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Asterís Chaplelon Nord

a review by Geoff Spenceley

 

Here are some comments are my experience assembling Aster Chapelon Nord 4-cylinder compound Ö.a challenging venture indeed! 

 

In addition to the usual filing and fitting one expects in a kit such as this, there were some problem that involved a lot of time to correct, not the mention the frustration that went along with it.  However, the final results were well worth it, and Iíd do it all over again. 

 

To begin with, I discovered that the first set of drivers on the crankshaft for the low-pressure (L.P.) inside cylinders were 1 mm under gauge.  This caused binding of the drivers on the frame, which is how the problem was discovered.  Since these are the leading drives there could have been a derailment crisis.  It was necessary to disassemble the crankshaft and use a press to adjust the drivers.  Aster would have no doubt replaced the assembly but I was anxious to move ahead!

 

The next problem encountered was the fitting of the L.P. crossheads in the crosshead slide bars to the degree that they operated freely with minimum tolerance.  Any binding or cocking, in addition to causing poor operation, will put lateral pressure on the piston rod with the dire consequences of scoring the piston in the cylinder.

 

Well, all the fiddling in the world with fastening screws on the cylinders and slide bars in an attempt to make an adjustment would not work.  Finally, filing the ends of the slide bars to relieve pressure on the crosshead and enlarging the slide bar fastening holes for lateral adjustment solved the problem.  Some members in California who have assembled the Nord have advised me that they solved the problem by enlarging the cylinder fastening holes in the frame and making the adjustment in that manner.  I opted to keep the cylinders as firmly fastened as possible

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In further assembly I discovered that one of the high-pressure (H.P.) crossheads was out of wack in that the tapped hole for the piston rod was misaligned causing the crosshead to be cocked in the slide bars.  There were wear marks on the crosshead and I suspect that it was a ďrejectĒ that some had somehow found itís way into the kit.  Anyway, since I was so involved in the kit and didnít want to wait for a replacement, I adjusted the crosshead, no easy task.

 

Time for the air test!  Both low and high-pressure engines ran like a watch, even if I say so myself!  Aster instructs the builder to test the L.P. engines and then the H.P. and L.P. engines together.  But, I chose to also test the H.P. engine with the pipes to the L.P. cylinders disconnected to insure that the H.P. engine worked smoothly on itsí own.  The L.P. valves were easy to set.  However, I found the H.P. valves were more time consuming to adjust to my satisfaction.  It was a great thrill to watch all those moving parts in the engine before the assembly of the boiler and footplates obstructed the view.

 

Assembling the reversing arm and reach rods on the weight shaft became very irritating because of the setscrews provided for locking the various pieces on the shaft were made of very soft metal with slotted heads.  I found they could be tightened to the point of breakage, yet would not grip the shaft with any degree of dependability.   Fortunately, I was able to find some harder setscrews with Allen sock heads left over from an Aster DB 78 kit.  Although they were not enough and I was forced to use cyanoacrylate adhesive in order to fasten the parts securely after final adjustments had been made.

   

Why Aster chose to pet this inadequate type of setscrew in the kit is beyond my comprehension.  As the Garden Railway Convention, I observed a factory assembled Chapelon Nord.  All of the setscrews were black with Allen socket heads and appeared to be hardened just as were the screws I obtained from the DB 78 kit.  It seems to me that in the case of the Chapelon Nord, there was a drop in the quality of the kit parts as compared to the factory-assembled model.

 

A little more reading ahead on the instructions would have saved me a time and frustration but I never learn!  All the assemblies cannot be made in exactly the order of the instructions.  For example: the dummy steam pipes cannot be installed until after the running boards have been installed.  Yet, the instructions would have the steam pipes assembled to the boiler casing first. 

  

Before any assembly is done, it is also a good idea to check the alignment of the mounting brackets on the boiler casing with the mounting holes in the front of the frame to make sure they line up.  Then make any adjustments at that time.  I didnít do that and had a heck of a job when it finally comes time to assemble the casing to the frame.  However, in general, Aster has done a fantastic job with the instructions and drawings, especially in view of the fact that this is a relatively complicated locomotive.   

It is a good idea to check all the tubing; the two water lines from the tender were blocked with solder and flux.  In fact, I had to use a drill to clear one. 

 

Finally!  The engine was ready for steam up and what a delight.  It looks powerful and graceful and that is how it runs.  Steam was up in a very few minutes, condensation blown out and away she went!  There was trouble stopping it because the regulator was not sealing properly.  Also, the water would not feed into the boiler since the water bypass valve would not seal properly.  Some work on these valves soon corrected the problem.

 

In summation, this locomotive is my favorite (next to my Southern Schools, which involves sentiment since it took me on my holidays as a child!).  The Nord is as powerful as she sounds.  In fact, I had problem with slipping drivers, probably because I failed to make proper use of the screw reversing!  What a wonderful loco!  How fortunate I am!

 

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