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Thread: Steam “range”

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    Default Steam “range”

    I was discussing recently how some of the longer steam excursions (UP, NS) seem to stop frequently. Now I know part of this is steam is no longer well supported, and some is they want to baby the old machines and not take risks with them, but it sparked a question about range when they ruled the rails.

    A 2-8-4 pulling a premier revenue passenger name train. How often, in miles, would it....

    Take on more water?
    Take on more coal?
    Get a quick lube on important joints?
    Get a full lube of all joints?

    When these trains ran a 1500 mile route, did the engines get swapped out for fresh? How often?
    Last edited by bicknell; 6th Sep 2019 at 09:58 AM.
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    Leo Bicknell

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    It depends on terrain. Flat, desert or plains were more economical to run long distances. Hilly, mountainous areas consumed more in coal and water. You'll usually find water stops spaced to suit water consumption but in some places, NYC? and the UK there were water troughs between the rails and a scoop on the tender allowed taking on water while on the move (usually very fast). A new load of coal often meant an engine change at which point -division point- the engine was completely serviced, ash pan dumped and cleaned, fire raked and cleaned, coaled and watered, turned and lube service.
    The engine would be ready to work a return job if one was available or kept for the return leg of it's express run.

    Diesels changed all that, of course, with their 'run through' ability to run multiple divisions with just a crew change at a station stop. But in the early diesel days, diesels were often kept for the more glamorous trains, the ones that'd earn the railroad publicity. As more diesels were added to roster, steam was bumped further down the ladder and eventually off altogether. But many early diesel were only assigned to 'name' trains....
    I hope this helps....
    Cheers,

    Russ

    CEO of Devil's Gate Mining Co.



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    I guess I was wondering if anyone had any real world examples. Like where they stopped for water and coal and swapped engines on a real route. To get a feel for how it worked.
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    Leo Bicknell

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    From what I gather on my local line, when it was Louisville & Nashville and ran steam, the 185 miles between Louisville and Nashville were at first divided into three divisions. Louisville-Elizabethtown (about 45 miles), Elizabethtown-Bowling Green (about 70-75 miles), and Bowling Green-Nashville(another 60-65 miles). That was the early days of the railroad, and I imagine most small towns that had a station also probably had something to provide water/fuel to the trains. When the locomotives were using wood, local farmers would cut up trees to provide the railroad with wood to use a fuel, in order to make some extra money. I know Bowling Green,KY had a roundhouse since it was part of a junction with a L&N line to Memphis. Lebanon Junction had a roundhouse and coaling tower(which is still standing) , but those may have arrived after the L&N moved the division point to there from Rowland, at the other end of the Lebanon Branch. I've seen photos of a water tank at New Haven on the LB, which is only 15 miles from Lebanon Junction. Eventually the division points were eliminated, though I imagine trains going to/from the branches probably swapped power at the roundhouses at the aforementioned junctions.

    I wonder if there are track charts old enough to list all the information you're looking for.

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    Not sure what the answer is. My understanding is water ran out faster than coal, and to make up for that they built bigger tenders. Might look at an old schedule. For instance here train 18 stops for 15 minutes in Lincoln, longer than anywhere else. http://www.streamlinerschedules.com/...hyr195008.html
    But I don't know if 15 minutes was for adding/removing cars, crew change, water replenish, or engine swap. Still, looks like it went 8 1/2 hours and 550 miles before doing any of that.

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    The information on locations of coaling and watering facilities are included in the employee time tables, since the train crews need this information. While that shows their location, it doesn't address how they were used. I imagine that not every train stopped at every watering hole to top off the tender.
    Tim Rumph
    Modeling the Southern Railway in N-Scale

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    Again, depending on the terrain... you might need 4X the water stops as you needed fuel. But that was the easy part. For inspection, lubrication, dumping ashes, etc., the basic rule of thumb was about 200 miles, which is the typical distance between division points on many railroads in the steam era. That also worked out to be the distance that most crews could be expected to work and not completely run out of time, etc. Many labor agreements also worked under a mileage basis for a full day rather than time alone.

    There were some notable exceptions. Add in oil fired, roller bearings, high speed limits, etc. and things could really get stretched.

    As far as for water, the evolution of the system was to get water at many major passenger stops in easy reach of the platform so that additional water could be taken on during the stop time. Just remember, you could run out of fuel and have to be towed, but run out of water and you're just dead. In this area they were about every 50 miles or so, plus at all major passenger stops.

    The 1950's PRR track charts I have clearly show the things you need to know like location of phone booths, telegraph offices, water tanks, etc. On the Santa Fe, you can still find original big standard water tanks out there today on more locations as you might think, because they ended up getting taken over by some of the small communities as their only source of water originally sourced by the railroad. They were real landmarks, as recognizable as a grain elevator on the prairie.
    https://www.route66news.com/2015/09/...s-water-tanks/
    ATSF had a terrible time with water supply all across New Mexico and Arizona and had to bring water in by tank car to locations like the Grand Canyon. The only reason Winslow, AZ is where it is was to access water pumped out of the Little Colorado, that was enough to make it a division point.

    Most times you'll only find fueling at the division points, rarely at intermediate points during the more modern steam era. One of the last newer oddballs was the construction of a full-blown concrete coaling facility not far from me in Starbrick, PA (PRR) in 1937 - which was halfway between four different division points but also a hub of local freight activity. No roundhouse, no division point, just a big coaling tower kind of out in the middle of nowhere except where two routes ran parallel to each other (Erie-Harrisburg and Buffalo-Pittsburgh).

    Needless to say, as diesels came about, that all changed and it evolved more and more to how far it could be made on the road before a crew ran afoul of hours of service. About every other division point on Santa Fe got eliminated over time; i.e Winslow - Seligman got lengthened to Winslow-Needles and Seligman was closed.
    Randgust N scale kits web page at www.randgust.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by randgust View Post
    but run out of water and you're just dead.
    Literally, as in the boiler exploding due to the crown sheet being uncovered

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    Literally, as in the boiler exploding due to the crown sheet being uncovered
    But hopefully the fusable plugs will fail before then.
    Cheers,

    Russ

    CEO of Devil's Gate Mining Co.



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