Let's talk about smoke---

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by XavierJ123, Dec 19, 2004.

  1. XavierJ123

    XavierJ123 Member

    After a 25 year absence from model railroading, I'm back again. Thanks to the old train set that my wife decided to incorporate into her Christmas Village; and guess what? It smokes! And the liquid smoke makes it smoke white. As I watched the little train and the white smoke going around the track, I remembered seeing black smoke as a child on the real "James Whitcomb Ribey", a 4-6-2 express from Cincinnati to Chicago. So my question is: does anybody sell a liquid smoke that smokes black or has any model railroader mixed up a concoction that smokes black. I was at the hobby shop yesterday and saw a small bottle of liquid smoke for $7.95 so before I buy it, I wanted to talk smoke. You know, I was watching TV just the other day and saw some footage of a real locomotive somewhere blowing white smoke and I thought my memory was crazy. I was remembering black smoke. Then I saw the Christmas cards on line here with pictures of locomotives blowing black smoke. Please help this old man.:confused:
  2. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Well for starters woe to the hapless fireman that put out to much smoke..This was a BIG NO NO and was frown upon by the railroad management and cities and towns along the right of way...In fact firemen was very suspicious of anybody taking pictures because it could be a railroad photographer taking pictures to
    insure the fireman was not in violation of the no smoke rule or if he was then to turn into the management as evidence of the smoke rule violation.
    Now steamers being steamers would indeed put out smoke at times..The black smoke was cause by poor coal with to much slate and over firing by the fireman thus wasting coal...White smoke was the sign of a good fire and good burning coal.A highly skilled fireman would put out very little smoke during his trip.
    Now grades would cause the smoke to roll as the engine dug into the trains tonnage..However a skilled fireman would keep that smoke to a minimum as well..
    And yes not all firemen was skilled at their jobs of firing.
  3. XavierJ123

    XavierJ123 Member

    Black and White smoke

    Thanks for the history lesson on black and white smoke. It was very enjoyable and informative reading. I am glad to know I wasn't crazy, seeing or remembering black smoke. Now back to the question, if I want to be a poor fireman and have black smoke rolling out of the stack on my HO locomotive, how do I go about it? Oh, and by the way, I mispelled Riley in the name "James Whitcomb Riley." Sorry bout that! (no spell checker here)
  4. SAL Comet

    SAL Comet Member

    Luckily for all of us, we're not graded on spelling here at the gauge.

    As for the black smoke question, since liquid smoke isn't really smoke, it's steam, It doesn't seem likely that it could be made black.
  5. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Welcome on the Gauge, Xavier!

    I admit that I am not too keen about smoking model locomotives. So far I haven't seen one single model loco which puts out a smoke plume which looks like the real thing. Mostly the 'rolling steam cloud' is a more ore less fine white whisp, followed by some sputtering now and then, and sometimes it is even crowned by puffing out a smoke ring now and then.

    Worse is that the 'smoke' is steam of some oil which is vaporized by a little electric heater in the stack. The oil droplets going in the air must come down again. And by doing that they are building up a fine oily film over about anything in the room. Believe me, after using many smoking locos over a longer time it shows on the layout! The oil film can hamper electric contact on the rails, and it can ruin the paint job on the rolling stock and other stuff in the room. :eek: :(

    Now for your Christmas layout this may not be so bad, since it is not a real, permanent model layout.
    I wouldn't recommend black model smoke at all, even if you can get it somewhere. I only can imagine to use real soot for generating black smoke - and probably this wouldn't enhance the look of your living room! :D :D :D

  6. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Can't imagine black soot would enhance the looks of your lungs either.

  7. neilmunck

    neilmunck Member

    I've seen smoke units on exhibition layouts here in the UK, Black smoke doesn't look good but I have seen gray smoke that is quite nice.

    The problem is that the smoke is not ejected with enough "vigour" or in sufficient volumes to look very realistic.
  8. XavierJ123

    XavierJ123 Member

    Thanks for your comments

    This forum is too cool. I even heard from a fellow from Switzerland. This modern technology is really something isn't it. I just wanted to thank you all for your response to my question. Your replies were excellant and very informative. Boy, if you want to make a million bucks, just think of a way to duplicate the black smoke that is so visible (like you see in all the pictures) without all its disadvantages. I was actually thinking about grinding up some coal into dust and adding it to the liquid smoke. I live in Kentucky and black coal is part of our economy here. Do you think that would have made a mess in my wife's living room? LOL You know that white smoke that is produced by the use of liquid smoke really doesn't look like steam. Could you be wrong? I think it is actually burning a product. Hmmmm?
  9. SAL Comet

    SAL Comet Member

    Ha Xavier, Liqiud smoke is a light viscosity oil that is heated, but not burned in the loco. It works on the same principal as fog machines they use at concerts and the like. I guess vapor would be a better word for the results, since "steam" makes one think of water. I'd say that coal dust would "gum up the works" :cry:
  10. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I belong to a ho modular club, and we set up at GAT Shows, etc. On occasion we have had to set up next to the Lionel toy train guys, or the G gauge Del Oro Pacific. When we do thier smoke units emit so much pollution that breathing is difficult, and the track gets so filthy that we are constantly having to clean track to keep trains running. I DO NOT RECCOMEND SMOKE UNITS FOR ANYTHING IN HO SCALE. The bigger trains are heavy enough to mash the dirt out of the way, but ho just stops running.
  11. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member


    Be happy that they aren't adding coal dust to their smoke units. ;) No need for model railroading to be health-damaging for the sake of realism.

    I had enough smoke in my Lionel days. Now I'm a little more careful about what I intentionally put in my lungs.

  12. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Not to mention that coal dust is the cause of "black lung disease", which miners used to get in the bad old days.
    If you can see it, then it's particulate matter - and those particles have to settle somewhere, whether it's in your lungs, on your layout or throughout the house. I suppose these smoke generators wouldn't be too bad if you only used them sparingly, but I'd stay away from them myself.
    There's also an HO live steam unit from Hornby, but again that water vapour has to condense and settle somewhere too, and we all know what excess humidity can do to our layouts.
  13. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Val,There's nothing like the smell of coal smoke,steam and hot oil. ;)
    Speaking of black lung I never heard of a fireman getting black lung even though they would be covered in coal dust after firing a steamer for 8 or more hours a day. :eek: That couldn't have been to healthy though. :(
    Miners still get black lung when they work in the holes in the ground... :(
  14. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I completely agree Brakie!!! :D :D In fact, that's how Hornby advertizes their live steam engine - for the real smell!!!

    "The locomotive also produces realistic steam sounds, from the pumping pistons to a real steam whistle, coupled with the unmistakeable and memorable smells of steam and hot engine oil."

  15. XavierJ123

    XavierJ123 Member

    Something to smell about---

    Hmmm, I never thought about the smell of the smoke, only the color. My brain doesn't remember the smell. As a child in the 1940s, I must not have been exposed to it that much. And it is interesting to note that the men who ran the trains were not noted for getting lung cancer. I don't know if this is true or not, but train smoke didn't get the publicity for causing lung cancer as the coal mines did for the miners. I would imagine it's a matter of ventilation; there's just a lot more fresh air upstairs. I once attended a Disney World dinosaur exhibit in Orlando and can remember the smoke in that exhibit smelling like sulfur. That wasn't that pleasant. Now I don't feel so bad that the Bachman Spectrum that I was admiring at the hobby shop doesn't smoke. LOL
  16. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    I think asbestos-related diseases were more common in steam-era railroad workers. Lots of asbestos used in boilers, etc. Coal burning contributed then (and still does today) to a lowering of air quality in general.

    An interesting tidbit mentioning coal burning locos from a paper on historical pollution events:

    The Donora Disaster

    The greatest air pollution disaster occurred in Donora, Pennsylvania in October, 1948 under remarkably similar conditions to those that occurred eighteen years before in the Meuse Valley. Industrial emissions from several large plants, including zinc smelters, which emitted acids (e.g., sulfuric acid) and from steam locomotives burning high-volatile soft coal were combined with a fog and trapped in the river valley by a high pressure condition. Nearly 6,000 (5, 910) persons (42% of the population) were diagnosed with respiratory and associated problems from the pollution. These included: irritation in their eyes, nose, and throat; pains and constriction in the chest; shortness of breath; severe headaches; nausea and vomiting. The highest illness rates occurred among smokers. Animals (2 dogs, 7 chickens, and 2 rabbits) were also reportedly killed by the air pollution.

  17. capt_turk

    capt_turk Member

    Them stokers filtered the coal dust out with their cigarettes. Just like I have to do when I have to work in New York City. They fuss at me up there for smoking, but it's the only way I can breath their air up there.:)
  18. petey

    petey Member

    Gosh, that's great. We went from a discussion on smoking HO locomotives to statistics on the Donora Disaster. If you want to avoid that kind of problem, stay away from smoking HO engines. If you think that Disaster was bad, try checking the Mt St Helen's explosion, or Mt Kracatowa, which sunk an island, and changed Earth's climate for decades.
    Frankly, I love the smokers. It adds a lot more affect than special lighting. If I could figure a way to incorporate Hornsby's live steamer into my layout, and it didn't cost so much, I be running it.
  19. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    I made the connection in response to the idea of adding coal dust to the liquid smoke in a model locomotive to run inside a house, creating a similar situation to Donora in which hazardous particulates became trapped in moist, still air.

    I don't get your argument. Donora was an event where humans made a direct contribution to the problem. Volcanic activity occurs quite naturally with no help from us.

    I lost my father to lung cancer when I was 8 so I'm a bit edgy about intentionally putting poisons in my lungs. Of course if someone wishes to put coal dust in their home's air, it's not my lungs or my family's lungs they're playing with, so if you got 'em, smoke 'em I guess.

    Happy Holidays!

  20. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Actually, I'm perfectly happy to have a conversation go from one topic to another (and sometimes back again) in one thread - that's what makes things interesting. :D :D

    The info posted about the Donora disaster is not only interesting but timely. Krakatoa is another interesting topic - in fact I just finished reading a book on the subject (by Simon Winchester). Bet you didn't know that the explosion was so loud that if it had happened at Mt. St. Helens, people would have heard it in New York city!!!!

    Anyway folks, smoking can be a very touchy subject, so let's just remember to keep things friendly.

    Cheers, and happy holidays to all!!!


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