There's not a lot of progress to report on the layout this week, although the wiring is now in place (except for the traverser: at my current rate of progress I will probably write about that in a couple of weeks). The underside of the baseboard is now taking on rather a Heath Robinson-ish appearance with wires running over the point rods and held in place with blutack.
So I thought I'd bulk up this post with a few notes on the Bachmann Norris locomotive. Actually Bachmann made two versions of the model, and either would suit a Birmingham & Gloucester layout:
- Lafayette (1837) is in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad livery of green boiler with black chimney, cylinders, wheels and firebox. It comes with a typical early US chimney with spark catcher. Watch out if you get a chance to buy the Lafayette train set, as it often comes with US-style bogie coaches that don't suit British practice. (In addition buying the train set version can mean you are paying for track and a 120 volt transformer / controller as well).
- Prussia (1838) is in Berlin-Potsdam Railway colours: red and green boiler and lots of brass-coloured fittings. The matching Prussia coaches are the ones that can be seen in earlier posts.
The small motor is in the haystack firebox, powering the driving axle below. All six wheels on the locomotive pick up current from the rails, with wires running beneath the boiler from the bogie to the motor. Despite the short wheelbase I’ve found the unmodified model can run reasonably slowly over a run of three adjacent short radius Peco Electrofrog points without any problems at all.
But the model's light weight (only 64 grams, including the tender) can lead to wheel slipping and loss of traction. I’ve added weight to the bogie to improve the leading wheels’ contact with the rails, and the hollow boiler and tender can also be used to add weight if desired. Personally I like the loco's slight tendency to wheel slip when starting off with a rack of coaches; it gives the impression the loco really is struggling to overcome inertia.
The prototype had an interesting story. At a time when railways around the world were buying locomotives from British manufacturers like Stephenson and Sharp Roberts, the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway stood out as the only English railway to import locos from abroad. While the BGR really did need three of Norris's powerful locos to bank the Lickey Incline, the unscrupulous builder also manoveured the BGR's naïve directors into buying eleven less powerful engines as well. Designed for American conditions, the heavy British rails quickly damaged the locomotives’ cast iron wheels while their fireboxes, built for burning wood rather than coke, also caused problems. The B&G's inexperienced enginemen put several out of action during their first few months in service, and the situation only improved when James McConnell became loco foreman at Bromsgrove in July 1841. Most of these smaller locos were sold to smaller railways, collieries and contractors in the mid-1840s, although the bankers remained in service until the mid-1850s. The full story of the locos, including the one-sided negotiations with Norris, is given in Peter Long and Wilber Awdry’s 1979 book The Birmingham and Gloucester Railway.