Author Topic: Loading and unloading coal  (Read 1112 times)

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NtheBasement

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Loading and unloading coal
« on: October 05, 2020, 06:15:36 PM »
My coal-themed layout has a number of animated facilities for loading and unloading coal hoppers.  The layout sometimes sacrifices true-to-life modelling for reliable function, and it time travels to include both modern and old coal tech.

This 2 1/2 minute video (and in my sig) shows a full trip for a modern unit train, loading at a flood loader and unloading at a rotary dumper.  The flood loader is driven by a Tortoise, while the unloader is all DC, SPDT limit switches, and diodes.
The flood loader worked right off the bat, but it took several "back to the drawing board" iterations before I got the rotary dumper working.  And the rotary couplers drove me nuts for quite a while.

Older coal tech includes a motorized New River Mine that uses a tiny pager motor to vibrate an Evergreen rectangular tube that delivers coal.  Not much to the action, its dark under the loadout's overhang and the tube vibrates.
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A more recently-built mine has a better way.  It turns a spring that acts as a screw to feed the coal.  Since you need your hands on the cab to move each hopper several times for loading, the feed is controlled with a foot switch.
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This video shows how it operates.

Then there is an older tech State Street Models dumper that I blame for getting me started down this road.  Unlike the rotary dumper it requires each car to be uncoupled.  Previously I backed them up a ramp with a loco, but now it gets fed by a pusher device.
The pusher and dumper:
The kickback track:
There is a lot going on behind the scenes for this, including uncoupling magnets, an IR detector to disable the dumper while the barney is in the way - added as a result of operator (yours truly) error - and IR detectors to throw the kickback switch.

A word of caution - I originally used real coal on the layout, but got very nervous when I could taste the coal dust at the back of my throat.  So I spent some time building filtering systems using 12 inch HEPA filters housed in Sterlite storage boxes with Walmart fans and ducting attached.  I have since switched to using Woodland Scenics ballast for coal.  Black art sand looked promising until I found some of it sticking to a magnet.

 

VonRyan

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Re: Loading and unloading coal
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2020, 05:47:11 PM »
My coal-themed layout has a number of animated facilities for loading and unloading coal hoppers.  The layout sometimes sacrifices true-to-life modelling for reliable function, and it time travels to include both modern and old coal tech.

This 2 1/2 minute video (and in my sig) shows a full trip for a modern unit train, loading at a flood loader and unloading at a rotary dumper.  The flood loader is driven by a Tortoise, while the unloader is all DC, SPDT limit switches, and diodes.
The flood loader worked right off the bat, but it took several "back to the drawing board" iterations before I got the rotary dumper working.  And the rotary couplers drove me nuts for quite a while.

Older coal tech includes a motorized New River Mine that uses a tiny pager motor to vibrate an Evergreen rectangular tube that delivers coal.  Not much to the action, its dark under the loadout's overhang and the tube vibrates.
(Attachment Link) (Attachment Link)

A more recently-built mine has a better way.  It turns a spring that acts as a screw to feed the coal.  Since you need your hands on the cab to move each hopper several times for loading, the feed is controlled with a foot switch.
(Attachment Link)
This video shows how it operates.

Then there is an older tech State Street Models dumper that I blame for getting me started down this road.  Unlike the rotary dumper it requires each car to be uncoupled.  Previously I backed them up a ramp with a loco, but now it gets fed by a pusher device.
The pusher and dumper:
The kickback track:
There is a lot going on behind the scenes for this, including uncoupling magnets, an IR detector to disable the dumper while the barney is in the way - added as a result of operator (yours truly) error - and IR detectors to throw the kickback switch.

A word of caution - I originally used real coal on the layout, but got very nervous when I could taste the coal dust at the back of my throat.  So I spent some time building filtering systems using 12 inch HEPA filters housed in Sterlite storage boxes with Walmart fans and ducting attached.  I have since switched to using Woodland Scenics ballast for coal.  Black art sand looked promising until I found some of it sticking to a magnet.

State Street Models was Rick Spano.
My buddy Konrad Richter still has one of the prototype kits for the dumper, and it is still in service on his home layout.
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DKS

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Re: Loading and unloading coal
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2020, 11:38:11 PM »

Chris333

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Re: Loading and unloading coal
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2020, 05:39:53 AM »
This is On3, but everything is scratch built. He added decoders and servos to each hopper car. And the tipple has several servos.
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High Hood

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Re: Loading and unloading coal
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2020, 08:10:45 PM »
 :o Wow! Seeing how the overwhelming majority of my N Scale stuff is coal hauling equipment, I love it! I LOVE the working single car loader! The ability to add actual working loadouts to a layout can greatly expand its operating potential, even for the solo operator.

What would you say train handling is like using live loads?

NtheBasement

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Re: Loading and unloading coal
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2020, 05:45:44 PM »
That Clifftop loadout is truly outstanding work.  You have to be able to take anything animated apart, and attaching the "cosmetics" with magnets is a great idea.  Where do you find plans for things like that?

As far as handling live loads, yeah... you are more careful than normal. Especially on the backing moves to spot the cars.  Before the barney they were pushed up the ramp by a loco very carefully indeed.  There are a few places on the layout with coal in the grass from when I bumped a car while working on something else.

I noticed that Kato 3-bay hoppers have doors that open.  Wonder what it would take to make them smoothly operational.  Not that I have room for a 3rd dump location...

 

Chris333

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Re: Loading and unloading coal
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2020, 05:53:29 PM »
Where do you find plans for things like that?


There are plans for the modeled tipple in the book on Mann's Creek: https://www.amazon.com/Virginia-Narrow-Gauge-Manns-Railway/dp/1883089379

And the tipple modeled was for "mine #1" there is a pin for it on my map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1xT4OtKUkby4kT1Won3OxxfRTOV2YRRkN&ll=37.99453654846823%2C-80.96726146347606&z=13
« Last Edit: October 14, 2020, 05:55:19 PM by Chris333 »

Maletrain

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Re: Loading and unloading coal
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2020, 10:09:55 AM »
Quote
There are a few places on the layout with coal in the grass from when I bumped a car while working on something else.

Not that unprototypical.  The real railroads managed to make quite a few places with "coal in the grass" due to accidents of various sorts.  And, in the poor areas of the Appalachians, people routinely would go to certain curves in the tracks to pick-up coal that spilled from the hoppers during normal transits.

NtheBasement

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Re: Loading and unloading coal
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2020, 07:06:47 PM »

NtheBasement

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Re: Loading and unloading coal
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2020, 08:18:15 AM »
In response to questions, some details on the flood loader.

The key was to make everything adjustable in height.  This includes the threaded rod used to actuate the valves, and the telescoping styrene that allows the valves and the bin go higher or lower.  I glued the square columns in place as parallel and square as I could, then built the two valve sections in place.

A Tortoise moves the valves.  I bent a piece of brass strip in sort of a P shape.  The rod goes thru the hole in the P, and a small screw goes thru a hole drilled in the P's leg and is loosely screwed into the Tortoise's arm.
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The "valves" are just holes in a rotating cylindrical bit.  When the hole is under the chute, coal pours.  When it rotates out of position, the coal stops as it can't flow "uphill" to the hole.  The holes are located so that when one valve is open the other is shut.  The key to the valve design is to avoid tight fits to avoid jamming, hence the spacers to keep them from touching the chutes.  I changed the top valve and chute to something wider with more holes so that the bin fills faster between cars.
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The bottom chute has to be raised to let locos thru, then lowered.  It gets pretty jammed after a while.  I have a bullet item on my todo list to replace it with something that slides horizontally.  The storage silo is a single malt container with a hacked funnel glued in place.