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Clippard Minimatics-A Good Brake For The ‘Possum Flats & Eastern

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(Originally Published on or Prior to 1998)

MINIATURE RAILROAD RELYS ON PNEUMATIC BRAKE SYSTEM

Down in Maitland, Florida, just north of Orlando, the ‘Possum Flats & Eastern Railroad runs every day-safely, economically and with very little maintenance.  It doesn’t run very far-only around 3,800 feet of track-but it serves its purpose well.

While this central Florida area is better known for an attraction known as Walt Disney World, the ‘Possum Flats & Eastern has become quite an attraction of its own, primarily because it is not a commercial project but rather a community service-and a labor of love for Mr. John L. Cassady.

Mr. Cassady is the founder, builder and “engineer” of the ‘Possum Flats & Eastern and a man who’s had a love for railroading for many years.  His 1/8th built-to-scale steam locomotive and train attracts school, civic and service groups throughout the area and can presently carry up to 40 persons, mostly youngsters, at a time.

Just where does Clippard fit into the ‘Possum Flats picture?  Mr. Cassady says, “It became quite obvious some years ago that, as the train became longer, the locomotive could still pull the cars-but there was no real assurance that it could stop safely and properly.  The brake system then in use was inadequate, and a new type of stopping power was needed.

“A chance remark from a friend led me to contact Clippard Instrument Laboratory, Inc., in Cincinnati to determine what could be worked out in a pneumatic braking system for the locomotive tender.  Eventually, we dealt with Clippard’s Tampa distributor, Gulf Controls, to secure the necessary valves, cylinders, fittings and other components to create the right system.  The application proved so successful that we have since equipped the cars with the identical air brake system.”

Mr. Cassady adds that the Clippard air brake system has now been in use since last September and has not only solved all brake problems, but has also increased the safety factor immeasurably.

An air pressure source-actually an air tank car- furnishes air for the entire system.  The tank is charged with 130 lbs. of air, regulated down to 55 lbs. for the brakes and to 18 lbs. for a sand drop and bell system.  While the air tank car has a capacity of 20 gallons of air, Mr. Cassady notes that the maximum amount of air has never been fully used during a single days’ operation.

“This low air consumption obviously speaks well for the entire pneumatic application,” Mr. Cassady adds.

He emphasizes that, along with safety, the two other key features of the entire system are simplicity and low maintenance.  “Through our old vacuum-type approach, it was necessary to incorporate the use of fulcrums and levers to secure enough braking power.  Eventually, these would wear at pivotal points and would require rebushing in only a matter of months.  With Clippard components, there is simply direct expansion of the air cylinder against the brake beams, and thence to the brake shoes, eliminating any need for fulcrums or levers,” Mr. Cassady states.

He demonstrates the stopping power of the pneumatic system by running the locomotive and 11 cars down a one percent grade at half-throttle (approximately 10 m.p.h).  Leaving the throttle in this position, and applying the brakes, the train can be brought to a safe, easy stop.  “While we don’t necessarily make a practice of this, because we have experienced broken brake shoes, it does serve to prove the excellent stopping capability of the system,” Mr. Cassady says.

“Interestingly enough,” Mr. Cassady adds, “other miniature trains are now being fitted with similar systems using Clippard Minimatic components.  There’s one in the Miami area, another in Sanford, Florida and yet another in Atlanta.  And, in Dallas, a diesel-type locomotive is using a pneumatic brake system.”

As mentioned, Mr. Cassady worked closely with Gulf Controls (and primarily Glenn Bosley) to get the system designed and operating successfully.  It should also be noted that all photos in this article were made by Mr. Jim Cassady, son of the founder.