Sea Trials or what we learned operating Lookout

My friend Trevor Marshall just posted on his blog “Early Ops session reports“. It got me thinking about my little notebook of issues on the Lookout module.

I will be the first to admit that I have no idea how railroad crews operating coal shifters did their jobs in the 1940-1960 time period. I am working on finding paperwork at shows and on e-bay. Not much luck yet. I understand the basic principles of moving coal from the mine to the end-user. Keeney Creek is not a place where you are going to find a massive 2-6-6-2 pushing or pulling 30 hopper cars. The track and bridges are too light for such a heavy engine. The whole idea was to find a branch that moved hoppers with small motive power such as a Consolidation. What I am trying to learn is how did the men on the shifter move cars at the tipple. Most tipples used gravity or a car puller to move empties into position under the tipple for loading. Then a mine worker would release the hand brake on the loaded hopper and let it drift clear of the tipple. That is possible to replicate, at least drifting an empty. But do I have to, want to? My thought is no. In preparing for an operating session, I can place my loads into the empty hoppers delivered and move them to the finished position. Animating the loading process would be interesting, but not necessary to have a functioning layout. Perhaps a good future project.

Early sessions with a track attached to the Lookout module provided me with some valuable information. The two stub tracks at Lookout were short. The tipple, with two tracks could fill at most 8 hopper cars on a good day, unless the shifter came twice a day. There just was not enough room to place more empties onto the stub sidings. Worse, there was not enough room for all the empties once they were full of coal. One track would always be fouling another. I looked at several photos in books I have and although not a normal event, it was plausible to have a string of loaded hoppers foul a track. It would be routine at Lookout tipple to foul the switch with loaded hoppers on track A, if all of the hoppers were loaded.

The obvious question is, would Lookout’s tipple ever load all 8 hoppers in a shift, or two? Not sure. if the tipple loaded an average of 5 cars a day, that would be 25 per week, 100 per month, about 1200 per year. At an average of 50 tons per car that was a whopping 60,000 tons of coal a year. That sounds like a lot of coal too me! Perhaps too much.