Monday, 9 January 2012

Improving Trolley Poles: Part 1

As you have probably all gathered by now my intention is to model an electric freight line inspired by the North Shore Line. This inspiration came from reading a couple of books. The first, Not Only Passengers: How the Electric Railways Carried Freight, Express and Baggage by Roy G. Benedict and James R. McFarlane, published by the Central Electric Railfans' Association, as Bulletin 129. The second, North Shore Line Interurban Freight by Edward M. DeRouin, by Pixel Publishing as part of Midwestern Rail Series Number Two.

As a result I want to run freight motors, and the North Shore had a few unique freight motors, which make nice signature locomotives for my layout. However, the North Shore freight train crews also had the habit of running with both poles up; done I understand to reduce the strain on the overhead when drawing large amounts of power when starting heavy freight trains. They also had the habit of swinging both poles to hang over the same end of their four GE freight motors #452, 453, 454 & 457.

This causes a problem when trying to replicate this on the models. So the first picture show a CNS&M Steeple Cab Imported by MTS Imports, Inc. I've replace the MTS poles with Eatman Custom Engineering poles I got off eBay. These are effectively a modern version of the Suydam poles, with better wheels/sliders.

 As you can see when down there is plenty of room between the two poles when down.

The second picture show a CNS&M Steeple Cab Imported by The Car Works with MTS poles showing that they too can be run with twin poles collecting current.

However, when down these poles foul each other as can be seen here. Not so good.

They also foul each other when both up facing in opposite directions. An unlikely situation, but I show it just the same.

Here is an over head view showing the biggest problem of all, which is that one can't stow both the the poles down on one end, a typical North Shore Line practice by the train crews of the freight locomotives.

The poles I have to hand are  as follows from left to right; a Suydam original, an Eatman Custom Engineering pole, a Car Works pole, two MTS poles (one modified to two springs), and finally a PSC pole that I have modified by shortening it and replacing the pole with a scale thickness guitar wire.

Order reversed for the top view.

Both of the modified poles to the left of the picture are still too wide to do the whole both poles pulled down on one end thing that the North Shore Line freight train crews did. The rather lovely Car Works poll suffers from being too long, which prevents the prototypical functioning I require, and for those of an inclination to such matters, still scales at about twice the length of the prototype..

Plan at this point is to go back and rebuild the PSC kit again. I've already cut it in half to shorten it, but I reckon I can take another couple of millimetres off its length, and more importantly I plan to narrow the width of the end. Hopefully, this will allow two poles to be pulled down on one end.

Oh yes. Made my replacement pole too long, forgot I was working in 3.5mm to the foot, not 4mm. Oops.
Edited Jan 10th for clarification.


  1. Good morning, Ashley! I see the problem now that you've gone to some length to document it. I don't know what poles the NS actually used on these motors, but in the model world, you need to use vertically sprung poles, that is, the spring runs from the base up the length of the pole to a bracket. There's an illustration on the Q Car Company web site - it's O scale, but you'll see what I mean. Horizontally sprung poles just won't work with the pivot points so close together as on these models. Other than the Bowser and Miniatures by Eric poles, I'm not sure about any other vertically sprung poles in HO. I'm Patrick Waldron on the HO Traction group. None of the choices on the drop down box except "anonymous" seemed to work for me.

  2. Hi Patrick. Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment. Blogger drop down menu is beyond me. I thought if you were registered with any of the choices you could post with a name.

    I shall be doing some more work on modifying the PSC trolley over the next few days or so. Keep an eye out for updates.

  3. Ashley: One solution would be to use two different type poles. Poles made for PCC cars have the pivot at the rear so they don't foul the cowling. one of these at the rear would at least reduce some of the problems. Since mass (spring tension)cannot be scaled HO poles must be larger. Bob Dietrich

  4. I like the Car Works and the PSC poles. Have you tried the Bowser pole...?

    Andy Gautrey

  5. I think the north shore used a pole with the pivot at thefront and the springs pulled to the back. Not all poles had a rear pivot . This was pointed out in an early MR article on trolley construction. I will have to search for the article.

  6. I'm of the mind to carry on tinkering with the PSC poles for the moment. I intend to slightly shorten it a bit more, and make it narrower into the bargain. With a bit of fettling to the trolley pole centres this ought to get me where I want to go.

    I've ordered a couple of Bowser poles to try out, and Andy Reichart has suggested using David Voice trolley pole kits, made for British trams.

  7. It looks GREAT and a lot cleaner than the ones I remember as a kid. My dad worked for the NS as a brakeman on the freight side and as a conductor on the passenger side. I don't remember ever having ridden on the Electroliner but I do remember riding the other passenger cars all the time between Milwaukee and Chicago. I remember pulling the seat backs back to reorient the seat to face forward at the end of the line in Chicago for our return to Milwaukee for my dad. A long time ago.