Last time I discussed freight operations and hinted at passenger operations. This time I am writing about the passenger operations.
Passenger trains operated on a regular schedule (as opposed to steam runs which are popular today) can be of three types. There are commuter trains, which run between business districts and the suburbs where the workers live; accommodations, which stop at each station along the route; and limiteds, which have only specified stops to make between the origination and destination points.
Commuter trains have been around for some time. The Missouri Pacific, at one time, ran a commuter train on its line out of St. Louis through Kirkwood. Today, Metrolink operates between Lindbergh Airport and downtown St. Louis with expansion plans into Illinois, South County and St. Charles. In Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, to name a few cities, trains are run on schedule and get the worker to his job. Unlike Metrolink, some of these lines must compete with freight trains. Such operations can be a source of fun if modeled.
Accommodation trains are the locals of the passenger trains. They stop at each station and allow a passenger the ability to stop at an out of the way town where the limiteds only breeze through. These trains have a lower priority and do not run very quickly. Sometimes these are mixed trains and the transportation might be in a coach or a combine tacked on the end of a local, or even a caboose. These add interesting operations problems when trying to run a railroad.
Limiteds are the name trains we all think of when we think of passenger trains. These are the trains with the biggest power, newest equipment and best reputation on the railroad. Management notices whenever the train is late because this train is the pride of the company. It might consist of some baggage cars, mail cars, a railway post office car, some coaches, sleeping cars, a diner, and an observation car.
In all trains, the “head end” cars (baggage, mail and rpo) are usually on the front of the train. The diner is usually in the middle to accommodate the passengers so that no one has to walk the entire length of the train to get to the food and drinks. The sleepers are usually behind the diner but do not have to be there. Sleepers are cars which may be added to a consist or switched while in route. It is not unheard of for a train to set out a sleeper at a station for it to be placed in the consist of another train headed to a different city. For example, a train headed from Chicago to Washington could set out a sleeper in Pennsylvania to connect with a train going to Florida. Amtrak at one time (I am not sure if this still happens since the recent cuts) had a car from the last Kansas City to St. Louis daily train which was then run to Illinois where it met with the City of New Orleans and ran into Chicago.
The operational consequences are important. Which train has right of way between the accommodation train and the coal drag? Switching of sleepers or coaches might have to be done between passenger trains. Modeling these can create fun for the modeler who freelances. If you model a specific railroad, get an old timetable which lists the passenger trains and copy the operation. Watch for connections with other trains.
Passenger trains are a good way of adding operational interest to a layout. Look at how the railroads ran theirs and either model that or use this information to create an operation plan for your own freelance railroad.
Until the next issue, I hope that all of the signals you see are green over red.