When we operate a model railroad, we try to simulate the operations of the prototype as much as possible. The “as much as possible” is dependent upon the tastes of the individual operators who gather to run a railroad. This will impact on the amount of paperwork and other tasks each person will be required to do. For some operators, using train orders is more enjoyable than other methods of dispatching. This involves large amounts of time while running and therefore other aspects of the layout must be slowed.
But how do you do this and still get the feeling that you are a part of a real railroad?
One way to slow down the operations on a railroad is to use a grade to slow down the train and require helpers. This can even be done on relatively flat railroads here in the midwest as well as on the more famous mountain regions of the United States. We are all familiar with Cajon Pass. This area requires the use of helpers to climb the grades going both east and west. Once a train reached the top, the brakemen would have to set the retainers on cars before the train descended the grade. The Missouri Pacific did the same thing here in St. Louis. The MoPac used a number of different steam engines to boost trains over Kirkwood Hill. At one time it used a 1700 class, 2100 class, 2200 class and even its only mallet, the 4000.
It will take quite a bit of time to couple on a helper, get the train to the summit, uncouple and set the retainers. (I will not discuss the unauthorized uncoupling on the fly performed at times on Kirkwood Hill as this was strictly prohibited by company policy, is extremely hard to do with Kadees, and defeats the purpose of slowing things down.) This was not the only place the Missouri Pacific did this. These same type operations were conducted on the lines in Kansas and Nebraska also.
Another device to slow down the pace of operations and which also blends in with the use of helpers is the use of towers. Towers were (and in some places still are) used to line traffic in busy areas and guard crossings and other junctions. If a group wanted, a person could work a trick as a tower operator. Depending on the era a phone could be set there or the tower operator could use a radio. The tower operator would have to maintain contact with the dispatcher, hoop up orders, control the interlocking by throwing turnouts and setting signals. A tower operator had control of the trains within his interlocking. He received the trains on a track designated by the dispatcher and made sure that they were on the track designated by the dispatcher when they left the interlocking. Between those two points the tower operator had control of the train and tried to see that it was handled as expeditiously as possible consistent with traffic and priority designations.
Such a tower could be placed at either end of a grade. It would control the interlocking and tell helpers to couple onto another train and get it up the grade. It would pass helpers to either end of the interlocking where they would be needed depending on the traffic. Such a spot would slow down the traffic for air tests, engine servicing (at least of the helpers), whistle signals, hooping up of train orders, and waiting for traffic coming the other way over the grade. This tower would require a tower operator and an engineer for each helper set.
This type of device would slow down the mainline trains and allow for switching. Switching takes place on a nearly 1:1 scale. However, it does not take long to go from one town on a layout to the next. A tower would slow down the mainline, add interesting operation possibilities, and employ a couple more operators.
Let me know of other things used on your layout to slow things down. I promise to write about other devices used to slow down the mainline operation. Also, those members of the division who are railroaders for a living, let me know about some everyday things that take up time in your daily work. As mundane as it is for you, it can be interesting to the rest of us.
Until the next time, I hope all the signals you see are green over red.