Operations SIG Operations PRIMER (FAQ)
Following are the topics/questions discussed in this section of the OpSig
PRIMER. You can click on a question to jump directly to that topic. You are
invited to address further questions or comments (please refer to question
number) to Primer@OpSIG.org.
Question 1: I am looking for some 'templates' for lack of a
better term, that will help me setup/organize an operating session. I have
a car forwarding system that I like. But I don't have any idea of how to go
about scheduling trains or writing up a list for car sorting in a yard.
What else am I missing?
Answer 1: You have picked up on the relatively well documented
car-forwarding part of the operations picture, good start. The piece still
missing is 'what trains should run, when, and what will they do?' What you
refer to as a template is often called a transportation plan or arranged
freight service (we're omitting passengers for now).
To some extent of course the transportation plan depends on the kind of
railroad you are modeling. If it's a shortline, branchline or industrial
switching district then most likely there will be one train/switch run per
day which will naturally deliver the inbound cars/waybills and pick up the
outbounds. Even then there may be a need to define how the 'outbounds' are
handled. For example there may be eastbound vs westbound cars, or cars for
different connecting rrs vs cars that will be moved further by your railroad's
mainline trains. Part of your crew's job is to separate the outbounds
according to these different routings indicated by their waybills, and this
is where sorting to specific yard tracks begins to come in.
On a larger railroad in addition to the local switchers there will be
through trains which don't work individual industries but pick up and set
out blocks of cars at main connecting points. The plan is worked out so there
is a way for every car to get to its destination via these defined blocks and
trains. Then the job of a particular yard along the way is to assemble these
blocks for the through trains to handle, and to distribute their setout blocks
to the connecting trains, locals and switch runs that also work out of this
yard. Usually there will be defined classification tracks to accumulate cars
for each of these ongoing trains and the arriving cars will be written up for
sorting for these destinations in accordance with the transportation plan.
An obvious source of 'templates' would be the plan or schedule of the
part of the prototype railroad you are modeling (why make it up when it
exists?), but if you don't have access to that or if you are freelancing you
would need to create your own, though having an example of a real one, even
if it doesn't fit your railroad, would explain a lot.
Your railroad's transportation plan would probably be built around the
predominant or the most competitive part of its traffic, for example,
perishables moving from the southwest or southeast to the eastern markets,
or steel from Pittsburgh. Or maybe your railroad competes for general traffic
against several other similar midwest roads. These tend to define the 'hot'
or priority trains. Then you would provide for the work to be done by the
return trips of these same trains/crews, which might be lower priority and
able to take care of other types of traffic. If there are diverging routes
or important connecting lines then blocks will be needed to serve these.
Finally there are the local switch runs; these would usually be set up to run
shortly after the main blocks of their traffic arrive at the local's origin
yard, and/or to return to the yard in time to connect with particular outbound
trains. This may begin to sound like the airlines' 'hub and spoke' system
where they build their schedules to allow travelers to reach all locations
but favoring the most heavily traveled origins/destinations.
The plan is basically expressed in two complementary parts: for each train
over its entire run (could be more than one crew district), what blocks of
traffic does it handle, in what sequence in the train makeup, and where are
they picked up and set out, as well as a rough time schedule and perhaps
policies about how much power is assigned, etc. The other part is the same
information from the perspective of each individual yard, listing (probably
in time of day sequence) what trains stop there to set out and/or pick up and
which blocks each particular train handles at that yard. A 'block' in this
context means 'cars that will be handled together because they are going
to or by way of a particular point.' For example, a train originating in
Chicago might have blocks for Galesburg, Kansas City, and Albuquerque.
Galesburg would remove cars for trains that operate out of that yard, and
perhaps add cars from its area that are going to the Kansas City area or
the Albuquerque area. And so forth.
Page updated: 2006 January 21