The last article centered on receiving tracks and the major classification yard, the train yard, and the role these tracks play in railroad operations. Receiving inbound freight and reblocking for outbound trains is a major operation in any yard, but it is by no means the totality of yard operations. Some of the loads and empties received will not be forwarded to another city. In any train there will be cars which have reached their final destination. Some of these cars must be delivered to other roads for final delivery, some are empties being returned to a home road, and some are for local delivery. All these operations create a need for more yard tracks.
The train yard has a dedicated switch crew. Their only task is to block and build outbound trains. In the midst of the cars they work with are cars and/or blocks of cars which will not be going onward. When these cars are encountered in switching, the crew sets them aside into one or two empty tracks in the train yard for other crews. Many of these cars are to be transferred to another road for delivery. In the late 50’s and early 60’s there were at least 10 railroads that the Rock Island interchanged with from Armourdale. The switching operation for these deliveries took place on a separate yard lead from the train yard. This was commonly referred to as the transfer yard. I don’t remember how many tracks there were, but I know there were more than ten. The transfer yard also had a dedicated switch crew whose only task was to collect cars set aside in the train yard, pull them into the transfer yard, and complete the sorting for delivery to other roads. The switching operation in the transfer yard was fairly simple. Each track was designated to receive cars for a specific railroad such as the MoPac, GM&O, CB&Q, etc. The yardmaster provided a switch list to the crew foreman. This list spelled out what cars (by road and car number) were going to which roads. With that list in hand the switching operations begin. The only criterion for switching here was the receiving railroad. No blocking was necessary. The main concern was speed. Get the cars sorted and transferred. The longer you had these cars the more it cost you. It is the task of the receiving road to determine whether these cars were for local, wayfreight, or through freight delivery. That is a job for the yardmaster and switch crews on the receiving road.
In a perfect world with unlimited space for a yard (prototype or model) there would be room for a dedicated track for every single railroad which would be served by the transfer yard. In reality space is costly. This results in some tracks being used solely for one railroad while other tracks might serve as many as three different roads. The determining factor for this decision is the amount of interchange traffic a particular road generated. In Kansas City, I made numerous transfer drags to the MoPac and the “Q” but relatively few hauls to KCS or C&NW. We had tracks assigned to the MOP and the “Q” but used a single track to handle both the other roads at the same time. In operations it was common to make two or three drags to the MOP in 24 hours while making only one trip to the KCS in that same time. And if the KCS had a delivery to make to the Rock Island and the timing was right then their crew would take the cars from our yard.
Not every yard is an Armourdale. The Rock Island’s yard at Carrie Avenue in St. Louis was small, especially when compared to Kansas City. While I never worked Carrie Ave. as a switchman or fireman, I did spend a couple of summers working on the section crew out of there and had plenty of opportunity to observe yard operations. The traffic into and out of Carrie was relatively light. There was only one switch crew working at Carrie and no more than a couple of trains received and dispatched along with at least one westbound local and some transfer traffic. This is based on 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. observations since the section crew only worked nights when there was a catastrophe, like the flood and washouts at Gumbo flats in June of 1957, but that’s another story. Carrie Avenue probably had a designated receiving track but the rest of the yard consisted of numbered tracks (numbers start with the first yard track closest to the main and go up from there) used for outbound classification, building the local, and setting out transfers. Priority would depend on the schedule. If you have an outbound freight due to leave two hours after an inbound arrival then the crew would be working fast to get it ready. If there were five or six hours before departure but the early local was due out then it would get priority. No pressure on for local, wayfreight, or through freights meant that the crew set up interchange traffic, spotted the freight house or riptrack, or some other small jobs that always needed doing.
Factors for Transfer Yard Design
The same factors shaping the prototype yard should play a major role in yard design and operations on a model railroad. The same questions apply. Who are the interchange roads? How many cars per day are you receiving that will need transfer? How much motive power do you have for transfer operations? How often will you make a drag to an off layout road? If you are modeling the Arkansas/Louisiana Division of the CRI&P, the answers to these questions come from sources like employee timetables (which show crossings and interchanges with other roads), annual reports, and other printed materials prepared by the CRI&P. If your railroad is freelance then there is a need from somewhat more research. It’s necessary to find out what railroads operated in the part of the country you model in the time you are modeling. Then you have to consider the route you are following and determine which roads would be likely for interchange.
Another factor which adds interest to the whole process of interchange is finding others whose model railroads also operate in the same area and establishing interchange freight with them. I know that the eL&eL (our freelance railroad) will interchange with Bob Amsler’s railroad, based on the MoPac, and Richard Schumacher’s road, the St. Louis Southern, which is freelanced. Ultimately this may mean a yard track dedicated to the MOP because of considerable interchange traffic, but Schumacher’s cars will be mixed in with those of the Reader (a short, short line in the swamps of southern Arkansas) and other roads which won’t generate much traffic on the eL&eL.
One last issue to consider in designing and operating a model railroad yard is the frequency of trains. If you plan to run 4, 5, or 6 mainline through freights on every eight hour shift then the receiving yard and train yard are will have to be “huge” and your train yard crew is going to be racing constantly to keep up with the demands of mainline traffic. Then consider how may wayfreights will be scheduled in the same period. Add local freights to that and then add interchange to that. Every time you add one of these freight moves to the timetable the workload will increase and the number of crews needed will also increase. To enable crews to get the job done one lead or yard ladder won’t work in a heavy traffic yard. Every time there is a departure from the yard the switching lead will be tied up and operation in the yard will shut down. Shutting down means the crew falls behind, trains are delayed, customers are upset, and revenues drop off. Determining the size of a yard is very complex issue and I still haven’t covered all the tracks found in a yard. But that is material for another issue.
Until next time, keep the crews happy and the trains on time.