switchback, which end 1st?

Discussion in 'Logging, Mining and Industrial Railroads' started by davido, Mar 31, 2005.

  1. davido

    davido Member

    on a switchback line the locomotive will change from uphill end to down hill end at each switch. so which way did they start?

    the locomotive would be on a different end of train with odd/even number of switches. run arounds at the logging end? why or why not?

    somebody break this down into countryboy terms, please.

  2. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Start at the mill and then build up. The way your engine points is not important IMO. Depending on how long a mill has been working, the tracks can go a long way into the woods.

    TrainClown ;)
  3. neilmunck

    neilmunck Member

    It didn't usually matter which way round they started. Logging locos were as happy going backwards as forwards. SOmetimes, on a really steep switchback, the railraod would fix it so that the loco was on the uphill end of the train the majority of the time so that if the train became a run-away the loco and crew wouldn't get squished!

    It was usual for the loco to lead the train but I am sure that there were many occasions when that didn't happen. Because the tracks were frequently moved when all the trees were cut down the railroad might not have bothered to include a runaround loop.

    If you are building a model a runaround loop would be a good idea as you are probably not going to be shifting the tracks once a season or more.

  4. davido

    davido Member

    ok, lets say the length of each track section between each switch is the same length, the mill is at the bottom of the mountain and the "woods" are up the mountain, would that not put the loco uphill of the train half the time and down the other.

    oh no, another question comes up now. did they normally switch cars (empty for loaded on the logging end) or push empties in to the woods, do other loco chores and pull loaded out.

    until i started this i never worried much about strict operation practices outside of the basics, but this logging switchback thing is really making me think.

    thanks for the help

  5. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    I'm familiar with the Rich Lumber Company's operations of the early 1900s. When they played out their holdings in the Adirondacks, they moved across Lake Champlain to Vermont and began logging in the Green Mountains. They climbed a 6% grade on three legs of a switchback. This arrangement meant that in the middle section they would have to reverse direction.

    Their practice was to keep the loco on the downhill end, nose pointing down, and back the loco up the grade, pushing the empty logging cars. They backed the entire run up the mountain except, obviously for the middle section, which was very short. They did this to avoid runaways as the weight of the locomotive held the cars back. Crew members often rode on the log cars but after a runaway on the middle leg, work-rules were changed that required them all to ride in the cab on that leg.

    I'm not sure why they went up the hill butt first. I've seen photos of other operations where they pushed cars up the grade nose first. I understand there were some locos that were tempermental when the nose end was lower than the butt end.

  6. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    Visualizing a series of switchbacks tells me that you are correct that everytime the train reached the end of a switchback it would need to reverse direction to continue on its journey up the mountain. Unless there were runarounds at every switchback the train would be engine first at times and engine last others.
  7. Summit

    Summit Member

    I would say it depends on the track arrangements at each end of the line.

    Here are two "real world" examples of switchbacks and how they were handled:

    The Mount Hood Railroad has a switchback a few miles out of their base of operations in Hood River, OR. The switchback is near the beginning of the railroad, and all trains leave Hood River with the engine pushing the train up to the switchback. This places the locomotive at the head end of the train for the rest of the trip over the line.

    The switchback that I am most familiar with is the one on the McCloud Railway Company, which also remains in service to today. When the railroad was built there were two switchbacks on the main line, but a big fill replaced one. Through most of the steam era this switchback was dealt with by placing locomotives at both ends of the train. The diesel era started with trains operating in reverse up to the switchback, then leading engine first the rest of the way over the hill...however, this changed after a few years, and trains now leave McCloud engine first to the switchback, then backing the rest of the way up and over the hill. An added bonus of this method is that it puts the power on the head end once the train reaches the interchange yard in Mt. Shasta, meaning that switching is as simple as backing the outbound cars into one track, picking up the inbound cars from another track, and then leaving engine first, which puts them backing the train into the McCloud yard at the other end of the trip. From a model railroad standpoint this method deserves some attention, in that it would significantly cut down on the tracks needed at both ends of the line (you wouldn't have to try to fit in run-arounds at one or both ends).

    Timber Times magazine ran a series called "Modeling an Oregon Logging Road" that ran in six or eight issues in their early issues. No specific operation was featured, but the series did look at various prototypes around the state to draw inspiration and ideas. One of the articles was titled "Dealing with a Switchback". I have not personally seen this article, but if it is written at the same quality of the others in the series that I have seen it should be a good one. This issue is still available, at least in photocopy form, from Timber Times (go to http://www.timbertimes.com, look for the Magazine link, then go to Back Issues).

    JD Moore
    Elko, NV
  8. davido

    davido Member

    thanks for all of the great info.

    i just drew a Z on paper, found out that with odd number of legs loco would be on opposite end of train at each end, even number puts it on the same end.

    so with odd number on would want to push, pull, push so cars would reach loader 1st.
    thanks again for the great info

  9. Summit

    Summit Member

    Correct. If you have an odd number of switchbacks, then a train that enters the first switchback running engine first will exit the last switchback engine last, which would put the cars first into a loader. Switchbacks with an even number will mean that the locomotive will be leaving both coming into the first switchback and leaving the last switchback.

    JD Moore
    Elko, NV
  10. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    The overriding determination of locomotive direction, depends on the locomotive.
    A steam engine, backing up a grade,(or head first down) will have a harder time keeping water over the crown sheet.
    In some cases a switchback will go steep grade-low grade-steep grade,etc. and the loco will be nose down on the low grades.

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