Monthly Archives: April 2016

Intro. for new collectors: European freight train consist

Advanced or experienced train people need not read this brief introduction about assembling a train consist, but for those new to European trains modeled by Marklin and others an introduction is a helpful way to get you started. First their are two types of freight trains designated as ‘unit’ or ‘mixed freight’. Unit trains are comprised of similar car types hauling one type of freight, unit trains of hoppers typically haul minerals such as gravel or coal as well as tank cars hauling liquid or gas. Mixed freight trains are made up of various car types: tank cars, container cars, flat cars with machinery loads and numerous others. In the United States freight trains may comprise rolling stock of various railroads as well as cross border cars from Canada, but in Europe freight trains frequently pass from one country’s border to the next and often times include cars that vary from the country of origin. European trains are shorter in length compared to a 100+ car train set you might see crossing the ‘Great Plains’ in the United States. In creating an accurate train consist based on European prototypes keep in mind correct Era’s attributed to cars by Marklin. And consider including not just German rolling stock in your train set.


Steamtown in Scranton, PA

Steamtown in Scranton, Pennsylvania is a National Historic Site situated on the former yard of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad. Building on the original collection assembled by F. Nelson Blount in the 1950’s and 60’s Steamtown today comprises a large roundhouse and 90 foot turntable and exhibits illustrating the history of steam locomotives in the United States.

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Steamtown National Historic Site was established October 30, 1986, it was deemed as the “most flagrant pork barrel project” using Park Service funds by many including Kenneth R. Clark of the Chicago Tribune. The project contributed millions of dollars into the depressed coal mining region of Scranton, PA and without it this important site would not be preserved today. A nominal fee of $7.00 for adults allows entrance to the grounds and exhibits which are sequenced along the spokes of the roundhouse, they eventually lead to the workshops with numerous steam locomotives in for repair and restoration.

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Set of pilot wheels and side-rods awaiting installation.

This is an educational experience, but one can also be inspired by the impressive mass of walking next to the behemoth locomotives including a Union Pacific ‘Big Boy’.


A display locomotive not to be missed has cutaway sections revealing the fundamental engineering of a steam locomotive and tender.

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Displayed outdoors is a rare diesel for this museum, an A-A F7 diesel of the Reading Railroad.



A separate museum located across the parking lot of Steamtown is the Electric City Trolley Museum, if you time it right you can take on ride on one of the trolleys for $2.00!

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A rare sight is this electric shunting locomotive, it is part of the Electric City Trolley Museum’s collection and displayed just outside the museum.


Playing its part with the railroad theme of this museum are the ‘T’ rails used in the parking lot’s perimeter fence.


A day at the museum can include rides on a steam train and electric trolley. Trains don’t run everyday, you will need to plan ahead by checking the schedules.

In Pennsylvania we are lucky to have a number of excellent train museums, in future posts we will be visiting others including a narrow gauge railroad and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

How A Steam Locomotive Works


Every once in awhile a book needs to be mentioned that relates to railroading history. One such book is one I found at the book shop at “Steamtown” in Scranton, PA. Aptly titled How A Steam Locomotive Works – A New Guide is a fine textbook on all functional aspects of steam locomotion by the author Dominic Wells published in 2015 by Ian Allan Publishing. The author begins with a simple description of creating steam in a pot before embarking on a clever description of adapting it to train locomotion, a simple but highly complex system of engineering. Expertly written with numerous illustrations this book is the reference guide for all interested in steam trains. More than 150 pages covering every important function and design of the steam locomotive. I highly recommend this book above any other on this topic.