There are many ways to be a railway enthusiast. Here are three.
For many years, I was a member of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society.
I used to be a member of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society Supporters Association. This two foot gauge railway climbs very steep terrain in the Himalayas in India. The steam locomotives are of a century old design and have been very successful. The peculiar features of the task match the features of the design very well. First, the grades are very steep, so a design with all the weight on the driving wheels has an advantage. The curves are sharp, so a short wheelbase is called for. The speeds are low so a reduction in stability due to a large overhang at each end seems to be little problem. Labour costs are low. So low in fact, that it has suited the railway to employ men to stand on the front buffer beam to apply sand to the rails from buckets, rather than bother to perfect and maintain ordinary sanding gear. The combination of steep grades and sharp curves gives rise to considerable train drag, as the draw gear pull tend to pull the rolling stock to the inside of the curve and to place it wrongly on the cones of the wheels. This drag increases with train length. Thus when the cost of crews is low, it is more appropriate to use a larger number of small engines, rather than more powerful engines. A larger engine (a Garratt) had been tried, and although of a proved design, was not a success on this line. The result is the survival to this day of several members of the > BClass.
I believe that railway technology has a valuable place in the scheme of things, and is not exploited as often as it should be. I have used it myself where I had a very difficult transportation problem in steep terrain on my house project. I built a fifteen inch gauge tramway to transport material for the effluent trenches. To see pictures of the tramway construction and operation, click here , and here.
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