I was reading some interesting letters that discussed the impact of real problems on a layout owner’s operations. The general thread of the discussion focused on how the prototype railroad would respond to a similar event. What havoc would this unleash on the scheduled trains, the connections, and the yardmasters? All of this was interesting and I thought I would tell you about some of these “disasters.”
A common event on any model railroad occurs when a train jumps the track. Instantly a car or cars leave the right of way and careen onto private property alongside the tracks. If this happened to the prototype, the railroad would immediately contact the local emergency services in case there was any dangerous materials involved. In the steam era a wreck train would be immediately called and dispatched to the scene of the accident. In modern times cranes and equipment are dispatched by road to the scene of the accident. The railroad may own the equipment or a local contractor may own the equipment.
The railroad then tries to clean the mess up. The first priority is securing hazardous materials. The second priority is to limit damages. If there are more than one track, the railroad will try to get the adjacent track clear as soon as possible so some freight can be moved. When this is completed, the cars are righted and placed on the track, or a flat car, for transport to the repair shop.
When we have a derailment, what do we do? Could we send out the wrecker? Can we call on a local crew to clean up the mess? How can we simulate this? How about pulling the track out of service? If any of the adjacent tracks are blocked pull them out of service too. Pull the tracks out of service for a realistic amount of time. (Dare I say make the engineer and conductor take a drug test?) You can even perform an investigation. After all, the owner will want to know why that train derailed.
What about a car with a truck that keeps causing the car to leave the rails or wobble excessively. Why not set it out at the next siding and report it to the dispatcher and yardmaster as in need of repair? That is what the prototype will do if a car is dangerous or has a hot box. If the car is lame, put it in a siding and let the next local pick it up. Give the car card to the yardmaster and let him know where the car is. (This is another good reason to name everything on your railroad.) This will also allow the owner of the layout to fix the car between operating sessions. The car can then be placed back on the siding and picked up by the local and brought back to the yard. Once it is in the yard, it can be placed on the RIP (Repair in Place) tracks. Leave the car there for a session and then route the car to its original destination.
What do you do when the car the train pulls into the yard does not have a car card? Do like the prototype — put the car on a special track and have the yardmaster put out the word that a waybill is needed for a car. The prototype has yard clerks who would immediately call the central billing and clerk office to determine where the car was to go, what it carried, and its routing. A second waybill is then generated and placed in the car card. Then the car can be switched into the appropriate train.
Have a coupler come off during an operating session. The prototype carries knuckles but no drawbars. Treat the broken coupler like a broken drawbar on a car. Take the car out of the train, place it in a siding and give the paperwork to the yardmaster. He can leave the car there for the layout owner to repair and replace back at the siding. The yardmaster can treat the car just as he did the car with the hotbox described above.
If it breaks on the layout or causes problems, treat the problem like the prototype. This should work just fine as long as you have kept up on maintenance of your railroad and cars. If not, it could be a call to repair these items and put the railroad in top operating condition.
Until the next time, may all the signals you see be green over red!