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Restoration Update - May 31st, 2007 Part 2


I have also restored the solar charging system unique to SR local cabooses. The only electrical appliances on the local cabooses were the two marker lights. These were powered by solar energy as opposed to the axle generator systems installed on the road cabooses. This is due in part to a local seeing mostly yard service and not much time on the road at speeds great enough to generate much electricity for battery charging. Below are some before and after photos of the solar panels and battery bank.

In order to make the system operational again, I first had to test the charging system. In 2003, I traced down the original manufacturer/vendor of the solar charging system. I actually spoke with a gentleman who worked for ARCO Solar on the SR caboose project in 1979 when the local cabs were retrofitted with marker lights. Mr. Locke forwarded me the original specifications for the ASI 16-2000 solar panels used on the caboose which included the panelís rated voltages and current. After a thorough cleaning, I was able to test the panels with a volt-meter and found that both panels still produced slightly less than the original rated voltage - 17 volts on one panel and 14 volts on the other.

The solar panels were originally covered with transparent plastic covers, to keep water and dirt away from the panels. After much deliberation and budget analysis, I finally decided not to fabricate new plastic panel covers Ė pricing was in the neighborhood of $300 - $600 depending on the vendor. I was shocked at the price of the plastic and the fabricating work done for the covers. I studied several photos of SR cabooses and found that in the early 80ís, the covers began to disappear from the cabooses in the photos. In some late 80ís photographs, many cabooses did not even have covers. It appeared that the railroad also decided not to replace the worn and discolored covers with new ones and just let the panels withstand the elements. I have tried to seal the banded edge of my panels with silicone to help make them water resistant. I hope to keep them sealed, and plan to clean them regularly, so that the covers will not be needed. If bad comes to worse, I can buy one new waterproof solar panel that will outperform the two existing panels. The cost for one new panel is approximately the same as the cost of two new plastic covers.

To the best of my understanding, ARCO Solar has changed hands a few times since 1979 and has been rolled into what is now Hutton Solar. I was able to purchase a new charge controller which was smaller and better suited to the elements. I purchased an ASC 12/8 by Specialty Concepts, Inc. from Hutton Solar for $45. Iíd like to thank Ms. Donna Vega at Hutton Solar for her patience in answering many questions and for drawing a wiring diagram needed for the restoration. As for the battery, I used a typical 12V size 24 deep cycle marine battery. The system was put in service on April 20, 2007. The operating marker lights really add some authenticity to the caboose, especially when in service on the Calera and Shelby RR excursions at the Heart of Dixie RR Museum.



Southern Railway Historical Association