scratchbuilding Catenary wire

Discussion in 'Traction Thoroughfare' started by green_elite_cab, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!


    i'm curious if anyone here has tried to make this stuff before, and if they have advise. i'm scratch building a catenary system that closely remsembles that of the Northeast Corridor.

    i have the supplies for building the catenary poles and bridges, but i am haveing an issue with the catenary wire itself

    i went to a nearby hobby store and bought some .032 music wire to make the trolley wire itself.

    my basic plan is to put 2 pieces of wire clsoe to each other, held together by a template i made, and solder them together every 2 inches, to simulate the look of the catenary wire.

    the problem is that the solder would not cling to the music wire! at first i thoguht it was corrosion on the wire that causes the problem. i took steal wool and cleaned them until they where much shinier. unfortunately that didn't solve the problem. i tried and tried, but as i moved down the wire, previously hardened piced fell off, or i could not get the solder to connect with the other side, most of teh time the solder stuck to the soldering gun

    ironicly the first 3 solder drops stayed, but according to my dad they where "barely holding on at all"

    my dad tried silver solder... which worked slight better, but not good enough. my dad's next suggestion was to get some flux. until i get flux, i'd also liek to ehre your suggestions, cause this is something entirely new to me. i also burn my thumb with the iron, so now i have to get this project done, to make that worth it.

  2. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    Wecome to The Gauge

    Hi Chris, I make my own poles and use single wire.
    I advice you to buy Phosphate Bronze 26 gauge wire its cheap about $10 us for 300ft and solders great.
    You can use the same for the top and bottem wire, listen to your Dad, flux the heck out of it it cleans the area and allows great solder joints. :wave:
    I`d love to see some pics of this project. :thumb:

    btw my Daughter and her Husband love Hermit crabs they have 20 . :p
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Look for some large pieces of steel and put these over the bits of catenary you have already soldered. They'll absorb the heat before it melts the solder joints. Or pieces of aluminum -- something that will absorb heat but not pick up solder.
    I think the music wire is not very solderable. It's also unfriendly to wire cutters.
    Are you trying to solder the end of the droppers to the top of the contact wire? Most modellers bend an L shape in the dropper and solder it along the top of the contact wire and the bottom of the messenger (the top wire that's in a curve shape).
  4. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    yeah until our last hermit crab died (we had 2), he guarded my trains, lol. my cats wouldn't go near them, and i think the crabs knew it. it was almost liek they had a game of chaseing cats... it was really bizzarre

    how thick is 26 gauge? the wire for my catenary needs to be very thin. i saw 18 gauge wire and it was much to big. i really don't understand wire gauges that well, but i figure bigger number means bigger size?

    i didn't really have a problem with eht soldeirng iron meltign finished joints, it was gettign teh solder to stick to the music wire. i think you are right about it not being very solderable. i'd kinda hate to switch over to a new wire, so i don't want to give up just yet. apperently its possible.

    i'm trying to solder the 2 trolley wires together. if you look at the catenary you'll notice 2 paralell wires really really clost to eachother. on is teh "contact" wire, where the pantographs touch the wire, and the other is just supportive wire. i haven't even gotten the catenary bridges up. i have to get some other scenery work done first. i do have the general plan out. hope fully track rail and brazing rod solder well. what solders better, brass or steel?
  5. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Larger #'s mean smaller diameter wire. I believe the diameter is reduced by half every three sizes (so 24 is half of 18) Music wire doesn't solder worth a hoot.
  6. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Music wire is steel - that's the problem.

  7. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    So, can't you wire your layout so that it works like the prototype, takes the power from the overhead steel wires? :confused:
  8. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    Will has hit on another problem if you are powering up the overhead. If you are doing a double track L/O the span that holds both track wires will have to be insulated for independent operation, Now then, " that" will take some thinking :p

    Steel wire is no good for what you are doing, Save yourself a BIG ongoing problem and buy the phosphat bronze overhead wire from your LHS or phone around and find out who carries it.
    That`s my pennies worth, for what it`s worth.
  9. ross31r

    ross31r Member

    Ever heard to a company called Somerfeld?

    If you dont fancy making your own cantenary, they do a heck of a lot of Eurpoean style pole designs, some of which may be suitable for use on your layout. Might be a bit more expensive but you`ll get it done a bit faster and it should be already insulated if you buy the double track bridges.
  10. Hey, Chris...

    I posted this same reply elsewhere for your info, but wanted to pass it along for the crew here at The Gauge. Traction overhead design for US road prototypes can easily be built if the towers are simply steel 'I' beams or poles. The most unique towers are found along the NE corridor between Grand Central Terminal and New Haven, CT. There you'll find 4 track catenary with suspension and transmission towers, 'flying' hangers, triangular catenary wire configurations, and a myriad of take-offs and guys. The company that sells the entire line for this is Model Memories here in CT. Here's the link:
    The Sommerfeldt products are of a European design and, although some parts may be used, the design may not be compatable with the road or area in the US being modeled. The ready-made catenary wire is a great product in and of itself...I'll be using it for my layout.

  11. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    Thanks Russ that should help Chris. :thumb:
  12. CN1

    CN1 Active Member

    Thanks for all the great helps. The Bonnie line still needs the wire (eventually)
  13. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    i saw model memories, and that is to expensive for me. thats the whole reason i decided to make my own.

    how much will this phosphor bronze stuff go for?

    also, the wire does need to be powered, it just needs to be a second "common" rail, unless thats not how it works...

    i never planned to power it anyway. i figured it would be to much trouble, even thought i twould be cool to see the sparks, lol
  14. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    300 feet goes for about $10.00 US You can mak a whole whack for that price.
    Best of luck, don`t burn your fingers. ;) ;)
  15. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    too late! lol its healing up though, heh heh
  16. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Many people do power from overhead--it simplifies many things (you don't have to wire reverse loops, for example, and can make crossing frogs from a single piece of metal) and the sparks are nice.

    If you can find the out-of-print "Traction Guidebook" by Kalmbach, it has a bit on how to construct overhead wire--mostly focused on simpler trolley wire, but catenary is also mentioned. The site also has many details on how to do overhead.

    The phosphor-bronze wire is good for this kind of project--inexpensive and a relatively good conductor. Feeders every few feet are recommended.
  17. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    How or if you power the catenary depends on what you're doing. If you are running only traction (electrically powered prototype), you could put one side of the circuit on the wire and the other on the 2 rails.
    If you're running steam or diesel with it, one rail is common and the other rail is uncommon and the wire is a different uncommon. (All bets will be off if you go for DCC).
    Some people make the trolley wire common and each rail an uncommon.
    And some people just run them off the rails.
  18. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    why wouldn't i be able to use DCC if i have powered catenary?
  19. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I didn't intend to say you can't, but the wiring may be a bit different. The same ideas will work up to a point, but you need to think how the DCC will be applied.
  20. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Folks do use DCC with trolley or other overhead lines--the difference is that instead of receiving power through the wheels exclusively, both wheels are grounded to the same pole running to the DCC controller, and the other pole is connected to the trolley pole or pantograph. This of course assumes you are using trolley wiring vs. two-rail or hybrid trolley/two-rail wiring.

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