VIRGINIAN gondola brake systems

Discussion in 'Scratchin' & Bashin'' started by VAPEURCHAPELON, Dec 7, 2008.




    The photo below shows my VIRGINIAN gondola made from wood – probably an old kit (but I did never see one of these before or after). Before it will get weathered I want to upgrade the under side with some brake detail, but don’t have info of the car type.

    What I have info of is this brass 0scale Battleship gondola, but this is another type. The wood car (prototype was steel, of course) is an earlier type. So my question is if the brake equipment should be identical on both types (which I don’t assume), or if it would be sufficient to apply a single (but maybe larger than common) K brake to the earlier car?
    As you can see the brass car has a very extensive brake arrangement. Could someone explain the function quite a bit – e. g. that the cyclinders have levers at both ends confuses me. I didn’t see something like this before, but I must admit that I didn’t invest much time in researching brake systems up to date…



    Anyone here with some knowledge of these large VGN cars, or car brakes in general?


  2. modelsof1900

    modelsof1900 Member


    welcome here in forum with your first post.
    I hope and wish you that you will get an answer for underbody detailing of your gondola. The model waits for finishing in my model repair shop.

  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I don't know how accurate the lettering is on the side of the model regarding build date, but if it is accurate, giving us the build date from the side of the car would help to determine what type of brake system it had. You can't presume that wood sided cars were early 20th century because many wood sided cars were built during WW2 to conserve steel for the war effort.
  4. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    Dont think ive ever seen a 6 axle gondola before lol, but it looks pretty cool :mrgreen: :thumb:
  5. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Battleship Gons! Cool. I think F&C offer them in Resin for HO modelers.

    That is a very intriguing brake arrangement on the brass model...never seen anything quite like it before.

    The brake levers closest to the trucks would usually have two functions: activate the brake beams on the trucks and to allow the hand brakes to be set. Let's go to the left one to explain...

    Ok, the brakes are off and the brakeman turns the wheel on the left end. It causes the lever to engage the brakes on the left truck...and pulls all of the brake rigging to the left which causes the right truck to have its brakes applied as well...but this isn't the case in your the the brake wheel attaches elsewhere.

    If the brakes are off and the engineer applies the automatic air brakes, it causes the pistons in the brake cylinders to be pushed out, pulling the levers and applying the brakes. If they are on, it causes the air in the brake cylinders to be released and gravity causes the brake shoes to fall of the wheels and push the levers back. Yes, gravity is what keeps the shoes off the wheels (and from causing trouble) when the brakes aren't being applied.

    Although it isn't really needed to build the is the basics of how Westinghouse designed his brakes...

    Initially, they were straight air brakes. When the engineer applied the brakes, air was pumped from the engine into the brake line and into the brake cylinders applying the brakes. Its direct competitor (or at least most capable competitor) was Eames Vacuum brakes which did the same thing, but pumped the air out of the train line and cylinders...using atmospheric pressure to power the system. Atmospheric pressure is 13.7psi. Therefore, Eames could only get a force equivalent to around 10psi*the size of the brake cylinder. Westinghouse's originally was 70psi...70psi-13.7 is close to 60psi* the size of the brake cylinder. Still, there was one major problem...the train would lose braking power if anything happened to the line!

    So, Westinghouse invented automatic airbrakes. Instead of pumping air into the line to brake...air pressure in the line is always maintained, and the brakes are applied when the pressure drops! The air used to apply the brakes rests in a reservoir beneath each car. The brains of this system was the triple valve. A slight drop in pressure caused light braking (such as going down a slight hill). A moderate drop caused normal braking power. A huge drop, such as an air hose being broken or a car becoming detached from the train, caused emergency braking. Obviously, the greatest weakness in this design was that a train can't brake continually...or else the reservoir will be drained and it will have NO braking power. For this reason, Eames brakes remained (and may still remain) common on elevated railroads and subways. Locomotives have straight airbrakes...for it would be silly to use automatic on them. The first railroads to adopt airbrakes were mostly mountain roads...since Eames system lost power at altitude (less atmospheric pressure).

    Of the years, Westinghouse development many improvements...newer triple valves, higher pressure, and bigger air lines. It is also worth noting that not everyone used Westinghouse. Eames company eventually became the New York Airbrake Company and managed to grab, I believe, 25% of the market or so. The K style brakes, IIRC, were from around 1910 or so.

    A few oddities about your brass car:

    One, the brake wheel is on the right end...the top lever is clearly the brake wheel lever...which makes the two rods under the trucks quite odd...only one would usually be needed...perhaps it is due to the buckeye trucks.

    Two, two brake cylinders and reservoirs is quite odd. I suspect it was to save money on more powerful, individual brake cylinders. The D&RGW did this on engines...two smaller airpumps rather than a newer, bigger, single pump. The VGN may have done that in house...using older cylinders...saving on $$$...and it may not have been standard on every car.

    Three, the triple valve is the round thing on the side of that thing on the top, left of center. I suppose that it is some sort of aux reservoir or something (passenger cars sometimes had 3 reservoirs). Note that the piping has recharge lines going to each of the the triple valve...and the activating lines coming out of the triple valve and to one of the cylinders (but not both!?)

    The reservoirs are also dinky! Very odd! Typically, freight car reservoirs, triple valves, and cylinders were single, integrated units. Passenger cars typically had them broken up.

    My advice would be to use just a single K brake cylinder. Full brake rigging isn't very noticable unless you layout is 66" above the floor. Just adding the cylinder implies that more is there than in reality. Of course, I am hypocritical for suggesting this, for I can't allow my models not to receive full rigging...I love it whether anyone else appreciates it or not!




    Lettering says either 32 or 52 - can't specify exactly. But I am ssuming both of these dates would be wrong (but also isn't a problem, because the car should get a heavy weathering).
    I am aware of the 'war emergency cars', but all these huge 'Battleships' were made entirely out of steel.


    Yes indeed! And for me it is EXTREMELY impressive considering their age! Just imagine such huge cars - with all the service requirements - almost a century ago!



    thank you very much for your explanations! I am a locomotive engineer myself - steam, by the way - that's why I am familiar with Westinghouse, but I never heard of Eames! Thanks a lot.

    Somewhere I read a comment about these cars like: "they had two of everything"

    Exactly that would be a key to understand the whole function of the brake system I think. Unfortunately we just can't go to the prototypes to look at - because as far as I know there are no survivors. Plus CUSTOM BRASS is out of business since a long time so I can't ask them where they got the info (NWHS couldn't help, too)

    Yes probably I would do this. I like brake rodding a lot, but I wouldn't call myself as hypocritical.

    To all: -please excuse my late response. I have plenty of work these days and was offline quite some time.
  9. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I have a piece of two from custom brass...some of the details aren't quite right (neither case was their fault...but rather the plans they used!). Perhaps a line is missing from the triple valve. I previously made the mistake of assuming that brass manufacturers got it correct! I can't tell you how many incorrect South Park moguls are floating around out there...due to an incorrect drawing in a 1960s Model Railroader...some errors that contradict the builder's (and other) photographs! Certainly a small pipe on the underside would be easier to get wrong.

    I think there is a little confusion on here...and you've basically covered it...
    Battleship gons were steel...but sometimes wooden kits are used to depict steel cars...such as many of the older EBT steel hopper models were actually wooden kits.

    Where is your pike? I've known a few steam engineers (historic and preservation)...and I envy all of you for your jobs! :mrgreen: Knowing the engineer on a New River Gorge excursion once got me a cab ride on the Milwaukee Road 261. It was awesome (for me...not so good for him...that engine is more than slippery in the mountains).

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