Wednesday, September 14, 2016


 In common with many operating model railroads, my railroad must be re-staged between operating sessions.  Re-staging involves getting freight cars and trains into their starting positions for the next operating sessions.  Modelers use many different techniques to prepare their railroads for an operating session. Active “moles” constantly restage trains in a back-stage area that then enters the modeled railroad at either end of its run.  Others use staging yards that must be re-staged (loaded with appropriate trains) between sessions.   My SP Cascade Line falls into the latter category.

My SP Cascade Line attempts to capture the traffic patterns that existed on that line in the latter half of the Twentieth Century.  Two features about the SP traffic stand out.  First, Western Oregon was a raw resource center for forest products—an originating point.  Trees were harvested and turned into a variety of forest products.  These products usually travelled south over the Cascades to points geographically south and east.  A prime freight car movement implication of this is that empty cars are delivered to Oregon shippers and then sent as loads off of my modeled railroad.  In general, cars are drawn from a pool of empties at Eugene for loading.  The loaded cars come back through Eugene to be gathered up into trains sent off to major destinations—mostly south or east. 

A key implication of this for my SP Cascade Line is dealing with open car loads.  Empty flat cars and wood chip gondolas are sent out to the on-line industries.  Loaded versions of these cars return to Eugene in the local freights.  Somehow, the empties need to be turned into loads.  I have not committed yet to fixed loads on the flat cars.  I may yet work this mostly with separate loads.  The wood chip hoppers have semi-permanent loads.  The chip loads fit very snuggly into their cars.  I do not want to destroy freight car detail by constantly exchanging loads, so the chip cars need to be re-staged.

The second feature of the prototype SP Cascade Line was the composition of RR-East and RR-West trains.  The RR-West trains were of mixed composition with many car types for traffic both on the railroad and that passing through.  Though lumber drags were quite identifiable, the various car types were intermixed freely in train.  On the other hand, the RR-East traffic coming toward Eugene from California or Utah featured only a modest amount of the general freight mix and a number of trains of lumber empties.  The lumber empties were known as “XMUG” for empty manifest EUGene.  The return of lumber empties to Eugene was expedited on the SP, as forest products provided the highest revenue to the SP throughout most of the period of interest. Yellow door and yellow stripe box cars were so marked to get those empties back to Eugene as soon as possible!

In many ways, the SP in Oregon was at the loading end of a transportation conveyor belt taking forest products to market.  Fortunately for the SP, major markets were in California—completely served by the SP.  The major hump yard at Roseville and yards in Southern California (Taylor Yard in Los Angeles and then, later, West Colton to the east of L.A.) each sent full trains of lumber empties north to Eugene.  These trains were made up by major classification yards so they tended to feature major blocks of similar cars.  Indeed, an entire train of flat cars departed the Los Angeles area nightly, as well as full trains of lumber box cars.

I try to capture these traffic features in my operating plan, beginning with staging the layout for operations.  My staging plan has been developing over the past year as I have built up the car fleet and added track features to support the operation as I have long intended.  The computer-printed waybills have been in use long enough that the expected traffic patterns have emerged with cars making a full cycle to on-line industry-back to Eugene-on to the off-layout destination and back to Eugene.

My latest restaging effort was done on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend when I had five operators join me for a “casual operating session.”  They were quite willing to do moves that were the reverse of a normal full operating session.  The photos are from that session.

My first staging task involves getting the loaded wood chip gondolas out to the five mills on the layout.  Jerry B. and John D. took a train of loaded chip gons out and returned with an equal number of empties.  The empties are then assigned to the locals that serve those mills.

Meanwhile, I had Gene N. make up two XMUGs using lumber empties in the Eugene Arrival Departure Yard.  Once these were made up, Gene took the first out on the road, headed to Crescent Lake.  At Oakridge, Jerry B. added the helper and they continued up the hill.

Gene N. guides his “reverse XMUG” up-grade beyond Oakridge as Jerry B. watches slack action on his helpers.

Jerry B. watches closely as the “reverse XMUG” climbs around Salt Creek trestle.

As the XMUGs (lumber empties) were staged at Crescent Lake, a pair of mixed freights were brought back down to Eugene.  I’ll use some of those cars as empties going out to the on-line industries.  Others will be “filler” for road freights.

While all of this activity was going on on the mainline, Rodger C. and Bill M. worked in the Eugene Yard.  They did the work of the “night shift,” classifying cars that had been brought back to Eugene by the local freights during the last operating session.  Five blocks are made for the major off-layout destinations:  Portland (and other spots in Oregon), Roseville, Oakland, Los Angeles and Ogden.  Staging for the next session, I make sure appropriate cuts of cars are in the Eugene Arrival Departure Yard to fill out full trains to the four South and East destinations.  A regular task in a full operating session has the Eugene Yard crew complete making up those four trains.

Rodger C. and Bill M. work the Eugene Yard.  They are doing the work of other shifts (overnight) not part of a regular operating session.  Oh yes, I “just” tolerate the car cards on the layout for this function.  I do not normally allow that during a formal operating session.

With these actions taken, the work remaining is mostly shuffling waybills in car cards.  My “casual” crew had a good opportunity to experience jobs on my railroad without the self-imposed pressure of a regular ops session.  Each did jobs on the railroad they had never done before.  This was a great way for me to take advantage of a small operating crew—doing work I needed done, but just not a regular ops session.  I finally figured out a staging system that gets the work done fairly efficiently.  It was a happy circumstance I could use that system to provide meaningful work for my modest-sized holiday weekend operating crew.

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