Joined: Wed Dec 08 2004, 09:01PM Location: Portland, OR Posts: 2112
TOPIC THIS POST: Train Procedures
Your operators will find getting a Train Procedure Sheet for each train they operate to be extremely helpful. In this post, we discuss what a Train Procedure Sheet is, how it's used, and give you some examples from my Siskiyou Line layout.
EXAMPLE TRAIN PROCEDURE SHEET Here's an example Train Procedure Sheet for the Coos Bay Hauler East, one of the regular daily trains we run on my HO Siskiyou Line during an op session.
(click to enlarge)
Notice the sheet lists the train name, how often it runs, and then a town-by-town description of what the train does. The form also conveniently has two blank track warrant on it. Everything the conductor needs, right at his fingertips!
If we look at the top of the train procedures sheet, we see:
Leave Coos Bay with mid-train helper (if needed)
Pick up cars for Roseburg/Medford/Eugene (RO/ME/EU)
Drop cars for Roseburg (RO)
Pickup cars for Eugene (EU)
Add mid-train helper (if needed)
Add water cars at head-end (April - October only)
Drop mid-train helper
Drop water cars (April - October only)
The train crew can just follow this sheet and they know pretty much everything they need to do along the way with their train.
THE TRAINS WE RUN Here's a list of the trains we regularly run during an op session on the Siskiyou Line.
(click to enlarge) NOTE: The red indicates to the Roseburg Yard Master when he needs to panic. This means this train either terminates or starts its run in his yard at Roseburg.
Each of the trains on this "train call list" has a Train Procedure Sheet for it. From this sheet we can tell what time on the fast clock to call each train (give crews about 10 real minutes advance notice), and then they get a clipboard with the train procedure sheet on it. Using the sheet, they know exactly what their train is expected to do, so once they are in place and have tested they have control of their train with the DCC throttle, the conductor calls the dispatcher and requests a track warrant.
Once the crew has their track warrant giving them authorization from the dispatcher to run over a section of the railroad, they then run their train and follow the instructions on the train procedure sheet. All pretty easy!
Joined: Wed Dec 08 2004, 09:01PM Location: Portland, OR Posts: 2112
TOPIC THIS POST: Helper Operations
For me, one of the more fun parts of prototypically-based operations is running helpers. Anything we can do to lengthen a run on our already too-short mainlines the better. And running over a grade does that admirably, and adds a real "railroady" flavor as well.
Running helpers adds a lot of fun operating interest to a model railroad's operations
In this post, I'm describing how we run helpers on my HO Siskiyou Line.
WHEN ARE HELPERS NEEDED? So how to you know when a certain train needs helpers? You have to get some idea of the tractive effort of your locos and what they can pull, and then compare that to the specific grade in question to figure out when helpers are needed.
On my Siskiyou Line, I've come up with a simplified motive power chart:
As you can see, the chart says how many cars a given loco model can pull, either on level track or on a "grade". We define a grade as any major helper grade on the layout -- which in this case is Rice Hill. Climbing out of Myrtle Point to Roseburg on the coast branch also applies. In both of these cases, the ruling (steepest) grade is 2.5%.
Notice also that first generation power, which has lower horsepower ratings, have lower ratings on this chart compared with second generation power. This simulates how things work on the prototype, since on the model SD9's ought to be able to pull about the same as SD40s. Adding this first and second generation horsepower element creates some prototypical situations where a given train powered by only first generation units will use more units, just like the prototype.
To see how we use this chart, let's assume we have a train of 21 cars in Roseburg. How many second generation units does it take to get over Rice Hill? Answer: three (3 x 7 cars on grade = 21 cars total).
It's also a requirement in the summer months (by the order of the US Forest Service) that all trains over Rice Hill have two water cars in tow. So if we need to add two water cars to our 21 car train, making it now 23 cars, how many second generation units do we need? Answer: four.
Since we run with three unit loco consists most of the time on the point, we will add the fourth loco as a helper two thirds of the way back in the train. This is consistent with the SP practice of putting the helpers about two-thirds of the way back in the train -- two thirds back in a 23 car train is about 15 cars back.
HELPER OPERATIONS GUIDE With DCC, the helper engineer has independent control of the helper loco set, which adds immensely to the fun and realism of helper operations.
Typically on eastbounds, we cut the helpers into the train in Roseburg, along with adding the water cars. Then once the train makes it over the hill and goes down the other side — it reaches the bottom of Rice Hill at the town of Cottage Grove, where we cut out the helpers and the water cars. This makes Cottage Grove a busy place, since westbound trains going up up over Rice Hill also ADD water cars and helpers here!
Brandon Thompson cuts the helpers out of a train at Cottage Grove
Also because of the way track warrants work, many trains get a "proceed from" and not a "work between", which means their caboose cannot back up without violating their track warrant. With a little planning, it's possible to stop the train such that cutting out the helpers means you don't have to back up your caboose. Just another of those fun little challenges to running helpers prototypically!
To run helpers with minimal problems, we recommend the following to all helper engineers: 1. The helper engineer starts gently pushing first, removing all coupler slack in the cars. 2. Head end applies power until the train begins to move. 3. Keep the coupler compression just ahead of the helpers. 4. Avoid abrupt changes in speed, since that can cause derailments.
When running helpers, the helper set starts out gently pushing first, then the head end power begins applying power until the train moves.
The helper engineer manages the “feel” of his part of the train by keeping the coupler compression (no coupler slack) just in front of the helper set. That way, he’s sharing the load with the head end power more or less equally.
In all cases the head end and the helper need to work together to not make abrupt changes in speed. It’s best if one or the other needs to make a change in their throttle setting that they first inform the other loco set engineer of their intentions before they do it, so they can coordinate the change in speed.
Here’s the common problems you can see if the two loco sets do not coordinate their speed settings:
Stringlining – if the helper speed drags too much, the head-end can pull cars off to the inside on curves
Buckling – if the helper pushes too hard it can cause cars to “skew” off the track in accordion fashion.
Stringlining seems to be the most common, with buckling much less frequent. By the way, stringlining on curves can also happen in any train (helpers or not) if car wheel drag is too great.
HELPER TRACK WARRANT PROCEDURES Helpers don’t need a track warrant when they are part of a train. Since helpers are part of the train when they are pushing, they do not need a separate track warrant. Helpers only need a track warrant when running light, then they are treated just like any other train.
If the helpers are on the wrong side of the hill, the dispatcher may find it easier to just put them in the next train going in the desired direction, even if they don’t need helpers. That way, no track warrant is needed.
Finally, when running light back over a hill, helpers will need water cars, which is yet another reason why running helpers as part of a train (whether needed or not) makes life much simpler for the dispatcher.
Joined: Tue Nov 15 2005, 06:35AM Location: Perth - Australia Posts: 36
Joe, I'm a little intriged by your tractive effort guide. Prototype railroads won't give a 4 axle unit such as a GP40 the same rating as a 6 axle unit as say a SD40. GP's are good for running on the flat, but when it comes to the hills SD's are king. (I'm leaving out GP50's/60's which had a more advanced wheel slip system). I would have imagined that the only service a GP40 would have on the Siskiyou line would be hauling intermodal trains.
Regards Tim Tim Shenton Perth - Western Australia NCE DCC user.
Joined: Wed Dec 08 2004, 09:01PM Location: Portland, OR Posts: 2112
TOPIC THIS POST: Yard Operations
Some simple but effective procedures around yard operations helps keep things running smoothly in an op session and adds to the "railroady" flavor of things. Many of these procedures are based on prototype practices, so they can't help but increase the realism of your op sessions.
YARD LIMITS When a train is operating within yard limits, it does not need dispatcher authority to move, it only needs verbal permission from the yardmaster. The engineer operates the train at reduced speed, and keeps an eye out for opposing traffic within the yard while operating with yard limits.
What the yardmaster says goes within yard limits. A train must get general permission to operate within the yard limits from the yardmaster, and then if they need to make any significant change in their planned move through the yard (like the need to take a different route through the yard) they must clear it with the yardmaster first. Routine switching operations (dropping/picking up helpers, dropping/picking up water cars) don't need yardmaster permission.
Roseburg Yard Limits on the HO Siskiyou Line (Click to enlarge)
On the prototype, yard limits signs indicate where the yard limits begin, since it is very important that everyone clearly understand where the yard limit boundaries are. On my HO Siskiyou, we have run for several years with everyone knowing the yard limits on the east were at the North Umpqua Bridge and on the west were at Winston Junction (see image above).
However of late, there has been some questions from my operators about precisely where the Roseburg yard limits are, so like the prototype, I'm putting up yard limit signs to avoid any further confusion (should have done it long ago, actually ).
Yard Limits sign example on the prototype SP
Each railroad has their specific methods of marking yard limits, and they also varied through the years so consult your specific prototype to model how they mark yard limits. On the SP, the sign is on the engineer's side of the tracks, and it uses two yellow vanes mounted on a post at an angle to form a broad yellow "V" on the post. As you can see from the image above, the sign looks kind of like a "Y", clearly marking the yard limits boundary.
Here's the east Roseburg yard limits on my HO Siskiyou Line.
(Click to enlarge)
MORE YARD OPERATION PROCEDURES When road crews or the dispatcher needs to talk to the yardmaster, we use a different radio channel than the dispatcher channel. This allows having a private conversation with the yardmaster and not disturb the road crews or the dispatcher.
As a road crew approaches yard limits, they get on the yard channel and request permission from the Yardmaster to run through the yard. The yardmaster will then give the road crew instructions, like "run through the yard on track 2" and they will also converse about any cars they need to drop in the yard or any cars the yardmaster may have to add to their train.
The yardmaster also has a chart of trains that originate from his yard and their maximum size in number of cars. This way the yardmaster will build a train that will fit in the passing sidings and not drive the dispatcher nuts.
I also made sure and include a runaround track on each end of the yard, to allow the yard switcher to runaround cars easily when needed.
And finally, I included a long switching lead off the west end of the yard (see Roseburg Yard on my track plan), to allow switching the yard without fouling the main on that end of the yard. Because of this switching lead on the west end of the yard, the yardmaster works the yard from that end, since the lead makes it very easy to switch the yard.
It may need to be the subject of a separate thread, but would it be possible for someone to provide a "step by step" description of yardmaster and yard switcher operations, from the arrival of a train through classification and ending with departure? The books and articles I've read describe bits and pieces of car classification, etc. but I get the feeling that it's such an "obvious" topic to these authors that they do not need feel a need to give detailed descriptions. And I suspect some of the descriptions are more theoretical than practical . Just walking through a "typical" set of yard operations on your line would be useful.
For instance, does the yard switcher immediately pull the caboose off an arriving train, or can it wait til later? Does the switcher immediately pull a train off the A/D tracks and classify it, or shoves it somewhere for later? Do you pull the entire string of cars and push them around for classification, or just grab a few at a time to classify? How do you keep track of which track is being used for what?
I know operations will vary based on the track layout, etc., but it would be nice to see an "a-b-c" description of movements and the decisions being made on an operating model yard for those of us (read: ME) who have never been involved with the real thing.
Joined: Wed Feb 01 2006, 01:57PM Location: Portland, OR Posts: 342
I'm afraid the answers to your questions are all "it depends".
It depends how busy a yard is and what the YM is expecting to show up whether a train is immediately taken from the A/D track.
It depends how long the switch lead (drill track) is whether an entire cut is pulled.
It depends whether the caboose is on the switch leaded end of the yard or not whether it is removed before the cut is pulled or after.
It depends on the current needs for classification (as in "what do i have to build in the immediate future?" which tracks get assigned to hold which cuts. Other factor include how many cars there are for a block and the lengths of the tracks available (short blocks on short tracks, long blocks on long tracks). Joe's Roseberg yard has long tracks so track length isn't too much of a factor.
I'm afraid there are really no hard and fast rules that I'm aware of that would govern these things.
Mostly it's a matter of experience (and doing it wrong enough to figure what isn't wrong).
Superintendent of Nearly Everything The Bear Creek and South Jackson Railway Co. Hillsboro, OR Bigwig Bear Creek & South Jackson Railway Co. http://www.bcsjrr.com