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Author Topic: Narrow Gauge Speed  (Read 2232 times)

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« on: April 15, 2008, 10:22:19 PM »

I finally made it back to Durango last year and rode the Durango & Silverton. I had a chance to talk with the conductor about how fast (or slow) we were going. He informed me that the train usually travels at 15-20 MPH...and much slower on the High Line. I asked just how fast they could go..."Well, the conductor pondered, we could get her up to 35 or 40 MPH, but I wouldn't want to be on it!"

Which leads me to the reason for posting this and opening it up to feedback. At just what speed should we be running our trains on our miniture empires?

Personally, I've been turning down the speed on my engines so that they more creep along rather than jiddy-up-and-go. By keeping the speed low I can streatch out my very limited mainline, thereby making the run seem longer.

Any thoughts...?
Hamish K

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« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2008, 11:05:44 PM »

Yes , most narrow gauge trains world wide were slow. A narrower than normal gauge was chosen usually because of difficult terrain (which will probably prevent fast running) or in order to save money. If done to save money cheap track etc. would limit speed.

Here in Australia the 2 foot gauge Mapleton tramway's mixed trains used Shays and  took one and a half hours on the downhill  trip and one hour 45 minutes on the uphill trip. The distance was 11 miles.

The 30 inch gauge Buderin Tramway took 50 minutes to travel 7.2 miles. This line had a Shay and a German 0-6-2 tank loco. Again trains were mixed passenger and freight. Both lines also ran passenger excursion services.

That is my approach, following the examples quoted above I am happy to place geared locos at the head of my mixed trains, turn down the speed and watch them crawl along. As you say it lengthens what is a very short run, and is prototypical.


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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2008, 07:18:48 AM »

My experience has been that we tend to run our models too fast, but this is especially true in narrow gauge.  From what little I remember of films my father took of the Chili line trains going across Otowi Bridge and the Rio Grande river, they seemed to creep along all the time.  I have been trying to keep the speeds down on my layout.   If nothing else, the slow speeds really make you feel like the run is much longer and the layout much bigger.


The Jemez & Rio Grande, an On30 branch of the Chili Lines.

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« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2008, 12:24:38 PM »

Speeds vary from construction and terrain. Most narrow guage lines ran between 15 and 25 miles per hour.  I recall seeing the pipe train on the D&RGW hittiong an astounding 8 miles per hour heading up Cumbres Pass.

Roadbed and terrain are the biggest reasons speeds are slow. on the other hand, the South Pacific Coast usually ran between45-50 miles per hour on passenger trains from San Jose to Alemeda. The Boston, Lynn and Revere ran similar speeds on its commuter lines.

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« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2008, 01:05:31 PM »

Speed is affected by any number of factors.  Grades, curvature, condition of the track and roadbed, driver size, etc.  Most narrow gauge lines were built quickly and cheaply, which ultimately resulted in slow operating speeds.  Bridges, especially wooden ones, were often built lightly, and over the years they deteriorated some, requiring speed restrictions over them.  In some places where the narrow gauge was "standard", like South Africa, the trains could get up to quite respectable speeds. 

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« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2008, 01:40:25 PM »

Reminds me of my favorite story of the SS&RL, 2 foot gauge line in Maine.  Engineer got her up to 60 mph and the conductory made his way forward and suggested he slow down as all the passengers were on their knees in the isles praying.  Could be done, but maybe not a good idea.
   Alan Miller, Bainbridge Island, WA

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« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2008, 02:50:21 PM »

As a class project, we took the 2-6-0 and timed it to scale speed. If you count 1-2-3-4 rapidly, and each 1234 represents 1 turn of the drivers, it will average out to be about 15 mph!
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