The major service train operation is the delivery of coal to the coaling tower and steam plant along with the removal of the empties.  Coal is delivered five times daily to the coaling tower and once a day to the steam plant.  Here’s what happens….

IMG_2677The six-car coal train is kept on the near track, lower level of the staging elevator.  It is backed onto the layout. It is the Assistant Hostler’s job to run this train.  His first task, after the Staging Master raises the level and aligns the tracks, is to consist SoundCar to the locomotive.

IMG_2679The train is backed onto the service track from staging sl0wly, it’s only a short distance to the coaling tower (four feet!).

IMG_2681When the third hopper is inside the unloading shed, the train is stopped and paused while the load in that car is dumped into the pit.

IMG_2683After a couple of minutes, the train is pulled forward so that the fourth hopper is over the pit.  The load in the third hopper is removed.

IMG_2684Coal loads are stored in a tray labelled as such.  Storing them on their sides makes it easier to grab them later when the loads are restored into the hoppers while the train is in staging.

IMG_2687The train is cut at the second/third hopper and pulled forward past the cross-over switch.  We pause to let our brakie step down to throw the switch.


Our train backs through the cross-over onto roundhouse Inbound 1 track.  Engine movements are now limited to roundhouse Inbound 2 track until our 0-8-0 returns to the service track.  Bell ringing, we pass under the coaling tower on our way to the steam plant.

IMG_2693Beyond the coaling tower, we pass the sanding facilities.

IMG_2694Stopping and pausing to align the switches as needed we finally get to the steam plant coal spur after a journey of seven feet!

IMG_2696Continuing back, the last hopper is spotted over the pit grate and we wait a couple of minutes while its contents are emptied.

IMG_2697The load is removed from the last hopper and the head-end hopper is spotted over the pit grate.  The load is not dumped at this time (the plant unloading crew will do this when needed later in the day).


IMG_2702The locomotive returns to the coal service track.  Engine movements are cleared for roundhouse Inbound 1 track.

IMG_27067814 enters the service track and backs onto the coal train.  The cars are pulled through the pit shed one at a time, waiting a couple of minutes while each load is dumped.  As the train is moved forward, the loads are removed and stored in the tray.

IMG_2708When the last car is emptied, the coal train pulls away to return to staging.  SoundCar is then released.

As mentioned at the start of this post, coal is delivered to the steam plant only once a day. For the four other deliveries of coal exclusively to the coaling tower, the movement is just backing to the tower on the service track.  There is no uncoupling; the train is pulled through as in the second last picture until empty.  On the fourth (last) delivery to the coaling tower, the steam plant hoppers are collected.

They then make the long journey back to staging.