Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

I cannot NOT turn my locos -- hand me my pick-axe.

3149 views
42 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
I cannot NOT turn my locos -- hand me my pick-axe.
Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 12:20 AM

I've decided I don't like how my tracks end in the town up at the end of the branch. It's fine for diesels; an RS1 or RS2 comes in on the arrival track at the head of a mixed local, and then backs out on the escape track, moves the caboose if there is one, then switches out industries, and then leads the train back down the mountain.

upperTown

But I have a bunch of steamers I'd like to use on the branch, too, and it's ridiculous that they should have to back all the way down the mountain with a train behind (in front of) them. Also, the steam locos often don't have a great coupling function in the front. I hadn't originally planned on this, but I now want to turn the power up here. The yellow circled track in the photo above is as far as they can go right now, but the second photo shows what I want to do.

cassettePlan

I'm going to add a 15" radius curve that will turn right over the end of the yard and off the layout. I'll build a cassette here that will be sturdy and mount to a base frame fixed to the wall like a shelf, extending through where the pencil sharpener is right now. I've been lying awake at night trying to figure out how to make it work with the limited tools and the limited carpentry skills I have, which are both suited more to building a rough chicken shed than to furniture making, let alone a turntable of this nature.

I've come up with a design. I'll try to draw it next weekend. The cassette will be like a turntable bridge only with sides like a through girder instead of a deck girder. The problem here is, how do you spin a thing like this when it's so close against the wall? Well, the cassette bridge will be fulcrum'd on a center pin that will go down into the base like an inverted bolt with a wide head. The head will keep the cassette bridge from coming up and out. But instead of going into a hole, this bolt will be in a slot in the base that runs perpendicular from the wall. This slot will be blocked at the end away from the wall so the cassette bridge cannot come all the way out. When it is thus pulled away from the wall to a distance equal to just over half its length, it can be rotated, then pushed back in toward the wall. So the loco comes across the first bridge (shown in the photo) and gets onto the cassette bridge and stops. You pull the cassette toward you -- the bolt/pin enabling it to ride along the slot -- rotate the cassette and push it back so that the track lines up again with the track of the spur. Your loco arrives back at the station facing the other way. The base that holds up the cassette and in which the slot is located will have to be wider at the point where the slot is, maybe it will bulge out like a half moon, to accommodate the slot/track that the cassette must move along and to provide balance and support for the cassette.

With this design, I can build something that is strong and stable but doesn't have to be very fine or sophisticated. This is my plan but it will be a while before I get to this, so there's lots of time to lie awake thinking of reasons why it won't work, or ways to better the design.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    September 2002
  • 7,318 posts
Posted by ndbprr on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 6:33 AM

Real railroads had the same problem.  Many installed a headlight on the tender to solve the problem.  The PRR had 4-4-2, 4-6-0, and some 2-8-0 engines outfitted this way

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 22,938 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 6:59 AM

Matt, as an alternative, why not just spend $35 to buy the surface mount Atlas Turntable? No cutting required, and it can be easily motorized with simple wiring.

https://shop.atlasrr.com/p-208-ho-turntable.aspx

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2007
  • 268 posts
Posted by Lee 1234 on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 9:37 AM

Why not make you cassette double ended so you can pick it up and turn the whole train around?   Been done by many modelers.

L

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 9:41 AM

richhotrain
Matt, as an alternative, why not just spend $35 to buy the surface mount Atlas Turntable? No cutting required, and it can be easily motorized with simple wiring.

Rich, thanks for doing legwork and finding this. If you mean why not use that Atlas table off the layout where I planned to put a cassette, the first reason would be that it is only 9" long, and my favorite steamer -- the Atlantic -- is nearly 12" in length.

The other reason would be that the track approaching this table would have to curve away from the wall after crossing over the yard, which I suppose would be possible but now we're building a pretty wide shelf over my workbench that was not part of the approved permit.

If instead you meant why not install it on the layout, in the yellow-circled area just past the escape turnout, then there are more reasons. I don't really like the way it looks. I've never seen a real-world turntable that looks like this (granted, haven't seen many r-w turntables). Is it based on a prototype? Is there one of these anywhere west of the Mississippi?

And even if it weren't too small for my 4-4-2, and even if I thought it the most handsome apparatus, there isn't room at that spot for the diameter of even this small table. The track runs right along the edge of the "town board".

I suppose I could tear up the turnout and curve everything a little so it would fit, but I think that would look terrible and then there would be trouble coupling on a nonstraight track.

I'm open to the idea, because it would sure be easier to install this if I could find room for it, but those are my initial ruminations.

Thanks,

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 9:52 AM

ndbprr
Real railroads had the same problem. Many installed a headlight on the tender to solve the problem. The PRR had 4-4-2, 4-6-0, and some 2-8-0 engines outfitted this way

This is good to hear. You may remember I was trying to get a coupler mounted on the front of my Atlantic a month or so ago... still haven't done that. If I could get front couplers that worked well on my steamers, then maybe I'd leave the track alone.

Lee 1234
Why not make you cassette double ended so you can pick it up and turn the whole train around? Been done by many modelers.
Lee, that's basically what my proposed design is, only I'm clumsy, so instead of actually picking it up, I'm sliding it toward me in a track (slot) where it is still supported all along its length, then rotating it as you suggested. And I'm not turning the whole train, just the loco and tender.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    May 2020
  • 625 posts
Posted by wrench567 on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 10:26 AM

 

ndbprr

Real railroads had the same problem.  Many installed a headlight on the tender to solve the problem.  The PRR had 4-4-2, 4-6-0, and some 2-8-0 engines outfitted this way

 

 To add to this. Most of the locomotives assigned to pusher service had tender mounted headlights. There were also a few cabooses with roof mounted headlights and whistles. Although not very common.

     Pete.

  • Member since
    May 2020
  • 625 posts
Posted by wrench567 on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 10:33 AM

  Matt.

  Will your steamers go around a fifteen inch radius curve? That's tight even for a small steamer.

      Pete.

  • Member since
    February 2001
  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
  • 3,165 posts
Posted by Pruitt on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 10:55 AM

To amplify a bit on what others have said -

While not a general practice, backing steam locomotives a fair distance (particularly back down a branch line), with or without a train, was more common than you might think.  

You might want to take a look at how difficult it would be to improve or add a front-end coupler. Doing so has the additional advantage of easier switching with the loco, as well as pulling a train in reverse.

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 22,938 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 11:11 AM

Pruitt

To amplify a bit on what others have said -

While not a general practice, backing steam locomotives a fair distance (particularly back down a branch line), with or without a train, was more common than you might think.  

You might want to take a look at how difficult it would be to improve or add a front-end coupler. Doing so has the additional advantage of easier switching with the loco, as well as pulling a train in reverse.

 

During the steam era, passenger trains were pulled into Dearborn Station at 8th Street in downtown Chicago. After the passenger car consist was uncoupled from the steam engine, the loco would back up to the engine servicing facility at 49th Street. That is 41 city blocks or just over 5 miles. Along the way, the steam engine had to back up over the 26-diamond configuration at 21st Street. 

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 11:36 AM

wrench567
Will your steamers go around a fifteen inch radius curve? That's tight even for a small steamer. Pete.

Pete, my Atlantic will, because even though it's a big engine there are only two drivers. My Prairie has three drivers but it is a small engine. The 2-8-0 and the switcher -- both the same Mehano item, only one lacks the front truck -- may have trouble there. Good point. I could make it 18" radius but it's also not critical that EVERY steamer be able to take this branch job.

I'm reassured and comforted by all these other stories of steam locomotives running backward, and in fact my BLI Great Northern Consolidation has a big bright stalag searchlight mounted on the tender which duly lights up on reversing. However, this is a DCC locomotive and I don't run DCC that often.

With the feedback I'm getting, I may just work on front couplers and leave the track as it is. However, I have drawn a quick sketch of the cassette I have in mind:

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 19,015 posts
Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 4:40 PM

A number of railroads -- Ed will have data and pictures -- optimized some of their power to run 'in reverse' with a pilot on the tender, better headlight arrangement, etc.  I do not know how many of these went on to modify the throttle, brake, etc. to make reverse running more convenient, but there are sure ways to do that.

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 5:59 PM

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    October 2020
  • 2,533 posts
Posted by NorthBrit on Thursday, June 16, 2022 6:05 AM

crossthedog

 

Just a technicality CMD.   The second film is in Frankfurt, Germany.

 

Steam locomotives running tender first has been a feature on riailways in the U.K  since  the dawn of railways. 

Two pictures of 'Tornado'  running tender first.

 

Leaving Redmire Station.

 

  IMG_2308 by David Harrison, on Flickr

 

Arriving Leeming Bar Station

 

 IMG_2283 by David Harrison, on Flickr

 

David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 22,938 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, June 16, 2022 6:49 AM

crossthedog

Good for you. Yes

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 12,848 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, June 16, 2022 12:12 PM

crossthedog
I have drawn a quick sketch of the cassette I have in mind:

With a couple of minor tweaks, Matt, your sketched solution should work quite well.

Depending on the thickness of the faux turntable, a piece of 1/4" plywood rotating on a metal pivot (a smooth nail would would likely suffice), then all you'd need to do is raise the track across that bridge using some tapered shim-stock, available from a lumber yard or the usually Lowes/Home Depot sites. 
I have two turntables on my layout: one is scratchbuilt with a cut-up Atlas bridge cemented to a block of wood, and turns (via finger pressure) on the shaft of an electric mixer beater.
The other one is a Walthers kit, and once I add some flexible  metal wipers to the pivot shaft, finger power will move it accordingly, while the wipers will keep it aligned with whichever track is in-use.

As for your issue with working couplers on the front of steamers, I'll take some photos of how I've done mine, as it's actually a pretty simple process.

Wayne

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, June 16, 2022 12:58 PM

richhotrain
During the steam era, passenger trains were pulled into Dearborn Station at 8th Street in downtown Chicago. After the passenger car consist was uncoupled from the steam engine, the loco would back up to the engine servicing facility at 49th Street. That is 41 city blocks or just over 5 miles. Along the way, the steam engine had to back up over the 26-diamond configuration at 21st Street. Rich

@Rich, that must have been fun to watch.
NorthBrit
Just a technicality CMD. The second film is in Frankfurt, Germany. Steam locomotives running tender first has been a feature on riailways in the U.K since the dawn of railways.
@David, I stand corrected... and... good to know this. I'm warming up to the pulling in reverse idea a lot.
doctorwayne
then all you'd need to do is raise the track across that bridge using some tapered shim-stock,
@Wayne, the drawing is deceptively simplified. Neither the turntable base nor the bridge exist yet--you can see from the photo above that the track and bridge are just laid out loosely over top of the yard -- so there is no need for shimming, if I understand your suggestion. I would simply mount the cassette base at such a level that the rails on the cassette/turntable match the rails on the spur coming over the bridge.

As for the front coupler issue, I posted that here a while back and got a lot of good feedback. For my cast metal Roundhouse Atlantic, it would involve either finding a very small drill and tap (and screw) to hold something over top of a Kadee coupler mounted around the screwpost, OR removing the screw post altogether and widening the hole in the pilot sufficiently to slide a narrow (#262) coupler box in there. Both options scare me so I haven't moved on that yet.
-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, June 16, 2022 1:05 PM

crossthedog
As for the front coupler issue, I posted that here a while back and got a lot of good feedback.

Earlier post at: https://cs.trains.com/mrr/f/88/t/292320.aspx

 

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 22,938 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, June 16, 2022 1:40 PM

crossthedog
 
richhotrain
During the steam era, passenger trains were pulled into Dearborn Station at 8th Street in downtown Chicago. After the passenger car consist was uncoupled from the steam engine, the loco would back up to the engine servicing facility at 49th Street. That is 41 city blocks or just over 5 miles. Along the way, the steam engine had to back up over the 26-diamond configuration at 21st Street.
 
Rich 

Rich, that must have been fun to watch.

I wish that I could have seen them first hand, but I never did. I have only seen videos of this movement.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 14,442 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, June 16, 2022 7:16 PM

Overmod
A number of railroads -- Ed will have data and pictures -- optimized some of their power to run 'in reverse' with a pilot on the tender, better headlight arrangement, etc.

Maybe the visibility wasn't all that great afterall:

 South Station (Boston & Albany tank locomotive No. 307) by Boston Public Library, on Flickr

 Train wreck. Boston & Albany R.R. tank locomotive No. 307. B&A R.R. wrecking crane No. X1654 assisting. by Boston Public Library, on Flickr

Boston & Albany D-2 class is but one example of "bi-directional" steam.

 D_class by Edmund, on Flickr

Incidentally, it seems the area around South Station was pretty treacherous in those days!

 Boston & Albany R.R. wreck near Back Bay Station by Boston Public Library, on Flickr

 South Station - Locomotive tips over. Boston & Albany R.R. loco by Boston Public Library, on Flickr

Regards, Ed

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, June 16, 2022 7:47 PM

gmpullman
Incidentally, it seems the area around South Station was pretty treacherous in those days!

Kids these days, sheesh. You give 'em a new toy and they break 'em.

I really like that loco in the "bidirectional" drawing. Wouldn't mind having one of those for branchwork.

This conversation started actually on my other post about putting a front coupler on my Roundhouse 4-4-2, but I'll mention here that I went to my LHS today and the guy helped me identify a tap and drill and a screw that might work in that very narrow boss in the front coupler area.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    May 2020
  • 625 posts
Posted by wrench567 on Thursday, June 16, 2022 9:17 PM

  Matt.

 My brass 2-6-0 came with a dummy coupler up front. Same scenario thin slot and not very wide. I took a long shank KD and cut the mounting lug off to give it the longest shank possible. Drilled a small hole near the end of the shank and used a small screw through the hole and into the pilot. I think the screw was  00-80. It doesn't have the swing as a proper #5 but has never given any problems at all.

    Pete.

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, June 16, 2022 10:20 PM

wrench567
I took a long shank KD and cut the mounting lug off to give it the longest shank possible. Drilled a small hole near the end of the shank and used a small screw through the hole and into the pilot. I think the screw was 00-80.

Pete - That's the one. Double-oh-eighty. I bought the tap and the drill and a clearance drill.

So are you saying that you did not drill into a boss that was there for the purpose but instead drilled a new hole for'ard of the coupler mount boss?

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 12,848 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, June 17, 2022 12:08 PM

wrench567
It doesn't have the swing as a proper #5 but has never given any problems at all.

Yeah, the limited swing is good enough, since when it's coupled to a car (or another locomotive) with a "normal" coupler, the normal one will compensate for the limitation.

I have two of these brass 10 Wheelers, with cut-off coupler shanks, held in-place with a piece of piano wire...

...and there's no portion of it, under the pilot, to interfere with the four-wheel lead truck...

...while this brass Mogul...

...has a full Kadee coupler box, partially protruding from the pilot.  While I could have substituted a long-shank coupler, I prefer the looks of the shorter shank, which both clears the coupler's trip pin from the pilot, and also the trip pin of any car coupled to it.
Underneath the pilot, a screw holds the draughtgear box in place...

...with no impediment of the swing of the two-wheel pilot truck.

Wayne

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Friday, June 17, 2022 4:47 PM

doctorwayne
I have two of these brass 10 Wheelers, with cut-off coupler shanks, held in-place with a piece of piano wire...

Doc, .... em...where exactly is the piano wire in these scenarios? And how does it hold the coupler in place. It doesn't look like you're using piano wire as a pin in place of screws because I can see the screws there. Can you enlarge on this, please?

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 12,848 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, June 17, 2022 8:01 PM

crossthedog
where exactly is the piano wire in these scenarios?

Piano wire was used only on the 10 Wheelers (first photo), as there was only a small hole in the casting that projects forward from the beam of the pilot.  The hole was not threaded, but it was drilled completely through, as shown in the second picture, so I had to distort the top end of the wire so it wouldn't simply slide through and fall out the bottom.
If you click on the photo, it will enlarge, giving a clearer view of the set-up.

Wayne

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Friday, June 17, 2022 9:30 PM

doctorwayne
Piano wire was used only on the 10 Wheelers (first photo), as there was only a small hole in the casting that projects forward from the beam of the pilot. The hole was not threaded, but it was drilled completely through, as shown in the second picture, so I had to distort the top end of the wire so it wouldn't simply slide through and fall out the bottom. If you click on the photo, it will enlarge, giving a clearer view of the set-up. Wayne

I think I see it now, thanks for the clarification.

Incidentally, your photos actually do not enlarge. At least not for me. If I click 'em, they open in Photobucket but they're the same size. I often wish I could see more detail in your magnificent photos but they are always the same size as in the post.

And also incidentally, I had success today getting a coupler on the front of my old Atlantic, but I'm going to update the original post about it.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 12,848 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, June 17, 2022 9:40 PM

crossthedog
Incidentally, your photos actually do not enlarge.

Hmm...that's unusual, but may be related to photobucket's recent "upgrade", which has me completely befuddled. 
If it's going to be as bad as it is currently, I won't be posting any photos here at all, and I'm definitely not going to be looking for another hosting site for photos, as tranferring 8,000 photos would be well beyond the time left on my remaining lifespan.

Here, I hope, is the enlarged version...

...but even though it was enlarged before I posted, it's certainly not enlarged now.

I wonder if there's any possibility that this Forum and photobucket have the same folks running both sites? Whistling

Wayne

  • Member since
    December 2008
  • From: Heart of Georgia
  • 5,022 posts
Posted by Doughless on Sunday, June 19, 2022 11:36 AM

I agree with others that say to simply pull the train up the hill backwards, then later use the runaround to then pull the train forwards down the hill.  Operate the steam loco like an RS-1.

IMO, your branch line represents a shorter line where there is no need to turn the loco.  No coaling tower, maybe not even water at the top.  The engine gets all it needs from facilities at the lower yard and re-waters on the return trip.  If anything a small water tower would be placed their just in case.

Also, the engine will be facing downhill as it pulls the train up the steep grade, which helps keep the water in the boiler because of the angle, so a railroad might want to pull the train uphill anyway for that reason.

I belive Bachmann makes a 2-6-0 and a 2-8-0 that have a tender mounted reverse headlight and working front couplers, should you get impatient with your model building efforts and seek a simple (but costly) solution.

- Douglas

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 598 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Sunday, June 19, 2022 3:34 PM

Doughless
I agree with others that say to simply pull the train up the hill backwards, then later use the runaround to then pull the train forwards down the hill. Operate the steam loco like an RS-1. IMO, your branch line represents a shorter line where there is no need to turn the loco. No coaling tower, maybe not even water at the top. The engine gets all it needs from facilities at the lower yard and re-waters on the return trip. If anything a small water tower would be placed their just in case. Also, the engine will be facing downhill as it pulls the train up the steep grade, which helps keep the water in the boiler because of the angle, so a railroad might want to pull the train uphill anyway for that reason. I belive Bachmann makes a 2-6-0 and a 2-8-0 that have a tender mounted reverse headlight and working front couplers, should you get impatient with your model building efforts and seek a simple (but costly) solution.

Good points, all, Douglas, thank you. Early on in my return to modelling, I bought a DCC Great Northern 2-8-0 from BLI. It has that tender light, large and bright. It's one of the things I like best about that loco, for some reason, although it hadn't occured to me to wonder why it was there, and I wasn't running the engine backwards. I got bored with DCC pretty quickly, but I don't guess it would take much to mount a similar light on my DC tenders, even if it was just a dummy light.

-Matt

 

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!