Monday, 30 September 2013

LCH loads - An alternate solution

Recently, I posted a short piece on the different solutions that I had used to create loads for the growing CCH/LCH fleet servicing the Philip's Creek coal mine.  ( ) The CCH loads have worked well but the solution to simulate the LCH loads was not satisfactory. Because of the spreader bars at the top of each LCH hopper , there was insufficient space for some form of thin plate to carry the simulated coal without leaving an untidy gap between the load and the top of the hopper. The slight dimensional variability between different wagons also contributed to the situation. The right hand side of the photo below illustrates the problem.

I received some helpful suggestions in response to that post but I was hesitant about cutting into wagons that had just been completed particularly with my 'less than steady' hand. So I decided on a different approach. If I am trying to simulate coal, why not simulate a full load rather than just a cap  on the top. So the challenge now was to get a load of coal into and out of the LCH hoppers without making an almighty mess.

I decided to measure out  and store quantities for each wagon separately. I purchased some small cheap containers from Woolworths and they now each hold one hopper's worth of 'coal'. I also fabricated two funnels to assist the loading and unloading, the long rectangular one for loading and the square one for unloading. In reality, the unloading funnel could be any size as long as the coal can be poured from the hopper without spillage. However, the dimensions of the loading funnel were a little more critical. The base of the loading funnel is slightly smaller than the top of the hopper and two styrene supports were glued to the base of the funnel so that it would sit on the hopper.
It's a simple process that does not take too much longer than the loading of the other CCH loads but it is advisable to spread the load along the length of the hopper. To date, there has been very little spillage of 'coal' and any major issue will be addressed with 1:1 scale vacuum cleaner.

I was a bit concerned that, perhaps, I was under filling the wagons, but after a check of a loaded coal train passing through Hornsby, I noted that quite a few hoppers were significantly less than brimming. So I don't think it's an issue.

This idea may not work in hurly burly of an exhibition or on a large home layout during a major operating session. However, it is viable for layouts like Philip's Creek with a single operator.  Would I use the same technique for the CCHs? Probably not, it may be more realistic but it's not really necessary and poor old 5131 struggles with heavier loads, so I think I'll restrict it to the five LCH wagons in the fleet. However, the concept may be trialled for the BBWs where I am experiencing a similar challenge.


  1. I know you don't want to chop up the wagon, but why not make the spreader bars part of the removable load?

  2. Paul,

    Thanks for the idea. Unfortunately, the wagons run empty to the Philip's Creek mine, are shunted into place, and then mysteriously get loaded before the next operating session. Therefore, for 50 percent of the time, the wagons are on the layout unloaded. Unless I am misunderstanding something, incorporating the spreader bars into the coal load would mean that they must disappear when the wagon is unloaded. This has been the challenge, to present a relatively accurate model in both the loaded and unloaded state.

    cheers Phil

  3. Phil

    The coal loads certainly look much better than the original, but! I guess the one area of concern that I would have in using real coal as a tip in tip out concept is the amount of dust that will take place. While in some ways it may seem miniscule it could still have an affect around the layout, as coal no matter how its handled will always create dust unless sealed by a coating, & then when its settled into the wagon, the aspect of loading & unloading will create that problem.

    Perhaps as an alternative, could I suggest making up a shaped block of Styrofoam that fit in under the bars, (I understand the bars are removable) paint the styro black, make up two of the spreader bars & also glue them into the same position as the removable ones on top of the foam then cover the block with the coal, sealing it with PVA, to keep it intact & then use indian ink to take the waxy look of it.

    Cover the spreaders also with the coal & PVA mix allow the whole lot to dry off & test the load by simply lifting by means of the spreaders. That way it will mean a swap over of the spreaders when empty to the spreaders with coal when loaded.

    Remember when all coal was loaded it always settled down into the hopper or wagon during transit as such the humps tended to flatten, the further the distance & lump size of the coal would determine just how much it settled.

    You are doing some good work there.



  4. Col,

    Good to see you back at the computer. I trust the surgery went well.

    Thanks for your suggestion. I was conscious of the coal dust issue but haven't found any evidence to suggest that it is a problem as yet, but I will defer to your greater experience of the material.

    I have just started to assemble the the last wagon in the fleet. It was going to be a CCH but I think I will build it as a LCH as a test. This time, I will build a removable set of spreaders for empty running as well as another set incorporated into a load along the lines of Paul's and your suggestions. I'll then compare the two approaches before making any final decision about the other LCHs.

    cheers Phil

  5. Hi Phil

    Surgery went very well, & the primary pain gone, although I am confined with a full brace on my back, also not thinking as straight as I did, but getting better. Thanks for the thoughts.

    I actually missed the bit that Paul had suggested & seems I just added to what he suggested.

    Coal can be problematic when loose, the problem with it is the way it can spread around, & some traces can be seen of it around your work area as shown in the photo's, should a derailment take place with the loose coal it will be a pain to clean up & something I suggest to avoid if possible.

    I also seemed to have missed the aspect you said that the hoppers were kits, as for some reason I simply took it as being Eureka LCH/CCH's which is why I mentioned the bars being removable as that was my understanding with the Eureka ones.

    Being kits if they have the spreaders, you could make up a couple of them for the load as suggested with a couple of spares that could sit on the inside at same level with the empties, just swap out. The same aspect could also work with a CCH, just a bit more coal over the bars.

    The CCH hungry boards were added to provide the mass weight for the lighter coals that came from some districts, a reason you would notice in photo's the different amount of coal loads as far as the loads filled the hoppers. Some coals such as from the Burragorang Valley were heavier than what was found in some Hunter coal fields, thus the lighter coals filled up more of the hopper than that from the heavier districts.

    Depending then on the lump size would also determine how much movement there was over the trains travel.

    1. Yes, the wagons are the Silvermaz kits, very basic but I have added a lot more detail including buffers, brakes, and of course, the spreader bars.

      I was not aware of coal from different locations having different densities but it stands to reason.