Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Monk Subdivision - Correcting The Grades

After thinking about it quite a while, doing some tests and maths, it was time to correct the grade, install tracks and test again. It all happened yesterday and the new results were quite fascinating.

The new grade is about 1.7%, including curvature factor. Some lighter locomotives do experience a slight loss of speed whe leaving the second curve. At this point in time, the drag caused by the cars being all in the curves is at it's maximum. I may try to improve that a little bit, but to be honest, most locomotives do climb the grade without issue and it would be foolish to expect a constant speed on a grade.

Newer tests were performed with the habitual suspects, i.e. a few key steam locomotives and a few diesels. We both tried with passenger and freight trains. Personnaly, it is my belief long passenger cars with 6-axle are more taxing than freight cars. I suspect a 3-axle truck on a curve creates more friction than a few 2-axle trucks. Indeed, for equal lenght and weight, I found out most of my locomotives perform better pulling freight cars than passenger cars. And mind you, my freight cars having been shelf queens for years aren't great runner either.

With that said, here are some experiments:

The 4-6-0 is a smooth and impressive small steamer (credit: Bachmann)

-Bachmann 4-6-0 (with 56" drivers): This locomotive is small yet very powerful for its size. It can indeed pull 1 boxcar and 5 Athearn heavyweight coaches. We also added 3 Atlas Branchline boxcars. It was it's limit. Quite impressive. The drive is also quiet and steady. Definitely, the metal boiler makes a difference.

-Bachmann 4-6-2 (with DCC Sound): As I previously said, this locomotive isn't a stellar performer due to being a little bit too light, but with the new grade, it can pull 1 boxcar and 8 heavyweight coaches. Far more than I ever intended to do.

BLI Light Mikados are better than I thought... (credit: BLI)

-BLI 2-8-2: I read a lot of nasty comments about the pulling power of that locomotive. Maybe mine is an exception, but it pulled the entire passenger consist without issue. Better, we then tried to see its limit by building the longest freight train physically permissible on the layout. It meant a 31 cars train, including about 6 cars with Confalone-style weights (8 oz. per car) and maybe 3 with plastic wheels. This is the longest train possible in the staging. It's even too long for Armagh passing track. The BLI Mikado climbed the grade pulling that crazy consist without effort. A beautiful sight... Imagine my relief to see this steam locomotive perform much better than anticipated. I never intended to pull more than 10, maybe 16 cars with Mikados... These locomotives are keepers in my book. That said, I'm not a big fan of Paragon 3 sound. It's fine at low speed, but under effort or faster speed, it's just a non descript annoying noise.

-Proto 1000 F3A and B: This duo of locomotive once again performed flawlessly. One loco isn't enough for the 31 cars train, but two is the sweet spot.

-Proto 2000 GP7: This pair was able to move the entire train, but had difficulty in the last stretch when it became apparent one loco had a split gear issue.

-Atlas C424/RS11: Two of them are enough for the long freight trains, but three are better.

To make a long story short, most steamers will be able to pull their intended payload. Diesels are powerful, but most trains will need multiple units to perform flawlessly. This is expected and desired. I don't regret accumulating a lot of F-units for that purpose and my large fleet of kitbashed RS-18 will come handy.

As for sound, I'm on the fence... It's cool, but most of the time, it's just annoying. I'm getting tired of it to be honest. I see two options in the future: setting sound decoders at low volume levels and maybe equipping DC locomotives with silent decoders. I hardly see any benefit installing costly sound decoders in old Proto locomotives. Also, the real sound that was missing yesterday was wheel squealing. From my experience railfanning trains, hearing the freight car wheels and other sounds is much more pervasive than the locomotives themselves. If I ever go the sound route, I may serious think about adding train ambiant sound with detectors in curves if required rather than equip the entire locomotive fleet.

I'm curious, what are your thoughts about sound? Surprisingly enough, I find among the young model railroaders a tendancy to prefer lower volume sound... and in some times, just plain silence. Are we reaching a level of noise saturation? After all, a silent train gliding over the rails with a gentle "woooshh" sound is a calming sight... almost white noise.

With that, my next challenge is building the Joffre grade (from staging to Armagh through Langlois). It may be more tricky, but now I know the recipe!


  1. Sound is fun on occasion, but most of the time it is just extra cost for white noise. Whistles and bells are all I really care about for sound.

    1. I agree about the whistles and bells. Probably because they are not just background noise but associated with actions we control.

  2. Yvan the Terrible... I love sound! at the time! I hate noisy layouts with 4 or 5 engines producing sound together. F8 (mute), is quite useful on my layout. Sound must be to scale down.

    1. I absolutely agree and most people I've touch the subject with also prefer when the sound is subtle.