Friday, April 10, 2015

Further Notes on Brass Remotoring and Customer Service

Hollywood Foundries Bull Ant drive and TCS KAT22 decoder
fitted to floor of NPP South Shore Combine
Remotoring of old brass South Shore cars continues. The latest remotoring effort used a Hollywood Foundries Bull Ant drive.

Hollywood Foundries serves up the Bull Ant in a nearly infinite number of combinations of mounts, wheel size, wheel profile, wheelbase, gauge, motor size, and wiring. The Bull Ant is an above-the-floor design that uses Mashima can motors.

Hollywood Foundries is run by Geoff Baxter amd is located in Australia, but don't let the distance fool you. The Hollywood web site has an exemplary interface for ordering the customizable Bull Ant and other products, and the e-commerce transaction is a breeze. Geoff is extremely helpful and responsive if you have any questions or concerns about Hollywood's products or your order. My drive took about three weeks to arrive, and Geoff was extremely accommodating about a last minute change to my order.

My initial attraction to the Bull Ant was that it has a flywheel and decent-sized motor, and is also very ruggedly engineered. Also, the mounting appeared to be somewhat more elegant than the raised floor mounts required by the NWSL Stanton Drive.

I ordered mine with a 37mm 'end mount'; technically, it's probably a cantilever. Mounting was very simple: I located and drilled two 2mm holes in the in the center sill of of the car and the Bull Ant's nickel silver end mount and used the included 2mm screws and nuts to fasten to the drive to the floor. A bit of .030" styrene sheet between the end mount and the car floor ensured that the car sat level.

After following Hollywood's run-in instructions, I attached the truck sideframes to the Bull Ant with epoxy. Next time, I will use styrene blocks to build out the Bull Ant's sideframe mounting surface to give the sideframe more mounting surface.

A TCS KAT22 decoder was wired in and programmed.

In comparison to my Stanton-equipped NPP cars, the Bull Ant-equipped South Shore car is noticeably noiser, owing to the gears and location of the larger motor. Side-by-side with the Stanton, the performance is comparable, save for the gear noise of the Bull Ant. The flywheel does impart some smoothness to starts and stops, but it's so small that it does not help the model glide through dead frogs or dirty track, the way old All-Nation and Hobbytown flywheel drives did back in the day.

Meanwhile, I had concerns about the performance I was getting from my earlier Stanton re-motoring projects. I had heard and seen that Stantons ran smoothly, but both of mine were troublesome. I posted some queries to a couple of the Yahoo traction groups, and got more confirmation that I should expect smooth performance from the Stantons. A proper break-in was miraculous for one of my Stantons, but the other had a hitch in its get-along.

During the discussion I initiated on the topic of Stanton Drives on the Yahoo forums, NWSL honcho Dave Rygmyr, the maker of Stanton Drives, joined the conversation. He invited anyone with a problem Stanton to contact him, so I did. He asked me to send him the troublesome Stanton, and it came back a week later, running flawlessly.

One of my TCS KAT22 decoders also developed a glitch, and TCS also promptly arranged to service and/or replace it.

TCS, Geoff at Hollywood, and Dave at NWSL are exemplars of customer service and quality manufacturing. It turns out they collaborate in real life--NWSL produces some components for Hollywood--so it's not surprising that they share a similar customer service orientation.  They are also examples of old-school craftsmanship harnessing the power of the internet. I would never have been able to hear directly from Dave if not for internet forums, and Geoff and I would still be sending snail mail and dealing with international payment methods were it not for his excellent e-commerce interface.

All signs, I think, that model railroading is thriving in the 21st century.