Well, not really any progress, my 20,000 Leagues under the Sea project is soaking up pretty much all of my time and I'm at a point where I need to do a big supply run, so can't really do much until I have everything I need.
Unfortunately, compromises are great once you figure them out and put them to work. But eventually, they'll come back to bite you in the rear--hard. I've had a couple of setbacks in Nature's Wonderland, but I've overcome a hurtle that I've been wanting to avoid for some time now.
I'm talking about the re-grading I did as part of the great Desert Redo of Winter 2008 (go back a bunch of pages). I raised the grade of the track so the train could pass over itself. Everything worked great in the tests and in the following weeks as scenery went in. Occasionally, the engine's wheels would be on the verge of slipping and that'd be it.
Though now it's gotten ridiculous. I've had a few episodes like this before; the train can't even make it up the grade without slipping. It'll stall out once all the cars are on the inclined track, and this is with an empty load of cars! There's no way it'll be able climb the now nicknamed "Devil's grade" with a full load of resin passengers. It's very frustrating knowing the train can't even make it over the hill and finish it's run.
I've tried everything to correct this, using Bullfrog Snot -- which works great on other locomotive BTW-- cleaning the track constantly, checking for any stuck/sliding wheels, and trying to add more weight to this petite locomotive which is nearly impossible (if you want it to be accurate and look good!).
Then I decided to look at what's causing the problems--the track itself. The only solution would be to re-grade the track again, but that was an option that I really didn't want to carry out. But after some inspections, I found that it could be possible, lowering the track just enough without any major work so that it makes it easier for the train to climb the grade but not necessarily eliminate it.
So yesterday, I pulled back the Rainbow Ridge hill (luckily I didn't scenic it yet!) where the track borders the scenery. I knocked out the roadbed supports and slowly forced the track and roadbed down, careful not to warp the track itself. I managed to lower the track about 1/2 and an inch in one spot and a 1/4 inch where the track passes over the Rainbow Caverns track. I secured the right-of-way in it's new position for testing.
I tested the train loaded with weights to simulate the future passengers. I tested the train with maximum weights and the most the train can pull without slipping is 5 oz. (with 6 oz. on the verge of slipping). That is great improvement considering the weight of the future passengers will only total at about 1.5-1.8 oz. and the fact that the train before couldn't even make it up the grade with no weight at all. I did have to sacrifice not having a whistle on the locomotive so it can clear the overpass in the caverns, but hey that's a detail I can live with out (I could always make a removable one for Photo OP's!). Although I still have to do some rockwork and scenery touch-ups, I think the effort was well worth it.
(What still puzzles me is how the train was able to do the grade for about 6 months with only a few problems every once in a while. But after thinking about it, here's my theory: when I tore out the old desert, I think that an extremely fine layer of dust settled on the track and allowed for traction when I was doing the first couple of tests. After a couple of runs, I confirmed to myself that it works and it was time for scenery and no adjustments were to be made. I did the tests without weights thinking that the future passengers wouldn't really weigh anything (only to find out that the weight adds up and is enough to affect performance!). Once the dust went away, the train slipped and a new layer of dust from sanding or from outside formed, the train worked again.
From the initial construction, everything worked great. Fast-forward a couple of months and the train starts slipping. At this point I think that dust layer wore off and it's just bare track. Strangely, for some reason, the train starts working up the grade easily a few days later. (could be dust from the changing weather outside)
Fast-forward a couple more months and the train starts slipping again. At this point, I'm trying everything I could and I just set the problem aside and started working on something that doesn't induce headaches and frustrations--working on the arch bridge. I grinded and sanded some areas on it and when I was done, I blew off the dust; but not all of it (invisible stuff). I ran the train through the bridge, knowing it would start slipping in a few seconds and miraculously, the train chugs up the hill once again.
Fast-forward a few more months to 2 days ago, and you guessed it, the train slips on the grade and stalls. At this point it's getting ridiculous and I'm not going to purposely spread dust on the track for traction. As explained above, I successfully adjusted the track and I can now breathe a sigh of relief that I won't have anymore problems in future (or so I thought...) )