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  • Coaling Trestle

    Coaling Trestles Like This 1891 "Chute" Were Used on Prototype Railroads All Across The Country In The Days Of Steam


    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Fall 1971 - Page 46 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Fall 1971 - Page 47

    It's difficult, for one accustomed to the labor-saving devices of the modern world, to imagine just how much hard work was needed to keep the steam locomotive in operation. There is little into day's times to compare to the stamina that the fireman in the cab of a steam engine needed to move 20,000 pounds or more of coal, a shovel-full at a time, from the tender into the firebox. Until the power stoker came into common use in the early nineteen-hundreds this was the only way to get that power-producing coal into the engine. The railroad men had similar problems in loading all of that coal into the tender but here, at least, they were relatively quick to try to reduce the amount of labor involved. At first the coal was simply hand shoveled from a hopper or gondola car into the coal bin of the locomotive's tender. Later, elevated coaling trestles like the 1891 "Burnett & Clifton Automatic Coal Chute" shown on the plan pages were used to at least elevate the coal above the locomotives' tenders so it could be dumped by gravity into the tender - the coal still had to be hand-shoveled from the hopper or gondola on the coaling trestle into the storage bins. Later coaling trestles were high enough that the coal could be dumped through the doors in the bottoms of the hopper cars into the bins to eliminate at least that much of the hand labor. In the later days of steam power most of the coaling trestles were replaced with coaling towers where the hoppers could dump their loads of coal into bins beneath the track so a continuous chain of buckets could automatically pick it up and carry it into a storage bin above the rails to be dumped into the tender. Some prototype railroads, the Burlington in particular, retained the coaling trestles right up until the time that the oil-fed diesel replaced the steam locomotive.

    Gil Freitag built this HO scale model of the coaling trestle once used by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad at Sargent, Colorado. The structure is similar to that at Chama but the builders apparently felt that there was no real need for the weather protection of the roof, walls, and windows.

    This coaling trestle (probably an early installation at Chama, New Mexico, on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad) uses elevated bins and chutes similar to those shown in the plans but the track has been elevated above the bins so the coal can be dumped (rather than hand shoveled) from the hopper cars into the storage bins. Photograph courtesy the Western Collection.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Fall 1971 - Page 48 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Fall 1971 - Page 49

    The Burnett & Clifton Automatic Coal Chute is typical of the early designs as the date on these original 1891 plans indicates. These first appeared in the December 26, 1891, issue of Engineering News. The design was used by a number of railroads of the time including the famous Rio Grande Railroad and Colorado Midland Railroad in the Colorado Rockies. The peaked roof and windows of the design were, of course, strictly optional and photos from the period indicate that many of the structures were built without the weather-protection of any roof.

    The Burnett & Clifton Automatic Coal Chute For Coaling Locomotives.
    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Fall 1971 - Page 50 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Fall 1971 - Page 51


    Yet another variation on the same basic design. Lowell Spooner's HO scale coaling station serves the narrow gauge (HOn3) portion of the Thunderbird Model Railroad Club layout in Phoenix, Arizona. Lowell chose a prototype for his trestle that had only one set of coal bins to serve a single track loading of locomotive tenders. The other coaling trestles on these pages have two sets of bins so that two locomotive tenders can be loaded simultaneously, one on each side of the trestle.
    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Fall 1971 - Page 52

    The modeler could duplicate the coaling trestle in the plans as Gil Freitag and Lowell Spooner have with their models of a similar structure that the Rio Grande used at Sargent, Colorado, using the scale stripwood from Camino Scale Models or Northeastern Scale Models. A much simpler coaling trestle is offered in kit form by Fine Scale for HO modelers. The real railroads usually adapted the design to suit their particular needs, placing the bins beneath the track (like the Rio Grande's early Chama, New Mexico, coal chute) or adjusting the height and length of the bins. Some of the approach trestles were built of sturdy enough timbers to support the weight of both a pushing locomotive and the coal-laden cars, while others used relatively light trestles that required a string of empty "spacer" gondolas or other freight cars the length of the trestle between the locomotive and the hopper or gondola car that was being spotted over the coal bins. The latter type would provide some interesting switching problems on a model railroad.

    Article Details

    • Original Author 1001 Model Railroading Ideas
    • Source 1001 Model Railroading Ideas
    • Publication Date Fall 1971

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