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· Premium Member
441 Posts
Ah, GREAT to see an old "CLASSIC"!
Know I've got a VHS copy of it lying around somewhere in the 100's of old VHS videos
I've got lying around!

By the way, the "runaway train" scenes on a large club layout are not an impossibility!
Years ago, I belonged to a moderately large O scale (2-rail DC) club (the now-defunct
South Shore Society of Model Engineers, formerly located in the basement of a restaurant in Brockton, MA). The railroad was originally built in the 1950's as an exhibit for the Brockton State Fair, then moved to the restaurant location where it remained for 30 years. Because of the layout's originally early construction date, I would best describe the electrical system underneath as "Neanderthal Tech"
- envision banks of old telephone relays in glass jars to keep the dust out, WWII-surplus 28-volt rotary relays for switch machines, monster ceramic "rheostats" for throttles, & huge mainline & yard control panels, & miles of "haywire"!
A typical Saturday - night operating session required a crew of at least seven to operate the mainline, engine terminal (with 7-stall steam loco roundhouse & turntable, separate diesel facilities), main passenger station / coach yard, & individual local yards.

I was modelling PRR at the time & although my roster favored steam locos (mostly US Hobbies & May Grey brass imports, some of which I still own), I had at the time just acquired a gorgeous Overland PRR EMD E8A passenger diesel, custom painted in the "Broadway Limited" Tuscan-&-5-gold pinstripe paint scheme.

This was a beautifully smooth-running loco that just glided down the track with no noise other than the clicking of the wheels over the rail joints!
Although I bought it primarily for passenger train use, I was curious to see how it would handle some "freight tonnage" on our fairly stiff (@ 4%, if I remember correctly?) mainline grade; so I coupled it onto the head end of a 14-car mixed freight (our typical average mainline freight train length), routed the train out from one of the yard cabs onto the main, & crawled underneath the layout benchwork up to the elevated mainline operator's cab panel (kind of analagous to the "chief dispatch" station in the movie
). I should also add that the basic mainline track plan of the SSSME layout was a folded dogbone, with the lower turnaround loop mainly in tunnels, the upper one looping completely around the mainline operator's panel; the main passed just a couple of feet behind my back, in easy reach (thankfully, as I was soon to discover!

On the first few runs around the main, the E8 handled the freight easily.
When the train emerged from the lower loop tunnels, it would start up the long mainline tangent upgrade, round a wide-radius curve at the far end of the basement room, head back in the opposite direction along the back wall, then round the curve that looped the mainline control panel. That curve rounded a plaster "cliff", with at least a 4-foot drop from the track to the concrete floor below. On about the 3rd or 4th lap around the main, the train inexplicably started to gain speed while heading up the mainline grade
. I turned the throttle rheostat down; the E8 instead continued to speed up
; it was starting to go dangerously fast as it rounded the curve at the far end of the room. As the train thundered up the long back-wall tangent, I first flipped the manline cab's direction switch to neutral, then the individual block toggles to off, & in final desperation turned off the mainline power supply - & the train continued to run away!
As the train raced around the upper loop curve at somewhere well over 100 scale MPH (with visions of my beautiful new $400 brass diesel splattered over the concrete
going through my head), I reached back & grabbed the E8 as it raced behind me (while at the same time trying to be careful & not damage the delicate brass PRR "Trainphone" antenna detail on the roof!).

Now how, you would wonder, could a track-powered train run away with all the mainline power turned off?
Well, about halfway down that back-wall tangent was a turnout leading to a small branchline yard tucked into an obscure corner off the room, with it's own independent power supply.
A "newbie" club member
running a local switch engine for that yard had, in his switching moves, run the switch engine a little too far down the branchline towards the mainline - to the point where he ran one of the diesel switcher's trucks past the rail gap between the mainline & branchline.
Naturally, the switch engine stalled; so he left his local yard cab on set at full throttle
(figuring the loco had stalled from dirty track; it was actually allowing his block power to feed through the stalled loco into the mainline track!) while he took a coffee break!


· Premium Member
441 Posts
"16VAC signal power fed to the common rail system.

Now, the good news.

One of these units was a ScaleCraft SantaFe 2-8-2 Mikado, with original field-wound motor and hand reverse.
The other was my ScaleCraft MT-4 SP Mountain, with, yup, field wound motor and hand-reverse.

Both were scheduled to be convered to big K&D permags the following week (I had found enough motors to screwdriver convert them both).

If they had been can motors, with AC, we would have had smoke.

But, the field wound units didn't care."

Yes, agree TOC, you were lucky in that instance.
I got into O-scale late enough that by then virtually everything I owned was PM motors; the one exception was an old cast-bronze Alexander GG1 I owned for a while; twin field-wound motors, chain drive & 20 pounds!
(So heavy that after running it on my home layout, I suddenly developed all sorts of intermittents in my mainline; it pounded the track so heavily that it was fracturing soldered rail joints!

I had joined the SSSME O-scale club in the last 10 years of it's existence; with the railroad being mostly brass hand-laid track (there were a few spots of steel rail here & there as well) in a DUSTY, non-air-conditioned basement, and an ancient electrical system (by that time; it was "State-of-the-art" at the time it was built), many "operating" nights turned into unwanted "What-the-****-is-going-on-here?!"
impromptu troubleshooting / maintenance sessions. Wiring on it varied from beautifully professional-looking hand-laced cabling
(although as it aged, a lot of that early wiring became fragile & brittle
), to short random lengths of whatever was available just twisted together, without either insulating electrical tape or "splice caps".
My personal "pet peeve" was a troublesome (& UNUSED in one direction, due to trackplan changes!) hand-laid crossover on a curve, INSIDE a tunnel, which could ONLY be reached by removing a basement wall partition!
After struggling to find why virtually every train was stalling at that inaccessible spot
on a HOT summer night (no windows, only a large fan to move the stuffy air around), stripped to the waist & "sweating bullets"
, I finally yanked out the offending crossover & installed a stretch of Atlas flex-track in it's place. (END-OF-PROBLEM - for GOOD!

One of my personal "goals" while a member there was to help make the railroad less maintenance-intensive, but the older club members didn't seem particularly concerned about improving the situation
. (& With an elaborate track plan emphasizing LOTS of industrial switching, 7 major yards with even more control panels, a functioning block signal system, & a typical roster of @ 600 cars and 30 locos varying from old ScaleCraft, Alexander, & other early scale manufacturers up to the latest brass offerings & Atlas, Weaver & AHM plastic, there was a LOT to maintain!). I gradually found myself going to "operating" (?) sessions less-&-less; other members did the same.
A year or so after one of the founding members passed away, the restaraunt owner (long on good terms with & very supportive of the club), saw that the railroad wasn't seeing much use, & advised the remaining club members that he was terminating the lease, wanting to get expanded space for his business. The last work I did down there was to help saw the railroad apart into "salvagable"(?) sections should the club relocate (which it never did).
Last I heard they were stored away in a 40-foot box trailer (if still existence, probably so deteriorated by now as to be unusable). Due to that & other circumstances, I went inactive in the hobby for about 10 years.

I think I've strayed off-topic a bit
, but the club scenes in "Model Railroading Unlimited" brought back a lot of old memories; unfortuately, probably one of the scenes I can most relate to in the movie is the poor "troubleshooter"
crawling underneath seemingly endless miles of layout wiring & relay panels, searching for the intermittent short (which naturally sparks only when his back is turned!


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