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Unit tank car train

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Unit tank car train
Posted by dstarr on Friday, December 13, 2019 8:50 PM

 I am just about finished up my unit tank car train project.  The project was to create a long solid tank car train.  Started off doing train shows and picking up HO tank car models, high end and low end, anything with a tank.  Converted them to body mount Kadee couplers and painted their trucks with red auto primer.  Did the usual tune up things, checked wheel gauge, added ballast to light cars, added colorful hazmat placards and adjusted coupler heights to match my home made height gauge.  Usually a #6 flat washer under the trucks would bring low couplers up to proper height.  The Athearn cars often suffered from droopy couplers.  They have an all in one piece coupler box cover secured only by the truck screws.  This cover tends to warp, loosening up the coupler pockets.  I used a #50 drill (tap drill for 2-56 screws) to drill out the coupler retaining pin, and a #43 drill (clear drill for 2-56 screws) to drill thru the coupler box cover.  Then a 2-56 by ¼ inch self tapping screw at each end pulled the coupler box covers up good and tight.
  
   Started off with my ABA set of B&M F7 Athearn hood units and just a caboose.  Ran one turn of the mainline, just to make sure everything was good.  Then I added one tank car after another, doing a turn of the mainline each time I added a car.  I wound up with 14 tank cars that ran, stayed coupled up, and did not derail, and 7 that needed work.   Somehow, despite checking coupler height on the workbench, I still had some high and low couplers that pulled apart during the test runs around the mainline. 
   Did the needed work and I now have 17 cars that run and 4 cars left on the bench.  The 4 hanger queens are all low end cars with truck mounted couplers with plastic truck retaining pins molded into the couplers.  The retaining pins don’t hold the trucks on very tightly, and don’t hold at all after I slipped a #6 washer under them to bring the couplers up to height.  I will have to fill the mounting holes in the car bodies with plastic tubing, cut off the plastic retaining pins, drill the trucks for mounting screws to bring the last four cars into service.   Note to self, don’t buy train show cars that lack truck mounting screws. 
   After getting the 17 good cars running and staying on the track, I ran them for a second turn of the mainline.  On the return leg the train stopped, headlamp out.  Seems like trusty Tech 4 power pack finally got tired of furnishing 1.5 amps to power all three Athearn hood units and shut down from overheating.  I took the B unit off the track and ran another loop with just an AA lashup.  That dropped the current draw down to just a skosh under 1 amp which the Tech 4 could carry all day.  So now I am looking either to remotor the three Athearns or find a power pack that can handle 1.5 amps. 
 
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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, December 14, 2019 2:20 PM

WHERE ARE YOUR BUFFER CARS????????? Big Smile

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Posted by dstarr on Saturday, December 14, 2019 6:05 PM

Overmod

WHERE ARE YOUR BUFFER CARS????????? Big Smile

 

What is a buffer car?

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Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, December 14, 2019 6:32 PM

dstarr

 Overmod

WHERE ARE YOUR BUFFER CARS????????? Big Smile

 What is a buffer car?
 

 
I think that it's a car that's more "buff" than other cars....a bit more snazzy-looking, perhaps Smile, Wink & Grin
 
Don't worry though, David, as tank cars carrying corn syrup, vegetable oil, or molasses doan need no steenkin' buffer cars!
 
Wayne
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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, December 14, 2019 9:44 PM

dstarr
Overmod

WHERE ARE YOUR BUFFER CARS????????? 

What is a buffer car?

See 49 CFR 174.85, particularly the table in (d).

I suspect very few people are building tank trains to transport corn syrup, vegetable oil, or molasses in tank cars marked "SHELL" or 'chlorine', even under 'my railroad, my rules' license.  The train in the pictures would have an additional problem, combining oxidizer hazmat with cars in some sort of train carrying substantial blocks of fuel (crude oil or perhaps additives of some kind for refining in Shell cars; ethanol, biodiesel, Bakken or Eagle Ford crude in those modern black tank trains).  Most anything worth transporting that way is likely to be 'hazardous' in the sense of this Federal regulation.

The usual 'buffer cars', since they're dedicated to this service, are things like war-weary covered hoppers filled with some neutral material like sand.  I almost always see the 'exemption for unit trains' followed, with one buffer car separating the power from the train, and one on the rear with the FRED.  

For your purposes a couple of well-weathered and perhaps damaged covered hoppers would do the job.  Someone like Carl can advise you what markings, paint colors, etc. might be likely.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Saturday, December 14, 2019 10:16 PM

Overmod
For your purposes a couple of well-weathered and perhaps damaged covered hoppers would do the job.

The buffer cars can not be damage since they are part of a train. The buffer car usually has a placards that reads "Buffer car service only". I am told these covered hoppers are loaded with sand.. The ones I checked had to be empty because the truck's springs wasn't depress like a loaded car springs would be.

Larry

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Posted by carl425 on Saturday, December 14, 2019 10:44 PM

Overmod
"SHELL" or 'chlorine'.  The train in the pictures would have an additional problem, combining oxidizer hazmat with cars in some sort of fuel train (crude oil or perhaps additives of some kind for refining in Shell cars; ethanol, biodiesel, Bakken or Eagle Ford crude in those modern black tank trains).

Two other problems with this alleged unit train...

  • A unit train by definition carries a single commodity from one supplier to one consumer.  You would not have chlorine in the same unit train with petroleum products.
  • AFAIK, unit trains of commodities other than coal didn't exist until well after all the F units had been retired.
  • On the good news side, the buffer car rule went into effect in 2000 (long after the F's were gone) so a unit train being pulled by F7's wouldn't require a buffer car. Smile

But, as they say, it's your railroad.  If these details don't bother you, by all means, run what you want.

I have the right to remain silent.  By posting here I have given up that right and accept that anything I say can and will be used as evidence to critique me.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, December 14, 2019 11:37 PM

BRAKIE
The buffer cars can not be damage since they are part of a train.

Surely you don't think they use new ones ... or ones still serviceable for grain transport ... as the buffer-car candidates?

I did mean 'damage' as dents, rusted patches, perhaps bent rails and the like -- old and beat-up.  Certainly not functional damage that would make the car unsafe to run even in captive service.  Sorry for not making that clearer.

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Posted by dstarr on Sunday, December 15, 2019 2:01 PM

Ayup,  I need to replace the odd commidity cars, like the chlorine tanker with oil tankers.  Gotta do a few more train shows to pick up some more oil tank cars.  I can update the motive power to GP-40s.  I can scare up some covered hoppers for buffer cars.  I assume the regular gray paint jobs, with some weathering would do.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, December 15, 2019 3:43 PM

Overmod
I suspect very few people are building tank trains to transport corn syrup, vegetable oil, or molasses in tank cars marked "SHELL" or 'chlorine', even under 'my railroad, my rules' license. The train in the pictures would have an additional problem, combining oxidizer hazmat with cars in some sort of train carrying substantial blocks of fuel (crude oil or perhaps additives of some kind for refining in Shell cars; ethanol, biodiesel, Bakken or Eagle Ford crude in those modern black tank trains). Most anything worth transporting that way is likely to be 'hazardous' in the sense of this Federal regulation...

You're certainly correct, Overmod, so I hope you'll forgive my spur-of-the-moment reply.

The use of buffer cars is fairly recent (not sure of the exact date) but for quite some time there have been regulations in place governing the placement of cars carrying various hazardous materials. 
This includes the distances for a hazardous material (usually expressed in number of cars) from a locomotive or caboose, and the number of cars carrying non-hazardous cargo that need to be between those cars carrying specific hazardous commodities - f'instance, no car carrying a flammable load next to one carrying an explosive load.

I'm sure there must be dozens of these restrictions listed by the FRA or other regulatory organisations.

Wayne

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, December 15, 2019 4:22 PM

doctorwayne
You're certainly correct, Overmod, so I hope you'll forgive my spur-of-the-moment reply.

Nothing needing forgiveness; it was a fair reply.

Part of the question that hasn't been answered is whether he wants to 'operate' in present time but with legacy equipment, or is modeling a particular era.  There were certainly the equivalent of 'unit trains' with riveted tank cars, some of which might have been cobbled together without the time to repaint some of the cars, in the months after U-boats started interdicting coastal oil shipping.  The early experiments with GATX Tank Trains came in the 1970s, and I believe the concept is earlier.  So there is ample historical precedent (and certainly a plausible-nonsense excuse) for operating many tank cars together in a 'block'.

Likewise, legacy F units could certainly haul a modern unit train across 'their' railroad, either to a new customer or as part of an "operational detour" due to, say, AGW-influenced increased chronic flooding, or political action concerning the 'Blast Zone'.  I saw Fs (in a matched A-B-B-A set, no less) working on EL in first-line service as late as the early Seventies, and doing it with apparently long trains with no particular visible difficulty.  Even today you could buy the NS rebuilt Fs (with 645s and modern dash-2 electronics inside) and run very effective service if you wanted.

If I recall correctly the rule I cited gives many of the placarding and separation concerns; others may be included in adjacent sections of the CFR (all of which is searchably on line).  One reason for him to observe all this stuff even if 'not required' to do it is that it's common-sense safer for his imagined crews and public if he does...

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Posted by caldreamer on Sunday, December 15, 2019 4:52 PM

ONLY trains that carry certain types of hazardous materials (crude oil, ethanol, inhalation hazardous materials, etc) require a buffer car between the engines and the first hazmat car. If the train contains more than a certain number of inhalation hazardous material cars it is designated a key train and furthur restrictions will apply.

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Posted by kasskaboose on Sunday, December 15, 2019 7:41 PM

Pls forgive the late input, but I was out of town and stumbled on this interesting topic.  I too model tank cars and know the importance of having buffer cars.  The picture does not show them, so I think it's something to add for realism.

I found a great video that explains how/where an types of cars to use for buffers here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=or8y2CPuySM

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, December 15, 2019 8:55 PM

Overmod
Surely you don't think they use new ones ... or ones still serviceable for grain transport ... as the buffer-car candidates?

I should have also mention the majority of the buffer cars I've seen been two bay covered hoppers in good shape. I have seen  3 bay covered hoppers as  buffers but,not as often as the two bays.

Larry

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Posted by York1 on Sunday, December 15, 2019 9:14 PM

I'm kind of glad I haven't posted any pictures of my trains.

John  --  Saints Fan  

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Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, December 15, 2019 9:46 PM

Hi David,

I think that the criticism that you have received is a bit harsh. You have put together an interesting train, and learned some things in the process. For example, you now realize that toy train set cars with truck mounted couplers are a bit of a challenge.

You can make those low quality cars into excellent models, but it takes a lot more work than just trying to shim the trucks. The first thing to do would be to body mount the couplers. That is easy to do on freight cars but the open frames on tankers usually require a bit more work. Then there is the issue of molded on railings and grab irons. Some people are okay with them but if you want to create a real gem, you might consider shaving them all off and replacing them with real wire. Tichy Train Group sells 0.0125" phosphor bronze wire that is the perfect size for HO scale railings and grabs.

https://www.tichytraingroup.com/Shop/tabid/91/c/ho_wire/p/1106/Default.aspx

It is easy to bend and tough enough to stay straight when the car is being handled.

Maybe doctorwayne will add some more information on what can be done to make those sow's ears train set cars into silk purses.

Dave

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, December 16, 2019 1:33 AM

hon30critter
...Maybe doctorwayne will add some more information on what can be done to make those sow's ears train set cars into silk purses.

I don't know about the silk purses part, but many early kit offerings from many manufacturers can certainly be "tweaked" with a few added details, or even just some weathering.

I have several Athearn tank cars, but this one has been modified quite drastically.  I was on my way home after a nightshift, and only a few blocks from the steel plant where I worked, was Proctor & Gamble's factory.  In their yard, easily accessible from the street, was a frameless tank car - a fairly new concept at that time.  While I didn't have my camera with me, I did have some paper and a pencil, so got out of the car and walked over to where I had a good view, and sketched the car, including all the lettering on it, plus whatever notes I thought might be useful.
I built the model, shown below, using the shortened tank from Athearn's somewhat unusual 50' tank car with with a frame.  Pretty-well most of the details are scratchbuilt...

I got a surprisingly good price for it when I backdated my layout and sold-off my too-modern stuff, despite some pretty good tank car kits and r-t-r stuff being available at that time.

I do have a few Athearn tank cars on my layout, all of them altered somewhat, and most lettered for GERN Industries.
 
This one is Athearn's "chemical" tank car...

...and another version...

...the same car, but shortened...

...and Athearn's regular tank car. also shortened...

This one is Athearn's 3-dome tank car, a type usually used to carry different commodities in each of the tank's three compartments.  I've added the older-style railings and long platform with which most of these cars were originally fitted...

Even Varney's much earlier offerings can be tweaked a bit to look more realistic.  I got this one new, in the '50s, but have re-detailed and re-lettered it...

...and I got this Varney tank (no underframe or trucks) at a train show for my favourite price - "free"!  After shortening it slightly...

...to better fit onto a Tichy underfame...

...I ended up with this...

I liked the looks of LifeLike's Proto2000 tank car kits when they were first offered, but they were out of my price range.  However, many modellers complained about the difficulties encountered when trying to assemble them, especially the grabirons and other plastic add-on details.  As a result, many partially-built kits began showing-up on the "used" table at my LHS.  While some were a real mess, I bought several that weren't too badly done, and at a reasonable price, and was able to re-detail them.
Eventually, Proto released the r-t-r versions, even further out of my price range, but they flew off the shelves while the kits languished for quite some time, with little or none being sold.
I was fortunate to be in my LHS when the owner, a somewhat frugal individual, finally put those kits on sale, and I scooped-up several, at a very good price.
I immediately discarded the troublesome (and somewhat out-of-scale) details, substituting metal parts, either readily available or scratchbuilt.
 
I liked the fact that there was a wide range of lessors and lessees lettered on the cars, and a surprising number of Canadian companies represented, too.
Here are a couple of examples...

...and they also offered more than one body-style, as shown by this somewhat more-portly car...

York1

I'm kind of glad I haven't posted any pictures of my trains.

 
hon30critter
Hi David, I think that the criticism that you have received is a bit harsh. You have put together an interesting train, and learned some things in the process....
 
Dave is right in his comment quoted above, and for both David and John, and many others out there, there is no need to worry about posting photos of your  trains or layout. 
Most of us will appreciate seeing them, no matter your modelling ability - all of us started out knowing little, and showing what we thought, at the time, was pretty good, and we usually got polite comments. 
If we were lucky, perhaps someone would offer tips on how to make something look even better.  Over time, you will pick-up useful information here, even from the critics, so don't let that deter you.  This is not only a place to share your work, but also to view that of others - we can all learn from that kind of exchange, even those of us who have been in this hobby for a long time.

Wayne
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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, December 16, 2019 4:14 AM

hon30critter
Maybe doctorwayne will add some more information on what can be done to make those sow's ears train set cars into silk purses. Dave

Dave, I took a Mantua chemical tank car body mounted the couplers,used Athearn trucks,painted it black and decaled it UTLX and it lost its trainset looks. The same could be applied to AHM PS2 covered hopper and with a little more work their PS1 boxcar could be upgraded to a better looking car.. 

I dunno some times I miss those days.

Larry

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Posted by jeffhergert on Tuesday, December 17, 2019 10:02 PM

caldreamer

ONLY trains that carry certain types of hazardous materials (crude oil, ethanol, inhalation hazardous materials, etc) require a buffer car between the engines and the first hazmat car. If the train contains more than a certain number of inhalation hazardous material cars it is designated a key train and furthur restrictions will apply.

 

The simple version for Key Trains.

If there is one load of "toxic/poison inhalation hazard" or twenty or more loads of hazardous materials, it is a Key train.  A train with 20 or more loads of petroleum crude oil is a Key Train - Crude Oil.  A train of 20 or more loads of a Class 3 Flammable Liquid in a continuous block or 35 or more of such cars across the entire train is a Key Train - High Hazzard Flammable Train. 

All key trains are limited to 50 mph.  Key Train-Crude Oil and Key Train-High Hazzard Flammable Trains are further limited to 40 mph in High Threat Urban Areas.  

 

Placement restrictions and the use of buffer cars goes back many years. Employee time tables back in the late 1970s started having the placement in train chart in special instructions.  The requirements and restrictions may go back further than that.

Buffer car(s) can be any non-restricted car (some hazmat is unrestricted and could be used as a buffer car) although loaded cars are preferred.  

Jeff 

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Posted by maxman on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 4:25 PM

doctorwayne
I have several Athearn tank cars, but this one has been modified quite drastically.

So, what happened to the photos?

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, December 19, 2019 1:13 PM

Now here is a unit tank car train.

https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,4922354

 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, December 19, 2019 2:10 PM

maxman

 doctorwayne

I have several Athearn tank cars, but this one has been modified quite drastically.

So, what happened to the photos?

 
Apparently, photobucket is doing some updates to their site, and it appears that my photos have disappeared from the forums in which I share them - there are many who may be pleased to hear this, but it's rather annoying for me.
In addition, while the photos are still listed as icons on the photobucket site, none are currently viewable to me.
 
To complete my day of internet follies, my internet service provider is experiencing "technical difficulties", which I think are not exactly the same "technical difficulties" which I seem to experience almost every time that I try to go on-line...let's just say that I'm not-too-savvy, tech-wise.
 
I assume that the photos will re-appear once things get straightened out at photobucket, but I've also been experiencing some difficulties getting into the MR site lately, so I hope they also do their site update sooner rather than later.
 
Wayne

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