A prototype bible

 

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While I was doing
research for The Sonkrai Tribunal, I came across a couple of references to the fact that the Japanese engineers used the Merriman Wiggin method of building railways. (Many sources misspelled it as
Merriam like the American dictionary, which is why I initially had trouble tracking it down).

During the research for the book, it was just a passing reference. Now that I am building my own model railway and working on the bridges I wanted to find out more about that manual. A Google check came up with little (especially when I used Merriam instead of Merriman). But a handful of copies of the book showed up on Abebooksas the American Civil Engineers Handbook
by Thaddeus Merriman and Thos. H. Wiggin. First published in 1911, it was issued by John Wiley up until (as far as I can tell from the editions on Abebooks, the middle 1950s).

The average price for the book was $15 and one of the dealers was in Canada, so I placed the order.

When the handbook arrived, it was immediately clear why it was the key document for the Imperial Japanese Army engineers. It is the hardcover equivalent of a trade paperback, thick, with 2,263 pages, but shaped so that it could fit into a large pocket (such as a military fatigue pocket), pouch or small shoulder bag.


It was obviously written not only for an civil engineer working in North America but anywhere in the world (it has conversion tables for local currencies and local measuring methods, for example, in Japan and China).

For the model railroader, the book is often far too detailed, but on the other hand it goes beyond the railway reference books. The main reason I bought it is because the Japanese engineers used it as the manual for building trestle bridges. And I found that it gives some hints that are not found in many of the trestle books aimed at modelers. One example that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

n high railway trestles on curves over the centrifugal
forces of the moving train should be further guarded against by
additional braces on the convex side of the trestle.

There are several railroad related chapters. How about water tanks? We buy them, build kits or
scratch build and usually pluck them beside the tracks. It goes into great detail about the problems in those water tanks, like hard water and even mud and the damage that could do a steam locomotive. It says, for example, in 1873, the use of hard or muddy water cost $750 per locomotive per year.â€

And this, again from the late nineteenth century, made me change my layout plans by moving
my water tanks closer to the river bank.

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The El Paso and Southern
Railway found that even after chemical treatment of hard water supply
on a division 128 miles long, the engine tonnage was reduced 25% and
the cost of the locomotive was maintenance was increased $1000 per
year per engine over the normal amount. To avoid this, a waterworks
system from a supply of pure mountain water 130 miles distant was
constructed at a cost of $1,300,000. Even this expenditure was proven
to be amply justified.”

Want
to know the wind resistance of a locomotive and total train resistance and the problem of oscillation? It’s there. So is the cost of building a rail line in the 1920s.

There are plans for dams, aqueducts, canals, shafts, tunnels, harbour and river works (including docks, wharves and retaining walls). Steel bridges and concrete bridges each merit their own chapter along with trestles. And if you want a breakwater on your layout, you’ll find it there as well. The book has a lot a rivet counter would love, but if you can get a cheap copy, any modeler would find it useful.