Sunday, December 31, 2017

Filling out a Train Sheet for my layout

Filling out the Train Sheet

The dispatcher uses many tools to do his job.  On the CN Clearwater Sub, one of those tools is the Train Sheet.  
Here you see a portion of a train sheet that has been started before the new day has begun.  The current Time Table is shown, as well as the date of the new day (the direction of the trains was written in because of how the picture was taken).  The dispatcher has written in the regular trains closest to the station column.  This information is found in the Time Table.
The dispatcher then uses the current running instructions to pencil in trains that should run and approximate order times.

As trains are supplied, the dispatcher will take the information from the supplies and enter it on the train sheet.  Because we do not use operators to do that, the supply sheet is passed to the dispatcher by the train crew, yardmaster or myself.  
The information is written in ink (except for the booking, loads and empties, tons, length).  If we were using an operator, the train would be cleared and then the train would be capped with a red EXTRA stamp.  Regular trains would not be capped, but the ordered time, schedule number, etc. written in ink would mean the same thing.  For our purposes, receiving the supply is sufficient for the dispatcher to cap the trains.  The following pictures demonstrate the order in which this activity could follow.

When the train departs its originating station, the dispatcher will fill in the time in the space in the column beside Kamloops Jct or Blue River.  If that information is missed, four X's (XXXX) may be used for the departure time.  When the train arrives at the destination terminal, that time is entered by the dispatcher.  Because the dispatcher may not see the arrival time if he is busy doing something else, the train crew is to report the arrival time and off duty time to the dispatcher as their last duty.  
The dispatcher will continue to add trains in the order in which they are ordered from the inside of the sheet outward.  The only exception are trains that turn short of the next terminal, such as way freights (562 and 564), or work trains.  They are placed on the outside of the sheet and will show "TURN" in the Time Off Duty time space on the outbound trip and "TURN" in the Time Ordered space for the return portion of the trip.  The column is also cut off at the turn around point, such as Avola or Vavenby.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Train orders


The Train Order Book
(The page is a little longer)

The train order books that we used in Edmonton, when I was dispatching for CN, were hard cover and contained 200 pages.  They were used for Train Order territory, CTC territory and also for MBS bulletins (slow orders).  Each desk had its own number series for the territory (group of subdivisions) that it controlled.  The book used for active train orders and clearances used a number series in the hundreds, i.e. 100-199, 200-299, etc. and began at the first number (100 or 200 or 300..) at 0001 (midnight) every day.  If the desk controlled busy train order territory, the number series may have used 200 numbers, eg. 100-299, to prevent duplication of numbers on the same date.  There was a separate book numbered in the thousands, i.e. 1000-1999, etc., for slow orders, which were re-issued, if they were in effect for longer than two weeks.

At the time that I was dispatching, we only used Form 19 train orders and therefore we had to use the letter Y or R following 19 in the first column.  Form 31 orders were not used.  The dispatcher would dictate the order to one or more operators at the same time and he/she would determine whether the order should be a 19Y or 19R.

If the train order station had no train order signal, such as at the originating station for the train, "NS" was used in the response column.  If there was a train order signal, the operator would respond with "SD" along with the current indication on the train order signal for the direction specified by the dispatcher (eg. SDYW).  Each train order station would be addressed separately in the order that the dispatcher decided, based upon the superiority of the trains involved in the order.  That is, the train being restricted by the order would be addressed first.  If an order applied to all trains equally, then the order would be addressed to trains on the road first, then the superior direction and then the inferior direction.


The operator at each station would make as many copies as required in duplicate.  Fortunately for me, by the time I began as an operator, the 19's came with carbons already inserted in bunches of three.  The dispatcher would include the instruction on how many to make by saying "Blue River, 19Y West, copy three" or "Avola, 19R East and West, copy five".  The operator would then set the train order signal, get the correct number of sheets in the typewriter and respond with the indication showing on the train order signal.  If the train order signal was already displaying red or stop, and the order was a 19Y, the correct response would be SDR"direction".  

When everyone had responded, the dispatcher would begin dictating the train order, giving the type of order (19Y or 19R), the the order number (only once), beginning with the first train order station, writing the office signal in the next column, then the address in the larger column.  This continued with each station involved until all had been addressed.  At that point, the dispatcher would say "Period".  Then everyone knew to begin typing the body of the train order.  Once the dispatcher had finished the order, he would give his initials, such as "NTS" (my initials).  At that point, the dispatcher would expect each office to repeat the order, beginning with the first addressed.  Once the operator finished repeating the order, the dispatcher would give him/her a repeated time.  For most orders, this time would also be the completed time.  The operator would write the time in the "Repeated" space, the three letters "Com" after the word "Made", the time next and then sign the order using their last name.  If an order had to be repeated for any reason after the original repeat, the two times would not be the same (eg. signatures required, needed more copies, etc.).  Each operator would do the same in succession.

The Clearance (Form 710-C)
Once the operator had copied the required train orders for a train, the dispatcher would instruct him/her to clear the train.  The operator would fill out the clearance form with all pertinent information, including the orders that he/she had for the train and, if it was in CTC territory, the "void on arrival" portion for directional extra trains only.  The dispatcher would check the information against the active train orders in his/her train order book(s) and would respond with an "OK" time and his/her initials.  The operator would write that on the first line beside "OK at" and sign the clearance with his/her initials and last name.  After receiving an "OK" time, the operator would make up (usually two) sets of orders, with the clearance on the top and the orders in numerical order.  If the train was to receive the orders while passing the station, the operator would insert the bundle in a string that was then attached to a "hoop" (that looked like a big "Y", a longer one was used for the headend).  The operator then stood on the platform as the train approached and "handed up" the orders as the train passed.  After the train passed, the operator would "OS" the passage of the train to the dispatcher.  If there was a train register at that location, the conductor would drop off a register ticket with train information that could be entered in the register and then relayed to the dispatcher.

The Time Table
Each Subdivision had a separate time table.  As you can see from this example of the Clearwater Subdivision, it had schedules in both directions for the First Class trains and the way freights (561/562).  There were three Eastward Fourth Class schedules spaced about 6-8 hours apart.  Because a schedule remains in effect for 12 hours after the time at each station, unless fulfilled, superseded or annulled, most eastbound trains could use the schedules and make it over the road without running out of time.  The schedules were run in sections, sometimes as many as 7 or 8. All of the westbound trains were run as extra trains and could proceed by dodging the eastward schedule trains, but would likely be helped along by the dispatcher using train orders.  At the time of this time table, there were five open train order offices on line and numerous long sidings (10-15 miles apart), so the dispatcher had some flexibility.  There were many good dispatchers and many ways to dispatch.  

Because we operate model railroads, dispatching with time table and train orders can be quite difficult.  The times (fast clock) are also very compressed and people are not trained.  It can work, but time is quite often the determining factor.  I have found, that for my model railroad, a signal system is a much more satisfying approach to moving the trains.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


The train dispatcher uses a train sheet as a work sheet to keep track of trains and engines that operate on his/her territory.  Since I model a portion of the Clearwater Sub, I have made up a train sheet that is very similar to those used by CN.  The prototype train sheets were printed on a card stock to make them more durable and a new one was used every day.  Each dispatcher would sign the train sheet in the space provided at the top right hand portion.  Other information was also included, such as the current Time Table in effect, the day of the week and date, and any abnormalities that occurred, like broken rails, derailments, crossing accidents, etc.

The center of the sheet was taken from the current Time Table and included station names, mileages, yard limits, if any, train order office signals and siding capacities.

Each column on either side of the station information was for a train that operated on the  subdivision.  The dispatcher would enter the first class trains closest to the center as they would be found in the Time Table.  On my example, No 1 and No 163 would be found just to the left of the station column and No 164 and No 2 to the right of the station column.  Then extra trains would be added in chronological order from the center to the outside.  Work trains and local trains operating as turns would be placed to the very outside.  

The top row (diagonal lines) was the place where the conductor and engineers names would be recorded.  The next row was for the train designation such as 1, 2, EXTRA or WORK.  We had a rubber stamp with the word EXTRA and a red stamp pad.  When the train was cleared, the extra stamp would be used in that location.  The next three rows were used for unit numbers (except for a work train.  The first unit row was used for the EXTRA stamp).  If there were too many unit numbers to fit in theses spaces, the balance of the units could be found at the bottom of the sheet below that column.  
After the motive power rows, there was a row for loads and empties, arriving or departing, depending upon the direction.  The next row was for the tonnage associated with those loads and empties.  The next row was for the ordered time, then the next row was for the off duty time.

After the station names, at the bottom of the sheet, was another row for the loads and empties, arriving or departing, and the tonnage.  The final row was for the train length (usually the departing length).

Friday, November 17, 2017

Yard Operations at Kamloops Jct and the Clearwater Sub wayfreights

Working the Yard

We all have our own ideas about how to switch our layouts.  I have taken my ideas from my career of 22 years working for CN in Alberta.  While my operating scheme does not exactly replicate that of the prototype in Kamloops Jct, it does provide the opportunity to build and operate trains that "could have" run. 

These instructions have been issued to assist the Yardmaster to keep Kamloops Jct fluid and operate the wayfreights and yard assignments on time.

Yardmaster notes

Marshalling instructions:
570  Armstrong cars on head end, then everything else (Vernon, Lumby, Kelowna, etc).  Wooden caboose is normal and train departs westbound/southbound with crew arriving on 569.  This should be the first train built after midnight when the chip cars have arrived from Thornton Yard (usually on 410 or 404).
562  Log cars, chip cars, any other Vavenby cars, then Exlou cars on tail end because of a runaround move to spot and lift at Exlou.  Wooden caboose is normal and train departs eastbound.
564  Any Avola cars.  Wooden caboose is normal and train departs eastbound ahead of 562.
417  Ashcroft, Boston Bar, then any other west cars.  Cab can be changed out if it will speed up operations.  417 arrives with mostly Kamloops traffic and departs with all west traffic offering, including west cars arriving on the train.
314XK  Any east traffic offering up to a maximum of 15 cars (not including the caboose).  If there is traffic at Avola to lift, train will leave Kamloops Jct small enough to pick up Avola. 
410 will arrive with traffic for Kamloops Jct.  Fill with east traffic to a maximum of 15 cars (not including the caboose).  This train may also lift Avola, if required.
201 will setout traffic for Kamloops Jct and will depart.  The only cars that can be picked up are those destined to Chilliwack.

The Wayfreights of the Clearwater Sub


This train switches all industries and spurs at Exlou and Vavenby and operates as a Vavenby turn out of Kamloops Jct. 
Exlou cars departing Kamloops Jct should be on the tail end of the train to make it easier to switch at Exlou.  Both spurs at Exlou have points that face west (toward Kamloops Jct) so a runaround move is required. 
Any traffic to be lifted may be left for your return trip to Kamloops Jct so that you don’t have so many cars to deal with at Vavenby. However, the siding must be left clear when you depart.  Cars for Vavenby or Avola from Exlou should be taken to Vavenby.
I have found that switching the chip/log spur (CA23)  in Vavenby is best done when arriving as you are entering the siding.  It saves having to get extra signals from the dispatcher.
There are two tracks off the main where OCS cars can be left;  CA19  (stub ended) and CA18 (open on both ends).  Most times the track is specified on the waybill, but if there is none, either track is fine.  CA18 is also used to store lumber etys for the mill.
The loading track at the mill (CA24) has room for three bulkhead flats on the west end and two boxcars on the east end at the platform.
562  returns to Kamloops Jct with all traffic lifted from Vavenby picking up the traffic from Exlou.


564 switches all industries and spurs at Avola and operates as an Avola turn out of Kamloops Jct.  You may receive instructions to lift cars destined to Avola from Vavenby.
The Lafarge cement plant has its own switcher to load bulk cement in covered hoppers on track CA15.  The switcher is responsible to move loads from CA15 to CA14 and to move up to three empties from CA14 to CA15.  This usually happens prior to the arrival of 564, but could also happen when you are in town.  Unless we are short of crews, this is done by a separate crew.
It is usually easiest to switch CA10 (Imperial Oil Spur) on the main track when you arrive and then find your way to the siding.
All east traffic is to be left on CA12 for pickup by a through train later in the day.  All west, CPR and local traffic leaves with you on the train.  If there are any cars for Vavenby or Exlou, they are to be spotted on the return trip.

There was only one wayfreight on the real Clearwater Sub and it normally ran to Blue River one day and back to Kamloops Jct the next, three times a week.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rocks, Trees and Water

Modelling British Columbia means that you will need lots of rocks and trees as well as rivers and lakes.  Mountains vary in rock types and colours and depending on how much rainfall is received can be quite arid or very humid.  Thus the vegetation can vary greatly as well. I have chosen to model Kamloops Jct, which is located in an arid area of BC.  The geography can be quite stark and it does not support the growth of much vegetation.  I will post more photos of the yard in a later blog but as you can see in the photo below, the  hills/mountains are very yellow on the backdrop at the top right.
 The rest of the layout is more forested and lush.  I will describe in another blog how I made the trees and rocks for each area.  Most of the trees were constructed by myself, although I purchase a large number of smaller evergreens from a commercial manufacturer.  Tree making is never ending, it seems.  As you are aware, mountains also mean lakes and rivers.  I have been able to include some water features as well.
Stay tuned for more articles on scenery on the CN Clearwater Sub.