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Power Plant for a roundhouse

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  • Member since
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  • From: Columbia, IL
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Power Plant for a roundhouse
Posted by wdcrvr on Sunday, February 04, 2018 9:52 PM

I am building a six stall roundhouse for my HO transition era layout.  I would like to add a seperate Power Plant structure to provide a source of heat for the roundhouse.  Does anyone have some guidelines or better yet a drawing or other image of such a structure?



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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, February 04, 2018 9:59 PM

They heated roundhouses?



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  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
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Posted by BATMAN on Sunday, February 04, 2018 10:09 PM


They heated roundhouses?




They did! By opening the window on a hot day. Everything you need to know with pictures right here.Laugh

Make sure you get the toilets right, we don't want any of your little workers sitting in there reading Model Railroader when they should be working.Pirate

Note how everything on the inside is white? They got that from me.Smile, Wink & Grin




It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, February 05, 2018 12:38 AM

The orange brick structure, shown below, is the powerhouse for the shop complex in Lowbanks.  It provides electrical power and steam, although I haven't yet installed the overhead steam lines.

They'll provide heat for the shop buildings, steam for lances at the coaling tower (in winter months, coal often arrives frozen solid in hoppers) and can re-freeze in the tower, too.  The turntable pit has buried steam lines to obviate the need for crews with shovels when the snow gets deep, and even the water tower, some distance down the track, will have a heated frost box around the supply pipes.  Steam can also be used for drying the sand used in the locomotives' sand boxes.

Another common use of steam at engine terminals was for pre-heating locomotive boilers, for quick turn-around after repairs or servicing where the fire had been dropped. And don't forget the showers in the crew change rooms...a heat exchanger using steam is very efficient.

In the steel plant where I worked, a central steam plant provided steam and compressed air to mills all over the almost 2,000 acre site.


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  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, February 05, 2018 2:48 AM


The Library Of Congress Prints and Photographs collection may have some photos that will be helpful.

You can further refine the search for better results.

I'm planning on having banks of wall-hung pipe heaters in my under-construction roundhouse. I have seen these in several of the roundhouses I visited in the late '60s and 1970s.

As Wayne mentioned, one of the primary reasons for a boiler house was to provide steam and hot water for filling and pre-heating locomotive boilers.

Also steam/hot water for boiler washouts was a necessary utility.

I can post more information as time permits. I have recalled hearing several instances where the boiler house went down toward the end of steam and a stationary locomotive (or two) were pressed into service to provide house steam.

 RH_layout by Edmund, on Flickr

A neat feature of the above boiler house is the coal was carried on carts on an elevated bridge from the locomotive coaling tower so only one coal-dump was needed. I'll try to find photos.

Often a larger facility would have a full power plant supplying all the in-house electricity needs and compressed air and steam plus domestic hot water.

The Altoona power plant was recently torn down in the summer of 2016.

I have one of these Kibri boiler houses serving an industry on my layout and I think, with it's small footprint and nice stack it would look good adjoining a roundhouse or machine shop.


Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by mlehman on Monday, February 05, 2018 3:21 AM

A good example of a small boilerhouse was the Rio Grande's at the roundhouse in Durango. Mine is hacked to fit the opposite side of the roundhouse and into my location.

Side view

End view

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, February 05, 2018 6:51 AM

Some very sophisticated systems for providing steam and water directly to individual stalls were built -- see the Direct Steam systems used in Canada for examples of what could be done.  This was a much more practical way of blowing down and re-steaming locomotives than any of the usual 'how to boot a locomotive' rigmaroles; among other things, you could get the boiler heated with proper stress relieving more quickly than you could build and draft an effective coal fire in it.  Particularly in a Canadian winter that would be a highly useful thing.

I think there are threads, with pictures, on the Trains or Classic Trains forums somewhere.  The subject has been discussed in technical detail on the steam_tech Yahoo group.

I do not know whether older roundhouses would have shop facilities nearby.  In the era before small electric motors for machine tools became cost-effective a shop would have had the rotating machinery driven via a lineshaft powered by a steam engine, which would share boilerhouse steam with that roundhouse.  Note that the actual electrical 'power' generated in a boilerhouse even in a transition era to electrical services might represent a comparatively small amount of the generated steam capacity.

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Posted by JWhite on Monday, February 05, 2018 12:32 PM

Here are a couple photos of powerplants.  They were both built and operated by the Illinois Central in Centralia, IL.  Centralia was a division point maintenance facility and it had a 48 stall roundhouse.  There was a large coal fired powerplant that provided both steam and electricity for the roundhouse and car shops located there.

 Roundhouse and powerplant by Jeff White, on Flickr

This picture was taken from the coaling tower.  The power house is the large building to the right of the roundhouse.

[/url]3502 with train passing the Centralia power house

This is a picture of the concrete coal dock.  Hopper cars were pushed up on to the tracks on top of the concrete on the right side of the photo and he coal was dumped into coal bins under the tracks.

[/url]Roundhouse and power plant 1912 by Jeff White, on Flickr

This is a picture of the comlpex right after it was completed in 1912.

This is a sectional view of the powerhouse from comany drawings.

[/url]Sectional view of powerhouse by Jeff White, on Flickr

This is the description extracted from an article on the new locomotive shop complex in the June 27, 1913 issue of Railway Age Gazette.

The building is 60 ft. x 80 ft., divided longitudinally in the middle by a 13 in. brick wall into an engine room and boiler room.. A heavy concrete foundation is required under the boilers and under the machinery in the engine room.  The roof trusses and monitor framing are of steel carried directly on the brick walls.  A 5-ton Whiting hand operated crane in the engine room is carried on 9 in. brick pilasters with stone caps which support longitudinal I-beam girers for the runways.  The roof slabs are the same as in the machine shop.  The floors are concrete with granitoid finish. 

The equipment consists of four 250 h.p. Stirling water tube hand fired boilers operating at 150 lbs, a 2000 h.p. Cochrane horizontal feed water heater, two 250 k.v.a., 3 phase, 60 cycle, 400 volt General Electric, non-condensing, turbo-generators, two 1000 cu. ft. air compressors, besides other auxiliary power equipment.  An automatic oil storage and filtering system handles all the oil used by the turbines, air compressors and pumps.  Space has been reserved in the engine room for the installation of a locomotive boiler washing and refilling system. The electric power is distributed to the other buildings by cables carried on steel transmission towers with concrete pedestals. The pipe lines from the powerhouse to the roundhouse are carried in a 5 ft. x 6 ft. concrete tunnel, and the hot water pipes for heating the car department buildings are carried ina concrete conduit having special provision for expansion, which was an important considerationin the adoption of hot water instead of steam for heating the buildings of the northern group. The pipes which areabout 2500 ft. long are carried on expansion rollers to allow free movement due to expansion and contraction, and two loops are provided in the line to take up this movement.

The coal bunker alongside the boiler room is of reinfoirced concrete of a special design, having a capacity of 400 tons.  The outer wall of the bunker is 1 ft. 3 in. thick, reduced in the panels to 12 in. The inner wall is formed by the wall of the powerhouse.  Concrete beams 12 in. thick and 3 ft. 9 in deep on 13 ft. centers support the 6 in. floor slab of the bunker, and 6 in. vertical walls over these beams support a similar slab which is sloped up from the floor level level at the inner wall on a slope of about 1 to 1 serving to hopper the bunker.  The track over the bunker is carried by 24 in. 80-lb. I-beams under each rail, which are commected to the web of similar I-beams set transversly on the concrete walls at intervals of 13 ft. These beams are covered with concrete for protection. The base of the rail is 10 ft. above the floor of the boiler room and the exteme width of the bunker is 12 ft. 8 in. There are six 7 ft. doors in the wall between the bunker and the boiler room, allowing the coal to fall through on the boiler room floor.  These doors have cast iron jambs and lintels.  A drain pit is provided at the lowest point of the bunker to lead to the sewer any water which may collect.

The chimney for the powerhouse is of concrete, the shaft being 204 ft. high, and the footings carried down 5 ft. and spread to 28 ft, square. The outside of the shaft is tapered, the diameter at the bottom being 14 ft., and at the top 8 ft. 6 in.  The concrete shell has a thickness of 15 in. at the bottom and 6 in. at the top, being reinforced with vertical bars.  A lining of fire bricks is carried up 70 ft. from the top of the footing, this lining having a uniform inner diameter of 8 ft.  The inside diameter above this lining is 7 ft. 6 in.  The lining is 4 1/2 in. thick, and is entirely separate from the concrete shell, leaving an air space between the two which is 16 1/2 in. widw at the bottom. The smoke opening into the chimney is 4 ft. 6 in. x 12 ft. 3 in., the fire block lining being carried through this opening to connect with the flue lining.  The chimney is designed to allow for a boiler overload of 50 per cent, and provides for the buring of low grade coal.

Here is a photo of the smaller plant the IC had in downtown Centralia to provide heat to the large passenger depot and freight house.


This photo came from a 1921 issue of Illinois Central, the magazine the railroad published for the employees and the old issues are available on google.  A wealth of free information


This plant was 30 x 34 feet with a coal bunker under the track and a continuous bucket electric elevator to move the ash from the boiler rom and dump into a gondola.

Jeff White

Alma, IL


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Posted by Overmod on Monday, February 05, 2018 1:36 PM

I'm still heartbroken we couldn't keep the 30th Street Station powerhouse in Philadelphia, with its very distinctive stack

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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, February 10, 2018 3:42 AM

Nice group of photos of the now demolished Altoona Juniata Shops Power Plant:

Regards, Ed

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