Brake Hoses

Denny Anspach <danspach@...>

For me, two of the great breakthroughs in the past few years in HO prototype scale freight car/train modeling have been the introduction of and the ensuing spread of more near-scale width .088" wheels, and the introduction of scale sized couplers that are both housed in near-scale sized coupler boxes, and perhaps best of all, allowing for the first time actual scale interval-distances between coupled cars (coupled Accumate Proto and Kadee #153 couplers- either/or- allow prototype normal striker/striker distances of 29-31", the Accumate slightly better in this regard). For many of us who are busy adapting these new advances, we are at the same time also discarding the magnetic glad hands- largely for terrific out-of-scale appearance reasons discussed here in the past, and inappropriate detailing.

BUT: As we admire and perhaps salivate (not me, but others who I will not embarrass) as a really neat cut of so-equipped handsome cars rolls by (read: a really good looking TRAIN), there is something wrong: Under our new closely-coupled cars, and beneath our scale sized locked couplers is now.......nothing, nothing at all in a location where on every legitimate train we have ever observed at lineside should be- locked brake hoses. Brake hoses are small, but they are visible!

Over the years, I have schizophrenic about brake hoses. If they come with the kit, I put them on, if they do not, or are not mentioned in the instructions (surprising how many do not even today), I may not install them, perhaps being secretly pleased to be spared a perceived futile chore.

Although I started 50 years ago with coarse A-C brake hoses made of small-wire insulation, plastic hoses came along at a fairly early date, and the latter have remained about the only type available. Some brass hoses have been produced by several suppliers, but on price alone these have been largely relegated to the brass market.

Well, over the years many, and probably most of my operating cars with such brake hoses lose them- broken all off in routine handling . The hoses litter the layout- Kadee, CalScale, Intermountain, Branchline- you name it. Sometimes its just the hose, sometimes the delicate bracket lies right there with it. Frustratingly, most of these hoses cannot be replaced on the model because the flimsy bracket has been destroyed or made unusable in the process, and replacement is a total pain. Very commonly, the hoses do not even last through the construction process- they litter the modeling bench instead.

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, I decided on "no more plastic brake hoses", only brass. Well, easier said than done, with sky high prices and no hobby supplier carrying them in sufficient numbers, if any at all. After some investigation, I learned that I could purchase the hoses in bulk quantity much cheaper from PSC (cast in Montana), and from Bowser (cast in China- in episodic batches). Although the terms were different, the end price was about the same, and I chose PSC "made in USA" (it was also much quicker- weeks instead of months).

Well, the packet of 50 shots of brass brake hoses, 12/shot. arrived (it was feather weight), and I have diligently working with and mounting these hoses on a backlog of cars.

Most plastic and brass HO air hoses stand out straight out from the valve at an angle outward, and also toward the center, and that is what I mostly see on otherwise fine models (including my own). Of course, these hoses never looked like this. Prototype hoses were flexible rubber with a heavy metal glad hand coupling on the end that pulled the hose into a curve with the end almost vertical to the ground- but not quite. The coupled hose also angled sharply toward the middle to couple with its companion from the next car, which caused the hose to assume a somewhat curled appearance with a compound S curve at the very end where the glad hands coupled. Even in the uncoupled state, the glad hand generally would not stick out further than somewhat less than the pulling face of the coupler.

Well, try replicating this appearance with the plastic hoses- sometimes you can get there almost, but usually not even close (in this regard, one will have an easier time with hoses alongside couplers with excessive striker/striker distance). In contradistinction the brass hoses can be bent to order, replicating the normal repose of the prototype brake hose.

At present, I am installing brass hoses much as I did plastic ones: using whatever brackets I can scrounge up- all plastic. The only ones commonly available are the Kadee's. They are very nice, honored by a very long production run (1959?), but as Tim O'Connor pointed out about a year ago, they are of an unusual type commonly used on log cars (which I believe is what Kadee used them for). However, you use what you have, and several resin kits from respected purveyors include them in their kits, even though it is doubtful from the evidence that the cars had anything like them to begin with.

We have a great need for after-market brake hose brackets that can be mounted in a substantial manner- of at least several different types.

Working with the brass hoses has not been all sunshine and roses. They are very delicate, and although they will undergo the bending that you want (and look great!), they will also snap off at the valve, unless you are very, very careful. What does careful mean?

1) Use the right tool. I use a pair of needle nose pliers with fully-rounded tapered jaws. Bending the hose over a sharp edge courts disaster.

2) Move very slowly. Although Tony T. will correct me and my un-sophistication in this regard, my thought has always been than in bending brass, moving slowly allows the molecules, etc. time to readjust to the new circumstances, whereas a fast move does not and a fracture occurs :-).

3) I mount the hoses with Barge cement, particularly in the existing hole in the bracket is larger than the "brake line hose"/handle of the hose (very common). This gives a very tough but flexible joint that I hope will withstand some bumps.

It is truly neat to observe a rolling string of nice detailed and weathered close coupled cars, all with quite visible and obvious brake hoses curling down and under the locked couplers, for all the world appearing to grasp its partner hose from the next car- uh-h -just like the real ones!.



Denny S. Anspach, MD

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