Running Model Trains at Realistic Speeds

ppuinn Nov 9, 2015

  1. ppuinn

    ppuinn Staff Member

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    In operating sessions on my own and others' layouts, I've noticed that many operators (including me) run at scale speeds that are WAY too fast. Most of us are generally running slower when switching in yards and industries and faster on mainlines, but accurate timing of our trains' scale speeds on different layouts revealed operators' speeds ranged from 5 to 30 N-scale mph faster than appropriate, both in yards and on mainlines. Most HO operators managed to keep their maximum speed in the 10 to 15 mph range when working in HO layout yards and industries, but traveled 40 to 50 HO-scale mph on mainlines with 30 mph limits and 50 to 60 HO mph in blocks with 45 mph limits.

    Using an MRT Accutrack II Speedometer, I discovered I was running trains in my N-scale layout yards at 20 to 25 mph instead of the 5 to 10 mph they should have been running. On my HO switching layout, my yard and industry speeds were better (7-12 HO-scale mph), but still got up to 20 mph when maximum speed between the yard and nearby interchanges probably should have been 15 mph.

    When attempting to run a pair of switchers and cut of cars at a specific N-scale speed on the mainline, my first 6 attempts to run at 20 mph were 27, 24, 19, 21, 21, and 20 mph, 4 attempts to get exactly 30 mph, and 7 attempts to run at 40 mph.

    Feedback from a speedometer will help get you running closer to appropriate scale speeds, but a cheaper alternative is to time how long it takes to run 88 scale feet on your layout. Somewhere (model RR magazine or maybe here on TrainBoard) someone pointed out that a train (car, truck, object) moving 60 mph will cover about 88 feet in one second. If you cover 88 scale feet in one second, your train is running about 60 scale mph; 2 seconds -> 30 smph; 3 seconds ->20 smph; 4 sec - >15 smph; 5 sec ->12 smph; 6 sec ->10 smph; 10 sec -> 6 smph; 12 sec ->5 smph. Planting telephone poles every 88 scale feet along your ROW will give you markers against which to gauge your speed.

    What other methods can operators use to get better at running their trains at scale speeds?
     
    FriscoCharlie likes this.
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    That's a neat little tool. Cost probably makes it some which many individuals wouldn't buy, but perhaps a club or group?
     
  3. FriscoCharlie

    FriscoCharlie Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    That's very interesting.
     
  4. retsignalmtr

    retsignalmtr TrainBoard Member

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    One of my favorite activities is switching, whether in a yard or at an industry. I do the switching at scale speed so that when the knuckles engage the standing car does not move. I do not watch what the loco is doing as I usually watch the car/cars I am coupling to. When I am not switching and run a train on a layout I also try to use a speed that is realistic and that does not go over 20-25 on a Digitrax throttle. The speed standard I use is 1 MPH= 1.467 FPS. So multiply 1.467 X the desired speed will give you the distance traveled at that speed.
     
  5. subwayaz

    subwayaz TrainBoard Member

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    I find this topic interesting; let alone the remedies for accurate speeds. I've never been that precise with the speeds. I just crawl in yards and go along at a nice pace on the mainlines.
    Thank you for the insite
     
  6. pastoolio

    pastoolio TrainBoard Member

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    here's a nice little calculator. You can put in any measurement in the first block, put in the time it took to cross that measurement in the second block, and down in the "scale factor" block, you put 1:160 (for N scale) and hit "calculate"
    http://webpages.charter.net/sinkwich/sdventure/html/sd_scale_speed.htm
    On my old layout, it would take me about 90 seconds to run a train through a passing siding. My sidings were right around 150" long, so the "scale speed" I was running the train at comes out to about 15 mph.
    Using this calculator has really showed me that I needed to SLOW IT DOWN! :LOL:

    Mike
     
  7. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Most of the folks I see switching are doing so at a breakneck speed. From what I have watched of the prototype, except for getting up enough speed to kick a car of cut of cars, it's generally not much faster than a quick walking speed. And then the modelers slam cars together at speeds of yikes... :eek:
     
  8. ppuinn

    ppuinn Staff Member

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    @subwayaz: Over the past 18 years that I've been involved in HO and N scale operating sessions, I have learned to crawl in the yards and set what I (and most of the guys I operated with) thought were reasonable speeds on the mainlines. However, when we recently compared some videos of our model train movements taken from a railcar-mounted mini-cam with videos from the cabs of 1:1 roadswitchers, we realized our models were moving through scenes much faster than the prototypes, both in yards and on mainlines. When we checked our actual scale mph, some operators were running closer to appropriate scale speeds than others, but ALL of us erred on the high side, even the most experienced operators.

    Although we want to run a little more prototypically, none of us are obsessive about it. (After all, our idea of operating fun is to run trains sequentially, rather than on a tight time table or fast clock.) The speedometer feedback is helping us improve our estimates of how fast a train is moving, and the telephone poles are good speed gauges that let us monitor our scale speeds, but I still have to contend with the reality that my plans to operate at scale appropriate speeds by crawling through a yard or setting a nice pace on the mainline are often sabotaged by my impatience to get to the next destination.

    I've found that I seem a little less inclined to speed when I'm passing through an area with structures or detailed scenery set near the tracks.
     
  9. subwayaz

    subwayaz TrainBoard Member

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    @ppuinn, thank you for the explanation Makes perfect sense to me just never thought of it before. But I've never run a Train in a OP Session. Maybe one day sounds quite interesting and I will probably put in some Telephone Poles to help gauge speed myself so when I finally do participate in a OPS session they won't look at me all funny.
     
  10. ppuinn

    ppuinn Staff Member

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    I came across some formulas for calculating scale speeds and generated the 2 tables attached below: the first (scale feet/sec) is for any scale and the second (inches/second) is FOR N-Scale only.

    Telephone poles spaced at 88 scale feet relatively near a track will work fine for judging speed at mainline speeds, but can be less helpful when a train is running slowly in a yard far away from the carefully spaced poles. As an alternative to telephone poles, when trying to judge slower speeds in yards or industries on my N-scale layout, I hold my 6.75 inch long Digitrax throttle parallel to the tracks, and count the number of seconds it takes a coupler to move from one end of the throttle to the other. Using the second table, I know my train is moving less than 5 smph if it takes 12 or more seconds to pass the throttle, 5-10 smph if it takes 6-12 seconds, and 10-15 smph for 4-6 seconds. If it takes less than 4 seconds for a coupler to pass the throttle, then the train is moving more than 15 smph...much too fast for switching cars in a yard or industry.
     

    Attached Files:

  11. subwayaz

    subwayaz TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you for that info.
     
  12. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    I have an HO locomotive with a (~$5) tachometer on the motor and the onboard controller uses it to accurately control the scale speed. The tachometer also provides scale distance control/measurement for things like coupling and reliable magnetic uncoupling. It is all part of DBTC. Unfortunately it may be a while before any locomotive boards are available.
    Bob
     
  13. ppuinn

    ppuinn Staff Member

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    pastoolio likes this.
  14. Jerry Tarvid

    Jerry Tarvid TrainBoard Member

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    I for one like seeing trains run at realistic scale speeds. For me it creates the most realistic effect and greatest personal enjoyment. The scale speedometer is awesome! I use the time and distance method, then make note of my throttle speed setting. On the mains our trains need to make the most of our limited and somewhat compressed scenery by slowly passing through it. As previously mentioned coupling in the yard should be viewed as an operation with a little precision rather than ram and jam techniques. That requires skill and patience.
     
  15. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I've put the Accutrack II onto my holiday wish list
     
  16. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

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    Considering the very limited space we all have for our layouts, it does make sense to stretch out the experience, whether during switching or during limited speeds on the main behind a Pennsy T1 Duplex. I have always understood this and have never succumbed to the breakneck race car speeds of my youth. In fact, I set my decoders so that the values in both CV3 and CV4 (inertia and momentum respectively) are high. I have gotten into the habit of dialing in the terminal speed I want on my throttle and letingt the decoder increase the voltage to the motor over time. This makes my train accelerations realistic, but also requires me to think ahead by deciding when to close off the throttle and let the train coast to a stop correctly in front of the station. If I have misjudged, I can always do a stab at F7 on my QSI decoders which effects the braking function, complete with the squeal.
     
  17. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

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    I eyeball speed watching the train go by a given point. Two 40' box cars passing by a point every second is about 60 mph, a box car per second is about 30 mph, and 2 seconds per car is about 15 mph.
     
  18. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member

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    The Ntrak steam book had a table using 44inches at 40 secs is 10mph. 20secs is 20 mph. 10 secs is 40mph. So I marked out 44inches on both sides of the layout and try to keep track as trains roll around. It sure makes it more enjoyable when I can set a slow drag going around and have to time my switching speeds to stay out of it's way!
     
  19. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

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    I find watching trains roll by trackside a good way to calibrate the eyeball for speed. Then I can imagine myself trackside on my layout observing a similar scene.
     
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  20. ppuinn

    ppuinn Staff Member

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    Exactly!! It was by comparing cab-level views (only slightly higher than trackside level views) in videos of models to videos of prototypes that we realized how our models were moving through scenes so much faster than the prototypes.
    And my comment in Post 8 about the "slowing" effect that scenery and structures near the tracks had on me is right in line with your observation that imagining ourselves at trackside helps us gauge our speed better.
     

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