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Author Topic: Prototype Ideas to improve model train operations  (Read 9489 times)

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« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2014, 01:01:25 PM »


When I began railroading (1973, Milwaukee Road) all freight trains had cabooses.  We had two groups of cabooses.  One group was individually assigned to conductors.  They had a free hand in how they equipped their cabooses, many RV-like touches.  They were kept locked between runs, and woe betide anyone who rough-handled them or got the wrong guy's caboose on a train.

The other group were pool cabooses that operated between mainline terminals.  These were used as most conveniently available, and were pretty plain compared to the first group.

The locos were not individually assigned, but worked in the form of small pools of engines assigned to particular classes of trains.  The biggest, most modern power was assigned to major main-line trains.
We had a group of SD's designed for use on light track that served on branchlines.  A pool of F7's was assigned to a connecting train to a main line.  We had several pools of switch engines of different brands.  They were assigned to local switcher pools so their brand-unique parts could be inventoried where those units were assigned.  Two locations that come to mind was a pool of Fairbanks-Morse switchers, and at another location, a pool of Baldwin switchers.  Light-duty ALCO roadswitchers formed another pool.

The typical model railroad's motive power roster would be a nightmare on an actual railroad.  All kinds of different builders and models mixed together.  You would have to stock spare parts for everything, and have people trained in fixing all types.


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« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2014, 10:08:33 PM »

what you describe with the motive power fleet was and still is common on the real railroads. they tend to concentrate their oddballs in certain areas, where they can concentrate parts inventory and maintenance. a good present day example is the sd80mac fleet on Norfolk southern, which primarily work the Altoona area. they only have 17 of the beasts, which have a unique 20 cylinder engine. it makes sense to keep them close to the backshop even though they are solid performers. occasionally, they'll make it onto some long distance trains but normally they move coal in local and regional trains.

most model railroaders have the "one of everything" mentality.  a much more appropriate way to model your favourite road would be to model in proportion to the numbers of a particular model rostered. for example, modeling modern Norfolk southern, your roster should be dominated by ge dash 9s, with a sampling of dash 8s, sd60s and sd70s, along with the odd older or 4 axle unit.

Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA

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« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2014, 11:50:53 PM »

The locos were not individually assigned, but worked in the form of small pools of engines assigned to particular classes of trains.  The biggest, most modern power was assigned to major main-line trains.


This isn't exactly true. Locomotives are purposely assigned to trains based on how well a locomotive's performance matches a given train's needs. Some of the criteria are train weight, grades, availability of support along the train's route (much more important in the steam era), need for speed and the ability of the track to be used to handle the loco/axle weight.
                                                    -- D

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« Reply #18 on: May 16, 2014, 12:29:04 AM »


Some of these things are variables, some are not.  Grades and track conditions are not variables.
Train weights and speed requirements are, but tend to remain fairly constant for a given class of train.
This allows engine assignments to be made by class of train.  Also, a train may leave its terminal with fewer cars than it returns with, or vice-versa.

In my example (based on operations in Madison, WI) our town was a former division point on the original main line of the Milwaukee Road (which, by the way, did not go to Milwaukee).  We wound up being the headquarters of a subdivision on a truncated former main line, with a net of branch lines emanating in all directions.

Every morning, we would get one big train from Chicago coming on the old main line.  This train would have around 100 cars, and would draw whatever mainline pool power was available down there.  It was usually SD40's, SD45's, U30C's, FP45's.  Power varied a lot as individual locos were pulled out of the mainline power pool.  We would spend the day tearing this train down, putting its cars into other trains, and building another Chicago train to return that night.

Every day about noon we would get a train from our mainline connection at Portage.  This train would have around 50 cars and be powered by 2 or 3 F7's.  We would make a train for this job in the morning.  After the road crew got back from lunch, they would run these cars back up to Portage.

Every other day we would run a train to Prairie Du Chien, where the main line used to cross the Mississippi River.  This train would consist of up to 100 cars, and be drawn by a pair of SD7's specially equipped to run on light track.  These engines were needed for this old main line, because they did extensive work on the way on light branch lines.

On the days this train was out of town (it overnighted in Prairie Du Chien), we would use a single SD7 to work branch lines to Prairie Du Sac, Middleton, and Mazomanie.

We had a daily turn to Janesville, on the old main to Chicago.  This used an SD7 also.

We ran two shifts a day using two FM switchers each.  One engine switched the yard in 2 eight-hour shifts.  The other (the Hill Job) switched industries around town and went up a branch as far as Sun Prairie.

If we wound up with a train that was too much for its assigned power, we would call the roundhouse and order an extra unit.


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« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2014, 02:16:15 AM »

Speaking of motive power, I never have had that "Must have one of everything" approach.

Even back when I was a teenager and started modelling British Railways Southern Region and read "Railway Modeller" and "Model Railway news" (Long since gone) I have subscribed to the loco fleet look.  As I modelled BR(S) and in particular the western section of BR(S) my loco stud was limited to just those engines that actually worked on the western section.  So I had multiple models of only a few classes of engine.

And I still do the same thing today.  I never buy anything just because it "Looks cool".  If it's not suitable for 1958, or it's not typical of southern Quebec then it doesn't get purchased.  Of course, there's stand ins.  

There's no suitable CPR style light 2-10-0s, which were used around Montreal on transfer service, so I use three modified Russian 2-10-0s, modified to make them look less "Russian",  as suitable stand ins.  For the rest of the steam fleet, I have half a dozen or so 2-8-0s with at lest three different types of tenders which is typical of the steam era.  I have two Athearn 2-8-2s modified with working front couplers and better weight distribution.  Four of so light 4-8-2 and two or three heavy 4-8-2s modified with all weather cabs and tenders kitbashed to suit.  I have three Canadian President's Choice (A version of the IHC model) 2-10-2s modified with all weather cabs and two different styles of all weather cabs, two represent two sub-classes, attached to converted to coal from oil Bachmann Hicken tenders, two Athearn 4-6-2s also modified to run better, a few 4-6-0s of both types, two sound equipped Bachmann 2-6-0s and finally, one P2K 0-8-0 switcher and one P2K 0-6-0 switcher.

Even with the above fleet, there is a slow kitbashing in progress of some of them, like the 2-8-0s, to give some of 2-8-0s in a number series a slightly different look to represent a sub-class.  Variety within classes.

Diesels?  Multiple GP7 both passenger and freight versions, GP9, F7A, FA-1, FA-2, RS-1, RS-2 and RS-3 units.  The only ones not typical of Canada are RS-1s as no suitable Canadian prototype was available for the dieselisation of Northern Maine so I used the RS-1 as a logical replacement.

So, as you can tell.  Lots of locos but a limited number of differing "classes" so that the GER fleet looks like a fleet and not a collection of single models.


Roger T.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2014, 02:03:32 PM by rogertra » Logged


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« Reply #20 on: May 16, 2014, 09:23:48 AM »


I took a different approach that allows realism with a variety of motive power.

I model a major passenger terminal in the West (Denver).  This was served by five railroads, and received trains from two additional ones.

My railroad has three engine terminals.  One terminal was shared by three railroads (AT&SF, CB&Q, C&S).  C&S was owned by CB&Q and pooled power with each other.

One terminal was used by UP.  UP ran power from Milwaukee Road into Denver, pooled with its own power.

The third terminal was the main shops of D&RGW.  D&RGW hosted a MP passenger train, with MP power.

Rock Island ran a train into town over the UP, but as its own operation with its own power.

This mix gives me plenty of power to model.  My era centers on 1965, but trains operated go back as far as 1959.

Since this was pretty far into the Diesel Era, the actual variety of locomotives is rather limited.  But I don't use power that its given railroad didn't use at the time.  Since it is passenger-oriented, my loco roster consists mainly of E-units, PA and PB units, and passenger F units.

The trains themselves consist of lightweight streamlined trains, heavyweight trains, and trains that are a mix of both kinds of equipment.


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« Reply #21 on: May 16, 2014, 02:06:26 PM »


I've visited Denver some 25 years ago and it was a very interesting railroad town with lots of different railroads and facilities.  I can see why you modelled it.

Thanks for writing your approach to modelling.  Too bad more people aren't in on this thread but I did kinda anticipated that as most modelers on this board are not "scale" modellers.  Not that that's bad if they are getting enjoyment out of what they model.

Roger T.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2014, 04:21:59 PM by rogertra » Logged


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« Reply #22 on: May 16, 2014, 03:03:53 PM »


Thanks.  I get to Denver several times a year, as I live only 200 miles from there.  I've also been there by train many times, starting in the late 1960's.

I chose Denver as a result of listing my favorite railroads in the pre-AMTRAK era, then thought about cities that were served by them.  Denver had a great many of them, and was physically nearby.  It was a regional railroad hub back then.  Other cities that were considered were Kansas City, Omaha, and Pueblo, CO.

There is a wealth of published material available for any of these cities.  Google Earth was also valuable.

Even though much of the past has been swallowed up by urban development, plenty is left.  My personal prize was finding the Denver and Salt Lake terminal building.  This railroad was kept out of the group that owned Denver Union Station, so had to build its own.  It was abandoned as a railroad station in 1949, but still is used for other purposes.  Its station tracks survived for many years as storage tracks for the big station.

Railroads leave scars on the ground in the West that can last for a century or more.  Studying the area around the ex-D&RGW Burnham shops will reveal the location of a narrow-gauge turntable and roundhouse.  The current Diesel house is still served by a turntable that used to be surrounded by a roundhouse.  It is now only used for turning locomotives.  I have modeled this with no whisker tracks, just a single track approaching it. Burnham Shops is currently in use by UP.  It's facilities are still quite extensive.

The big CB&Q-C&S-AT&SF engine terminal was called Rice.  I have modeled this, but it is not in the same location in relation to the passenger terminal as the actual one.  This location is hard to research now, as it has been built over by an amusement park.

The third terminal, UP's Pullman, was built at the junction of the Kansas Pacific line and the UP's line to Cheyenne.  There is still a small yard and engine terminal there, but most of the yard has been replaced by an intermodal facility used to unload automobile carriers.  This is now part of Commerce City.

The main yard in Denver did not exist in the area I model.  This is North Yard, located just north of Coors Field.  BNSF has an engine terminal there now.

Most of these railroads are now gone.  One passenger train remains, using a temporary AMTRAK station north of the original, while tracks are being re-installed in the old terminal.
AT&SF, CB&Q, and C&S are now BNSF.  D&RGW and MP are now parts of UP.  Rock Island has ceased to exist.  It entered Denver by trackage rights over UP's Kansas Pacific anyway.  There isn't anything left in the current context of Denver that I am really interested in modeling.

C&S and D&RGW were Denver-based railroads and a source of local pride.

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