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.

7 thoughts on “Sea Trials or what we learned operating Lookout

  1. I enjoyed your comments about loading cars at the tipple. I’ve always wondered about the process steps and timings to load cars at the mine too.

    It’s easy to find photos that show a loadout with several sidings and each one filled with cars. I’d like to know more about how much time it takes to load each car. I presume that different types or grades of coal might have been loaded and that the folks at the mine would ask that certain cars would be placed at certain locations?

    I hadn’t thought that perhaps the sidings through the tipple could be on a grade so they could be advanced using gravity. It makes more sense than having a crew with an engine moving cars around one at a time. I guess I assumed a car puller (winch).

    Thanks. Keep us updated as you get further along with this.

    1. Chris,

      Also, the coal loaded at the tipple has not settled from moving along the railroad. The pile is a very neat hump. The typical plastic load is the over the road load, not a just loaded hopper. Stay tuned as we work through loading coal at the tipple.

      1. Neat extra detail and yet another that never would have occured to me. We often seek ways to tell the story of our railroad using the railroad itself as narrator. By having some cars with the load as you’ve described we could illustrate the contrast between a freshly loaded car and one that has been on the road for a little longer. Thanks.


      2. Chris,

        Thank you. Yes I never thought about it myself except for reading about how modern flood loaders differ from the older tipples that employed min workers standing next to hoppers as the we’re being loaded. Sometimes even hand placing large lump coal to prevent loss. If one looks at cars freshly loaded you notice a nice level mound. If you look at loads moved you notice the mound has settled and no longer has a nice groomed look

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