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Prolog

I am in desperate need for a live steam psychiatrist. Within the last 2 weeks, my Accucraft C-19 developed near lethal suicidal tendencies and needs immediate medical attention if it is to survive. Please excuse this lengthy case history, but I am sure someone out there can help this steamer recover back to good health.

Chapter 1 – A Unique Identity

This is not just any C-19 but an RGS #41 live steamer. This story unfolds just 2 weeks ago with me learning that I unknowingly acquired a very special locomotive. According to a very reliable dealer, my RGS #41 is one of only 5 live steam models produced of this prototype by Accucraft. As is customary, one of the 5 units was retained for the Accucraft museum leaving my locomotive as 1 of only 4 sold to the public and this version is sold out. Furthermore, I have been told that it is unlikely that a 2nd run of C-19’s will be produced. In terms of this hobby, I inadvertently acquired what appears to be a true collector’s item (what ever than means). In real terms, to me that means that if my RGS #41 gets lost, stolen, or otherwise dies, I will not be able to purchase a replacement.

Chapter 2 – A star is born.

Prior to the last couple of weeks, RGS #41 was enjoying an early childhood and maturing period. As is the case following the creation of any live steamer, there was a lot to learn about the personality of this machine. After delivering this baby signified by untying the red bow that always accompanies Accucraft packaging, life was good. Sure there were the few adjustments that always must be made, but RGS #41 appeared to be happy and in fine health. April 12, 2008 marked her first public debut and Ed Hulme captured this timeless photo of her maiden run;

http://www.flickr.com/photos/edhume3/2411282813/in/set-72157603812083056/

Chapter 3 - Good Times

On May 13, RGS #41 was joined by her sister D&RG #346 and even tried her first double header captured beautiful by Art Gibbs;

http://www.mylargescale.com/Community/Forums/tabid/56/forumid/11/postid/29755/view/topic/Default.aspx

Chapter 4 – Sibling Competition Grows

Summer heat in Houston is never pleasant and 2008 was no exception. Periodic checks of RGS #41 showed her in continued good spirits. As the summer progressed, the atmosphere changed dramatically when a package arrived and new red bow was untied from Accucraft’s latest 4-4-0. This new baby was hard to resist and RGS #41 and D&RG 346 were temporarily parked. Perhaps it was the relentless heat, the lack of attention, or the concern created by John Frank recovery from surgery along with temporary closure of the Texas Western Narrow Gauge RR that all added up to the conditions that caused RGS #41 to take the drastic action to come.

Fall in Houston provides some of the best steaming weather anywhere. Work on RGS #41 continued with the installation of RC gear and a new Bark Box. RGS #41 again seemed in good spirits and sounded better than ever. Late fall RGS #41 was placed into heavy operational service on the Texas Western Narrow Gauge RR. Although she hauled loads in excess of her rated capacity for durations in excess of 45 minutes, an action item was noted to service and tweak the timing ever so slightly to fix a hesitation in one quarter when reversing. The hesitation was not a serious problem but did result in having to use ½ throttle at times after reversing to get her going and dealing with the jack rabbit acceleration that immediately followed. This made for some exciting switching operation and a few excessively rough coupling during tight switching. John winced a few times as RGS #41 crashed into an expensive string of his cars in attempting to couple up. This issue also may have contributed as a distraction that caused the engineer to make several major operational errors. One error included running through the back side of a closed switch. Amazingly due to the speed, it did not cause a derailment but instead broke the switch bar on one of John’s mainline switches (again sorry John).

Chapter 5 – Accident or Suicide Attempt

November 4, 2008 is the day the mood in the roundhouse changed forever. The day started with a beautiful Houston fall day with morning operations scheduled at Steve Speck’s. RGS #41 was scheduled for service on this day and was prepped and loaded for the trip.

Six minutes and 8 seconds into Art film below shows RGS #41 being put through operations pulling the San Juan. Numerous forwarding and reversing operations were done in an attempt to duplicate the hesitation seen earlier at John’s and to note the exact quadrant or valve opening that needing slight adjusting.

http://www.mylargescale.com/Community/Forums/tabid/56/forumid/11/postid/59395/view/topic/Default.aspx

With repeated effort, the periodic hesitation in reverse starting was duplicated with the exact quadrant of valve opening that needed adjusting determined (right piston, 9 o’clock position in reverse). As the film captures, RGS #41 sounds great with her new Bark Box. Maintenance was scheduled for later that day to make final minor timing adjustments. Art captures RGS #41 last run before her tragic turn of events that commence later that day.

The owner’s wife is very accommodating and allows after run cleanup and maintenance to be done at the kitchen table. Shop space continues to be fully occupied by long outstanding projects. In addition to the normal cardboard table protection on the kitchen table, a piece of 2” Accucraft packing foam is also used so the engine can be laid over without bending or damaging piping.

Shortly after the table was prepared and the scheduled minor maintenance commenced, the owner was distracted by the dog insisting to be let outside. As the back door is slightly out of reach, the owner left the engine safely on the foam pad and stood up to open the door. As soon as the door was opened, a tremendous crash occurred and the dog ran for cover. Tools were observed sliding across the floor under my feet and the dog was no longer in sight. Upon turning around, RGS #41 was observed lying on the floor among a pile of tools and other debris.

In horror, I did what any normal person would do in this situation. I screamed. As I screamed, I caught a glimps of my dog peaking around the corner. I then reacted totally rationally and yelled at the dog (sorry Whisper) for initiating this disaster. From prior experience with such incidents, I kept my act together and gingerly picked RGS #41 off the floor and picked up all the tools that also fell when the engine rolled off the table. In picking up the engine, it was initially noted that the right rear driver was bent and the frame behind driver #4 was bent sideways ever so slightly. A large chunk of wood was absent from the kitchen chair but fortunately the ceramic tile floor was not cracked (or I would now be dead). Experiencing a multi-thousand dollar asset crash to the floor is definitely not an experience I ever want to experience again but the initial assessment indicated that major damage was averted as the engine appeared to first bounce off the chair on the way to the ground. I then walked away from the incident scene and deferred the investigation and detailed inspection for the next day when clearer minds were present and the dog and I stopped shaking.

During work the next day I called both John Frank and Dave Hottman for consolation and possibly to locate spare parts. It appears that Dave may have experienced a similar nightmare because he laughed and said something like “gravity sucks”. I did learn that Accucraft had parted out a C-19 so a possible source of spare parts exists if needed. Dave also gave me a few tips to fix the periodic hesitation RGS #41 was having when shifting in reverse.

Within 24 hours, a detailed inspection and investigation was commenced. Although RGS 41 remained unconscious and could not help with the investigation, the damage assessment proved that the damage was amazing quite mild. The driver was not in fact bent but the tire was simply pushed over on the wheel. The minor bend in the frame was easily bent back without any disassembly and the tire was heated and pushed back into gauge on the wheel. The boiler was fired to check for leaks and when no leaks were confirmed, she was test run with success. RGS 41 had been miraculously saved from a death defying fall. I felt like the luckiest person alive but the feeling turned out to be very short lived. Out of shear relief, the accident investigation as to why RGS #41 rolled off the table was cancelled.

Chapter 6 – Suicide Attempt #2


The scheduled maintenance initiated the prior afternoon was recommenced now using the tips received from trusty Dave Hottman. Drivers #2 and #3 were removed to check the tightness of the valve gear as he suggested. At that point, I was missing a tool so I got up and went to the shop. I was just reentering the kitchen when I saw movement and physically observed RGS 41 again attempting suicide by rolling off the table. The steamer was not pushed, was not bumped, or in any way helped in rolling off the table. In fact it took almost 3 minutes from the time I got up for RGS 41 to decide to again commit suicide and roll off the table. When I say roll, I need to clarify that she did not roll using her wheel, she ever so slightly started to lean on the 2” foam and she rolled over like a dog rolls over. Since she was initially standing a few inched for the side edge of the foam and the foam was a few inches from the edge of the table, once she started to roll it was a single movement that took her all the way to the ceramic tile floor below. Unfortunately this time, I had pushed the chair back and she went all the way to the floor without an intermediate bounce of the chair. During her second suicide attempt, she did not take the tool tray with her so all that I heard was one sickening loud metal clank as she made contact with the floor.

I ran to her aid to offer immediate medical treatment but this time she was down for the count. Amazing RGS #41 falls similar to a cat as in both cases she landed nearly on her feet (wheels). Unfortunately following her second attempt at a forward dive with a double twist, she attempted it with her #2 and #3 drivers and support braces removed resulting an a highly venerable condition. Initial assessment was not good. Although everything above the frame was undamaged, both frames were severely bent both upward and sideways. Basically RGS 41 looked like a boiler bolted to a deformed twisted banana. Just as the first suicide dive, the right #4 driver took the full impact and the tire was again pushed over on the wheel.

It is one thing to hear a crash, but it is a totally different and much more traumatic experience to watch a locomotive intentionally roll over off a table and try to end its life. After an unsuccessful leap across the room in an attempt to catch it, I was unable to do anything but stand there and look at the dead steamer. I was not even able to scream. I was not even angry as I was the first time. The feeling I experienced is the total emptiness one feels following an act of total stupidity that is impossible to rationally explain. I in fact knew exactly what had occurred the night before even through I blamed the dog and the engine. The totally emptiness I felt was the total loss of explanation why I did the exact thing again within 24 hours resulting in the exact same crash. The only difference is that it took a few minutes the 2nd night for the foam close to the edge to slowly compress allowing the locomotive lean and eventually to roll over off the table.

Lesson Learned the Hard Way – Twice. Do not use 2” foam for locomotive maintenance. The incorrect lesson I learned after the first dive off the table was to not leave locomotive unattended on 2” foam. Unfortunately the 2nd evening I learned that I can not rely on myself to remember to remove the locomotive from the foam each and every time I get up from the table. Only 100% solution with my short term memory is to stop using the 2” foam altogether.

Chapter 7 – Hospitalization, Major Surgery, and Recovery

Perhaps it was the stubbornness of me not allowing my duplicated shear acts of stupidity to be the real cause for the life of RGS 41 to be cut short, or additionally because this repeated act occurred to the only Accucraft locomotive I own that was built in such few numbers to constitute a collectors item, or the fact that I can not call Accucraft and buy another one, but I decided right then and there that I was going to bring this steamer back to life for the 2nd time in 24 hours. Unfortunately this time the repairs required a total disassembly so the frames could be straightened. As the frames were the only major damage, I obtained permission for RGS 41 to remain on the kitchen table for a few days required to complete the repairs.

What was initially thought to be a few evenings of work has turned into 2 weeks of effort. My wife lost her patients of having the entire kitchen occupied by various locomotive parts but fortunately did not make me relocate this priority project. Although the initial damage assessment of 2 badly bent frames remained correct, and that disassembly and straightening of the frames could be done in a single night was correct, many critical dimensions required particularly for the timing were changed.

I also did not realize that I would only discover each critical dimension that had been altered one at a time after re-assembling and testing the chassis over and over again. Unfortunately all the bending occurred in the top bar above the empty and weak open #2 and #3 wheel bearing cavities (no bottom brace was in place). When bent straight, the dimension of each bearing cavity had changed each by a different amount. The each axle bearing had a couple mm of bad longitudinal movement within the frame. When first assembled, the chassis would hardly turn by hand due to all the various binding. After diagnosing and using solder to fill the gaps until almost no longitudinal movement could be felt yet the bearing would still move freely vertically, the second assembly and testing showed the mechanism would turn over but would hardly run with compressed air even after adjusting the timing. Further diagnosis showed that although my initial repair on the bearings got all the axles aligned perpendicular to the frame, I had not considered the important position of axle #3 with respect to the timing. My fix had the axle #3 too far back and although the side rods were OK, the timing was totally messed up. I have actually forgotten every item fixed or how many times I have disassembled and reassembled the chassis.

I never would have gone to all this trouble except that through out this whole process I always thought that I was within 1 more evening of having the engine running. That is until yet another problem was identified and diagnosed.

After more than 2 weeks after the first dive, I can finally say that the chassis is fully repaired, the engine reassembled, and successfully test run on the track. With all the adjusting, I am also pleased to say that the periodic hesitation has been totally removed. I can now declare the steamer once again alive and ready for service.

In the end, a call to Cliff requesting a new frame or possibly an entire working chassis would have been a much better option.

When I eventually die and my wife sells my collection, you all have been adequately warned about the history of this engine. I can honestly now claim this RGS #41 is not only 1 of 5 manufactured, with all the modifications made in the last 2 weeks, it is now 1 of a kind. I never actually give any consideration to collector’s items and really don’t care if my RGS #41 is better than new, or if I have totally devaluated this locomotive. My only concern is that RGS #41 is again alive and in good working order, at least until my next act of total stupidity.

As to the questionable mental health of RGS #41, it is clear that any residual mental instability it may have is being caused by being owned by a stupid idiot.

Prolog

It seems about every other year I do something so absolutely stupid associated with this hobby that I feel compelled to write about. Perhaps my writing is a form of therapy and a coping mechanism I use to deal with my occasional shear acts of stupidity. Fortunately these incidents are confined to my hobby and although at times expensive, my misfortune does not inflict damage or harm to myself or others. My trains however are not so fortunate. As a result of these incidents, I have regrettably long forgotten about fulfilling my earlier desires to home-build an aircraft as such acts of shear stupidity in this hobby would have much more significant consequences. In closing (assuming anybody is still reading), I have learned that it is always best to laugh about ones stupidity regardless of how painful it is and I hope you have enjoyed laughing with me.
 

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This is a hobby,
it is only a hobby,
if it were anything more than a hobby
it would be much less expensive.

How well I know the gut feeling you have experienced watching so many dollars attempt to leave this earthly realm.

The only thing more satisfying than laughing off these little incidents is to post a video of them. We need to keep a camera on a tripod recording everything that happens... that would make it a lot easier to do.
 

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Tom,

The only reason I have never had an accident with a live steamer is that I don't have one. However, some number of plastic, wood, metal and assorted other materials of models have proven gravity well and truly exists. I still occasionally find parts at the back of the yard that are the result of a number of passenger cars leaping out of the garage iwindow nto a 94 mph gust a few years back. All this proves is that you're one of us rather than one of them.

Jeff Livingsotn
Kaneohe, Hawaii
 

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Tom, my heartfelt sympathies and my sincere congratulations on successfully navigating your way out of this trauma. Additionally, your post fondly reminds me of an old "Letters from Jim" in MR when his Korean house girl picked up - and then dropped - his brand new, freshly painted HO brass Pacific. hehehe

I don't mean to make light of your tragedy, but "Letters from Jim" was one of MR's high points in the old days, and one never sees such features in its pages anymore. Hence my nostalgia for them. :)
 

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Tom,

I think that something far more sinister is afoot. Your C-19 has not been trying to commit suicide. No indeed. I think instead you have discovered two previously well-hidden acts of attempted murder. Now coming to light is a diabolical and well disguised plot by disgruntled 2" foam to get back at the engines that have compressed them for years. After being stuffed into corners and crammed into nooks, 2" foam has decided they are not going to take it any more. You have clearly caught them in the act; and it's fortunate that you have been able to isolate them from their intended victim before more harm could be done. The public needs to be warned and you have done the live steam fraternity a great service by disclosing their foul deeds. Protect your engines from future attacks by only hiring 1" foam. These guys are far more flexible and easy to deal with!

Ross Schlabach
 

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Hey Tom, I can hardly wait to see this "Special" loco running at my house. At least you were able to sort it all out and fix it. I have a hard time putting a E clip on.
 

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Posted By Steve S. on 11/19/2008 7:40 PM
Hey Tom, I can hardly wait to see this "Special" loco running at my house. At least you were able to sort it all out and fix it. I have a hard time putting a E clip on.



Well Steve if you can make it over here tomorrow afternoon you can see it run. I don't know if Tom would want it to run at such lofty altitudes as on your railroad since it seems to have this tendency to jump off tables.
 

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Tom,

I have had models over the years that must have been kindred spirits to your C-19. But I didn't have the gumption to call it what is was --- or to write about it!

Best of luck with #41 (Christine????) and it's suicidal tendencies. And thank you so very much for sharing with us!

Best regards,

Alan
 

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Tom, send the entire story into Garden Railways ... and include a few photos. More people should read your story, it is excellent.
Russ
 

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I can honestly now claim this RGS #41 is not only 1 of 5 manufactured, with all the modifications made in the last 2 weeks, it is now 1 of a kind.

Tom,

It's very clear to me - the loco is trying desperately to get you to abandon it so it can move to Maryland!
 

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Say what you will about superstition. I hesitated to tell you this when I first read your postl but I have seen too many objects and people that defy statistics so I think I need to relate this to you.
I had a car one time that hated windshields. I'm serious, this car hated windshields. When I first got the car, a week later a crack appeared on the passengers side at the top corner. It quickly spread to the dashboard. The dealer replaced the windshield. I had the new windshield all of 2 days and was driving down the freeway when a stone put a crater right in my line of site. I tried that cheap patch guy, but the view was obstructed, so my insurance replaced the windshield. The new windshield suffered minor craters (7 in all) all repairable till the rains came in then the gasket around the windshield started leaking. The guy suggested replacing the whole windshield when replacing the gasket. They took blame for the leak, but I swear the car did it.
Finally a month with no windshield drama and my company takes us all to a Giants game. When I get back to work, and go to my car the passenger window is busted clean out. There was nothing in the car to steal, so I'm thinking the car did this. On my way home, wind blowing in from my busted passenger window, the middle of night and no one on the road, another stone hits my windshield!
I got rid of the car. It was only a year old. I justified this by telling my wife I wanted to switch to automatic because the commute to work was too much stop and go and my clutch foot was getting sore. Half true anyway. I swear to this day that car just hated windshields.
 

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Models are like Babes, When you put them on change tables you can't leave them alone. you should have put her in a crib with side bumpers. thats what I do with my boats, well padded on the sides so they won't roll.
Regards,
Gerald
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I appreciate all the supportive comments. I took RGS #41 out to John Frank’s today and gave her a good workout. She had 3 strong runs each 40 minutes (not including initial warm-up). Operating at John’s is a real physical workout. Lots of switching, switch throwing, turn table turning, and train chasing. Basically a good operating session results in at least 100 toe touches and deep knee bends. If I only ran every day at John’s, I would be in great shape. RGS #41 was just getting warmed up when I pooped out.

I made it home and put RGS #41 safely to bed. Overall, today was an experience that this hobby is all about. Good friends, excellent performing engine, great weather, and an outstanding layout to run on. I will refrain on commenting on superstition, but at least today I must have pleased the mighty Kahuna steamup god because today was about as perfect as it gets. If I could only remember which shoe I tied first this morning!!!

Well, now that I think about it, RGS #41 did experience the largest flash fire I have ever had today. It was absolutely dead calm. I refueled RGS #41 on the ground in a highly protected back corner. After refueling I lit her up and the entire area went up in flames. I have never seen butane not dissipate outdoors and stay in one concentrated pool before. Scared the heck out of me and actually set a few dry leaves on fire. The pool of butane in the tender burned for at least 2 or 3 seconds. No damage but John did check a few times to insure the leaves were fully put out. Perhaps I need to throw some salt over my shoulder before my next day of steaming. Is this another RGS #41 mental warning sign or just normal steamup operations?
 

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All I can add is this is one sweet running little engine. Accucraft has created a winner here. I hope the rest of the stock gets back from China soon. This little engine did it all, switched the yard hauled heavy freight on the mainline, surmounted my steepest grade on the branch lines to Crested Butte and Lake City. I love it. Here is a short video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCpzPZ71iqM
 

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And here are some still shots from my new Canon 590IS:





 

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Here a few more shots taken with my new Canon Power Shot A590IS camera made in Malaysia of Tom's beautiful RGS #41 C19 made by Accucraft in China and modified and reassembled in Sugarland Texas.



 

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Discussion Starter #18
John,

The last picture is very nice. If you crop the top and the fence on the right, it is a good candidate to submit for the monthly photo contest.

Again, thanks for the great afternoon.

Tom
 

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Posted By Dave -- Use Coal on 11/21/2008 8:01 AM
John,
You sure take good pictures with that new camera. Pretty soon you will be as good as Ed Hume.



Thanks Dave, but I will never be that good but then this camera only cost $134. I really don't have time to read all the stuff it supposedly does I just put it on auto.
 

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Its flattering to see my name mentioned for photography but take another look at jlinde's photos on the Gil-Ray Elevated thread - he really took some excellent photos - it is not easy to have the lighting so perfect and balanced for those black locomotives - his composition is outstanding too.


Ed
 
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