Modelling what might have been in southeast BC and northwest Wasington

Lathe saga

I control my track switches with a simple homemade toggle switch mechanism plus micro switches for the frog power. These are operated as simple push-pull using wooden dowels. The front end of the dowel passes through a plastic PVC pipe end cap, so that they are flush with the fascia. I got the idea from Jim Petro in Reno Nevada a number of years back when I operated on his layout during a PCR convention.

The end caps need a bit of work to prepare them for mounting. They have raised lettering on the face that I like to smooth off, and they need a hole drilled in the middle. Plus, I like to roughen up the outer surface using sandpaper so that the glue will stick better. All three operations are easily done on the lathe.

As we extended the fascia arouund through to Carson, I needed a bunch more of these prepared for installation. So, over to my trusty lathe. I used it to clean up about four or five of the caps without a problem, but half-way through the next one, it just stopped suddenly with the belt slipping. Huh, what happened? A quick check with the power off showed the the spindle had frozen solid and simply would not turn. Oh, oh.

Many years ago I was very fortunate to buy the 10″ metal lathe from a friend’s father who had worked for Boeing as a machinist. His hobby had been home-built aircraft of his own design, and he had designed his house with enough room in the basement to assemble them, but I digress….

Just after I purchased the lathe, I disassembled, cleaned, lubricated, and reassembled everything on it except the headstock, as I could see no easy way to do so and everything seemed to be running fine. Some years later, I was able to buy a copy of the user manual for the lathe and it included instructions on how to remove the spindle, only “if it was absolutely necessary”. Well, it now was and I really had nothing to lose, so I gave it a shot. It came out very easily, once you know what to do, which way to unscrew things, and where to apply pressure. The problem was immediately obvious in that the very old grease had simply solidified and jammed the ball bearings. The manual said the the spindle bearings were factory lubed with grease that was supposed to last the life of the machine, but I doubt they were thinking 73 years back then! (It was made in 1946.)

The seized spindle front bearing with hardened 73 year old gunk.
The rear bearing with who knows what sealed inside.
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