Matt asks: I'm looking to improve the pickup capacity of some of my older models (as well as adding extra features to certain models like tender lights) but there is one small snag to this. I need more pickups, especially on Tender locos.
Could you recommend any vendor selling pick-up like material used in commercial models, and if not, a simple solution adaptable to, in particular, bogies.
Once upon a time, the Double O Gauge Association used to sell a kit of parts to assist modellers wishing to add extra pickups. Then the evil manufacturers started producing toy trains with pickups on all the wheels so no one needed the kit any more. Thus, it was removed from the range since no one was buying it. The results were adaptable, and not unlike the pickups you see in the photo on my Caledonia chassis.
However, all is not lost. You see, in this kit were a number of easy(ish) to find items. First, there was some veroboard. That's the copper colour sheet with lots of holes in it. This is sold for electronics enthusiasts to make up circuits on. Maplin sell it, although they call it stripboard. One sheet will do a lot of locos, or you could cut in half, stick the leftover on eBay for 10 times what you paid for it while claiming it is a miracle material.
The pickups themselves are 28swg phosphor-bronze wire. I use these for all my locos and the choice seems to be an effective balance between flexibility and stiffness. Eileens Emporium are your supplier of choice here. I think I'm on my second or third roll which gives you an idea how log it will last.
You'll need some wire to connect the veroboard to the motor. Something very thin is needed. We're not talking mains voltages. Get the thinnest you can as it will be lovely and flexible. Back to Maplin for this. although lots of model shops will be able to help.
Finally, some nuts, bolts and screws to hold the veroboard to the locomotive. 8BA will be as big as you want to go, although 10BA will be fine. Eileens do a good range.
In use, attach the veroboard to the bottom of the loco. Cut a length of phosphor-bronze wire and tin the middle 10mm. Tin a bit of the veroboard (you might do this before fitting it, especially if you are gluing it in place) and then solder the wire to this. Add the connection wires. Finally bend the pickups with small pliers and bad language (not my favourite job. Be prepared to replace the wire until you are happy) and cut to length.
Driving wheel pickup are easy, other not so. The challenge is to have sufficient pressure on the wheel to keep the wire in contact but not to act as a brake. On this basis, I'd look at tender wheels because a bit of weight in the water cart helps enormously.