Accucraft Loco's. If you are mechanically inclined and like to tinker you can take your chances with what is right of the assembly line, and if not up to par, get it running right yourself. If not, (Like me) it would be well worth the extra money charged to get a well tuned runner right out of the box. As it is now, if you have problems you spend a lot of time and shipping expense to and from Accucraft for warranty work, let alone the chances you take with the shippers messing up your prized Loco in route. I think many would be happy to pay more to get a good runner up front and avoid the hassles down the road. What do you think? :)
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I do not believe it is a matter of "tuning" but basic fundamentals of steam delivery and mechanics that need to be correct from the production line. For example, having an engine without working combination levers (SG) is like having a car without overdrive (when that is a product standard)relative to efficiency. There is no way to "tune" that problem. Simply ask yourself if it was an Aster model would you be posing this query. There lies the answer.
Secondly, I do not believe that Accucraft will invest the time, man power hours or production schedule for "custom tuning," vs. mass assembly line productons.
Lastly, if it is valve setting, eccentrics, etc the QC should ensure that all engines run properly off the production line, I/we as customers should not pay for something that is as basic as a properly running engine out of the box.
If any thing, maybe be "hop-ups" such as better line connectors (e.g.quick disconnects) or even a limited deluxe model (I would have paid more for a properly designed GS4 by Accucraft probably cheaper rate based on volume vs. one of a kind custom work).
My hobby locomotives are not like my other hobby of rally cars which custom tunes are based on different mechanical parts (bigger turbo, injectors, fuel pump etc) resulting in better high end performance. I doubt we will add more cylinders to a model.
Performance for our G1 motive power is related to:
Power and Tractive effort
TE = N (e P � (d/2)2 s) / D
P x L x A x N
# TE is the tractive effort at the driving wheels
# e is a constant representing the efficiency of the cylinders - 0.75 is probably a good figure to use in G1 with a superheater.
# P is the boiler pressure
#L is length of stroke
# d is the piston diameter
# s is the piston stroke
# D is the driving wheel diameter
# N is a factor based on the number of double acting cylinders ( for 2 cylinders, N=1; 3 cylinders, N=1.5; 4 cylinders, N=2)
Power = Force x Speed component along the line of the force.
Force- drawbar test x speed (determined by lap time chart on Southern Steam Train web site)
So, what of the these components would be tuned to allow better power and/or tractive effort.
BTW- excellent thread on G1MRA power calculations.
Probably just add weight over the drivers and grooving the tires are the best "hop-ups!"
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I do not think that "bench testing" is the level of QC that is necessary. The fact that the GS4 would have passed (and did so on our initial run on our track) was not the issue at hand. We have retrofitted 12 GS4 that will allow it them to run at an Aster performance level. Jim Overland knows the fundamentals that make the engine purr vs. the stock out of the box. It is not "bench testing" but a process of consultants such as Dick Abbott, Gordon Watson, Norm Saley, Kevin O'Connor, Dave Hottman, the list goes on that will improve the performance of the offerings. I believe that the CP Hudson is undergoing such a process. Such "team work" allows the product to get out from the control of the engineers and into the hands of highly experienced steam experts who stress proper fundamental designs, not what is cost saving (Accucraft already receives a discount in manufacturer through China work force) for the higher profits.
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No fire suite necessary....
You are correct- IMHO; but there are two points of common knowledge that allows me to offer such a conclusion:
Chinese workers â€" who usually make less than $100 a month â€" earn just 3% of Japanese and 2% of U.S. wages. Secondly, Accucraft's NG techniques on SG related to functional parts of steam delivery and usage is low end cost production (non-working combo levers vs. working). These two factors alone will result in higher profit. I have no objection to profit, only when it is a short term gain vs. long term growth and health of the hobby.
We do differ in what is expected and what is fundamental to a proper running engine. Our points of reference are different with NG and SG background. I make my conclusions based on the proven standards of what can be and should be included (apples to apples) and conclude that Accucraft can afford to "get it right" with a greatly discounted price to their customer.
Steve- Spot on!
Jay- Locomotive running correctly; even the basic Ruby need functional correction.
Finally, I personally appreciate Accucraft for their SG offerings in that have allowed me to better understand and establish reference points of excellence in the hobby. I truly admire and salute the high quality that is necessary to be the best in the hobby. For my perspective one should not design a SG engine on NG fundamentals. Finally, I am not sure what lesson Accucraft learned from the GS4, but maybe the other SG production models will prove out either lesson learned or opportunity missed.
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Not matter of the car either being a Hyundai or Porsche both come "tuned" (which is not what dealer prep does) with proper operating systems: overdrive, correct exhaust, valve, gears, and trouble free fuel system, etc as standard equipment.
For me this is not Aster vs Accucraft but Hyundai vs. Porsche in that NG and SG locomotives relative to productions by Accucraft.
Accucraft should not be putting the Hyundai parts in a Porsche. Purchasing a SG engine one should get the proper components and output for a SG engine.

This situation was discussed in 2006 at great length.

Given that it has resurfaced maybe there is some need to voice the "out of the box" problems to Accucraft. Interesting to re-read the thread in 2006 and Brooks communication he shared:
"My objection is the Loss of Quality, both of Manufacturing and Engineering at Accucraft. The company has, perhaps for the reasons Chris cited above (death of a principal), gone downhill. Since this thread started, I've received a confidential email from a person who, for business reasons, can't publicly speak. The Quality problem, according to her, is worse than I imagined/experienced. Of the 4 products Acc. has made for her firm, the first was Superb, "The production model was better than the prototype", while the last was Abysmal -- "Never should have left the factory" were the phrases she used. I trust the writer because she had no reason to lie to me about this decline in quality. In fact, since she wishes me to buy the products produced for her firm by Acc. her incentive would have been the other way. She is worried that this loss of quality may force her firm to search for a new supplier (and asked me for advice on that score, which is why she wrote to me in the first place). As it has been pointed out several times in this thread, Acc. is the lowest cost supplier out there, so it's a big decision for her firm - is the price increase of using a different supplier going to kill her company's sales?." "I was struck recently by the comments of a very experienced steamer, an man who has built locos from scratch for 40 years: he had put his Accucraft loco on the shelf because he could not get it to fire and the frustration was too much. A year or so later he decided to try again, built a new part, and had success. I wonder how many lesser-experienced steamers out there have shelved their locos? " "I might add that nowhere in Accucraft advertisements do I see any phrase like "This might not run right out of the box, but with some work on your part it will likely be chugging along in a satisfactory manner." According to their ads, they are not selling "fixer-uppers."

The reason I selected Brooks is not for his stand on QC but the absence of his voice relative to the this forum and the hobby as a whole. Might that reflect a loss of a "customer" and problem at hand....

Accucraft words not mine:
"...we are committed to nothing short of excellence regarding the product."

I guess I am to the point of frustration with Accucraft SG production. It is one thing to be excused for mistakes on a "first" attempt it is another to know those short comings, been given solutions and then repeat the situation thus establishing a sub par standard for SG.
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I do not believe I have "... de-value it for the sake of a few dollars that MAY be saved by sourcing some parts in Asia." I am indicating the true valve of what you get in the realm of Standard Gauge by Accucraft.

I do believe that you might be incorrect with "sourcing some parts in Asia" if you are referencing Accucraft. As to my knowledge the entire production is done in China. The savings considerable. Labor rates along with materials and bulk shipping along with many factors determine cost and profit. So, one cannot dimiss labor rates as beginning totally irrelevant(otherwise bring the production to the USA)as to mass production of a product.

As for the labor rates, if you happened to have read a related post by John on fixing locos via Dave Hottman, the quoted rates were from an economist who did the comparison. If you need to question them, look him up. I believe the math to be more towards $60000 per year plus change(probably without inclusion of benefits)60K/12*2%=$100/month across the nation from the poor rural/inner city to the higher earners of NJ Cal, Conn etc. Here is a job growth report. Please note the $$$ indicated about an average of $35.5 for a college degree in teaching with the most growth potential. Non-college, lack of experience or specialize training about $25K. The overall average between $20K and $43.6K for average of $31.8K (or about $50/month Chinese) Take a look at the report(porjects 2004-2014 and the economy was good in 2004)US Department of Labor:

Whether or not I can afford an engine for $4449 is not the major point but certainly relevant to every hobbyist budget, lifestyle and other obligations. The point was whether or not for my hard earned money, my pleasure of a hobby should require either skills or extra money to get the locomotive to perform. I say- NO! In fact the premise of this whole discussion is whether there should be "custom tuning offered" which related to performance as determined by draw bar power or tractive effort(MO). For example how can one develop an adjustable exhaust nozzle at this level and for what price relative to cost and performance? Cannot and would not make sense. Yet, there are some fundamental parts that could be established during the mass production (combo levers base line cost were $70 per set plus shipping on a 25 set minimum + extra labor: 6 hours)so about additional $100 to the total cost for a SG level of performance. You going to have to show me the spreadsheet that indicates the cost to be more or that it reduces the profit margin in such a manner as to make it cost prohibitive not to have installed the levers from the factory.

BTW- I know what it cost, the number of hours and the skills required based on the many, many hours of retrofitting said productions for pennies on the dollar allowing fellow hobbyist to have a good running and properly functioning engine. If my fellow hobbyists had to spend what I did in R & D to obtain the necessary parts I can guarantee that they would not have purchased the base line engine to begin with.

Finally, placing my name in BOLD and CAPS can be constured as a negative and disrespectful.
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Email sent
Thanks for understanding about the name situation.
I sent you an email
Well, as we move on- the running tally (as I intrepet it- hanging chad and all) should indicate to Accucraft what customers feedback was on the topic of tuning and out of the box RTR:

Tally of responses (only one tally given per contributor)

12- RTR (no extra expense or tuning necessary)
01- Tuning might be worth the option
01- Value for the dollar from the as is production run
06- Offering suggestions, or neutral or off topic or other related topic information

However one looks at the responses, this sampling of what is important to the customer: RTR tops the list.
I assume your post is in reference to me. Please forward me a job application. I am well qualifed and many years left in this ol' frame (the mind seems to be going at times, maybe too much steam exhaust). This would be a win-win situation for me. I could retire from NJ, collect a pension, then work another 10 years in the "mid-west" earning a second pension (@$180K/yr...just don't tell TAC) while reducing my cost of living!
Then I could visit the Michigan group and all my friends named Tom(4 of them)for steamups and be closer to Diamondhead (depending where in the mid west).
Never though of MLS as a job network but I await your envelope.

TAC- I just heard how much gas was in jolly ol England. Might have to start using steam for other situations that just hobby. Need to bring back the Stanley Steamer!
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Yes, having QC process for running would be a help but not the answer. The problem is not if the engine can run, most do more to the fact that the engines have faults in the design work. It is the process of developing the engine that is the key more so than the end result needing fixing. That is were the true QC and team work is needed(as I believe the CP Hudson is).

I believe one answer is the type of QC offered by Gordon as a dealer(Gordon correct me if I have your service generalized wrong). A purchase with Gordon cames with his skills to make sure the engine will run at a satisfactory level or he will not allow it to go forth to the customer.

Steve- Another good statement that helps to define a process that Accucraft should have in place. Cost effective to "do it right" at the point of assembly.

Steve- Very good observation on the Informational forum relative to the Accucraft line of steam engines. The only thing that would hammer it home would be what percentage of the model is represented with a particular "fix it" need (for example most first round Rubies need the eccentrics rotated to run better in forward).
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