Sunday, August 3, 2014


I held my third test operations session on my HO scale SP Cascade Line this weekend.  The operating crew nearly doubled to seven compared to the four used for the prior pair of sessions.  The crew expansion was based on experience from the previous session, wherein it became clear that the Eugene classification needed more staff to handle their duties. 

The Eugene yard must make and break five local freight trains over the course of the session, plus either add cars or create complete new road freights.  To handle the load, we used two switch crews and a yardmaster.  The RR-West switcher was a “heavy” switcher composed of two switch engines, while the RR-East switcher could make due with a single locomotive.  This reflects the amount of switch lead currently available at each end of the classification yard.  As the railroad expands, the RR-East switch lead will grow in length.

Yardmaster Rick A. and RR-East end switcher Dave H. look on as Dave B. matches car documents to cars in his train prior to departing Eugene.

In addition to having a yardmaster to orchestrate the moves of the two switchers, I provided a couple of organizational aids based on observation and discussion following the previous session.  First, I used several “Highlighter” colors to color code the destinations on the waybills.  This provided a quick visual reference useful while sorting car cards with waybills.  The second innovation was provision of car card slot separators to help organize and designate the car card slots for the yard tracks.  These were 2x5 inch  cards with a destination name and the color code highlight.  These destination aids helped the yardmaster to quickly sort through the car documents for cars on a track to decide how best to have them switched and how to organize the yard for that purpose. 

Yardmaster Rick A. organizes work in the Eugene classification yard aided by card slot destination cards and color-coding.  RR-West end switcher engineer Bob Y. takes a break and points out a yard feature to other crewmembers.

With the yard better organized, all five local switching jobs were run.  Two of these jobs began the session staged at their respective station assignments: Oakridge and the first Springfield job.  These trains start the session immediately.  Their next day counterparts are built in the classification yard during the session and depart for their stations at the end of the session.  A consequence of this is that at least two local freights can begin work immediately without awaiting effort in the yard—a common failing of many model railroad operations.  This also captures the idea of railroad work as a continuous process. 

In addition to these first two locals, the Eugene “City Switcher” began the session by making “pulls” from the city industries.  Eventually, the City Switcher exchanged the block of cars pulled from the industries for a new block of cars made up by the yard crew that were to be spotted at the city industries.  This work organization permitted three of the five local freight-switching jobs to begin working at the start of the session.

As the First Springfield switch job and the Oakridge Turn returned to the Eugene yard, two new local freights were ready to depart:  the second Springfield job and the Marcola Turn.   The first Springfield job switched industries on the geographic north of the mainline using the house and drill tracks.  With its return to Eugene, the house and drill tracks could be used by the Marcola Turn.  The second Springfield job switches the industries on the geographic south of the mainline.  Sufficient runaround tracks are provided on either side of the mainline to allow these jobs to work without fouling or crossing the mainline.  This session marked the first time a crew worked the Marcola Turn.  One minor switch issue was found, but they were able to get their work done.

Dave B. and Brian P. work the first Marcola Turn.

In addition to the yard switchers and local freights, several mainline trains were run, though the current layout construction state means they must run between Eugene and Oakridge—not even half their eventual runs on the completed layout. 

Two other crewmembers “escaped” to other commitments before I remembered to pull out the camera.  Thanks Tom D. and Ken R!

Important outcomes of the third test operating session are that the Eugene Yard work is getting sorted out as to how to organize and perform it, all local freights were run, and a rough sense of timing for this work is emerging.  Those are important accomplishments, especially so with only three operating sessions performed so far.  We are all looking forward to completion of the railroad to see how the mainline traffic fits in with the local, on-layout, switching.

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