Coal Operations

Discussion in 'Model Rail Operations' started by 2-8-2, Feb 28, 2008.

  1. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Didn't take me long, did it, Larry? :rolleyes:

    You may remember that I am modeling in N scale. My freelanced road is the Erie & Southern, circa 1953 in Ohio. I have done a lot of research on what types of freight I want to run on my rails, but due to my limited space, obviously I won't be able to model everything I want.

    I want the layout to feature a tipple, the Walther's New River Coal Co. My coal needs a destination or two, but I don't particularly want to model a port. I route has 3 Lake Erie connections @ Cleveland, Sandusky, and Toledo...but I just think modeling a port would take up too much of the layout. A power plant might be good, but I'm not very fond of those structures either. The destinations that do appeal to me are coal silos and coal yards.

    Also, as a side note, I bought a 2-6-6-2 Mallet to pull my coal trains! :thumb:

    So my question is this: How can I best "hide" where the coal goes? Loads in/out, and what is the best way to handle those empties? Realistically, the coal could be transported to the DT&I interchange where that road could deliver the coal to power plants in Detroit. So can freight magically "disappear" on a layout for destinations unknown?

    As a refresher, here is my system map:

  2. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    If by "silos and yards" you mean coal dealers, you can make one or several in the towns that you actually model, but you can also include loaded hoppers in those trains destined for towns not modelled. A coal dealer could be as simple as a hopper/truck transloader on a teamtrack:


    or something a bit more permanent:

    or even more elaborate:

    If by "yards" you mean bulk storage and transfer sites, these are probably better as a siding "off-layout", or a track or two in staging. I run coal trains from Port Maitland to a power plant in Mount Forest on my layout. The power plant will be in the layout's north staging yard, and the part of Port Maitland where the trains originate is on the interchange/staging track for the TH&B - (the lowest track, partially hidden behind the post)

    - all I'm actually modelling is the trains (loads north, empties south) between two unmodelled areas. Taking this concept even further, the TH&B staging track also represents their carfloat dock and coal transloading yard, plus the point of origin of the hoppers/coal in Ashtabula, Ohio.

    I think that I've already answered that question. ;) Staging is useful for representing areas that you don't have room to model (or interest in :rolleyes:), and allows you to both originate and terminate home-road trains, plus gives you the opportunity to interchange with other roads that you don't physically model, save for a loco or two and some rolling stock. In the photo above, the top level (with multiple tracks) represents my railroad's southern connection with the outside world. Eventually, the north staging yard will be built above this, representing not only the northern connection with the outside world, but also that unmodelled power plant. Also in the same photo, you can see three reefers just to the right of the post, mid-way between the TH&B track and the south staging yard - there are two long sidings here which represent a dozen or so unmodelled industries, part of the Dunnville industrial district, which generate lots of traffic without using up too much space. You can use this technique by running a siding behind a hill or large structure, then designating it as either an industry or as an interchange with another railroad - as long as viewers can't see where the trains (or individual cars) go, you can call it whatever you want. You're the magician for your own railroad, making trains appear and disappear as required, but you need to plan for this when you're developing your trackplan. This is probably easier to do on an around-the-room layout, like mine, or a shelf layout, where it's viewed from one side only. If you can get away with it, :twisted::wink: you can even put staging tracks in an adjoining room, with a tunnel through the wall. My interchange with the CNR will be done this way, punching through the wall, at upper right, into my workshop. :-D

  3. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Thanks for all that, Wayne!

    Yes, by "silos and yards" I meant coal dealers. I want to either have a coal/ice dealer similar to what you have, or a coal silo storage facility. I'm leaning more towards the coal/ice dealer, as I like that type of structure, and it can serve a dual purpose on the layout. I also like the trackside loading idea, I'll have to look into that as well.

    I love open hopper cars and the entire coal industry. I wish I had the space to do multiple tipples and run unit trains of coal, but I don't. However, I would like my tipple to generate enough traffic to serve industry and also be used for interchange traffic. Due to my layout size limitations, I will probably end up having to make a track or two disappear behind the backdrop and come back around "empty" to do what I want to do.

    I think having a power plant would solve my issues as well. But I seem to have this hang-up with large structures. It just seems like they would make my layout seem smaller.
  4. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    You could build a small power plant, like the one shown below, although it would use only a car or two a day. Mine was built mainly as a steam generating plant for the Lowbanks shop complex, although it also produces enough electricity for the town and surrounding area.

    You could suggest a much larger plant with a building "flat" at the rear of the layout - make one end like the building shown below, then narrow the building as it goes away from the viewer - taper it right down to almost nothing. Have the loaded hoppers delivered to the "rear" of the building (against the wall of the room). As they disappear behind the building, the track can enter the narrowing building, in order to accommodate more cars.

    On the tipple end of the layout, you could run a track off the main line, heading for "coal country". Run it behind a hill or the backdrop, so that most of it is out of sight. On the visible portion, build a tipple that will fit the available space. While it won't fill a whole trainload of hoppers, others "down the line" will. Stage your loaded coal trains out of this siding, and use it to send the empties "back to the mines", too.

  5. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    What I would do is build a coal marshaling yard(2-3 tracks would suffice) for the unmodeled docks-drop the loads there and pick up the empties.This is how NS does it at the Sandusky Coal dock.The actual dock is about a two miles from the yard.A switch crew moves the loads to the dock and returns with the empties.
  6. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    It's funny you posted that, Larry...I was just about to suggest the same thing. I took another gander at my A Modeler's Guide to Coal Railroading book, and discovered that very thing. The author suggested a kind of "mini yard" for dropping off coal loads and picking up empties if you didn't want to model a port or other destinations.

    I think I can now check off coal operations on my layout. Geographically, I may have to figure out where to locate everything in the most convenient way, but I definitely have something to work with now. I have a tipple, a coal related industry or two, and a marshaling yard.

    Would you suggest making this a branch off the main yard, something close to an interchange, or something else altogether?
  7. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Well as food for thought..The NS coal marshalling yard is also the Triple Crown yard so you have a separate 2-3 track yard or add 2-3 tracks in your freight yard..Of course you could use "sneak off" tracks behind a long tall building along the back drop.
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    See if you can find Model Railroader's book on modelling the Clinchfield in N scale. (about 30 years ago) This had a coal loads in/empties out pair of a mine and a ??? joined with an immense amount of hidden track. There might be some ideas there.
    You could model a coal dealer with a string of silos, but run the track behind it in a quick curve through the backdrop, then back to the mine.
    If you set up a car ferry, it could be just a cassette (track in a box) to take the loaded cars, with another cassette of empty cars for the return. Then you have to figure out how to feed them back to the mine.

    Wayne: when I frst looked at your pix, I thought the post was the power plant chimney. sign1
  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I'd second David's suggestion of finding a "loads-in-empties-out" (or vice versa ;)) scheme that would put your mine and customer/industry back to back on a viewblock.

    Despite Wayne's preference for running "live loads" ;) I think that it can sometimes be a bit dangerous to do so. Plus the loads-in empties-out scheme simplifies operations, and allows unit trains to behave like unit trains.

    The kicker to all this is of course that you need an industry large enough to receive a good number of coal hoppers all at once.

  10. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Andrew,I don't think a loads in/empties out will work in 2-6-2s case due to the layout size and that's why I didn't mention a LI/EO in my replies.This of course is left up to 2-8-2 but,I would not use a LI/EO on a small layout not even on a 36" x 80" hollow core door N Scale layout because the mine/power plant is to close-I tried this on a 36x80" HC door and the end result look-well IMHO terrible..
    I perfer the mine on one side and the power plant on the other but,not in a "straight across" view.I fully believe a offset view is better.
  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    I agree with you too! ;) Any solution will have to fit the available space and theme of the layout... I was just thinking that there might be an imbalance between supply (coal mine shipping lots of hoppers) and demand (smallish coal dealer needing only one or two hoppers).

  12. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    On a small layout, you could use the the tipple, on its own line, as part of a coal branch. Use a staging track or cassette to represent the rest of the branch. For the power plant end of the equation, use another staging track or cassette. To actually model a large industry convincingly, a small layout would become nothing but a switching layout. :rolleyes: By leaving the two major industries off-line (except for that one tipple) you'd have plenty of room left for coal dealers and other small industries.
    If you could arrange these two hidden staging tracks side-by-side, with turnouts at both ends, you could easily simulate loads-out/empties-in at the "mine", and loads-in/empties-out at the "power plant".
    Interchange, both coal and general freight, could also be simulated with another staging track or cassette, leaving the bulk of the layout to model whatever else you want, while still affording you room to run your 2-6-6-2 with coal trains.

  13. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Just so that we're all on the same page, I'm going to post an image of what I'm working with. Perhaps Larry forgot, but the CFO approved double the real estate space for my layout, and now I'm working with a 3x6x9 space, instead of just a 3x6 space.

    The layout below is John Armstrong's "French Broad Valley", and was scanned as shown in HO scale. This is not to scale, but this is what I wanted to use as a starting point:

  14. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    First I plum forgot the added space..:oops:
    Interesting layout and one that a LI/EO will work by rearranging some track work-if not removing all the track and starting from scratch..After all that is a lot more space in N then HO.

    Still by making the power plant tracks longer you could drop off the loads and pick up the empties..The only thing tho' is the cars will need to be re-staged before each operating session.

    On the other hand a LI/EO would give you several "different" coal trains to/from the mine and power plant during each operation session.
    It can be done with your available space..
  15. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Okay guys, I need this dumbed down for me. I'm a visual person, so I hope the image helps. In red, the loaded coal cars leave the tipple and head for the power plant. The trip back, in blue, should mostly take place along a hidden track and re-emerge back at the tipple. Is this the LI/EO concept? I guess I don't understand the point of it being hidden.

    What's wrong with this:
    - Pick up 7 "loaded" coal cars at the mine.
    - Drop off 2 of those at a coal dealer, leaving 5 in the consist.
    - Proceed to the power plant, drop off remaining 5 "loaded" cars, then pick up 5 "empty" cars.
    - Pick up the now 2 "empty" cars at the coal dealer, and then drop off all the empties back at the mine.
    - Rinse and repeat for 2 operating coal industries.

  16. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    The principle behind loads in/empties out is that when the loads are delivered to the end user, those same loaded cars are situated so they can be picked up at the tipple again - they go "out-of-sight" at the power plant, which is at the same time "out-of-sight" at the mine. The usual practice is to situate the industries adjacent to one another, but separated by a view block. Then, the train of loads makes its way from the mine to the power plant via the usual circuitous route, and likewise the train of empties retraces that route from the power plant to the mine. You require one train of loaded hoppers and another of empty hoppers, both of which are stored on hidden sidings common to both mine and power plant.

  17. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    You could do as you say but,5 loads of coal would not last very long at a coal fired power plant.
    Here's another thought..Convert that power plant for a industry power plant or maybe a power house for a nearby university then you could drop off 5 coal loads.
  18. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    I currently own 6 hopper cars. N scale stuff can be a bear to find. At one point, I had found a source for undecorated hopper cars, and now I can't seem to remember where I found them. Here's the current roster:

    33' Twin Bay Hopper, Arch End, Offset Side NKP
    33' Twin Bay Hopper, Notched Arch End, Offset Side NKP
    33' Twin Bay Hopper, Rib Side NYC
    90 Ton Hopper (Coalporter) PRR
    90 Ton Hopper (Coalporter) NYC
    [Unknown Type] Hopper B&O

    That's another question I have...should I only buy cars lettered for roads that my lines interchange with? That's the theme I've been going with, as you can see, and has limited what I've purchased. It didn't make sense to me to have UP products on my rails for example.

    I've been trying to find undecorated versions of everything so I can eventually reletter them for my own road as well.
  19. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Well as any prototype freight yard picture of the 50s will show there was tons of UP,SP,WP,Santa Fe,MP and other western roads to be seen.
    Remember,long distance shipping was still being done by rail..Railroads never was into the short haul or loose(single) car shipments..
    I recommend 10-12% western road names..
  20. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    But coal hoppers tended, more than almost any other type of car, to stay close to home. Most of your hoppers should be your road, not even just nearby roads.

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