Now that the mainline is open for business, I need something to carry that business in! I have been adding significantly to my boxcar fleet since the operating session earlier in the month. http://espeecascades.blogspot.com/2015/07/second-mainline-operating-session.html Three dozen SP and SSW lumber and insulated boxcars were pulled out of their packaging. Most needed their trucks painted. Some needed underbodies painted. Many needed Kadee couplers installed. I finally got all of them reassembled and car cards prepared. Weathering is needed, but that will have to wait until after the upcoming NMRA National Convention—less than a month away!
The large fleet of new “standard” boxcars presented a wonderful opportunity to measure the sidings in car lengths. All of these cars are nominal fifty feet long. In fact, they are much longer, as all have Hydra-Cushion ™ underframes, an SP standard for the 1980s. I set up a test train with thirty cars, a caboose and three tunnel motors for power. The tunnel motors (SD45T-2 or SD40T-2) are the longest frame diesel locomotives I will use routinely. It was really fun seeing this train snake through all the curves I built into this railroad. It brought back fond memories of chasing the real thing in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Test train rolling past the “Marcola Branch” with the rear still in Westfir. This train was so long I could not maintain focus with the camera!
As to siding measurements, I found most were locos+28 cars+caboose, though Cruzatte was a bit tight, more like “27.5” cars. I probably will aim for 25 car trains, as that is a convenient, arbitrary number that fits in all sidings. That also leaves some room for helper locomotives.
On the motive power front, I found the three big units were just able to pull all thirty cars and caboose of the test train. I stopped the train at each siding to record the length measurement. A couple of times on the mountain grade, one of the locomotives would spin wheels until the others joined in. This completely answered a question I have had about this railroad concerning number of powered locomotives to assign. It looks like I need to use only two powered locomotives in each loco set, whether lead power or helper. Anything more will overpower the train. Best practice for mid- or rear-train helpers I have seen has been to make sure that neither the lead nor the helper locomotives are able to move the full train. I will “dummy” locomotives to add a third unit to engine consists for visual effect. That is in the future. For now, it will be two unit loco sets.
Test train descending over Salt Creek Trestle.
This test train operation was the first time I have run a complete train end to end on my railroad. Some of my operating crewmembers preceded me in that. I had run at least test locos over new sections of track being placed in service, but that had been a piecemeal operation.
I find myself shifting gears rapidly right now. I am shifting away from intense construction to applying my efforts to operating enhancements and fine-tuning (long overdue!). In support of the shifting work focus, I now NEED to run my own railroad!