For all of their power, speed and emotional appeal, if the steam locomotive has one fundimental flaw it is maintenance. Large or small, these locomotives require constant care and attention to remain running efficiently and safely.
At the height of steam, railroads employed an average of 100 men per locomotive in their maintenance. Even the most efficient steam locomotives spent nearly half of their life out of service as they underwent routine inspection and repair.
While these costs were a major expense to the railroads, and a primary reason for the transition to diesels, they present many unique modeling oportunities for our miniature iron horses. From small operations to large facilities, steam locomotive service should be a part of every railroad's operations.
Modeling these functions can be a challenge, particularly if you are tight on space. However, simply understanding the steps involved in "turning" a locomotive can lead to more believable facilities.
In railroad terms, turning a locomotive means taking it out of service and returning it to ready-to-work condition. With steam locomotives, it may involve physically turning the locomotive, but the final direction of the engine is only one step of the process.
Turning a steam locomotive usually required the following steps:
- Cleaning the ashpan
- Refueling (water and fuel - wood, coal or oil. Sandboxes were also topped)
Let's look at each of these steps in more detail and how you can model them.