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#14 Suspension

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Suspended Animation...

Ever since I received the boiler, I have been working on getting the suspension and weight distribution set correctly.  The problem I have run into is that most of the weight of the boiler is on the rear truck.  I thought about installing a "Hanson" booster (chain drive) to increase the tractive force, but I thought I should try to fix the problem at the source and then see if I still need to install a booster.

I have been corresponding with "Phill the Suspension Man" from down under.  He knows his stuff.  Gave me some great ideas to try.   He suggested ways to shift the weight to the drivers and to break up the equalization of the wheel groups along with the proper order of doing these things.  I have summarized the tasks and the order that they were performed.

1) Group Wheels for Equalization

    a. Front Truck & Front 2 Drivers

    b. Rear Truck & Rear 2 Drivers

Notes: Original plans called for all drivers and rear truck to be equalized together. To minimize the amount of work to do this, I "pinned" the equalizers between the 2nd and 3rd driver.  This effectively froze it in place so the motion between the 2nd & 3rd drivers were isolated.

2) Adjust Journal Heights

    a. Front Group

        i. Start at #2 axle 

        ii. Then #1 Axle

        iii. Then Front Truck

    b.  Rear Group

        i. Start at #3 Axle

        ii. Then #4 Axle

        iii. Then Rear Truck Front Axle

        iv. Then Rear Truck Rear Axle

    c. General Notes

        i. Do one axle at a time (both journals/springs) then check with weight on

        ii. Put blocks under the ends of the frame when taking the weight (boiler) off the wheels so you do not have to reset the springs when putting the boiler back on.

        iii. Start at one end and work your way along

        iv. All hangers must be the same length within wheel groups (except for the first and last hangers of a group)

        v. The engine must be at operating weight (boiler with water)

        vi. Springs must be parallel with the frame

        vii. To increase travel of the journal, reduce number of leafs.  In turn, to minimize travel, put more leafs in. 

3) Weigh Wheel Pairs

    a. Front Truck; Front Axle

    b. Front Truck, Rear Axle

    c: Driver Axle #1

    d. Driver Axle #2

    e. Driver Axle #3

    f. Driver Axle #4

    g. Rear Truck; Front Axle

    h. Rear Truck; Rear Axle

4) Distribute Weight on Axles

    a. To increase weight on an axle, move pivot point for the spring lever arm to that axle

    b. To decrease weight on an axle, move the pivot point for the spring lever arm away from that axle

    c. Adjusting the length of the hangers does nothing to alter the weight on the axles

In order to implement these changes, modifications were needed to the number of leaf springs, pivot points, etc.  I spent hours making 32 spring hangers for my 4-8-4, and then found out the hangers were no longer the correct length due to the increased weight during construction, I quickly realized that I needed another way to adjust the spring tensions on each of the drivers.  Now the solution that I used will definitely make the purists "cringe", but the time saved and the performance obtained was well worth it for me.  Besides, they can barely be seen when done.

Below are pictures and drawings of the hangers and pivots that allow 3/32" adjustments on each of the drivers.  Over an inch of height can be taken up or down without having to make new hangers each time.  In the pictures, the hangers look like they are angled toward the axle, which is not the case.  This is due to the angle that the picture was taken.  They are in fact straight up and down.


I also needed to find a method for weighting the wheels (all 16).   At first I was going to make a 16 foot rail section with scales in the middle.  The plan was to role the engine over the scales and read the weight on each pair of wheels.  Making this would take a better part of the day, so I came up with another solution that may not be as accurate but it does give me relative weights of the wheels.  Basically, I machined a 1/4" (or so) plate of steel (3" x 6") with "fingers" to go between the rail and the bottom of the wheel.  A round head screw was added to provide a pivot.  Here's a drawing to see what I am talking about.

The fingers were pushed in between the rail and the wheel.  I attached a scale on one end and a place to put my foot on the other.  To get the proper weight reading I placed a level on the plate, then used my foot to pull down the plate until it was level.  Then I recorded the weight.  It's best to look at the pictures to clarify this.

This setup let me leave the engine on the stand, which also saved time (by the way, you need to use the engine stand or equivalent angle iron for this to work).   

After all was said and done, I believe I came up with an acceptable setup.  Glad that I made the adjustable spring hangers.  Saved my butt a lot of time. 

I modified the rear truck to correct some height problems also.  


Here's the engine properly balanced and ready for the next step  


Again, I would like to thank Phill for his help with this.

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#01 So It Began #2 Frame #3 Drivers #4 Quartering #5 Trucks #6 Frame & Wheels #7 Side Rods #8 Cylinder Boring #9 Cyl/Valve Liners #10 Cyl/Valve Cover #11 Pistons & Valves #12 Cyl Assembled #13 Boiler #14 Suspension #15 Crosshead #16 Brakes #17 Link Support #18 Bell #19 Crosshead (again) #20 Connecting Rod #21 Stationary Runner #22 Smokebox #23 Valve Gear #24 Running on Air #25 Piston Rings #26 Axle Pump #27 Plating #28 Lubrication #29 Blast Nozzle #30 Stack #31 Steam Turret #32 Burner Manifold #33 Mounting Brackets #34 Boiler Insulation #35 Jacketing #36 Cab #37 Throttle #38 Reverse Lever #39 Track Test #40 Smokebox Access #41 Electric Blower #42 Turbulators #43 Burner Test #44 Piping #45 Cab (part 2) #46 Inaugural Run #47 Post Steamup #48 Smokebox Lights #49 Running Boards #50 Pilot #51 Skirting #52 Paint #53 Lettering #54 Whistle #55 Skyline Casing #56 Fuel System Mods #57 Odds and Ends #58 Turbos


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Last modified: 08/09/2021.