Going Uphill – Part 2

In last week’s post I shared with you plans for my new module for our layout ‘Solent Summit’ based on the Tehachapi Loop.  In this week’s post, as promised, I have some photos of the completed track work and the first trains to run through the loop.

The track bed is laser cut to ensure the loop ends in the right place and to help keep the gradient correct.

The track bed is supported on timber posts which have a bevel cut on top.  This was to ensure the track bed didn’t level out at each support.  To add a complication there are three locations where the twin tracks cross board joints.

The actual incline starts just after the line passes under itself and stops just before it passes over itself.  The real railroad continues to climb as it makes its way up Tehachapi Pass but as our line also has to come back down I needed to level it out as it runs out of the back of the module.

I still need to add a few more supports under the track bed and to do a little more work to smooth the gradient out but for testing purposes the loop is ready.

For those of you who are familiar with our layout you’ll know we like to run long trains so what better place to start than with a long coal train?  Approaching from the left is a pair of Kato SD70MAC’s with a train of Kato bethgon coalporters and a banking SD70MAC behind.

As I described in last week’s post, the loop is also a passing place.  To make the loop modular so it can be transported, the passing place has been made shorter than the real one, but it still allows for a 13′ (in N Scale) train to wait while another train passes.

The first pass we had was an SD40-2 with double stack train being passed by an auto-rack train.

The other reason I wanted to do tests with these trains was for height.  The double stack and auto-rack cars are some of the tallest on the modern railroad and I wanted to see how they looked in proportion to the loop.  The real loop climbs some 77′ before it passes itself due to the considerably larger radius.

The loop on the new module only climbs 33′ but as you can see below there’s still lots of clearance between the upper and lower lines and I think it looks good.

Throughout the day we tested many trains through the loop with trains heading down on the inside and trains heading up on the outside.  This is because the larger radius on the outer track makes for a slightly reduced gradient.  Coincidently, we also operate right road running for passing so this fits in with the rest of the layout.  Below two SD60s take a sulphur train down the line.

The Tehachapi Loop was built by the Southern Pacific Railroad so of course we had to try the iconic SP cab forwards with a Pacific Fruit Express (PFE) train.

I was amazed how long trains, such as the Santa El Capitan, which as you can see below normally stretch out on the layout, seem to disappear in the length of the loop.

Of course several of our trains did have an issue with the gradient; combined with the drag factor of the curve some of the heavy freight cars in short trains with just one locomotive ended up wheel spinning and stalling.  The answer is to add some more power and below is a video of how the Southern Pacific moved loaded coal trains over the loop.  I think 15 locomotives will do it!

The next stages are for me to start looking at the scenery, turnout control and signalling for the module, a lot of work still ahead.

This coming week I’m taking some time to work on my stock of trains and give them some much needed attention to several of the running issues I’ve had at shows lately. This is downtime for me, getting back to my hobby so I won’t be posting, instead I’ll just be enjoying working on my trains!  So in a fortnight’s time I hope to bring you some news on some more 3D printed parts.