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The Green Train

The green train is a model of some of the full-size trains that were part of my life when I was growing up. The actual mix of rolling stock in the model may be not quite right. And the liveries, i.e., colour schemes, of the different vehicles in the model train may not have existed at the same time. But, even if it is unusual, there would have been trains very similar to the model over the years. What follows is what I remember.

The Real Trains

These trains were not special trains, quite the opposite; they were everyday suburban trains, often used for commuter service. This status can be deduced from the configuration of the coaches. For example, not only is there no toilet on the train, but there is no way to move along the train to get to one if there were. Each door opens into a full-width compartment; once you were in a compartment, you were in it until the next stop. Since this was a suburban train the next stop was quite likely to be the next station, which would be a few minutes along the line, maybe only two minutes. This frequent stopping, also the lack of toilet facilities, was quite like that of a current city subway, metro, or underground, train. The full-width compartment and seats give the coaches maximum capacity; and this is the beneficial, people-moving, trade-off for the lack of mobility. I do remember when travelling on these trains at non-commuter times - in the evening, for example - selecting a compartment on the basis of who was in it already, was something to pay attention to, in particular for women averse to noisy teenage louts. And, of course, sadly for these ladies, it was not possible to choose the passengers who got into one's compartment at a later station. The luggage compartment in the guard's coach indicates that there were uses for this rolling stock other than rush-hour commuter travel. I still remember the satisfying sound of the heavy doors slamming shut.

Three coaches would be a small train, sometimes this would be the right size for the service being provided, but then the engine would be rather smaller than that in the model. The modelled engine mostly would have been used for larger, faster, trains with up to ten coaches.

The engine modelled is that of the Southern Railway Schools class. These were very successful engines, popular with crews, and were comfortably capable of 80mph. There is even a record of a timed run at 95mph with four coaches. The full-size engine design has three cylinders, resulting in smooth, powerful, starts, and the accepted designation as the most powerful european design with the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement. All the engines were named after well-known schools in England, mainly in the area served by the Southern Railway. The Schools class engines have a special status for me since I managed during my teenage years to "cop" (i.e., see) every one of the forty built.

The Model Engine

The engine is an Aster model; the company is known by all in the relevant modelling community. The Schools class model was the joint-first engine produced by this Japanese cash register(!) company; the other first engine was of a Japanese prototype. The production was done very sensibly, with design advice from the British modelling community and using well-proved design principles. As a result, the model design was successful; these models do what they do quite brilliantly. The model engine has just two cylinders and uses a version of a simplified valve gear known as slip-eccentric. This gear needs a human push to get the engine to run in reverse, there is no reverse control. Which means that the only running control is the regulator - which is synonymous with "throttle", "gas-pedal", etc., for those unacquainted with British railway terminology.

I have fitted radio control to the engine, and this enables remote opening and shutting of the regulator whilst the engine is running. Such control is close to essential on my railway because of the gradients on the line. Uphill is no problem, but downhill results in a high-speed runaway with an open regulator. Mostly, people run model engines like this on tracks that are constructed to be very flat and level. This, of course, is not prototypical: real railways go up hills and down dales everywhere. However, flat and level results in an essentially constant load on the engine, which results in constant speed even without regulator control.

The engine takes a filling of 170ml water in the boiler, 75ml of methylated spirits (alcohol) in the fuel tank in the tender, a little steam oil in the lubricator, and runs for 20-40 minutes on this charge. There is no mechanism on this engine for adding water to the boiler whilst in steam. Methylated spirits can be added, but this is not necessary normally. The run ends when the fuel is exhausted, leaving a little residual water in the boiler.

The Model Coaches

The coaches were made by Pete Comley, who is well-known, currently active, and respected in the live steam community. These coaches are good representations of the full-size stock, but without detailed accuracy; which also is true of the engine.

I have modified the coaches (and the rest of the train) by fitting American style couplers. These are unobtrusive and much easier to use than the British style coupling system. Purists may object to such a change, but I justify it by pointing out my inordinate laziness. I have retained British buffers for the sake of appearance. In fact I replaced the originals with large oval buffers to prevent buffer-lock that was occurring in an S-curve on the line.

So, that is my model Green Train. It runs well even on the hilly NG&DR, it looks good, and it evokes a few peaceful memories for me. I hope that you enjoy The Green Train, too.

David Outteridge
September 2011

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last-modification-date:  7 Sep 2013