Featured image: Wayden is on the upper deck at right and Miller on the upper deck at left. Larry Stoll, Dave Roeder, Robbie Hanson and Tony Pellegrino all work their trains through these areas.
Photos by David Lowell
In early December an email floated in with a general invitation to other operating group’s members from the club in Mexico Missouri, “Guys – We’ve decided to schedule regular operating sessions on the Missouri, Texas & Western HO scale club layout in Mexico, Missouri. They will be the fourth Saturday of every odd-numbered month, which would make the first session Saturday, Jan. 28. As we have in the past, we’ll figure on starting at 11 a.m., lunch on the premises, and winding things up at 3 p.m. or so. We plan to send a reminder out a week or two before each session, and will ask those who plan to attend to let us know. Please feel free to pass this along to any others who might be interested, and we look forward to seeing you at an op session on the MTW in 2017. Pat Hiatte…”
I marked up with the Gateway Division NMRA about two years ago with one of my main goals being to get involved in operations. Within 3 to 4 months of joining the NMRA I was graciously invited into the bi-monthly Tuesday night group coordinated by Gary Gross and that has been both fun and educational. Then an opportunity to operate on the K-10 layout came along last fall and now this. I’d say that so far my plan to increase operating opportunities has been working out nicely.
Introduction to the Missouri, Texas & Western
The Missouri, Texas & Western (MTW) runs from Des Moines to Houston. The modeled portion of the MT&W runs from Abbot, Missouri, south to Purdue, Kansas. Points north of Abbot and south of Purdue are represented by staging. The layout is on two levels connected by an eight-foot-diameter helix; north staging is on the lower level, south staging on the upper. With a few exceptions, towns are in alphabetical order from north to south. Major classification yards are located at Abbot and Purdue, with a secondary classification yard at Lester, where the Tracy Branch joins the main line.
MTW uses car cards and waybills for car forwarding, and dispatching is done by Track Warrant Control using FRS radios for communication. Trains operate with Digitrax DCC throttles according to sequence rather than by timetable, and all trains are considered extras for traffic-control purposes. Trains are operated without cabooses. Through trains operate between staging yards, with stops for simulated crew changes at Abbot and Purdue. Sweepers, which may work at Lester en route, originate at Abbot and Purdue. All local trains operate as turns. Key MTW connections are with the Chicago, Kansas City & Western (CKCW), which uses MTW trackage from Osage Yard to Abbot Yard, and the Gulf, Midwest & Great Lakes, which interchanges with MTW at Fuller. An MTW subsidiary, CKCW runs between St. Louis and Kansas City.
From north to south, here are the major points on the MTW layout:
North staging: Des Moines, Detroit
Abbot: classification yard, diesel shop, Spectrum Logistics, CKCW connection
Lard Hill: south end of Abbot yard
Denton: passing siding, industries
Fuller: Gulf, Midwest & Great Lakes crossing and interchange, industries
Inglewood: short passing siding, industries
Jackson: passing siding
Lester: yard, passing siding, industries, Tracy Branch connection
Miller: passing siding, industries
Rome: passing siding, industries, Ameren power plant
Union Gap: industries
Wayden: passing siding, industries
Youngstown: southward trains contact Purdue yardmaster for permission to enter yard
Purdue Industries: north end of Purdue yard, satellite yard, industries
Purdue: classification yard, diesel shop, connection to Ford Yard and Ford plant
South staging: McAlester, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Houston, Galveston
The Tracy Branch serves the towns of St. Andrews, Margate and Tracy. CKCW trains (800 series) operate between CKCW’s Osage Yard at Elgen (fictional) and Abbot Yard, and on MTW trackage rights to and from Dallas. Ford Motor Company is one of MTW’s biggest customers, with through trains and locals serving the Ford truck plant at Purdue via Ford Yard. The Ford auto racks and parts trains are the hottest trains on the MTW.
MTW’s three-hour operating sessions roughly follow the three shifts of a normal railroad day, one shift per hour (roughly). Crews who want to change jobs (from yard to road or vice versa, for example) can do so at “shift-change.” All road crews will have an opportunity to operate at least one local freight and/or industry job and a variety of through trains. Road crews generally go on duty at Abbot or Purdue, although some local crews go on duty at Lester.
Jobs: Yardmaster Abbot, Yardmaster Purdue, Staging trainmaster, Apprentice dispatcher and Eight road crews.
The members of the Mexico Train Works who hosted this event are: Patrick Hiatte, Joe Braddock, Carl Haake, John Johnson, Anthony Randall and Lee Walser.
The list of attendees for the operating session included: Terry Gilmore, Robbie Hanson, Bill Hawley, Glenn Koproske, Hank Kraichely, David Lowell, Tony Pellegrino, Brian Post, Gary Roe, Dave Roeder, Larry Stoll, Kent Tallyn and Chris Thies.
I was the first to receive the crew call at 11:01 a.m. I was assigned train 111S, a through freight across the 3rd subdivision; originating on the 2nd subdivision (Des Moines to Abbot) and terminating on the 4th subdivision (Purdue to Oklahoma City). The 2nd sub crew eased into the north end of Abbot Yard and relinquished their train at 11:16 a.m. After exchanging pleasantries with the crew and getting a favorable equipment report I reviewed the waybills and called for clearance. Dispatcher Anthony Randall responded back by issuing Track Warrant #1203 authorizing movement south from Abbot through to Jackson and then holding on the main. After engaging the bell, two blasts of the horn, releasing the independent and train brakes I opened the throttle and headed south. Cutting off the bell as soon as I cleared the yard limit I continued south from Abbot through Lard Hill, Beaver Falls and Denton. Just before Fuller I received an additional instruction to hold short of the diamond at Fuller and complied. Once released, I continued south through Inglewood to Jackson and OS’ed once I was on the main stationed between the siding’s turnouts. I then received authorization # 1607 on to Miller where I was to take the siding. Once rolling again I continued onward through Lester and Hill (up the helix) and then into the hole at Miller with another call to the dispatcher. After local 34 cleared ahead, authorization #2112 cleared me to Zebon. Leaving Miller I pushed southward through Rome, Trenton, Union Gap, Wayden, Youngstown and into Zebon and the north yard limit for Purdue Yard. Permission received from the Yardmaster I re-engage the bell and crept through the yard to the yard office at the south end of the yard. At the yard office I disabled the bell, set the brakes and departed the cab as the dinging of the bell slowly dissipated in my head. I turned the train over to the waiting crew who would continue with it over the 4th sub. I was the first crew to complete my assignment and was feeling pretty god about my accomplishment.
This meant of course it was time for a pit stop and hit the lunch spread provided. The club is fortunate enough to have a very nice location in the basement of a car parts store. However, they lack their own facilities. So, it adds a bit of realism after climbing down from the cab to have to walk outdoors for about a half block in the crisp air to the gas station at the corner for the facilities. Once back from there and in the crew quarters there was two choices of chili, soup, vegetables with dip, cheese puffs (not Cheetos but homemade and they were goooood), Fritos, cheese, crackers and sodas, a veritable feast. Once I was done going to beans, literally, it was time for the next assignment.
I drew the Abott Yard switch job. It was comprised of three components. Servicing the Lowe’s siding on the south end yard lead then spotting a sand and fuel oil car at the engine terminal at the south end of the yard and wrapping up by switching the Spectrum Industrial lead at the north end of the yard. I started out by running engine light south to the Lowe’s siding and pulling two empty center beam lumber cars and four boxcars. When I had my train made up I took it back to the yard. Once back in the yard proper a run around move on the parallel ladder tracks was required prior to a couple of shove moves to deposit the empties onto the appropriate outbound tracks.
With all the empties at their final dispositions it was time to pull the loads for the Lowe’s siding while leaving the sand and oil car on the inbound track to be addressed later. Another run around to the north and then a shove south to move the loads onto the Lowe’s siding to be positioned, two loaded center beam lumber cars and six boxcars. On my way back into the yard from the Lowe’s siding I noticed the yard crew had grabbed the sand and oil car and were just finishing up spotting them. That meant the next order of business was the run to the north end of the yard to work the Spectrum Industrial Lead.
This was an education experience having not worked this job before. The Spectrum Industrial lead is four tracks; one of which serves both a cold storage facility and a lumber transload ramp. And the other three are storage or transload to trucks. After my original assessment it seemed to make sense to me to shove the loads to the north end of the yard and park them on the yard ladder at that end of the yard. I would then pull all the empties from the Spectrum tracks and tuck them in the run around track. Then I was going to grab the loads and start kicking them into the appropriate tracks. CS Lewis once said the definition of all fiction is, “We had a little trouble along the way.” Well, model train operations are fiction and we had a little trouble along the way. The surly old head Abbot Yardmaster told me my train was on track 7, so I grabbed the cards and went (yes Brian, I am throwing you under the bus). When I had pulled all the empties and had them nicely tucked into the run around track I was ready to start placing the loads. I noticed that they were not the waybills I thought I should have. My first panicked reaction was I thought that I had grabbed somebody else’s paper work as they had passed through. Nope, they were the waybills for the cars I had. Surely I had not grabbed the wrong stack and track when I left with my train. I went back to the card box and looked. Track three was labeled for Spectrum and track seven was for something else. I returned back to my train and brought it back to whence it came. When I accused the Yardmaster of giving me bad info his sarcastic retort inquired why I hadn’t checked them, which was a legitimate question. And one I could not answer other that with a hollow “I don’t know.” Even though I threw Brian under the bus above, I must admit I should be under there with him since I failed to independently confirm my instruction and manifest. I filled out an accident report for my hurt feelings as a result of the Yardmasters admonishment, grabbed the correct set of waybills for track 3, verified them and returned post haste to the north end of the yard. The silver lining, the lemonade, the lesson learned, the upside to this mistake was that due to the aforementioned tale and some other complications experienced from parking the loads across the yard ladder it became clear to me the sequence for this job should be the same as the south end. Run light to the siding, collect all the empties first, clearing the Spectrum tracks and run the empties back to an inbound sorting track. Then come back with all the loads and kick them into place. Once I had this epiphany I used yard track 9 as my drill track and quickly set out all the loads and then returned engine light to the diesel shed. Second assignment completed with only minor bumps.
My third and final assignment was train 35, the Wayden local. This turn started out of Purdue Yard on the south end of the sub and worked north to Wayden. Upon arrival at Purdue I reported to the engine house and was assigned a pair of Geeps. I worked through the yard to the north end, waited for the “big ass” coal train. Not sure that was the official train designation, but it is what kept echoing through the room as it traversed the layout. The BACT had the whole yard plugged up until it departed south and freed up the north ladder. Clearance was obtained from the dispatcher through to Wayden. At Wayden I had just pulled into the siding and was preparing to start pulling and stetting cars when I went over on hours. I tied up my train up and was taxied back to the crew lounge.
In addition to my adventures there were a couple of other events worthy of noting. It appeared the early morning call was a little tough on Hank, as he fell asleep on the couch during the crew briefing. Not to worry he was gently awoken by a half dozen guys shouting Hank! Glen showed up dressed in high visibility safety gear, bright orange sneakers with matching socks. I believe this assisted him in handling the BACT safely across the sub. Had Kent taken a page out of Glen’s safety protocols perhaps he would not have slipped off a stepping stool and ended up in a heap on the floor. Fortunately, it appeared that his pride was the most serious injury as a result of the fall. Dave Roeder was seen speeding an ore train along the main as fast as he drove his Mustang on the way up to the event. And last but certainly not least Chris Thies made the mistake of telling me that his train got away from him. He was stopped in Denton on his way to Abbot. Left his train to go talk with the dispatcher and came back and his train was gone. It had crept its way north from Denton through Beaver Hills and Lard Hill and was at the yard limit of Abbot Yard when he recovered control.
It appeared that everyone had a great time, this was the largest crew that they had ever hosted and the layout performed very well. I would say the crews did well also, all things considered. A big thank you to the Mexico Train Works guys for their hospitality and kudos on the layout.