Miscellaneous Treble-O Information   

This page covers items maybe not meriting a whole page. It also affords me the opportunity to ramble on about some things I may find fascinating or, at least, interesting, that may bore others to tears. The coverage here will be expanded somewhat to include the late push-along trains as a means of comparison between the two ranges.

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The Trials and Tribulations of Driving Bands

Wheels

My Technique for Replacing Wheel Sets

Coupler Hooks

Coupler Loops or Bars

Treble-O-Lectric Track

Treble-O-Lectric Points (Switch) Maintenance and Repair

Paint, Restoration, Touch-Up and Repainting

Random Treble-O Observations

The Trials and Tribulations of Driving Bands

Of course, most of us know the original driving bands in Treble-O-Lectric locomotives were made of neoprene rubber which is a compound particularly resistant to many materials such as grease and oil. Thus, they could be relied upon to last quite a long time without deteriorating; shredding or turning to sticky goo.

This has been proven as bands remaining after these many years, regardless of how stretched and unuseable they may have become because of that, are relatively intact.

But, that is the problem. They do eventually stretch to the point of the loco not being able to pull anything anymore.

If there were a substance into which the bands could be submerged to restore the elasticity, much more life could probably be realized from them. I know I have quite a few of them I can't bring myself to throw away.

I am aware of compounds on the market which are supposed to restore rubber to former glory but the effect is usually temporary.

So, this brings us to substitutes. For years, I have used the smallest size rubber bands (about 10mm diameter) included in assortments available in grocery or drug stores.

They work fairly well when new but are relatively short lived as the inferior rubber is attacked by the oil which inevitably finds its way, albeit in small amounts, onto the drive shafts. Not only does this result in the inconvenience of changing the belts at fairly frequent intervals, it also means cleaning up the goop from the deterioration of previous bands. Sometimes this stuff gets spattered all over the chassis too, making more mess and work.

Also, the cross-section of most of these is too thick which can cause them to climb up on the inside of the wheel and onto the tread, stopping the loco in its tracks (so to speak:^).

Anyway, I have been having some trouble finding these lately. It seems most places around here have quit carrying those little rubber bands.

I began calling around to orthodontists to see if they would sell me a few orthodontic bands in different sizes to try. I was pleasently, mildly surprised to find most of the people I talked to at these places were extremely friendly and helpful and, actually, gave me little bags full of bands for free! One doctor's office even gave me all of their bands which were due to be thrown out as they were beyond their expiration dates. I had no idea that orthodontic bands had expiration dates!

So, I ended up with hundreds, if not thousands of bands, a lot of which are much too small but almost as many useable.

They come in all different sizes and strengths (thinner and thicker). I have used 3/8" (10mm) and 5/16" (8mm) with some success. I have even tried 1/4" bands and they work but are stretched pretty thin.

I believe the ideal size for these would be the 10mm ones (which is the same diameter as the orginal bands) at the maximum strength available.

Alas, these are not the be-all-and-end-all of Treble-O-Lectric driving bands either. They are much more flexible than the originals and, while that doesn't matter too much when they are new and, actually, is an advantage in that there is less tension on the motor shafts and, thus, less current draw, they have a tendency to get sticky with use and then will wrap around the drive shaft, effectively stopping the loco. I was hopeful that these would be impervious to oil as they are latex but no such luck.

So, the orthodontic bands are what I am using as of now and some of the 10mm ones lasted a couple of months before getting sticky. They can be cleaned with acetone and this gets rid of the stickiness so they can be used again if not too worn.

The band at the inside front by the motor brushes seems to be the quickest to get dirty and oily. Probably a combination of the oil from the front bushing and carbon dust from the brushes.

I still search for other alternatives and I know Martin Doubleday in England sells bands and they are reported to be excellent. I will probably have to order some from him some day.

Also, I haven't tried the Maerklin #7153 HO traction tires which also are supposed to work well.

I have searched for 3/8" neoprene and silicone tubing to cut into bands on google too without much luck as the wall thickness is too great. It needs to be about 1.5mm as 2mm (1/16") is a little too thick.

I'm thinking silicone may be more resistant to oil than latex.

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Wheels

Regarding the Treble-O-Lectric trains, Lone Star appears to have changed the plastic used for the black wheel and axle sets. Early on, the plastic was a rather hard, almost "Bakelite" type plastic that was fairly easy to break (I know because I broke the axle ends off some sets trying to remove them from the bogies when I was a lad). The ends of the wheels on these are plain, without a raised rim around the outside. Later, the plastic was a more flexible black plastic that can be bent without breaking. These have the raised rim around the wheel ends (except for the British coach wheels sets which are still plain). I have attempted to show this below, although the image isn't that great. Plain on the left, rimmed on the right:

All of the spares I have are of the later type. Also, I have some cars on which the previous owner had obviously replaced the wheels and, while they got them in the bogies without breakage, the conical ends were hopelessly bent which resulted in a bad case of the wobbles. I have since replaced these with new sets. See below how I do this.

Another interesting thing is that the British outline wagons, trucks, and coaches (at least early on) have plastic wheels and inner axles but the axle ends are metal (copper?). Actually, the metal axle goes all the way through and the plastic axle and wheels are two half-pieces that slip over the metal axle. The ends are cylindrical, slightly rounded on the ends, rather than conical (pointed). I have never seen any American outline freight cars with this feature although they are known to exist. All of mine have the one piece plastic sets.

Even though the Lone Star literature states never to lubricate the rolling stock wheels, I have found that the metal-ended axles need a little grease on them or the friction is such that they do not roll well at all. I use LaBelle 106 grease with Teflon with good results. I also occasionally lubricate the all-plastic sets.

The late push-along trains, of course, have grayish or silver wheel sets. These appear to be made of the same type of plastic as the later black sets. Some of them are pretty much all the same colour throughout and others have a variagated look with lines of darker colour running through them.

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My Technique for Replacing Wheel Sets

Replacing wheels on Treble-O trains is not an easy undertaking as on most N scale rolling stock where you can just pop out the old and pop in the new. In manufacture, the axle ends were placed in the journals and then the surrounding metal was swaged toward the center over the axle ends to retain the wheel set when the piece of rolling stock is turned upright. The wheel set is pretty much trapped in place after this procedure. You can't bend the bogie sideframes out to get the wheels out because the rather brittle zinc alloy metal will break (something else I did when I was a lot younger). You can't force the axles out (at least with the harder plastic sets) because the axle ends will break off. If you force one of the more flexible plastic sets, you may get it out without breaking anything but, as I said above, the ends will be bent which makes the set unuseable.

So, what to do? Here is how I replace wheel sets while attempting to retain the original appearance as much as possible. There is always a small slit at the center between the two sides of metal which have been swaged over like this:

British style                    American style  

What I do is take a modeling knife such as an X-acto and shave away metal on both sides of the slit, a little at a time, until the wheel set can be removed or replaced with just a little interference between the axle end and metal. This way, the wheel set can be removed or replaced without damaging the ends. And once the new set is in place, it won't fall out because there will still be enough metal left to keep it from doing so.

There is the possibility of marring the axle ends slightly while doing this but I have found it isn't severe enough to really affect the rolling qualities of the car. And, while it is possible to tell this procedure has taken place, the bogie still retains the overall look of a Treble-O bogie.

Note that this need be done on only one side of the bogie since the other end can be slipped out of or into the journal under the swage.

Another way is to cut away the metal entirely and then put a little "cover" over the axle end after it is in place, securing with superglue or epoxy, but this changes the appearance of the bogie quite obviously. I have done it this way, however, on cars I received second hand where some of the metal had been broken away. It at least makes the car operable again and that's what's most important, right?

I welcome any and all other tips anyone can give regarding this subject in order to have a more complete viewpoint.

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Coupler Hooks

If a hook (also called a latch) is merely bent, it can be reshaped by heating slightly and bending it back to its original configuration. I do mean heating slightly. We don't want to melt the plastic.

This reminds me of a little story. When I first got some Atlas N scale equipment (an EMD E8 diesel) in 1967, all my cars were still Treble-O-Lectric. The E8 had Rapido couplers on it, of course, and I was in a quandry as to how to couple to the Treble-O cars. What I did at first was to bend the end of one of the Treble-O hooks so it pointed straight down and I then slipped it over the end of the Rapido coupler. It worked pretty well but I didn't want to bend all of the Treble-O hooks because, after all, it would render automatic coupling between the cars impossible. So, I ended up making a duplicate of a Treble-O loop out of plastic with a "T" on it that fit into the Rapido coupler pocket on the E8. This was a much better solution and so I reshaped the hook I had bent using the method above.

A broken hook is another matter. I fixed one uncoupling "pin" using superglue and it's holding but I don't know how sturdy it really is because I haven't tried to "break" it again. I don't know of a source for replacement hooks. I suppose one could try and make...........maybe not.

Related to this, the hook pivot ends, on the vast majority of cars or wagons and coaches, are retained by a riveted metal cover plate on the bottom of the extension for the loop on the bogies of American style freight and passenger cars and British style passenger coaches. It's on the bottom of the car body underframe itself on British style freight wagons. Sometimes the hook will not descend all the way to the top surface of the loop; a must for reliable coupling. Often, the front edge of the cover plate interferes with the hook so it can only lower to a given point. The fix is to swing the cover plate back away from the hook a bit (toward the bogie kingpin or center of the body) so the hook is free to lower until it hits the loop.

Replacing a hook (assuming you can find one) is easy. Just swing the cover plate far enough away from the hook mounting, remove the old hook, put in the new hook, and swing the cover plate back to cover the mounting. OK, it's USUALLY this easy. I have acquired some cars, particularly from the late push-along series, where the cover plate is riveted so tightly that it won't swing away. In that case, I have raised the cover away (bent it up) and then lowered (bent it back down) it afterward.

Some rolling stock have the same type of hook retainer as the 0-8-0 Baldwin tender. There is an extension of the bogie casting covering the hook mounting keeping the hook from falling out.

On the diesel locomotives, the hook is retained by the pivot ends being inserted into holes located in verticle extensions that project down from the plastic molding between the two metal bogie halves. One of the pivot ends is longer than the other and the hook can be removed by working the shorter end out of its hole first and then pulling out the longer end. You may have to use a small screwdriver or other suitable tool to carefully spread the two verticle extensions slightly. I have found that if the hook does not descend all the way to the loop here, it is usually caused by flash on the pivot ends and this can be removed with a sharp modeling knife.

The rear hook of the Baldwin 0-8-0 (there is no front hook) is retained similarly to the cars or wagons except that, instead of a riveted cover plate, there is an extension from the right bogie side that covers the slots where the pivot pins are located. Hook removal is simply by separating the two pieces by lifting slightly on the plastic loop and pulling out the hook.

If the hook descends all the way to the loop but is at the wrong angle, either pointing up or down instead of straight out, this is contolled by the angle at which the hook mounting nub or boss comes off the main part of the hook. Correction can be made by, once again, heating slightly and bending the nub in the dirction that will get the hook to point straight out when it is in contact with the loop. Bending the nub up toward to top of the hook will raise the hooked end of the hook and bending it toward the bottom will lower it.

Lone Star seems to have abandoned trimming the molding flash from atop the hooks with the late push-along series.

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Coupler Loops or Bars

Boy, some kids must be really tough on their toys! I have acquired some cars where the loops are actually bent down! How hard would you have to slam them together for that to happen? Oops, I guess I remember that this happened to one of my own cars too so it must not take that much force (insert embarrassed smiley face here).

Zinc alloy or pot metals seem to be able to bend to almost amazing angles - once. Try to bend it back and - SNAP! If the bend isn't too sharp, however, it is possible to coax the casting back into correct alignment.

Through some very interesting exchanges with a very knowledgeable enthusiast who wishes to remain anonymous, I was reminded about how I probably fixed my car that had the bent down loop syndrome. Judge where the bend actually is. Now take a pair of needle-nosed pliers (preferably with taped jaws) and span the bend with one of the jaws. Gently bring the other jaw against the other side of the bend and squeeze slowly and carefully. The pressure created will usually coax the bend out of the metal so it is straight again.

Of course, it is always possible that the metal will fracture instead of agreeing to fall back into place. In this case, about the only option is to try and glue it back together. While superglue works very well to reattach pieces of zinc alloy or pot metal with fairly large surface areas, such is not the case if a loop breaks off. There are only the two spindly sides of the loop with which to work. Epoxy is probably a better choice here but the loop will probably never be as strong as it originally was.

The loops on locomotives (except for the front one on the 0-8-0) are plastic and are pretty rugged. I did have to reattach one side of one with epoxy though (another kid thing).

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Treble-O-Lectric Track

Construction

Treble-O-Lectric track is constructed not unlike many other types and gauges of track with nickel-silver rails retained in a plastic sleeper (tie) strip by simulated chairs/screws (tie plates/spikes). It does have some unique features, however. The simulated chairs/screws (tie plates/spikes) do not grip the rail tightly so there are either small studs sticking up from the bottom through the plastic strip and bearing against the bottom of the rail (this is probably on the earlier track pieces) or two formed sheet metal pieces soldered to the rails and bent over a sleeper on each side to keep the rails from sliding along the plastic strip when sections are joined. Also, each plastic strip is actually in two pieces on a full section of track. This allows the same mouldings to be used on both full and half sections. The little sheet metal pieces are installed at the 13th sleeper in from the non-fishplate ends on full straights, the 12th sleeper in on full curves, the 7th sleeper in on half straights, and the 6th sleeper in on half curves although I have seen a variance with some early pieces of half curves where they are installed directly opposite each other at the 8th sleeper.

The fishplates (rail joiners) are usually soldered to each rail end on opposite sides with a supplied section of track. An exception is the points (also see below for a dedicated section on the points) where the fishplates are supplied in a separate paper packet along with nylon joiners so the user may choose to either have all the layout wired together in one block or separate it into isolated sections to run more than one train at a time. Sometimes (early) the fishplates are plain, unplated brass and are, of course, a brass colour but usually they have a silver-gray appearance due to being either tinned or plated with something. The same holds true for the little bits that are bent around the sleepers to keep the rails from sliding.

Genuine Treble-O-Lectric track will have "LONE STAR  TREBLE-O-LECTRIC  MADE IN ENGLAND" moulded into the bottom of each half section of plastic sleeper strip and a letter representing the mould from which each piece came. It seems as though I have seen almost the whole alphabet represented here so Lone Star must have had many moulds for the strips or many cavities in each mould. There are 30 sleepers per full section of track and 15, of course, per half section. Curved track radius is 12".

An interesting observation I have made ever since I got my first Treble-O-Lectric in 1962 is, in some curved sections, the plastic strip sections joining the sleepers are not as broad from outside to inside as other sections. I am assuming the pieces with the less broad joining sections are earlier as there are not as many of them and evidently Lone Star, wishing to make the track more robust, increased the size of these fairly early in production. Straight sections of track with these differences also exist.

To keep sections of track from coming apart when a layout was merely laid on a table and not fastened down, Lone Star thoughtfully supplied little clips in train sets which snap onto the underside of the end sleepers of two adjoining pieces of track, holding them together. These were also sold separately as EL.183.

Speaking of sleepers, Treble-O-Lectric track is made so, on one end, the end sleeper is flush with the end of the rail and on the other end, the end sleeper is set back so when two pieces of track are joined in the normal way, the sleeper spacing remains constant where two sections are joined. Of course, if you join two sections the opposite way, such as when making an "S" curve, you will end up with either two sleepers very close together or two that have a wider than normal spacing. Also, re-railers do not have this feature so there will be two closely spaced sleepers on one end or the other when joined to other track.

If you were to buy the re-railer with the full length straight track, the rails are kept from sliding along the plastic strip the same way as with a regular piece of straight track. The half straight re-railer, however, has two little brass bits that are inserted into the plastic from below and bear against the rails to keep them in position (as on the earlier regular track pieces). These have varying effectiveness (the rails can still slide, albeit with more resistance).

The diamond crossovers, which were sold in both left and right hand versions (to allow flipped versions of the same layout?), have brass strip jumpers, similar to the points, to transfer current from one end of the crossover to the other as the rails are interrupted by the plastic diamond center.

The power feed terminal, which has a T.V. interference suppressor inside, fits between the plastic sleeper strip and the rails. The two half-round ends friction-fit between the strip and rail on their respective sides. There is a hole provided in the centre to allow you to fasten it to the layout baseboard to prevent it working loose.

The uncouplers snap into position in a straight section of track with small tabs that end up between the rail and plastic strip. The buffers (bumpers) are supposed to friction-fit between the rails and this works with varying degrees of success. If installed at the very end of a piece of track (where they would normally be anyway), the intrusion of the fishplate into the inside of the rails helps the fit. I guess you could (shudder) glue them into place. Or, how about two sided tape?

For a listing of the available track pieces and related products, go here: Track and Track Products. Click on your browser's "back" button to return here.

Track Repair

The most common condition you are likely to encounter is broken chair/screw simulations, particularly at the ends, and although these aren't absolutely necessary to make the track useable, it is better if the rails are fastened securely to the plastic sleeper strip to keep it in gauge.

If the simulation is still there but cracked, you can merely hold it in place and daub a little solvent type liquid plastic cement on it and let it set until the plastic has hardened again.

If these are completely missing, here is what I do to re-secure the rails. I use 5 minute epoxy and, with the business end of a small screwdriver, force the epoxy into the hole under each missing simulation until it flows a bit up beside the rail on each side. This will normally be enough to keep the track sturdy as long as it is handled reasonably carefully. Be sure to keep the rail tightly against the sleepers with weight or elastic bands until the epoxy sets so that the track remains level. This method also results in a fairly unobtrusive repair.

If more strength is desired, you can use epoxy but apply it directly to the top surface where the simulation once was. Make sure you use only a small amount at each location and don't let the epoxy "blob" get above the line in the rail which marks the change from the angled bottom part of the rail to the verticle part. You can see that the original simulations were moulded this way. This is to avoid interference with the flanges on rolling stock wheels. Although this method is more unsightly, it is stronger and you can reduce the apparentness by painting the "blobs" black.

Bent rails can be removed from the plastic strip by melting the solder at the sheet metal rail antislider (I just made that term up), pushing the rail a bit while the solder is molten so the joint is separated, cleaning the excess solder off the rail, and sliding it all the way out. You can then reshape the rail and reinstall into the strip, soldering the rail to the antislider.

Damaged fishplates can be removed by melting the solder at the joint and pulling it off at the same time. The piece of track must be anchored someway, of course. You can then either reshape the fishplate with small needle-nose pliers or replace it with a new one, assuming you can find some. Then reinstall, soldering it to the rail. It doesn't really have to be resoldered but should be for the sake of authenticity and to avoid the annoying occurance of the fishplates staying on the wrong piece of track when you separate them.

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Treble-O-Lectric Points (Switch) Maintenance and Repair

Construction

Treble-O-Lectric points (switches or turnouts) are a rather unique design in that the power to, and polarity of, the frog is controlled by the slide lever which also throws the blades of the switch....er....ah...points.

Connected to the frog itself is a stiff spring wire which fits into a groove in the slide and so is electrically connected to the slide. There are two brass strips inside connected to the stock and frog rails. These extend to the area where the slide is and the slide contacts one or the other depending on how the points are set. Thus, the frog is powered, and the polarity set correctly, from one or the other stock rails as required for continuous power to the locomotive. See below in the "Inside Inspection, Cleaning, and Repair" section for a view of the inside of the points.

There are two designs for the blades/frog. One has plastic blades and the frog is a separate metal casting which appears to be zinc alloy. The frog is stationary and the plastic blades are moved by the slide via an extension of the spring wire from the frog inserted into a hole in the throwbar. In the other design, the blades and frog are a one-piece casting and the whole thing pivots when the slide is moved.

The former design is used in the strictly manual points (EL.104 and EL.105, left and right respectively) and the latter is used in the points which may be used either manually or remotely with the addition of a point machine controlled electrically by a lever type switch. Lone Star did sell points with the machine already attached as EL.116 and EL.117, left and right and the machine separately as EL.114 and lever switch as EL.115. The electrical action is the same for either design. Please keep in mind the steps below refer mainly to the EL.104 and EL.105 type points since I haven't seen the other type.

Maintenance and Repair

If your locos hesitate or stall when passing over a set of points, it indicates something amiss with the electrical workings of the points, assuming the rails and the surface of the cast frog are clean. I have found that a wooden toothpick works good for getting into the recessed area of the frog where the streaks of dirt and oxidation form. The frogs are more prone to build-up than the other rails because of the metal from which they are made. There are several other areas that can cause problems and dirt and oxidation or corrosion through time are the most likely culprits. Also, the parts may loosen or break. These areas are:

Of course, where and how the points have been stored play a big part in what conditions inside will be. If they have been in a humid environment for any length of time, oxidation and corrosion are much more likely than if they have been in a fairly dry climate. If the points have been carelessly handled (not by any of us, I'm sure) loose or broken parts are more likely.

Actually, if the points are used often, they are more apt to stay reliable because the rubbing together of the various parts has a kind of self cleaning effect to keep corrosion at bay as long as excess dirt isn't a factor.

Soldered Connections

There are four of these connections where the brass strips exit the plastic housing, are bent over under the rails, and soldered. A connection may look OK under normal viewing but under close inspection, a broken solder joint may be revealed. Sometimes it is just a hairline crack that is hard to see without magnification. You can also move the rails a bit to detect a break. In fact, the rails will usually slide fairly easily within the simulated spikes/screws if the solder connection is broken and this can be a clue.

The fix, of course, is to resolder the joint. The rails and strips must be very clean and polished and a good solder flux used to affect a good job. Use a soldering iron that is large enough (35-45 watts) so enough heat can be transferred to the joint in a short period of time. You must work quickly to avoid melting the plastic in the area of the solder joint which could move rails out of correct alignment. Of course, if enough solder is present at the joint, you can usually just dab a bit of flux on the joint and reheat the connection with the iron to reflow the solder.

Another possibility is the tabs on the brass strips can actually be broken at the bend where they exit the plastic housing. This can be seen by looking closely and also by moving the rail. See how to fix this below in the "Inside Inspection, Cleaning, and Repair" section.

If one or more broken connections were found and successfully repaired, replace the points into your layout and run a loco over it fairly slowly. If the loco now moves steadily through both routes without hesitation, nothing more need be done. However, a more "professional" way of checking things out is with an ohmeter. With the blades thrown for the straight route, there should be very little resistance between the frog and either the curved stock rail or the straight frog rail. With the blades thrown for the diverging route, there should be very little resisitance between the frog and either the straight stock rail or the curved frog rail.

If locos still hesitate when traversing either route or there is high resistance measured with the ohmeter, there are additional problems. Try moving the slide lever back and forth rapidly several times with the points on a flat surface. This will have the effect of wearing away oxidation or corrosion on the bottom of the slide and top of the brass strips and also between the groove in the slide and the spring wire from the frog.

If this doesn't do the trick, the plastic bottom plate will have to be removed and the interior of the points inspected. I suggested the above measures first because removing the plate is a bit of a pain and it must be done carefully and correctly so there is no damage done to it or the rest of the points housing.

Removing the Bottom Plate

If you turn the points over, you will see there is a separate flat plastic piece extending from under the area where the slide lever is to the other end of the points. This is the piece that says "Lone Star Treble-O-Lectric Made in England" on it. I don't have any of the electric type points and I know that the housing is shaped a bit differently than the manual (hand-operated) ones (there is an extra "step" on the manual points housing on the side away from the rail) but the construction is basically the same.

The bottom plate is secured to the top of the housing at four heat-staked points (not switches). There are two at the housing where the slide is, at kind of diagonal corners, and two between the rails in the area where the soldered connections between the rails and brass strips are made. These are apparent by the presence of slightly melted plastic circular or rectangular shaped areas on the top surfaces of the housing. Upon manufacture, various lengths of studs or posts extended up from the bottom plate through the four holes in the housing and then a hot tool of some kind was used to "stake" or melt these posts to the housing.

I have tried, when I was much, much younger (oh, say about 46 years ago), to pry the bottom plate off by using a flat tool to get into the seams between the housing and the plate with less than stellar results. A lot of times, the posts would break off at the bottom plate instead of coming loose from the housing and, while these can be cemented after service, it's certainly not ideal. I now use a drill bit that is slightly larger than the diameter of the posts (about 3/32"- what's that in metric?) to drill down into the four areas where the posts are staked just enough to free the posts for easy removal. Upon reassembly, I then use a liquid (solvent type) plastic cement (like Tenax 7R, which is excellent) to secure the posts, once again, to the housing. While not undetectable, the appearance is acceptable (what else ya gonna do?).

You could restake the posts with heat but then you would face the same problem of disassembly if the points ever need to be opened again. If you cement them, in the future you can use the cement itself to soften the plastic around the posts and they will usually pull out of the holes easily. When reattaching, don't overdo it with the cement so it runs down inside the points housing and it will be easier to remove the bottom cover at a later time. 

Inside Inspection, Cleaning, and Repair

With the bottom plate off, you will now see the two brass strips extending from where they are soldered to the rails, above, to the area of the slide and spring wire. Also, the triangular slide itself, which also appears to be a zinc alloy casting, and the spring wire insulated at the bend to avoid shorting to the brass strips. This wire extends over to the area under the frog and is riveted to it. Note how it inserts into the groove or slot in the slide to maintain electrical contact with it and then goes on to insert into the throwbar to move the points. Ingenious yes? Here is what you will see when the bottom plate is removed:

Look for corrosion at any of the points of contact between any of these parts. Also, the two brass strips must lay flat so, as the slide moves, the underside of it contacts one or the other strip.

To disassemble further for cleaning, the spring wire needs to be withdrawn from the throwbar. Usually, it will pivot enough about the rivet at the frog to allow it to be pulled away and out of the hole in the bar. You must lift it clear of the two small cylindrical bosses astride it to do this. On points with plastic blades, you can pry the blades up out from between the rails at the frog end to allow you to be able to maneuver them somewhat to aid in the withdrawal of the spring wire. This, however, is usually not necessary. Once the wire is free from the throwbar, you can maneuver the slide out from under the spring wire.

Clean up any corrosion on the wire or slide with very fine sandpaper, an abrasive track cleaning pad, or steel wool. It's a small area to work in to do the wire but  it can be done. The areas on which to concentrate on the slide are the two bottom surfaces that contact the brass strips and the groove into which the spring wire goes. Polish the surfaces until they are shiny for good electrical contact. The two brass strips must be polished at the two areas where they contact the slide. These, of course, are on the underside as you view the assembly from the bottom so it's not that easy to do without bending the strips. Care must be maintained. If the strips become slightly bowed as you do this, they can be straightened again by working them between your fingers or a tweezers to get them to lay flat again.

Inspect the area where the spring wire is riveted to the frog. It needs to be free from corrosion and snug. A loose rivet can be restaked with a pointed punch from the top while supporting the rivet on the bottom. It doesn't take too much force to do this. The metal frog/blade version is similar except there is a stud extending from the lower surface for the pivot and it is swaged over the wire. To tighten this version, of course, you would support the top surface and restake on the bottom at the swage.

Also, inspect the other end of the frog where a stud is swaged over at the bottom to hold it in place. Again, this refers to the stationary frog, plastic blade models. A little looseness is OK here but should not be excessive. This could also be tightened by using a pointed punch while supporting the upper side of the frog. I have one set of points where the corrosion was really bad at the rivet and the frog was bent. I drilled out the rivet and stud, cleaned everything, straightened the frog, and used small screws, a washer, and a nut to reassemble it. To replace the stud, I drilled and tapped a hole into the frog itself for a 00-90 screw and trimmed the screw so it wouldn't protrude above the upper surface of the frog. The screw in place of the rivet is a flathead screw and it fits nicely into the recess left by the rivet so it, likewise, doesn't protrude above the surface. The spring wire is secured under the washer at the bottom and a nut finishes the job. I had to trim a little of the plastic away on the bottom plate to clear the nut.

If you found any of the tabs on the brass strips broken as I mentioned above, they can be fixed by soldering a short jumper (a piece of small solid copper wire) to the piece of the tab on the brass strip, inserting the tab stub and jumper through the housing slot, bending the jumper over onto the rest of the tab, and soldering. This means removing the brass strip, of course because you must get the tab really clean to successfully solder a jumper to it and there isn't enough of the tab showing or enough room to do it with the strip in place without melting the surrounding plastic.

The method of removing a strip depends on whether there is one tab broken or both. If both are broken, the strip will just pull out from the bottom and you can solder jumpers to both tab stubs, reinsert the strip, and solder to the rest of the tabs. If only one tab is broken the other tab must be unsoldered from the rail, the rail slid out of the point housing, and then the strip can be removed. You can remove the rail by melting the solder while pushing on the rail so the solder joint separates and the rail slides along the sleepers. Remove any excess solder from the rail that will interfere with it sliding further and slide it all the way out. I use a knife to remove the solder. Push or pull any of the rails in the direction toward the end of the points where there are four rails. Solder the jumper to the broken tab stub, reinsert the strip, bend the good tab and jumper over, reinstall the removed rail, and solder the good tab and jumper to the rail and rest of the tab respectively.

Since writing the above, I have found a better way of removing the solder at the connections if a rail must be removed. If you have access to a Dremel, or similar, motor tool, the solder can be ground off with a small metal cylindrical cutter with serrated edges. Remove almost all of it and then use a modeler's knife between the rail and brass tab to separate them. The advantage here is you only need to use heat once (upon resoldering/reassembly), thus reducing the chance of damaging the plastic.

While you have the brass strips out, it is a good idea to inspect them to be sure they are straight and, as a matter of fact, this is the easiest way to straighten them. Mush easier than if they are in place in the housing.

Reassembly

With everything cleaned up and secure, the whole thing can now be put back together. Start by maneuvering the slide back under the spring wire and positioning the wire into the groove in the slide. Recheck the two brass strips to be sure they are flat and will contact the slide. Position the spring wire and throwbar to get the end of the wire back into the hole in the bar. After this is done, check to be sure that the wire isn't bent, fits well up into the groove in the slide, and doesn't have any undue downward force on the two brass strips. The ends of the brass strips should extend over the little step in the housing so that the bottom plate will capture them when it is put back into place. This will ensure that the slide contacts them.

With all parts in place, reinstall the bottom cover by inserting the posts into the holes in the housing and securing with liquid plastic cement. I like Tenax 7R (available in other areas?) because the bond is almost immediate with styrene and so the job goes quicker. Be sure to keep pressure on the plate until the glue or bond is set so it remains tight to the housing. This is important for the slide to make dependable contact with the brass strips.

After assembly, replace the points into the layout and check smooth operation of locos through it or check it with an ohmeter. Everything should be hunky-dory if the above steps were followed.

Other Things to Look For

Sight down the points along the straight route from one end to the other. The rails, frog, and blades should all be in reasonably good alignment and the route should actually look straight. I have seen some points where the curved stock rail does not rest against the outside chair/screw simulations (the rail is too far inward) where the blades contact the stock rail and this causes a narrowing of the gauge here.You will be able to see space between the outer edge of the rail and the simulations in this case. This can be corrected by removing the curved stock rail and, through trial and error, bending the rail so it bears against the simulations. The blades can now move farther outward and the gauge will be correct.

If the wheel flanges of your rolling stock "pick the points" or, in other words, hit the end of the blades while passing through from the blade end of the points, there is a good chance that the ends of the blades are too blunt where they rest against the stock rails (this can be true of either style of points). This is a major cause of derailments at points because, as the flanges hit the end of the blades, the coach, wagon, or car will bounce around and will not necessarily end up back on the rails! It can be corrected by using either a file or electric motor tool to shape the blade ends so they are more tapered and pointed. This way, the wheel flanges will be smoothly guided into the rest of the points.

It is possible for the frog to be slightly mispositioned so that its rails do not line up with the others. There isn't too much that can be done here as the frog is riveted and staked into position but sometimes there is a little side to side play and you can push the frog back into alignment and secure with superglue. This, of course, would not apply to the one-piece metal frog and blade points. In extreme cases, you can always drill out the rivet and staked end and replace with screws as I did with the one I mentioned in the section above, repositioning the frog as you reassemble.

Sight along the bottom of the points or place the points on a flat surface and push down to check that the plastic moulding is not warped. Here again, I have seen some where the plastic is bowed up in the center area and this causes an up and down movement of rolling stock through the points or tilting from side to side. This is particularly harmful to the performance of the locomotives through the points as some of the wheels can lose contact with one or the other rail and stall. I have corrected this situation by heating the points with a hot hair dryer and bending so the points lay flat. Don't overdo the heating; we just want to soften the plastic, not melt it! It is best to remove the rails while doing this so you can bend the plastic without breaking the chair simulations.

Sometimes the joint where the plastic blades and the metal frog meet can be a bit rough. The rail ends of the frog are a little blunt causing the rolling stock wheels to hit with a fairly loud "click!" Although this seldom causes derailments, it can and it is a little annoying. You can reshape the frog rail ends with a small file or a motor tool to round them off a little so they align better with the ends of the plastic blades. Boy, the all metal frog/blades points must be a bit smoother than the two piece models huh?

Another cause of rough passage can be the little rivet sticking up in the middle of the frog (this is the one holding the spring wire on the bottom). If the head of the rivet protrudes too far over to one side or the other, the locomotive driving wheels will strike the head of the rivet with a "click" as it passes. The rivet head can be filed or ground down slightly to eliminate this. Don't remove too much material, however, because the rivet must still be a rivet.

Following these extra steps will result in a much smoother passing of rolling stock through the points.

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Paint, Restoration, Touch-Up and Repainting

First, a little about the philosophy of collecting and restoration. Many collectors would never dream of altering a piece of equipment they have acquired, even if most of the paint is gone. The state the piece is in is supposed to reflect its history and this is what makes it collectable. While this is a valid argument, I have a counter for it. In my opinion, a collectable, such as our Treble-O trains, should reflect the appearance and operation the original creator and maker intended. I believe it is more of an honor to the creator and maker to have a piece look and operate like new rather than let it remain in a state which may be merely the result of careless handling by a previous owner. It is much more satisfying, to me, to see these trains run around the track in a like-new condition instead of being beat up, paint chipped, or broken. I'm sure this is partially because I, in fact, received a brand new set when I was ten years old and I wish to see the pieces remain in, or restored to, the condition they were in then. But that is not all of it. As I stated above, I believe we do the Lone Star company more honor by restoring these trains to the condition they were in when they left the factory. I spent a considerable amount of time restoring my original set to like new condition, not as a result of careless handling by me, but to correct alterations I made to them 40 years ago in an effort to make them more "realistic." This mainly involved removing added paint of various colours to ladders and such and touching up any minor chips that occured through normal use. I also restore, or have restored, any additional pieces I acquire, or have acquired over the years.

The above being said, Lone Star undoubtedly used oil enamels to finish the diecast trains and accessories in various colours and gloss levels. The American outline models were invariably painted in a gloss, or near gloss, finish. The British outline models are a mixed bag. Some, like the D.5000 and D5900 have a matte (flat) finish. Others, like the coaches, have a semi-matte finish. Still others, like the Shell tank wagon and UD milk tank wagon, have a near gloss finish. These observations, of course, are based on my own experience with the models I have and I am sure there are variations in the gloss levels of the British outline equipment.

Touch-Up or Repainting

Treble-O trains, being made of painted diecast zinc alloy, are, unfortunately, prone to paint chipping and peeling. The gloss finish pieces seem to be worse for this than the earlier matte finish models. The British diesels I have seen, for instance, almost always have all of their paint intact. The decision to repaint or merely touch up a model depends on how much of the finish is gone, of course. If there are only small chips of paint missing, correction can be made by mixing small amounts of different colour paints together to match the original colour and gloss and applying with a small brush or toothpick to the chipped area. Some colours are more easily matched than others and it takes a fair amount of time to achieve a perfect match. The paint must be mixed, applied to a surface of the same colour as the original zinc alloy, allowed to dry, and compared to the original paint finish. If it's not identical, you must do it over, adding the correct amount of the appropriate colour to make the resulting colour match. This can be very time consuming but the goal is to not be able to tell where the touch-up has taken place and it is, in my opinion, worth it. When applying the paint, be sure to just get it into the chip to fill the space and not overlap the original existing paint. This will leave a virtually undetectable repair if the colour is matched precisely. It may take more than one application of paint to fill the chip so patience is a virtue here. Also, don't "brush" the paint on. Merely daub it into the chip so it dries without brush marks.

Some colours with which I have had experience:

The Union Pacific yellow on the F7s was easily matched with Testors brand "Pla" gloss enamel yellow #1114 as it comes from the bottle - no mixing necessary. The Testor company is located in the United States and I am not sure about the availability to the rest of the world. Looking at the Humbrol site on the internet reveals a yellow that looks similar but I don't know if it is exact. Some sloothing is required to find a match for this, or any of the other paints.

The green, as used on the footbridge and station doors and "chalkboard" (also some of the Gulliver County vehicles), I remember being difficult to match and I don't even remember the exact mix. I started with pure green and added yellow and gray until it was the same as the original.

The darker red of the signal box, U.P. boxcar, 100 ton breakdown crane (boom and operator's house), and incline piers was relatively easy. Just start with bright red and add black until it matches.

The brighter red of the station roof was another easy one. Testors # 1103 gloss enamel straight out of the bottle although I have two stations and the roof of one is a bit darker so some added black may be required.

The dark gray as used on the Union Pacific F7 roof was another rather difficult one to get the right "blueness" to the paint. I remember it taking many tries before I finally got it right. Also, this is about the only exception to gloss paints being used on the American outline stuff as it is semi-gloss and I had to mix a combination of gloss and flat paints together to get the right gloss level. This same paint appears to have been used on the Treble-O-Lectric coach roofs, Treble-O-Lectric D.5000 and D.5900 roofs, the station platforms, the level crossing bases, the incline trays, the Treble-O-Lectric brake van roof, the Treble-O-Lectric coal truck, lower part of the box van, and some US boxcar roofs.

The lighter gray of the flatcars and 100 ton crane flat was another tough one but I finally got it right.

The dark brown of the brown flat cars, U.P caboose roof, and some boxcar roofs was relatively easy. I started with Testors #1140 brown and added a little white, I believe, to make it a bit lighter.

The brighter green of the Treble-O-Trains B.R. "D5900" "F7" (what a combination!) was a mixture of Testors #1124 green with bits of yellow and gray added.

The brown of the brake van body was matched with Floquil boxcar red and buffed slightly to make it semi-gloss.

The white used on the U.D. milk tank wagon was matched by, of all things, the touch-up paint for my 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass!

I found a very good match for the undercarriages and bogies with Monogram brand "Pro-Modeler" satin black. Although this is a water based paint, it has exactly the right "blackness" and gloss level to match the original.

I haven't had to, or tried to match the Mobilgas tanker blue and I don't think I ever want to. It looks like it would be a real bearcat.

Of course, as in any manufacturing process, there are certain to be variations in the exact hue of different paint batches so one mix may not work for all applications where a given colour is used.

If it is decided to repaint rather than touch-up a model, the remaining original finish should be completely stripped off and the new paint applied. At least with these metal models, an aggresive type stripper such as "Zip-Strip" can be used without damaging the underlying surface. Repainting one of the models with lettering on it is not something I would normally do because replacing the original lettering is very difficult to get it to look exactly the same. I'm not sure how Lone Star applied the lettering but it was probably stamped on. Sometimes they used actual decals as on the D.5000, D.5900, B.P. petrol tank wagon, and U.D. milk tank wagon. The only pieces I had to repaint that had lettering were my Baldwin 0-8-0 tender and cab sides and the front of my original U.P. F7. The 0-8-0 was because the "damage" I did to it when I "superdetailed" it or, I should say, "unsuperdetailed" it was too extensive to merely touch-up. In the early years, I added a headlight to my F7 and the resulting restoration required that the front end be repainted. So, both of these are awaiting relettering until I can find a way to duplicate the original.

I got another U.P. F7 that had extensive paint loss to the bogies and undercarriage so I stripped off the remaining paint and refinished the pieces using the correct black paint which, at that time, was a mixture of Testors # 1147 gloss and #1149 flat black enamels.

Matching the original Lone Star paint texture is another issue that can be tricky. The paints were applied rather heavily and filled in some detail. An airbrush is almost a must to repaint the trains although an aerosol spray can of paint may actually produce a close match to the original texture. You would, however, have to find a ready-mixed match of colour. I experimented with different air pressures and thicknesses of paints in my airbrush until I got the results I wanted.

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Random Treble-O Observations

The three Treble-O-Lectric diesel-electric locomotives (D.5000, D.5900, and F7) are all the same length and have the same bogie wheelbase. They are also approximately the same length as a piece of half-straight track.

The early driving wheel axles are continuous or solid all the way round and the later ones have slits cut transversely into them.

The non-powered (dummy) locomotives of the Treble-O-Lectric range are substantially different than the Treble-O-Trains push-alongs being adaptations of the powered models with the same wheels/axles and frames. The shells are screwed to the frame as on the powered models. The late push-alongs have plastic wheels, different bogies, and the shells are "riveted" to different frames.

The prototype of the D.5000 "Derby Sulzer" was introduced in 1958 as a type 2 class 24 and was a fairly successful locomotive, the last being scrapped in the very late 1970s - early 1980s. There were 150 of these built.

The prototype of the D.5900 "Baby Deltic" was introduced in 1959 as class 23 and, in contrast to the "Derby" had many problems owing partially to the builders taking steps to reduce the weight when it was greater than that promised to the British Railway. Some were reworked in the early 1960s, however, and the results were somewhat more successful. Still, all but one were withdrawn from service by 1969. There were only 10 of these built.

The stiff "throw wire" in some points are silver-coloured and others are copper coloured.

There were different colours of paint used to seal the screws and nuts on Treble-O-Lectric motors. I have seen white, light green, red, and pink.

The Lone Star range embossed in the casting of some items doesn't always coincide with the range in which they were sold. The signal boxes and flat cars, for instance, all say "Lone Star Locos" regardless of under which range they were sold. I have a U.P coach that is a late push-along and it has "Lone Star Treble-O-Lectric" moulded into the clear plastic window insert. Also, a late push-along British cattle wagon and brake van with Treble-O-Lectric cast into the bottom. These are identified by the other characteristics (silver wheels and paint colours), of course.

Even though it appears Lone Star used the same basic zinc alloy (Zamac) as later N scale manufacturers, such as Rivarossi and Mehanotehnika in loco frames, the quality of the metal was obviously very good as I have almost never observed any deterioration or "Zamacitis" afflicting any Lone Star product. Impressive! The one exception is my Santa Fe boxcar with a warped roof.  

When using cheap rubber bands as a substitute for the original driving bands, I have noted that they not only break after a period of use, but also can become sticky and glue themselves to the driving wheel axles and drive shaft, effectively stopping the locomotive! Of course, this goop must be completely cleaned off before a new band is installed or it will simply glue the new one to the axle or shaft too!

The correct size orthodontic bands make much better substitutes.

The best Treble-O-Lectric loco for testing newly laid track is the Baldwin 0-8-0. The combination of the locomotive being pushed by the tender and the relatively long wheelbase of the four pairs of drivers almost guarantees that any bad track joints or out of gauge spots will be found by the loco derailing! If the Baldwin passes through trackwork without any problems, it's a pretty good bet that everything else will too.

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If anyone has any additional ideas or if I have forgotten anything, I would like to hear from you. dgosha@aol.com

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