I was at a friend’s railroad operating a train. He had a car forwarding system which told me what cars to pick up and drop off. I switched the first area of the layout, which had a number of industries. After switching the trailing turnouts, I assembled the train and proceeded to the next town. When switching the industries at that town, I discovered I had made an error. At the first area I had failed to pick up a coal car from the mine which needed to go to the next town. I hadn’t switched the car because I was too intent on trying to perform the switching as the prototype does, and I didn’t read the car cards closely enough. I had to return to the first area and take the car back to the second. Of course, the prototype would have just left the car behind for the next train. I don’t think I would have made the same mistake if I had some additional records — or so I would like to think.
One way to add operating pleasure to your railroad, and hopefully prevent these types of mistakes, is to copy the actions of the prototype. Real railroads have documents known as a train procedures directory, click book and yard book. These different books were used by the train crews so that they know what they were supposed to do.
A train procedures directory has a page for each and every train, and has instructions for the crews of those trains. These instructions tell the crew everything it needs to know to run its train. For instance, a through freight may have a directory entry telling it to leave yard ‘A’ and end its run at yard ‘B’. As a through freight, it would not normally have many, if any, switching chores. The book also governs the make up of the train. Groups of cars are blocked according to their destination and placed in the train according to the directory. The directory also tells the yard crew how to block the train so that it can be easily disassembled at the next yard and blocks of cars placed in other trains. This reduces the time a car spends in a yard. Remember, the time spent in a yard by a car is the single most time consuming part of a car’s trip. The goal of railroads is to get cars through yards quickly so that the car reaches the customer quickly.
For a way freight, or whatever the local is called on your layout, the procedures directory may tell the crew to leave yard ‘A’, proceed to industry one, and drop off cars. The train then proceeds to the next industry and drops off and picks up cars. The train may then turn around and head back to the first industry to pick up cars there. Finally, the train stops off at industry number three (which is actually closer to the yard than either number one or two) to drop off and pick up cars. Part of the considerations of where and when to stop and pick up or drop off cars are the grade of the track, engines available, tonnage, passing sidings, and whether the turnouts are trailing or facing point. The grade of the track, tractive effort of the engines, and the tonnage of the consist determine whether or not the local will pick up cars at industry one before going to industry two, or leave them for industry one before going to industry two, or leave them for the return trip. The prototype prefers to switch trailing point turnouts when possible because it is easier. When switching facing point turnouts, it is very difficult to get the cut of cars into the right point in the train without a passing siding to allow the engine to run around the train.
Some locals travel from one industry to another and finish in a different yard, layover at the local “flophouse” (see Richard Lake’s article last issue) and then return to the home yard on the next way freight. These trains will not take backhauls. “Backhauls” are cars taken by a local to a yard in a direction away from their destination and then placed in a fast freight towards their destination. This process can be quicker than by taking a local train moving in the general direction of the destination.
The click book is a highly prized among the railroads. I am not sure why, but at the Kansas City regional convention (in 1993) I heard a clinician say he was designing one for the Santa Fe railroad, but that he had an agreement that he could not release or discuss the particulars. Instead, he brought an imaginary one. If anyone can find one of these books, get it. These books are apparently rare and important. The click book contains diagrams of industries and the tracks that serve them. They are very detailed, even to the point of having each track named and every position where a car is left numbered. This is so the switching crew knows exactly where the car is to be left. Remember, some industries take a boxcar full of lumber at door one, a tank car full of chemicals at door two, a boxcar for finished products at door three, and a gondola for refuse and other leftovers at door four. It is important to remove cars from one spot to pick up the boxcar full of finished products and the gondola full of refuse at the back three doors and replace them with empty cars. Each of these cars must be returned to the proper door. Otherwise, an irate customer will be calling the railroad agent to ask why the boxcar full of lumber is located at the door for finished products and therefore has brought his factory to a standstill.
Finally, make a book to help your yard crews. Yards are composed of various tracks which have various purposes. Most yards are divided into two areas. One for receiving and the other for classifying. Arriving cars go into arrival tracks. The yard crew then takes blocks of cars to classification tracks according to their final destinations. This is process is called blocking. Tracks one through three could be for destination ‘A’, four through seven for destination ‘B’, eight through ten for local delivery, and eleven and twelve for dedicated service such as icing or livestock watering and feeding. For example, during the steam era, certain tracks were designated as the icing tracks for only refrigerator cars. The reefer train would come in off the main and go directly to the icing platforms to be iced. When the train was iced, it would continue on to its final destination, or leave a few cars behind for local delivery. The yard book helps the local yard crews breakdown and makeup trains according to the track designations. The train procedures book also helps the yard crew make the train up according to the way the train needs the cars blocked.
When making the train procedures directory, consider each industry and its needs. Remember, the railroad focuses on its customers needs. How many cars does it need? How long is its siding? Is its product delivery time sensitive and thus a consideration for backhaul? These things affect the local. The through freights are scheduled to accommodate customers. Through freights or special freight trains for specific customers will depend on the industries’ needs. Other freights take blocks of cars and move them from one yard to the next. Finally, don’t forget to include passenger trains and other trains which originate or terminate at some destination off the modeled portion of the layout.
In order to continue the “beyond the basement” approach I discussed in my last column, include destinations in the procedures directory which are not modeled. This also includes any connections with another railroad at modeled interchanges. Take advantage of any possibility of making the layout appear to extend beyond the basement.
Use your timetable when making up the procedures directory. Please consider the frequency of trains, their length, tonnage, the tractive effort of the engines and other items affecting their scheduling. These will affect when the trains are run, their length, and frequency. The procedures book, timetable and other books are all interrelated. It is part of an overall operating scheme.
Procedures directory, click books and yard books may be used on your model railroad. They may be as elaborate or as simple as you want. A simple book has one page per train paper clipped together into a directory. Generate an index for the directory to make locating trains easier. Give each operator a copy of the directory to help them understand how his or her train fits into the operating scheme of the layout. The same goes for the click book and the yard book. These books will tell the local crew exactly where that car full of lumber is to be placed and the yard crew exactly where to place the cars on the classification tracks so they are properly blocked for the next train. A personal computer may be used to design a professional looking version, or you may work with a local printer to create a close copy of a prototype railroad’s books.
I know this seems like a lot of paper work. Some may decide not to do it because it seems like a lot of work. Although it is a lot of work to put this all together, it really does add a lot of railroading pleasure and a sense that you are operating a real railroad. It also helps new operators familiarize themselves with your railroad. And finally, if you desire the dispatchers certificate of achievement on your way to becoming a master model railroader, you will need to figure out a timetable and some supporting paperwork anyway. Why not do it for your railroad and get part of the AP paperwork done?
Until the next time, highball!