This post explains the operations involved for servicing steam locomotives on the engine terminal side of the layout.


The Staging Master, representing the road crew, moves Hudson 5366 (above) from staging onto the layout and halts the engine when the water column is in line with the filling hatch in the tender.  This is the inspection pit and, while that is being done, the tender can be refilled.  He releases the locomotive address (Digitrax “Dispatch”) so that a Hostler can take over.  He also trips the timer shown in the picture below.


A label on the fascia reminds operators how much time is generally spent at this servicing station.  The timers are pre-set and only act as an aid to the Hostler(s) as keeping track of time would be difficult with 4-6 other engines in the circuit.  The timer counts down to zero and a beeping alarm gives warning that the general time has passed.  They can be stopped and reset before that happens too.  It is entirely up to the operator to decide if he needs the whole allotted time; smaller locomotives do not require as much time for servicing.  The timer is only a reminder in case the action gets heavy and an operator loses track of it.  The Hostler also draws a card from a deck.  There are 20% faults in the deck, but in this case there is “NO FAULT” so the engine goes through the normal servicing circuit.  The Hostler reports “No FAULT” for engine 5366 to the Roundhouse Foreman.  The Roundhouse Foreman assigns a lubrication stall and updates the blackboard.


The next stop is at the coaling tower and sanding tower.  With large power like the Hudson or Mohawk, the operator aligns the locomotive sand box to the fill spout of the sanding tower and a coaling chute would be in position to fill the tender.  On a small engine like an 0-8-0, the Hostler would have to make up to three moves during the general allotted time of 15 minutes – one to fill the tender, then move forward to fill the forward sand box, then move forward to fill the rear sand box.  If this takes more than 15 minutes, that’s his judgement.  When halted, he trips a timer, just as was done at the inspection pits.



After coaling/sanding, the Hostler moves the locomotive to the ash pits  and wash pits area (25 minutes).  Here he trips the appropriate timer (above).  This is a two-movement operation.  The first stop is to place the ash pan over the cinder conveyor hopper (below).  This can take 5 to 7 minutes of the general allotted time.


Then the locomotive is moved forward for a  blow down and a steam washing of the running gear (below).


Once the steam cleaning is complete, the locomotive is moved to a designated lubrication stall via the turntable (below).



There are no more timers after the ash/wash pits.  The Lead Hostler knows when our J1d Hudson needs to be at the ready track by looking at the blackboard.  It is then backed out of the roundhouse, turned, and spotted on a designated ready track by a water column to top up the tank.  Here he releases the address from his throttle.


The Staging Master, again representing the road crew, watches the blackboard for when to take the locomotive to the station platforms (staging).  Below we see our Thoroughbred rumbling along the outbound track.


0-8-0 Switcher 7815 was following behind.  At the inspection pit a fault was found (below).


The Hostler calls out to the Roundhouse Foreman the engine number, the fault and how long it will take to correct it.  The Roundhouse Foreman assigns a repair stall in the roundhouse and updates the blackboard with not only that info, but also the revised time that engine is expected at the ready track.  The Hostler draws a sticky note and attaches it to the fault card (below).


He writes the engine number and stall number and passes this to the Lead Hostler.  The Lead Hostler places this card in a bin at the roundhouse while the work is being performed.


When the locomotive is returned to service on the ready track, the sticky note is discarded and the fault card returned to the bottom of the deck.

I find this to be good fun.