Consist, how long?---

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by jr switch, Jan 27, 2007.

  1. jr switch

    jr switch Member

    There have been a number of threads, with info and questions on the proper weight for the cars and engines. Some of the more advanced modelers have added weight to their engines to gain more traction and pulling power.
    Now, keeping in mind that there is a great variation in the size of layouts, what would be considered an average frieght train? Fifteen cars? Twenty? How many cars have some of you been able to pull without wheelslip and how was the engine set up?
    Unfortunately, with my present, temporary set-up, I can pull about 14 to 18 cars and I'm out of room on the track, but it would be interesting to hear what some of you have accomplished---------------John R
  2. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    On level track, I have gotten a single stock Athearn F7A Super Weight loco to pull a string of 30 40-foot boxcars.
  3. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    The longest train I've run was 185 cars pulled by 4 Athearn F7's. That was on a much larger layout than I have now.
  4. conrailmike

    conrailmike Member

    I wouldn't think there is an 'average' number. I would think this a number that is goverened by the size of your layout.

  5. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I ran out of cars but my 2 Athearn C44-9Ws pulled 60+ on a 1.75% grade. My Rivarossi Cab-forward pulls 25 up the same grade but that required adding weight and tuning the mechanism. I haven't found the limit of my 2 P2K E8/9s, my Bowser 4-6-2 K4 or my twin motor Athearn DD40s. My remotored Athearn Hustler is good for 5 cars. My IHC 4-4-0 American is good for 7 cars. These were all run on the club layout as I don't have enough room on my small module or Christmas layout to put any to the real test.
  6. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    There's no such thing as an average. Well, theoretically you could find one, if you had more data than anyone has, but it still wouldn't mean much.

    On my old 4x6 layout, train lengths were in the single digits. And that reminds me... Stating train length by number of cars isn't the most useful measure, since car lengths vary. Try thinking of trains based on overall length in actual feet and inches (or metric units - whichever you find it easiest to think in) including engines and caboose. You might be surprised how long they are.

    In future, I intend to model N scale, but these principles can be applied to any scale. My principles in layout design are based on my priorities, so take from them what you will.

    I set the standard train length for a given layout plan in a roundabout way. I start by deciding what motive power will be typical, then I determine how many cars are needed to look like the train requires that much power. This, of course, depends on how much selective compression you want and can accept. For example, I designed many plans based on this assumption (for spaces I didn't have): Typical power will be 3 older 6-axle engines (such as SD40-2s) or 2 newer 6-axle engines (such as C44-9Ws). The layouts were modern era, so no cabooses. However, this caused a disadvantage. Modern freight cars are longer, so a train of the same measured length looks shorter. I decided that I wanted to be able to handle 21 72' cars or 25+ 50'+ cars behind such a consist, which resulted in 11' overall length. This made me realize how difficult modern mainline modelling is.

    Then determine acceptable grades based on what your worst-performing engines can do. For example, I've heard that an Atlas C628 has only about half the pulling power of a Kato SD45. Maybe I find it easy to design this way because the typical amount of selective compression I want is enough to not strain even the weaker models. With the example I was using, I estimate that, even if the older 6-axle engines can only pull 20 cars each on level track, helpers wouldn't be needed until past 2%, maybe at about 2.5%.

    My point is, in layout planning, design conservatively.

    Incidentally, issues of making length compression seem realistic can create problems. In reality, a single switcher such as an MP15 can move around 100 cars (!) at very low speed - the sort of train that would take a consist like what I used in the example to haul at mainline speeds. However, most N scale switchers can't pull more than 15 cars on level track. Speed doesn't affect the pulling capacity of our models as much as it does real diesels.
  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Even layout size is not necessarily a good way of determining train length. I have a room-size layout, but for operational purposes, train length is limited by the length of the passing sidings: usually about 12 cars, plus the caboose and motive power. I also have a lot of grades and curves, so a long train could be going up and/or down several grades at the same time, and also wound around several curves. I have modified all of my locos to pull more, and have several that can pull over 100 cars on straight, level track - of which I have none!!:cry: Another thing to keep in mind is that when "operating" a train, as opposed to just running it, most of your attention will be focussed on what the locomotive is doing. :)


    DOUBLEJK Member

    Well the real McCoy I unloaded at work last night was BNSF 9622 C-EBMPAP0-12A with a new ESC44 in the lead and a dead SD70Mac behind it pulling 124 coal loads with a SD70Mac D.P. in the rear.
    Total length was 6582' and weighed 17607 Tons.
    With the dead power behind the lead I had 8400HP available and it was touch and go wether I could pull it the last 300' from where the BNSF crew stopped it....about 15 loads and the D.P. were still on the grade...
    We have a grade from the mainline into the plant of about 2% for 3-1/2 miles then it is level thru the Dumper and 1/2 way around the reversing loop then decends exiting that portion thru the rest of reversing loop within about another 3-1/4 miles.
    So in my efforts to replicate this with my HO layout I use 2 Athearn SD70's for leads then 12 coal loads followed by a SD70 Dummie and length is about 14'-6" or about 1260 scale feet.
  9. jr switch

    jr switch Member

    OK everybody, your right, this was not the place to use the word "average". Way too many variables. Some of you have good sized layouts, like most of a basement, so I guess that is what I was using as a rough guideline. Iv'e noticed that I don't have enough cars to even affect my GP30's, 4-8-4,2-10-2 or even my 2-8-0. The 10 wheeler and the Decopod start to struggle with anything over 10 cars, but on a 4x8 or slightly larger layout, a shorter train would look better than something chasing it's tail.
    I totally agree that the size of the layout pretty much determines what you can and can not get away with in terms of realism. Speaking for myself, I think I'll have to run shorter trains. ---John R
  10. dsfraser

    dsfraser Member

    And that's the determining factor — your layout, your hobby. I've seen 150 empty grain hoppers in one train — add three or four locomotives, and that's 90' in HO scale. It's also $4000 worth of Intermountain kits, twice that if you go RTR. There comes a time when you have to go for effect rather than accuracy. LOL!

    Scott Fraser
  11. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Here's a link to a thread I posted not too long ago.
    It's been a while...

    While the train had no problem traversing the layout, from an operational point of view it would've been disastrous: the headend was in one town, the middle of the train was tying up the railroad's main junction in another town, farther back the train was still passing the passenger platforms in a third town, and the caboose was just leaving staging. :rolleyes: The limited staging at the destination doesn't have the capacity to handle even half of the train, either.


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