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Topics - trainman203

General Discussion / I was wondering…..
September 27, 2023, 03:38:15 PM
When a DC power pack started being called a "controller."  Or even DCC power sources like the EZ command.
Some people with very large layouts run very long trains, and need a lot of cars to fill out such a train. I've always modeled a branch line and never had a whole lot of space to start with, so I have always run short trains, nine cars is long for me.  And the most cars my layout can hold is about 30.

When I first started model railroading, I bought cars based on low price and didn't look at the detail quality. Then I started looking at more expensive, but better detailed cars, and went WOW despite the higher price, these look so much better with the finer details such as scale sized stirrups and ladders and separately applied details.

For a while I redetailed the lesser detailed cars with better stirrups and brakewheel and such, and upgraded their performance with Kadee couplers and metal wheels, but they still didn't look as good as the better but more expensive cars, so I slowly got rid of a large number of relative toylike appearing cars in favor of much fewer with enhanced realism.

At this point, I can say for myself, that all the money I spent on couplers, wheels, and details could have been better spent on a few more better detailed cars. 

The downside of these beautiful cars is that they are very fragile compared to cheaper cars. They cannot take handling by children or frequent loading and offloading onto the layout.  They may not be for you. 

HO / Asking the Bach Man …..
March 23, 2023, 06:19:53 PM
1. I see that there is a new N scale consolidation lettered for Frisco. Will there be one in HO? Please note that the tender numerals are a little too large and a little too close together.

2.  Will we get a HO Southern Railway consolidation with a different road number besides 630? Again, note that the tender numerals are little too close together.

3.  Will we one day get an HO Frisco 2-8–2 with a different number besides 4027? And will it come with Econami sound? Also, the rectangular number plate under the headlight is erroneous, it should be the Frisco "coonskin" design. It was done correctly on the decapod and on the light 4–8–2 of many years ago, it would be nice to have the rest of the Frisco engines done properly as well
General Discussion / Sound value quiet-down
March 19, 2023, 06:36:22 PM
As I've said many times in the past, one of the big things was unfortunately omitted from sound value decoders was CV 113, the one that keeps the engine quiet when first powered up until moved, then shuts the sound off after a time interval selected by the user. The blower and air pump just keep whirring all the time when you first turn it on, very annoying when all your other engines are still quiet.

It occurred to me that you could solve this aggravation by turning down the volumes of the blower and the air pump.  It worked. CV 132 is the air pump volume. CV 134 is the blower volume. I turned both down to a value of five. You can barely hear them, but you know they're there and they're not overpowering everything else around it.

Try it out and report back.
Part 8 - A trip down the Midland Western (using DCC) - wrap-up

You have to look very hard today to find anyone interested in branchline model railroading, especially modeling such railroading in the entirely steam era. I know, I've looked. I only know of one other guy on the entire Gulf Coast who is. If you're looking for heavy, exciting mainline action, it's not for you.  But, as far as fitting relatively realistic operation onto a small model railroad, you're never going to get a Big Boy or the Super Chief looking very realistic on a 4 x 8 layout, or even anything a good bit bigger.

 You can, however, create a reasonable facsimile of small time railroading in such spaces.  But it is not the first choice of almost everyone entering model railroading.

First of all, small time railroading just does not have the kinetic appeal of the big time operations. Secondly, many, if not most, old-fashioned short lines and branchlines are long, long gone today, so there is no first-hand witness to these operations anymore, although there is somewhat of a resurgence in modern short lines that often are the result of local businesses purchasing a soon to be abandoned branch to retain rail service at their facility.  Personally, I don't find the same appeal in these modern operations as I do in the short lines and branches of 75 years ago with steam power, outdated rundown equipment, and weed grown track.  But that's just me. I was lucky to be raised in a town with not one, but two branchlines, both very fine prototypes to model. And they are both gone today.  If there's anyone interested in modern short line modeling, I'd like to hear about it. Thirdly, the few people I've ever known that have re-created short line and branch line operations have been model railroading a very long time, and have matured into more realistic aspirations about their space available. Or, like me, were witness to these now-disappeared operations. On small layouts with sharp curves and switches, small steam engines like 10 wheelers and consolidations just look a heck of a lot better and more realistic than  giant modern excursion-era steam and full-length passenger cars.

Part of my motivation to detail a typical train trip on my layout was to show that very realistic operations can be duplicated on a small layout.  You don't even need a loop of track.  I have a 50 foot long point-to-point main line with two terminals and two intermediate communities. That's longer than some layouts, but a whole lot shorter than many larger ones where prototypical operations are typically conducted.

Prototype operations have a lot more detail than is needed to merely make a model train roll, but if you have knowledge of what the prototype really does, you can incorporate some parts of it into your own operation.  My own experiences working on an operational steam locomotive 40 years ago are invaluable, but this knowledge can be found online.  Advanced DCC decoders like the tsunami2–2 have multiple functions that give you a gateway to some of the prototypical functions of a steam locomotive.  Cylinder cocks, wheel slip, coupler crash, Johnson bar are only some of them. There are others I still need to educate myself how to use, such as dynamic digital exhaust, and engine/train braking. 

Plus, knowledge of rules of the road is good to have.  I have a friend who is a retired SP engineer who unsuccessfully (and regrettably for me) tried to get me to go to work for the Southern Pacific almost 50 years ago.  Many long conversations with him gave me much great insight, as well as model railroaders who had railroad experience.  Rulebooks are good to have if you can get through them.  The ones I had for the Houston Division of the SP were like a mid-sized city telephone directory.

Obviously, not everyone is going to dig this deep into actual railroading to simply operate their train and relax.  You can always do that. Before I retired, nothing relaxed me from the workday more than doing simple switching moves for an hour or so on the layout, with a TV show going in the background. But if you choose, you can immerse yourself and completely lose yourself in prototypical operations.

I hope my little series has provided enjoyment for a few people in their model railroad journey. Comments are welcome.

HO / High boiler 10-wheeler binding issue
March 17, 2023, 10:59:50 AM
My friend has one of the high boiler 10 wheelers that Bachmann discontinued many long years ago. This one had not run in years, 10 or 12 at least.

I provided a full service lubrication on all rods with light oil and on the driver gear with some Labella light grease, very small applications of each. Plus, a droplet of oil on each axle bearing.

Running forward, performance is perfect, smooth as silk and purring like a kitten. In reverse, performance is smooth, but there is an intermittent snag that cannot be predicted when it will happen. It is, however, always at the same point of the driver revolution. Sometimes it catches hard enough to stop the engine .

The only thing is, though, when you block the engine up to spin the wheels in reverse in traditional time-tested run-in method, the snag disappears. The wheel spin, just as smoothly and perfectly when blocked up as when running forward.

I know for certain that the problem is between the driver axle gear and the worm gear. Some type of axle slack is allowing it to be pushed up too firmly into the worm gear when the engines weight  pushes it up. I am very reluctant to disassemble this engine to look at this problem head on. 

Has anyone else ever had this happen before? If so, what did you do about it? Please report. This engine is nowhere to be found used anywhere anymore, so we can't replace it. Besides, it is a beautifully done custom decal job.
Part 7 - A trip down the Midland Western (using DCC) - on into Thunder Grove

Note:  all DCC references are for operation with an NCE pro cab running steam engines with tsunami 2–2 decoders.

The Midland Western is a subsidiary of the Gulf Coast Lines, operated by both the Missouri Pacific and the Frisco.  The year is 1940.

While the two brakemen walk the train length in preparation for departure from Donna Pass, checking the couplers and the air hose connections, the engineer is on the ground walking around the engine, oiling around all the valve, gear and rods. The fireman is in the cab, rebuilding the fire and building up a head of steam for the last few miles. The cross-compound air pump is busily thumping away, building the air, brake line pressure up to service level.

Once all the checking of everything is complete, the brakemen return to their assigned locations and the engineer climbs up into the cab.  He opens the cylinder cocks (F4) and sounds two shorts on the ATSF six chime whistle to announce departure. The engine slowly begins to roll forward, and after 10 seconds, the hogger closes the cylinder cocks (F4.) As the engine rolls over some wet leaves, the drivers slightly slip (F19.) The train approaches a gravel road grade crossing, and the hogger sounds the appropriate warning on the six chime - two longs, short, and a long.

Thunder Grove is only 8 miles to the west, and the downgrade trip does not require the Johnson bar to be notched all the way back  (F5, 3 taps). As the train approaches town, the track begins a long, slow turn to the south. The hogger blows a single long blast on the six chime, announcing approach to the station which is actually the Midland Western general office building, a converted former two-story wood frame house painted in standard railroad yellow with brown trim.

The train smoothly drifts to a stop with the caboose in front of the office building, and the passengers hurriedly jump down from the caboose and run to Hattie's Hotel and Bar, next door to the office building, for liquid refreshment after bouncing around in the caboose for 20 miles over the poorly maintained weedy Midland Western track. While the brakemen are unloading the LCL freight from the side door caboose, the engine uncouples from the train,  and pulls up past the southernmost switch on the Midland Western.  It then backs up around the train on the run around track to pick up the caboose and shove it down to the southern end of the single yard track, since there is no luxury of a caboose track in Thunder Grove.

With this final task done, the the road crew is relieved by a yard crew that has been waiting at the office building. They will sort the cars in the yard and switch the several railroad customers and Frisco, interchange in Thunder Grove. It has taken almost 8 hours to get the train over the 20 miles of Midland Western track, so the crew also heads to Hattie's, where over liquid refreshment they will tell and retell yet another time the stories and legends of the Midland Western ... the dramatic downgrade runaway from Donna Pass, and particularly the great Midland Tragedy of generations ago.
General Discussion / Early railroad memories
March 11, 2023, 06:10:02 PM
Most of us got involved with trains and railroads as children, many with electric trains, others by living close to the railroads and seeing trains pass. Your age has a lot to do with what you saw and what brought you into this pastime that brings us together.

This is a place to relive those memories and share them with us. I've got a lot to say here, but I've got to gather my stories together.  I'll let a couple other people lead off first.
I may have done this on the old forum. If, so, forgive me, I slip sometimes.

Log in and comment if your layout is strictly all – steam locomotives. I'm talking about Standard Gauge Railroading the way it was was in the mid 1930's or so.  No diesels on your rail, period. Yes, I know there were a few diesel-powered streamliners around in the mid-1930s. They are not a discussion issue.

I'm also not counting narrow gauge railroading like in Colorado which is nearly always all steam.  I am interested in those folks that model classic American golden – age railroading before diesels appeared. People like me, who don't run one single diesel, ever. I suspect the list will be pretty short.
HO / Next run USRA pacific- sound system
March 07, 2023, 06:34:39 PM
Question for the Bach Man:

What sound system will the next group of Pacifics have? Soundtraxx sound value? Or TCS Wow sound?
Part 6 - A trip down the Midland Western (using DCC) - The meet at Donna Pass

Note:  all DCC references are for operation with an NCE pro cab running steam engines with tsunami 2–2 decoders.

The Midland Western is a subsidiary of the Gulf Coast Lines, operated by both the Missouri Pacific and the Frisco.  The year is 1940.

While Midland Western Train No. 3 is taking on water at the Donna Pass water tank, the conductor is in the telegraph cabin communicating with the Midland Western general office in Thunder Grove about the status of the line ahead.  He is surprised to find that an unexpected extra freight has just left 8-mile-distant Thunder Grove eastbound. He immediately sends a flagman west for protection and plans the moves needed to clear the line for the extra. Four more cars can be cut from the train and pushed into the team track behind the water tank, leaving four on the the train plus the caboose, which will fit into the passing track to allow the extra to pass.

The moves are completed and the mainline cleared just as the eastbound extra can be seen emerging from a curve about a half mile down the track.  It is proceeding very slowly, having been warned by the flagman from No. 3 who was picked up a half mile west of Donna Pass and is riding in the cab ready to jump off when No.3 is reached.

As the extra draws closer, the crew can see that the locomotive pulling the extra is Missouri Pacific 2-8-0 No. 185, one of five surviving members of the unique MP 180-class that was lost track of in an oversight by an incompetent roundhouse foreman, who accidentally wrote them off the books while they were over on the Midland Western. Everyone involved felt it best to leave well enough alone, so the engines remain on the Midland Western.  Even beyond this incredible occurrence, almost 60 years later a major Model Railroad manufacturer chose this very engine to be the prototype for their HO 2-8-0 model.  The 180-class engines are a little heavier than the decapods, accordingly slightly tougher on the track, and are usually a second choice for train service, although they are very good engines.

What the crew also sees is that Extra 185 East is only two cars long, which made all the switching to get No.3 off of the main line unnecessary.  The two cars are a rush shipment of LCL freight moving to the team track of Laskey for a preferred customer, having just been set off from a Frisco main line manifest freight at Thunder Grove only a couple of hours before.  Such occasional miscommunication does occur on the Midland Western, but it is such a lightly and slowly traveled line that no real danger ever is created.

Missouri Pacific Engine 185 slowly drifts past Frisco Engine 1632. The flagman from No.3 swings down from 185's cab.  As the engines pass each other, the hoggers salute each other with two quick little shorts on their whistles, as was customary on short lines long years ago.  The short eastbound extra trundles past, preparing to take an easy downgrade trip the 7 miles to Laskey.

Once Extra 185 has cleared the east end switch of the passing track by the water tank, No.3's crew reassembles the eight car train for the last eight uneventful miles into Thunder Grove, to tie the train up and hand it over to the switching crew to break it up and service local customers and the Frisco interchange track. 
Part 5 - A trip down the Midland Western (using DCC) - crossing the summit at Donna Pass

Note:  all DCC references are for operation with an NCE pro cab running steam engines with tsunami 2–2 decoders.

The Midland Western is a subsidiary of the Gulf Coast Lines, operated by both the Missouri Pacific and the Frisco.  The year is 1940.

The superheated exhaust chuff of 2-10-0 No. 1632 Midland Western is barking loudly as it struggles up the 2% grade with the Johnson bar fully notched, pulling Train No. 3 toward the summit at Donna Pass. Ahead at the summit the crew can see the water tank where they will stop for water to continue the trip to Thunder Grove some 8 miles distant.

Spotting the tender at the tank water spout will mean that the entire train behind the engine is still on the grade. With such a long train, the 1632 might not be able to start it again. The crew, though, having faced this before, knows exactly what to do. The Donna Pass passing track and team track lies just west of the tank and over the peak of the summit on level ground.  Without stopping at the tank, they pull the train partly past the last switch of the passing track. Then backing up, starting with with three shorts on the ATSF six-chime (F3), they set out the 5 cars of pea gravel ballast on the team track behind the water tank.  Then they move forward out of the team track starting with two forward shorts (F3), realign the switch back to the main, and with three backup shorts return to the tank with the other half of the train, knowing that they will be able to start eight cars on the grade again. 

The hogger cuts the steam (option key) as the train smoothly drifts to a stop, with the tender water hatch lined up with the tank spout.  The firemen, standing on the tender deck, gives hand signals to get the tender spotted correctly. He opens the water hatch, pulls down the water spout, and pulls a second chain to open the water valve on the tank (F16.). When the tender is full, he will return the spout up high and close the water hatch (F16 again.). During the water stop, the engineer is down on the ground walking around the engine, oiling around on the valve gear and rods, as is customary every time the engine comes to a stop anywhere. (automatic background sounds).

While the engine is taking on water, the conductor goes into the little telegraph cabin next to the water tank to check with Thunder Grove for any orders. This is necessary when running on dark unsignaled territory such as the Midland Western . Usually there are none.  He is surprised today, however, to find that an eastbound extra freight is just departing Thunder Grove, and that a meet must occur at Donna Pass. This greatly concerns the conductor, who does not yet know how long the approaching extra freight is, but does know that his now-eight-car No. 3 is still too long for the passing track.  Long ago the Midland Western decreed that no sawby meets be conducted at Donna Pass after a couple of runaways happened on the grade just to the east of the summit. The conductor knows that he will have to put three or four cars of his train on the team track to get No. 3 to fit on the passing track. 

Short passing tracks have always been a problem on the Midland Western, since it was built years ago when mostly light 4-4-0 and 4-6-0 engines pulled the short trains, but many limitations prevent the lengthening of them to truly accommodate the longer trains of more recent times.  The conductor advises the four passengers in the caboose to disembark and to have a seat on a bench next to the telegraph cabin while the train is separated and switched into sections that can be accommodated off of the main line at Donna Pass.  There's not a lot of time to get this done as the high pitched 5-chime steam whistle of the approaching extra is beginning to be audible far off to the west. The conductor sends a flagman out to the west for protection if needed.
Part 4 - A trip down the Midland Western (using DCC) - action on the grade

Note:  all DCC references are for grade operation with an NCE pro cab running steam engines with tsunami 2–2 decoders.

The Midland Western is a subsidiary of the Gulf Coast Lines, operated by both the Missouri Pacific and the Frisco.  The year is 1940.

Working from switch lists and waybills, the train crew always knew that they were going to have a steep climb up the westbound grade out of Laskey.  The shop crew in Midland accordingly assigned one of several Russian decapods available to take No. 3 to Thunder Grove.  Two from the Missouri Pacific and two from the Frisco are always on the property, along with two that belong to the Midland Western itself. Long ago the Midland Western realized that Russian decapods were the ideal power for this line, good tractive effort combined with light axle loading suited to the lightly built track.

On occasion in the past, a mikado from either the Missouri Pacific, or the Frisco had been on the property.  These engines were generally assigned only to switching in the yards at either end, thought to be a little heavy for the light trackage out on the branch.  Today, though, none were in Midland, so a decapod was assigned instead of one of the several Missouri Pacific consolidations also always on the property.

Before departing Laskey, both brakeman had walked the length of the long train, checking all the couplers and the air hose connections, while the hogger (engineer) pumped up the air brakes to service pressure.  Long ago in the past, when the line was first built, a train had actually accidentally parted while going upgrade.  On that day of all days, the air had not been properly checked. The last four cars and the crew in the caboose enjoyed a wild unrestrained ride all the way back down to Laskey, where they were finally able to set the hand brakes and stop.

With the air brake pressure up and all inspections completed, the hogger sees the highball sign from the conductor way back at the caboose at the depot. He sounds two shorts on the ATSF six chime whistle (F3), opens the cylinder cocks (F4) eases the throttle open with the Johnson bar (F5) in full forward position, and begins to creep forward. He closes the cylinder cocks after a few seconds (F4 again), and runs the train a little past the depot, to where underbrush begins to reclaim the right of way. Here he blows down the boiler (F10) good and hard to clean it out and ensure maximum steaming capacity where it will be needed on this demanding uphill trip ahead. After about 15 seconds, he closes the blowdown  (F10 again.)

Luckily, there's been no rain overnight along this part of the line, and the hogger finds that no sanding is required to avoid driver slippage.  The fireman is working very hard to keep the fire up, and accordingly the steam pressure, which he keeps just below safety valve release pressure.

The 1632 is a coal burner, which means that when heavily worked on a grade like this one, lots of cinders are coming out of the stack, as well as relatively heavy smoke caused by the intense draft that results from the heavy steam exhaust from the cylinders going up the stack.  Fortunately, the wind is blowing the trailing smoke off to one side, so the cinders and coal dust are not settling on the caboose and the passengers riding inside. 

Oil burning steam engines occasionally run on the Midland Western, and this grade is a favorite place for the fireman to sand the flues to clean the flues, the heavy exhaust causing a stiff fire draft that pulls a shovelful of sand right through the flues to scour out thick oily residue that comes out in thick greasy black smoke.  When the crew in the back sees this happening, they rush to close all the windows in the car to keep from being coated with this oily mist.  Fortunately, this is not the case today.

Finally, the engine crew can look ahead and see the water tank at the top of the grade where they will definitely need to take on water that's been largely used up steaming up the grade. The problem here is that with the tank being right at the summit, they have to stop at the tank while the train is still mostly on the grade, so, starting after taking on water will prove difficult to get the train past the summit.
Part 3 - A trip down the Midland Western (using DCC) - action at  Laskey

Note:  all DCC references or to operation with an NCE pro cab running steam engines with tsunami 2–2 decoders.

The Midland Western is a subsidiary of the Gulf Coast Lines, operated by both the Missouri Pacific and the Frisco.  The year is 1940.

It's now the middle of the morning and Midland Western train number three is approaching the small settlement of Laskey, about 7 miles west of Midland. The engineer blows a single long blast on the 6-chime whistle (F2, 5 seconds) to notify the agent on duty at the train is near. Being a lightly traveled branch, the Midland Western is not signaled in any way, although telegraph has been used this morning to notify the Laskey agent that eastbound train No. 4 is not far out, and a meet between the two trains will be conducted at Laskey.

Both trains are too long for the passing track so a once-common maneuver known as a double saw-by will be conducted to get the two trains around each other.

No. 4 eastbound has no business to conduct in Laskey, so it proceeds on east to Midland, leaving No. 3 to set out and pick up a few cars.

The arriving car consist is:

UTLX 10000 gal tank car 10360
UTLX 10000 gal tank car 10366
Seaboard Air Line boxcar 18822
Kansas City Southern boxcar 15550
SSW flat car 85082
Texas & Pacific boxcar 30467
SSW boxcar 36502
L&A boxcar 15027

The first move is to set the caboose out of the way, on a trailing-facing siding leading to a gravel pit a half-mile away.  The passengers must leave the caboose by law, while switching is conducted, so they disembark and wait inside the small wood depot on the north side of the track. Once the caboose setout is done, the team track, with a facing switch, must be worked. This means that the locomotive must be on the east side of the involved cars, pushing, and pulling with the pilot coupler.

Three cars on the train are being set out on the team track, and three are being picked up from the team track.  The three being set out from the train are:

UTLX 10000 gal tank car 10366
Seaboard Air Line boxcar 1882
SSW flat car 85082

These cars are spotted on the passing track, so that the 1632 and the remainder of the train can back up and work them with the pilot couple from the side facing the switch. The remainder of the train will remain coupled to the rear of the locomotive during the team track moves to stay out of the way.

With these remainder cars behind it, the 1632 backs up past the east end of the passing track.  The head end brakeman jumps down to throw the switch from the main into the passing track.  However, the three cars currently on the team track, scheduled to be added to the train, must be removed before the new cars can be moved on to the team track.

The empties being pulled from the team track are:

CKRX 10000 gal tank car 324
Missouri-Illinois boxcar 4125
Midland Western flat car 160

These cars are pulled out, then shoved onto the main in front of the depot to await addition to the train.  The three setout cars are then pulled from the passing track and shoved into the team track, with the brakeman directing the box car door be spotted at the loading dock ramp.

It's now time to reassemble No. 3 for departure from Laskey. Engine 1632 and the remaining five cars unaffected by the switching now run around, via the passing track, the three cars picked up from the team track now sitting on the man. These being empties, they will be added to the very rear of the train, out of the way of switching moves scheduled at the next siding, Donna Pass.

The engine and the five remainder cars back up to the three being-picked-up cars on the main and couple up. The reassembling train then backs into the gravel pit spur to pick up the caboose, to be coupled on the end of the three picked up empties from the team track.

One move remains, however. Five loaded Missouri Pacific 40' gondolas remain to be picked up from the gravel pit spur and added to the train.  They will go on the front of the train right behind the 1632, since they are all headed to the next set out at Donna pass, loaded with pea gravel for ballast work currently underway on that section 7 miles to the west.

The final train consist moving west out of Laskey is:

Missouri Pacific gondolas 70876, 71093, 24318, 24319, and 24306
UTLX 10000 gal tank car 10360
Kansas City Southern boxcar 15550
Texas & Pacific boxcar 30467
SSW boxcar 36502
L&A boxcar 15027
CKRX 10000 gal tank car 324
Missouri-Illinois boxcar 4125
Midland Western flat car 160

No. 3 looks very different now than when it pulled into Laskey about an hour ago.  A 13 car train is a very long one for the Midland Western, especially facing a 2% upgrade about a mile long, just west of Laskey.  The crew is apprehensive, wondering if they will have to double the hill, essentially breaking the train in half and taking it up into sections to be reunited at the passing siding at the top of the grade.  The train slowly pulls up so that the caboose is at the depot, so the passengers can get on board and ride, expecting quite a show on the grade from the 1632 which will be at near capacity on this trip uphill.  The engineer opens the cylinder cocks, sounds two shorts on his personal ATSF 6-chime, and slowly pulls the throttle open to start moving. He knows that he will not be doing much, if any, cutoff on the Johnson bar going up the grade, running at full steam, and the sharp bark of the superheated exhaust will be heard a mile away.
Note:  all DCC references or to operation with an NCE pro cab running steam engines with tsunami 2–2 decoders.

The Midland Western is a subsidiary of the Gulf Coast Lines, operated by both the Missouri Pacific and the Frisco.  The year is 1940.

Midland western westbound mixed train number 3 stands out on the main, getting ready to depart. The cross-compound air pump is heard in the background pumping the train brakes up to air line service pressure before departure. (Air pump sounds for an automatic background sound.)  While this is going on, the engineer and fireman walk around the running gear of 2-10-0 no. 1632, oiling around on the valve gear and rods, and tapping the rods occasionally with a hammer to check for flaws.( another automatic background sound.) Both brakemen walk up and down the length of the 8-car train, checking the air hose connections and the couplers.  When done, the rear brake man returns to the caboose, while the head end brakeman walks to the from the train, and climbs up the tender to get into the "doghouse" (brakeman shelter provided on the tender deck by state law to prevent overcrowding the engine cab.)

Air line service pressure is achieved after a few minutes, but the train will not move until the conductor signals to the engineer to do so.  The train is short enough that the engineer can look back to see the conductor give the highball sign, which is a vertical wave of the entire arm up and down. In this case, though, the train is not actually leaving, but it will back down the yard to the yard office to pick up the few passengers that will ride the caboose. Passengers are not allowed in the caboose until all switching is completed.

The engine has been standing for some time now, and condensate water ihas collected in the cylinders, so the engineer must open the cylinder cocks before backing (F4). Slowly backing down a couple of hundred feet down to the yard office, the engineer closes the cylinder cocks after about 10 seconds. Before reaching the office, he cuts the steam off (option key), which silences the chuff and all that is heard from the engine is the rods clanking as the train slowly drifts to a stop with a minimal brake application right at the end.

After a few minutes of passenger and LCL freight loading into the caboose, the train is ready to depart Midland. The engine has been standing still long enough to have to open the cylinder cocks again.  The engineer pulls two shorts on his personal ATSF six-chime whistle and slowly begins to open the throttle softly to take up the coupler slack in the train, so as not to cause passenger discomfort in the caboose. (coupler crash function.) After 10 seconds or so, the engineer closes the cylinder cocks, but the 1632 is having difficulty getting the train in motion on the rails wet from a 4:00 AM thunderstorm.  She loses traction and drivers slip.(F19).

Once sand is applied to the rail (F21), the 1632 gets hold of the rail and the train rolls out of the yard, approaching the Midland Western's 20 mph speed limit. The yard in Midland is an interchange yard that runs parallel to the north – south Missouri Pacific mainline. But once outside of the yard, the Midland Western begins to curve towards the west, heading towards the Frisco interchange at Thunder Grove 20 miles distant. Once on the curve, after whistling at the last grade crossing in Midland, the line enters a non-populated heavily wooded area, where the engine crew customarily blows down the engine safely to clean sludge and accumulated particulates out of the bottom of the boiler. (F10).  The engineer closes the blowdown valve after about 10 or 15 seconds. The train is now rolling at speed westbound towards the first community it will encounter, Laskey.  At speed, the engineer is able to use his Johnson bar to cut steam usage back some.(F5). The chuff audibly softens as the train continues its relatively uneventful trip to Laskey.
Part 1 - preparing to depart the Midland Yard.

Note:  all DCC references or to operation with an NCE pro cab running steam engines with tsunami 2–2 decoders.

The Midland Western is a subsidiary of the Gulf Coast Lines, operated by both the Missouri Pacific and the Frisco.  The year is 1940.

Westbound train no. three is a mixed freight, with a few passengers carried in a side door caboose .  In the past, there had been enough passenger business to warrant an ancient open-platform wood combine on the end of the train. But that car is now in storage and lovingly preserved by the shop, awaiting an upturn in passenger business.

Today's run will be handled by the Frisco. The train is due out around 7 AM, so the Frisco engine crew arrives around 6:30 AM to find Frisco 2–10–0 number 1632 with steam up already, done by the engine watchman starting at 5 AM. 

The crew climbs on board to move the engine to the head of the freight that was already assembled by the yard crew during the night, and is standing ready on the outbound track. The night before, the engine watchman had installed the engineers personal whistle on the engine, a well-tuned deep-toned six – chime from the Santa Fe (cv 120, whistle no. 38).  The engineer sounds a long blast on the six chime to announce imminent movement. (F2).  He then opens the cylinder cocks to evacuate condensate water from the cylinders (F4), sounds two shorts on the six-chime, and slowly opens the throttle to move gently forward.  After 10 seconds, he closes the cylinder cocks (F4 again.)  Approaching the switch at  the throat of the yard, he cuts the steam to drift to a stop just beyond the switch.  ("Option" key.). The side rods can be heard clanking as the engine gently drifts to a stop just beyond the switchstand

The head-end brakeman climbs down from the cab to realign the switch, to allow the engine to back in to the yard . He then notifies the engineer to back up, using the standard hand signal, rotating his arm and hand in a wide circle.  The engineer sounds three shorts (F3) on the six-chime notifying the crew of a back up move into the yard to couple up to the waiting freight. The engine smoothly begins to move backwards and the brakeman swings up into the cab as it slowly passes. 

No. 1632 slows to an almost imperceptible crawl as it approaches the train.  The rear brakeman signals the engineer with the backup hand signal, and when the couplers meet, he swings his hand horizontally at his waist to tell the engineer to cut the steam.  The engineer has hit the cars a little too hard, causing a crash sound to happen (F7, a relocated function on the decoder.) Fortunately no damage occurred. The brakeman couples the tender air hose to the rest of the train's air brake system, and the engineer pumps the train line up to service pressure before the train moves. When this is finished, and the brake test is conducted, train no. three will be ready to leave the yard westbound.
General Discussion / Forum NMRA poll
February 16, 2023, 06:40:51 PM
Log in and report.

1.  Are you in the NMRA?
2.  Why or why not?
3.  What benefits have you experienced from membership?
4.  Are you in regular contact with any other local members?
5.  Have you attended any conventions?

I'll respond with my comments shortly.

General Discussion / Models of less popular roads
February 09, 2023, 12:07:48 PM
Unfortunately, for model railroaders like me who follow less popular roads like the MP, Bachmann is in the Model Railroad business to make money, not to grant the every wish of me and everyone else like me.

The models offered by Bachmann, and just about every other vendor, seem to be prototypes from roads that serve the most major major population centers, essentially the metropolitan Northeast and Chicago. This makes sense, because that's where the most people interested in model railroading are going to be concentrated, not in small towns and small regional cities throughout the country. There's only a couple of Bachmann models defying this logic, which are the mogul, based on a engine from a 100 mile long midwestern short line, and a Wisconsin central diesel, from a relatively small regional carrier, not well known outside it's immediate area. 

Fortunately, for Missouri pacific steam modelers like me, over the years Bachmann has offered several engines that, while not precise molecular correct models, are very reasonable stand-ins that have made me happy for a very long time.

1. The spectrum consolidation, while a little heavy for a Missouri Pacific 2-8–0, has overall lines and details very Missouri Pacific like. I have four of these engines lettered as the imaginary MP 180 class, right above the MP spot class engines numbered 1–173.

2. The spectrum consolidation was offered as Missouri Pacific 92 many years ago. It appears from time to time on eBay and I finally got one about two years ago. It's very cleanly and prototypically lettered. It's a little heavy for a spot class engine, but again, who cares. A very accurate brass model of a spot class was offered many years ago, but they run like coffee grinders, and are unusable for any kind of operation or anything at all other than a mantel piece placeholder. On the other hand. Bachmann steam engines run like clocks once the DCC CV settings are correctly.

3. The Bachmann USRA mikado is almost dead on for an MP 1300 class. I have one done up as the 1304, with multiple added MP specific details, such as an oil bunker for the tender, number boards by the stack, and a hinged stack cover.

4. Bachmann offered a USRA light 4-8-2 years ago, dead on for the MP 5300 class as-built and before their heavy rebuilds in the late 1930s. Bachmann's MP model is very beautifully lettered. A purist could argue that the numerals on the cab side are a little big, but who care, I don't. It's a beautiful engine that took me a very long time to locate.

5. Bachmann also offered a Spectrum light USRA 2-10-2 back in the days of yore.  There were several variations for different prototypes, and the Seaboard Air Line one was very close to some of the MP 1700 class engines, including a Boxpok center driver acquired by some during shoppings. I bought one to repaint for the MP, but my Gulf Coast friend cried out, how can you paint over something that says "through the heart of Dixie" on the cab?  So I never did, and it is still in my roundhouse as a Seaboard engine, although really too large to run my branch line.

6. The Russian decapod is an incredible offering. The Bachmann one is in its second run now. I've loved those engines ever since I saw a photograph of an MP one way back when I was a teenager, switching in the Anchorage, Louisiana yard across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge.  The MP engines vary  some from the Bachmann model, especially the running board configuration, but I don't care. The 8 MP decapods were numbered from 941 to 948. I've lettered two of mine as imaginary MP 940 and 949, just outside of MPs numbers as if they could've been a couple of extra engines.  I have five other decapods operating on layout, but the MP ones are my favorites.

Some might argue otherwise, but for someone who is modeling a marginally popular railroad, I feel like I've been showered with riches untold.
We called it the mail train.  Because it was, one or two coaches behind lots of head end cars.

I'll never forget the finely tuned dance and workaday drama of the handling of No. 5's mail at the New Iberia depot.  Before the train arrived at 2:12, old-fashioned baggage carts with big spoked steel wheels, some loaded with canvas mail bags and some empty, would be rolled out alongside the track, under the long passenger umbrella shed that is no longer there today. Somehow the agent always got the cart within an inch or two of where the engine would pass.

You'd hear No. 5's readily identifiable smooth distinctive 5-chime air horn faintly float in on the wind from the east.  On days at home we could hear its approach from the house as well.  After interminable moments you'd hear it again, louder now, and you'd finally see the mars light swing into view around the curve at Center Street and enter the paved-over street trackage of Washington Avenue, invariably right on time, rolling beneath the ancient oaks, passing the parish courthouse where ten years earlier the 5-year-old me had watched Mikados stomping and squalling past with westbound freights.

As the train crossed Jefferson Street and negotiated a gentle S curve right before reaching the platform, you'd invariably see that the engine was a single Alco PA unit, classically running out its last miles on a plug mail run, although we didn't know that.  The PA would majestically roll past, slowing, with cadenced bell ringing.  A classic head end consist followed, heavyweight baggage cars with very cool express reefers and boxcars mixed in, steam hissing from between the cars. 

As the railway post office cars smoothly glided by, you'd see the doors already opened with a clerk standing in the door, and others visible behind the barred windows.  Somehow the train always stopped with the open door right at the perfectly placed baggage wagon.  With  precision smoother than any fine classical ballet, the inbound mail would quickly be stacked on the wagon, rolled away, and immediately replaced by the cart loaded with outbound mail.  Just as quickly, the loaded canvas mail bags disappeared into the car. 

The clerk would signal to the conductor that the mail transfer was complete.  In the steam engine days, the engine would have completed water top off at the water column at the west end of the platform.  Since  the few outbound passengers had already boarded the train, the conductor gave the highball to the hogger.  Two airhorn shorts signaled the almost imperceptible start of the train.  Crossing signals sounded for Corrine Street, then Hopkins Street.  The rear end red mars light, suspended from the accordion gate in the doorway of the rearmost car, slowly disappeared around the long gentle curve to the west, passing the barely visible West Tower on its way out, and following the complex pole lines on their westward march.

With the dramatic intensity winding down as the airhorn of No. 5 faded to the west, the carts with the loaded mail bags were rolled to a waiting postal vehicle and the bags loaded for the ride to the post office.  But, like a hidden bonus track on a record, one last dramatic detail remained.  No.2 eastbound, the Sunset Limited, was due at 2:37.  This train didn't stop in New Iberia at the time.  The depot agent walked down to the east end of the platform and hung an outbound mailbag on a mail crane.  No. 2, on the end of its run from the west coast, would often be late but when it was on time you'd hear the airhorn to the west, where No. 5 had gone into the hole ("siding") for the meet, and you'd watch the train regally roll in behind MU'd EMD FP units that always handled the train, the bell majestically clanging a slow tempo. The mailbag would be snagged onboard by the RPO, ending the daily drama of the US Mail coming and going from New Iberia Louisiana.

Oh what a time to be a young railfan there.  We didn't know what we had until it was gone, No. 5 making its last run in late 1963.
General Discussion / Bachmann headquarters question
February 03, 2023, 10:42:30 AM
I looked at your headquarters on 1400 east Erie Ave on Google earth.

What is the double track railroad that runs down the street in front of your building? The Erie? ;D