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Thread: Train Length in the steam era?

  1. #1
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    Default Train Length in the steam era?

    Quick question.
    Is there a reference or guide line for how long trains cold be in the steam era? I understand that factors such as engine availability of grade over the give route could be factors. Most of the images i could find showed about 40-50. Does that seem right for a mild grade with something like a 2-8-4 Berkshire? I'm looking to set up some express AI trains pulling mixed consist or coal to run through my layout.
    Thanks
    Lonnie
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    Last time I actually hand counted rail cars on a modern train it was @137 rail cars. Today's DPU trains can be insanely longer. In 1930 I would imagine that the PRR, B&O, or NYC ran steam powered freight trains @ 100 rail cars, on what is now the NEC area rail lines, which have a very nonexistent, or very slight gradient, at speeds @ 60 mph, or greater. Even from Philadelphia all the way to Altoona, Baltimore, and to NYC, the track speeds were very fast, as the gradients were very slight, enabling very long freights, at high speeds. However on the "mountain" grades trains were broken up into smaller sections, and reduced speeds. Today they oftentimes have stalls on steep grades due to either defective/failing locomotives, or miscalculations of particular loco capabilities, and train weight and length. They used very scientific calculations, but mostly used a scientific calculation educated best guess of what train length successfully ran the grade in previous operating sessions, then a rule was established on how many loco's to add onto a trains weight/length to prevent stalls, on gradients in a particular area. Big wigs in Corporate came up with the slide ruler, fantasy brain fart scientific calculation, of running an 800 car, 16 loco, iron ore Jenny "Super Train" train from Morrisville to Altoona. The bad idea had so many broken knuckles by the distance to Paoli, that the train was broken up into many, many shorter segments, and the "brilliant idea" was permanently filed in the cylindrical file cabinet. In awesome Australia they commonly operated ridiculously long iron ore Jenny trains for decades, and one fairly recent one had a ludicrously catastrophic derailment resulting in the scrapping of a huge number of absolutely twisted up rail cars
    Last edited by MP242; December 7th, 2019 at 01:46 AM.
    My 4325 car RGCX train is 53.24 miles long, and takes 1 hour to pass through town !

  3. #3

    Lightbulb Longest train pulled by a steam engine

    Try this Thread, go into lower Messages, it will give you some examples of number of cars with Steam Engines

    Longest train pulled by a steam engine



    http://cs.trains.com/members/dknelson/default.aspx

    In his book "Trains in Transition" Lucius Beebe had a number of captions under photos of perfectly ordinary 2-8-2s and noted they were pulling 100 cars. These were typically Midwestern shots, not mountain railroading. Cars were lighter back then of course; on the other hand they usually had friction bearings not roller bearings. I always assumed a 2-8-0 on level track was good for 30 to 50 cars (obviously a huge Reading or D&H 2-8-0 is a whole different machine than a Union Pacific 2-8-0) while a Mikado should be good for 40 to 75 cars again on level track. The Nickle Plate Berkshires could haul long trains, over 75 cars, at speed.
    Speaking of strong don't forget the DM&IR yellow stones -- massive engines with smaller drivers than a Big Boy and quite possibly more tractive effort.

    Beebe could get fancy with his writing and it might be he did not count the cars up to 100, he really just meant "lots and lots of cars." But on level straight track it would seem possible for a Mike to pull 100 cars. Getting a train started was always the hardest thing for steam. Running at speed was the easiest (diesels are just the opposite). The Pennsylvania RR Class T 4-4-4-4 was so slippery that 0-6-0 switchers would shove a passenger train out of a depot if it was pulled by a T-1. The Milwaukee Road also sometimes needed a shove out of the Milwaukee Depot. There is a famous story about how the crew of the 0-6-0 was not able to uncouple from the Hiawatha after it left Milwaukee for the twin cities -- the tower operator at Duplainville was surprised to see the train go by at 100 mph with an 0-6-0 coupled behind with a terrified looking crew and the drivers spinning madly.
    Dave Nelson

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    Just to add that at least in urban areas there was often a law limiting the amount of time a train could block a road crossing. In Birmingham this was no more than 10 minutes and that had the effect of limiting train length regardless of the motive power.

    I took Vanderbilt Road to get to my high school in the 70s and often got stopped at the road crossing by a train entering the large yard to the north.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@33.5497.../data=!3m1!1e3

    William

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    Quote Originally Posted by wreeder View Post
    Just to add that at least in urban areas there was often a law limiting the amount of time a train could block a road crossing. In Birmingham this was no more than 10 minutes and that had the effect of limiting train length regardless of the motive power.

    I took Vanderbilt Road to get to my high school in the 70s and often got stopped at the road crossing by a train entering the large yard to the north.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@33.5497.../data=!3m1!1e3

    William
    I was thinking about that reading MP242's comment about the multi hundred car train! I thought, no mater how much I like trains, watching 700 cars go by while sitting in my car might get a little annoying! It started me thinking about the big unit trains out of the Powder River area. I am not a operations expert. I was thinking they must run a very specific route to specific yards to get broken down and minimize crossings. I was thinking about the truck terminals that handle tandem trailers. Straight out to the highway then strait off the highway. Too many cars and my ADD kicks in anyway.
    Thanks
    Lonnie
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    I spent some time looking around that map. Open pit coal mining, coke plants, cement plants, new auto unloading, multiple scrap yards and a hump yard. It looks like a Philskene route come to life.

    William

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    Quote Originally Posted by wreeder View Post
    I spent some time looking around that map. Open pit coal mining, coke plants, cement plants, new auto unloading, multiple scrap yards and a hump yard. It looks like a Philskene route come to life.

    William
    I agree. I am a Philskene "The Trestle Master!" fan also .
    Thanks
    Lonnie
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    Freight trains in Nebraska will block dozens of road crossings if they stop at a red signal. These super long, unit coal, and oil, trains have many DPU locomotives cut in, front, mid train, and rear, and operate as priority 1 freights, with experienced dispatchers keen on keeping the mainline open, getting them out of the way onto super long passing sidings, and express sent to very distant locations, or very large mega freight yards ASAP. One high priority produce train has a guaranteed delivery date of within 72 hours from the California basin, to Kearny NJ. The Tropicana OJ train runs 3 times per week from Bradenton FL, to Kearny NJ
    Last edited by MP242; December 7th, 2019 at 01:24 PM.
    My 4325 car RGCX train is 53.24 miles long, and takes 1 hour to pass through town !

  9. #9
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    Modern freights on CSX, NS, CN, CPR, and UPRR run anywhere between 10,500 to 16000 feet. That's 2 to 3 miles in length, or close to it. They freights also have distributed power units (DPUs) and sometimes locomotives on the end as well. Imagine what kind of issues these cause when they tie up a town due to a broken coupler or hose.
    John
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    About 1 year ago I noticed that CSX was now making a new practice of running 2 locos head end, and 1 or 2 more DPU locos mid train, and on very rare case's 1 or 2 more DPU loco's rear end.

    The majority of the time they run 2 loco's head end, and 1 DPU loco mid train

    I haven't counted how many railcars
    Last edited by MP242; December 10th, 2019 at 11:56 PM.
    My 4325 car RGCX train is 53.24 miles long, and takes 1 hour to pass through town !

  11. #11
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    In terms of train length, another factor to consider is that there is a limit to the amount of leakage in the train line. In practical terms the pressure at the rear (caboose) of the train's brake line must be within a set amount of the front {locomotive} pressure, additionally it may not leak more than a set pressure over a set time. Determining this is part of the purpose of the initial terminal brake test. More modern cars tend to "keep" air better, meaning that more cars can be added to a train, however cold weather can still reduce train length by increasing leakage.

  12. #12

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    I would like to friendly remind everyone that the question is about steam era train length, not modern era train length. Most people replying seemed to have overlooked that detail
    Last edited by oknotsen; December 29th, 2019 at 01:13 PM.

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    Also the economy of the time, more cars moved in WWI and WWII and a lot less from 1930-1940(grate depression).

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    They would have needed more cars to move the same amount of stuff then compared to now just because cars were smaller then. IIRC, California had a law prohibiting trains of more than 100 cars up until the start of the second world war.
    Will Champion

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    Communist countries wery deeply affected by stupid propaganda from SSSR in the past, part of it made so called "heavy haul movement" imported to the Czechoslovakia from SSSR in the fifties. Heaviest train ever hauled on the CSD railway network was coal freight train weighting 8272mt, it was consist of 121 train cars (484 axles) hauled by two 556 class locos (with third 556 on sloped part of the trip) in 1958.

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