Re: Random Train Consists

Thomas M. Olsen <tmolsen@...>


In regard as to how to make up consists that are accurate for any particular railroad that is being modeled, I would think that it depends on the type of operation that you are seeking. If it is branchline service with a lot of industrial switching, mainline service with multiple industry sidings which necessitates both through and local freight services, then you have to key the cards to that service. This means that at the originating terminals, yard crews will have to build trains keyed to the industries the locals are going to work and block through cars for the intermediate terminals and end terminals on the layout.

Card card systems often give you one choice or another. The system that several of the fellows here use in point to point terminal operation with smaller intermediate terminals is to have destination routing cards for each and every car on the layout. These are not keyed to individual industries, but to the terminals in the direction they are going to, with some points beyond the end points of the layout. For instance, a friend of mine, Charlie Carangi, models the PRR operation (both freight & passenger) between between Potomac Yard, Arlington, Va. (w/connections from SRR, ACL, SBD, C&O, B&O), Washington Union Terminal (DC) and points north and West. The time frame is late 1952. The north end is Edgemoor Yard, Wilmington and off-stage Philadelphia hold & turning loops. To the west, Harrisburg (Frt. Yard west of the Station) Harrisburg Passenger Station and points west (Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago & St. Louis) in off-stage holding & turning loops.

Car destination cards are marked with a series of destinations for all of these routings and the intermediate terminals between Harrisburg and Pot Yard and Edgemoor. No car is assigned to a specific industry. Train operators are taught when beginning to operate that common sense is to prevail un car placement at industry locations that generally receive various types of equipment to load and unload. Each card has boxes to accept a penciled checkmark opposite the routing to show where it is destined to and the cards are laminated to protect the surface when the boxes are checked, so that when all the boxes have been checked, the markings can be removed so that the card be reused. The cards all have a rip track destination on them. At each major terminal, the incoming trains are either humped (yes it can be done at Charlie's HBG yard) or flat switched to the various designated destination tracks for their next turn. The yardmaster (who at various times can also be the engineman if there is a crew shortage on operating nights) handles the cards and breaks up the incoming trains and makes up the outgoing trains.

Most of the freight trains departing from the major yards at HBG, Pot Yard, or Edgemoor are symboled freights with designated end terminals based on the Pennsy freight schedules listed in the Divisional Employee Timetables for his period. Local freights are run as needed. A large number of passenger trains are operated north and south on timetable authority also, with the Washington-Chicago sections of the Liberty Limited and the Buffalo sections of the Dominion Express.

The use of end terminals and intermediate yard locations eliminates the confusion of what goes where and make car distribution over the railroad totally random. There have been nights when we have run out of cabin cars (cabooses to the great unwashed!) and had to add several to the consist to deadhead to the other end of the layout, or run a cab hop if both power and cabins are clustered at the wrong end. The worst thing to do is have trains ready, but cut for power and cabins. This card operation also lets equipment get to the shops for routine maintenance in a random cycle. Of course, if there is something radically wrong with any piece of equipment, it is removed immediately.

I do not know how many of the fellows on this list operate this way, but with close to 80 locomotives on the layout (electric's, diesel and stream), 40 plus cabin cars, and close to 700 freight cars, it gets really busy. All terminals and interlockings are manned tower locations that have routing capability, there are five wak-around road cabs that allow any operator to run the entire length of the railroad due to auto/semi-automatic stepper and cab signal control with automatic train stop imposed over the cab signal circuit. All the main yards and terminals have walk-around yard cabs to control the switching and train movements. This layout is not equipped with DCC and to rewire it at this late date would not be practical.

The train crew size is determined by the type of operation, with road trains with just an engineer, and local and yard crews with an engineer and conductor. On departure, the engineman is given his waybills (the cards on a loop with a spring clip) by the yardmaster. The cards are preblocked for intermediate set-offs in station order. At the end terminal, these are surrendered to the inbound terminal yardmaster.

I have found that this type of card operation is a lot easier than playing with individual car cards and their little folders. It allows the road crews to concentrate on getting their trains over the road without having to sort the cards. Basically, this was the way Pennsy road freights operated between terminals. They were given the waybills at the departure terminal, the train being blocked for the intermediate terminals where switching was to be done. These bills were also accompanied by what was called the "CT-2" which described whether or not there were equipment restrictions in the train. These included excessive height or width (A.K.A "Baobabs") restrictions which could determine speed and routing, or speed and routing restrictions for cars which were restricted for other than size (i.e. other types of lading or possibly shop cars going to a repair terminal). No train could leave without the "CT-2." Symbol freight trains had schedules, but these were for information and did not have timetable authority. The only First Class Trains were passenger trains with defined schedules. All freight trains were "extra" trains.

When I was a member of the "Silver Valley" club in South Jersey in the late '60s and early '70s, we had several members (read "Tourists" rather than Prototype Modelers") tell those of us who were interested in operation that you could not run a model railroad like a real one. Our advice was that they were in the wrong club and that they should take up modeling airplanes, but if they stuck around long enough, we would show them how it was done. It is simple when you apply prototype operation to train makeup and operation. As a now retired train dispatcher whom I worked with on the Harrisburg-Philadelphia side once said, "some guys make an easy job HARD!"

Tom Olsen
7 Boundary Road, West Branch
Newark, Delaware, 19711-7479
(302) 738-4292

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