Telltale construction

I would like to build a few telltales as warnings at tunnel approaches on my layout. Now comes the (I hope not too dumb) question. What is
the hanging part of the telltale made of? Pictures of model telltales that I have seen are ambiguous at best, and the few prototype photos I've seen are so blurry and distant that they are useless for my purposes. I would think that lengths of rope would be the most logical material, but I thought I'd ask before doing something very unrealistic. Thanks in advance for any replies.
Michael Valinis
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says...

Your thinking is correct, just lengths of plain ole rope.
fl@liner
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On 6/7/2008 4:38 PM fl@liner spake thus:

Just curious: has anyone here ever been hit in the head/face by a telltale? That, after all, was their function. (Me, I've never even seen one in its native habitat.)
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No, hitting you in the face was *never* their intended function.
Since anyone on a cartop who was facing in the train's direction of travel would have seen not only the telltale but the upcoming obstruction itself long before anything could hit them in the face; the telltale was intended only to alert men who were walking the cartops facing towards the caboose, and who therefore had their backs turned to the upcoming bridge girder, tunnel portal, or whatever.
Thus the dangling ropes would brush your shoulders and perhaps the back of your head as you passed them, but would have no chance of hitting you in the face unless you happened to suddenly spin around at exactly the right (wrong) moment.
We had two telltales in the town where I grew up, protecting both ends of the shortest truss bridge on the entire S.P. system [1], and the train never crossed that bridge at anything over 10 MPH anyway, so I doubt that there could have been much pain in any case, since the ropes appeared to be something on the order of 3/8" hemp with a knot tied in each dangling end to prevent their unraveling.
-Pete
[1] The truss bridge is still there. It wasn't considered worth cutting up to scrap. The telltales -and the tracks themselves- have been gone now for over 40 years.
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The ones in my town looked to be made of something like 3/8" or 1/2" hempen ropes spaced about 8" or 10" apart, with a knot tied near each lower end to prevent the rope from unraveling. Since ours had been hanging there ever since God first made dirt, the ropes were frayed, ratty looking, and were absolutely filthy from the steam engine exhaust that blasted up onto them each time a train passed. Dirty gray-black would be a good color; and darker towards the parts where the smokestack passed directly beneath them.
On the Southern Pacific at least, the wooden gibbets that supported the ropes were painted the same Tuscan red that S.P. used on most of their freight cars and cabeese, but for some reason they were painted white from ground level up to about 4' high. (Night time visibility?) Those support beams looked to be around 10"x10" in cross-section, but I'm working on a 50-year-old memory here...

Believe it or not, telltales are difficult to model realistically. The frames are a snap, but if you use thread to duplicate the dangling ropes, it always seems to want to hang in a slight curve rather than extending straight down as did the prototypes, and if you use wire instead it ends up looking like, well, wire.
Should you find an easy solution to this problem you will no doubt be awarded the plaudits of a grateful newsgroup.
-Pete
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P. Roehling wrote: <snip>

Try wax or shoe polish.
Dan, U.S. Air Force, retired
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How about making the "ropes" out of thin brass rod (like 0.006")? I seem to recall that I've seen telltales produced in photoetched brass. That saves the work of stringing all the "ropes".
Peteski
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Peter W. wrote:

Brass wire might work. I was using my experience making dioramas a long time ago. The nice thing about using wax or shoe polish is you can heat the waxed item to reshape it. Kiwi brown used to make nice manila rope. Just heat the tin until it melts, drag the thread through it, wipe off excess with a paper towel and voi ci you have a rope. If you need a specific colour look for cheap lipstick. The cheaper brands have a higher percentage of wax.
Dan, U.S. Air Force, retired
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wrote : : >I would like to build a few telltales as warnings at tunnel approaches : > on my layout. Now comes the (I hope not too dumb) question. What is : > the hanging part of the telltale made of? : <Snip>
: Believe it or not, telltales are difficult to model realistically. The : frames are a snap, but if you use thread to duplicate the dangling ropes, it : always seems to want to hang in a slight curve rather than extending : straight down as did the prototypes, and if you use wire instead it ends up : looking like, well, wire. : : Should you find an easy solution to this problem you will no doubt be : awarded the plaudits of a grateful newsgroup. :
I use a trick for getting the curl out of the line I use to make rigging for my full rigged ship modeling. For that I made a rack where I could hang multiple threads, but a closet doorway will do for a few threads to make tell-tales.
Take length of thread (18 - 24in is handy to work with) and run it through a cake of bee's wax.
Attach a 1or 2oz weight to one end of the line
Use a push pin on the other end to hang it from the inside sill of a closet doorway. (SWMBO doesn't like holes on the outside sill). You want the weight free hanging.
Leave it for 12 - 24hrs to let the spool curl, and natural twist come out.
Take it down, and cut into the lengths you need for your tell-tale.
Len
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Thanx, Len!
I'll give that a try!
-Pete
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My thanks to everyone who replied. You've given me exactly the information I needed. By the way, when I stiffened some thread on my water tank rigging, I brushed it with some flat clear lacquer and gently pulled it into position until it stiffened. I've also used beeswax and white glue with similar results -- not 100% satisfactory, but certainly more realistic than untreated hread.
Michael Valinis
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Michael Valinis wrote:

Another question, which I have not seen mentioned in any of the replies yet: How far ahead of a low clearance object would a telltale be placed?
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It varied. I've got pix that show a telltale in Tehachapi distanced aproximately 120' feet from the relevant tunnel portal, but one of the two in our town lay diagonally all the way across a four-laned center-divided highway from the bridge it protected; a distance of closer to 100 yards. Had they spaced it the same as the one in Tehachapi, it would have stood right in the middle of Hwy 99!
Since the purpose of the telltales was to give workers on the cartops warning of an upcoming obstruction, I suppose you could space them by counting the time it takes one of your faster trains to cover the distance to the obstruction. Ten seconds seems like it would likely be enough time to turn around, see the upcoming low clearance, and then duck...
-Pete
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