Prototype Operation Question

rockislandfan Jul 24, 2019

  1. rockislandfan

    rockislandfan New Member

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    I'm curious as to how real railroad do this: When the local rolls into town, do they usually pick up all empty cars, even if they're not dropping a new loaded one off, or do they just leave it until they have a drop off?

    Also, I'm modeling a dead end branch line so this question is geared for that. For example: A westbound local goes by the elevator and needs to pick up 10 loaded hoppers and drop off 10 empties. Its the only stop in that town. Do they do the swap, or just drop off the empties and pick up loads on the way back by? Or go right on by and swap on the way back?
     
  2. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Lots of variables here, but I'd guess that if the empties were owned by a foreign railroad, they'd be picked up to get them off line as quickly as possible to avoid per diem charges. This was especially prevalent decades ago when loading a foreign road empty was less common. I'm not sure how the system works today.

    Regarding the working of industries, some of the routine can be based on track layout. If an industry is conveniently accessed by a trailing point turnout, they'll work it then, as it'd be inaccessible on the return trip. Sometimes too, switching will be dependent on shipper's readiness, with Bills Of Lading complete, blue flags removed, gate unlocked, placards in place, etc..
     
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  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    As long as the shipper has released the car. Which usually they'd do as fast as possible, to avoid extra days $$$ charges.
     
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  4. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

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    There is no one answer to this. Much depends on trackage available and the number and types of trains passing through the town(s). You mention that this is a "dead end" branch line. I assume that you are operating what it called a "turn". How many trains run on the branch in a day?

    If we assume there is only one, then the train likely would pick up the empties, even if it had no set outs.

    You must keep in mind other things, though. If there is no runaround track in the town, the train can work the spurs only when they are trailing point. Poling is difficult to simulate in N scale. If they are trailing point on the way in, the train will do its pick-ups and set outs on the way in. If there are both, it will work the trailing points on the way in and the facing points on the way out, when they will become trailing points.

    This can result in more than a little backhauling, which you try to avoid. If there is a siding with turnouts at both ends further down the line, often the train will leave the cars picked up in the first town on that siding to be collected on the way back out. It would do the same for cars destined for facing points on the way in. If the only runaround is at the end of the line, then, you are doomed to backhauling.
     
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  5. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    Another aspect is grades along the line. The railroad will go to greater efforts to avoid taking cars up serious grades that are only going to come back down to be switched on the return. So, for instance, if the train needs to put 10 loaded cars into what would be a facing-point spur on the way up a grade, it might look for a siding where it could leave those cars until it comes back down the grade and can then have a trailing-point spur. Likewise, if a train crew knows that it has to put cars on a facing-point spur somewhere ahead, and it has a passing siding it can use before it gets there, it may do a run-around and put the cars for the facing spur ahead of the engine, so that it can just shove them into the spur when it gets there.

    Railroads of course lay their own tracks how it suits them best. So, they will make spurs as convenient as possible, within some restrictions from geography and land uses like roads, etc. On a short-line that I am designing to run up a valley, it will service 3 mines. The tracks are arranged for double ended entry (sidings) so that empties can be dropped off on the way up and loads can be picked-up on the way down. The mine at the top of the valley does have single-ended spurs, but the train needs to turn on a wye nearby anyway. (It gives me a chance to make a neat switching puzzle that is easy, once you think your way through it.) So, think like a railroad, and make things as straight-forward as possible to "save fuel". But, add an excuse for a little bit of complexity to make sure it is interesting to operate. Too easy can get boring.
     
  6. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

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    If there was no work to do on a branch, would they even run the train or just wait until there was a delivery or pick up? Railroads don't just run trains to burn fuel. If there was a load to be delivered, they would deliver that load. Unless a shipper has released a car or cars, there is nothing to pick up. The railroad doesn't just go looking for empties to pick up (however in most model operations, we assume that a load is emptied and released by the shipper the next time a train is scheduled), they wait to be told that a car is empty and ready to be removed.
     
  7. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I thought of another wrinkle to keep things interesting -- boxcars placarded to be unloaded on one side only. We sometimes did this in the industry I worked in, as certain ladings could be placed with fewer voids and made less subject to damage if a door could be blocked off.
     
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  8. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

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    Tho order industries are served depended on the direction of the switch, point facing switches are dealt with on the way back.

    The other thing I noticed on the short line I got to ride on was, the crews are very rarely surprised. It’s just a job, with regular motions without much need for thinking, just working. The variable was economics, how well each industry was doing varying car totals.
     
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  9. Rich_S

    Rich_S TrainBoard Member

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    There is a lot of truth to the above statement. For 99% of the people who work on the railroad, it's just their job. They have no special interest other than getting the job done as safely and efficiently as possible. Next time you're switching your layout, try to imagine you're a N scale person, how can you get this job done with the least amount of walking, stopping to throw switches, setting hand brakes on cars, etc. What is the safest and most efficient way to switch your towns without having your N scale crews walk their legs off. Remember, railroad equipment is big and heavy and does not stop on a dime. One of the biggest mistakes model railroaders make is trying to do everything to fast. Knuckle in too fast and you can damage and / or derail the piece of rolling stock you're trying to move. As Tony mentioned above, crews will learn the most efficient way to switch out an industry and from that point on it just becomes SOP.
     
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  10. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    A very good summary. I recall reading something on this topic long ago that said the same, that working on the railroad "is largely a walking game". My hat's off to the men and women who do this for a living, walking miles on uneven ground, in all kinds of weather, in poor light and sometimes without sufficient rest.
     
  11. Hansel

    Hansel TrainBoard Member

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    Typically, at least from my books from the 1940s say, and this would depend on each road rules, but typically a shipper would have one day of "free time" to load up an empty car and tell the nearest station agent that the car was ready to be picked up. If they didn't load the car until after the 24 hr period, the shipper would be charged a daily demurrage charge each day it was over the 24 hr limit. A similar rule was enacted for a consignee who would have 48 hrs to unload a car and call the local station agent to pick up the empty car or else they would be charged a daily demurrage charge. Back in the day, the railroads would not have enough empty cars laying around in their yards. One reason for this was that some consignees would keep the car they had delivered and use it as a "warehouse", so there was no motivation for the consignee to unload the car and send the empty car back to the railroad. Another part of this was the use of your railroad's car on foreign railroads. When you sent a car from your railroad across the country to a consignee who had to use a foreign railroad to get the car the foreign road had no incentive to return the empty car back to your railroad and would continue to use it on their railroad to ship goods. Then came along the Car Service Rules which deterred the shipper, consignee, and foreign roads from needlessly keeping empty cars from returning to their home railroad. The shipper and consignee as stated before would be charged a demurrage fee while the railroad would be charged a "per diem" fee until they gave back the car at an interchange with the home road. Other rules stated that you should route the foreign car back in the direction of the home road but could use the empty car to take lading to other consignees on their own road or another foreign road or the home road in order use the car. This way it would cut down on "empty car mileage". I don't believe these rules apply for private cars however.

    So to answer your question...……….yes, the peddler would be motivated to pick up the empty cars while they were setting out loaded cars.
     
  12. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

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    My father - who was a Pennsylvania lumberman during the late PRR and Penn Central years - made a science of bribing the local trainmaster to supply him with acceptable empty cars for loading headed to the west coast. He hated the cars that PRR/PC supplied, but managed to tie into every decent ATSF, SP, or TTX car headed west he could get for reload. It took extra work to locate westbound empties for reloading that didn't have broken doors, holes in the roof, or whatever, but 'it got done' and the cars that showed up (that I have pictures of) were excellent, relatively new, western road cars.

    So there's that human element as well. Most times you'll see 'home road' cars for loading unless it's a private lease cars (reporting mark ending in X) but .... even under the old rules, not always.
    Car hire/per diem/constructive placement rules changed a lot as a result of deregulation, and the latest layer of complication involves rules on handling any hazmat cars, you can't just leave those parked around more than 24 hours either.
     
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  13. Hansel

    Hansel TrainBoard Member

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    I thought the railroads jumped on repairing foreign cars; extra money for them! I remember reading a small book on repairs allowed and costs that were regulated so that other railroads wouldn't see it as a profit making business.
     
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  14. rockislandfan

    rockislandfan New Member

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    You guys are making great points. I've not really sat and thought about all the stuff involved with shipping freight on the railroad.
     
  15. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    Even though my THERR is a fictional railroad I am learning a lot from this thread. I still have to switch industries. ;)

    I only have 2 industries (other then what is switched right off the yard).

    [​IMG]

    Both 'Georges Scrap Yard' and 'Stevens Concrete' are serviced off the same spur. Add in that the cars are switched right off the main...there is no other way. This makes for some interesting switching maneuvers...since the scrap yard and the concrete batch plant cars seldom need to be swapped out at the same time. :whistle::censored::eek:
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2019
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  16. Hansel

    Hansel TrainBoard Member

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    If you wanna take the plunge and learn a whole lot of stuff about realistic railroading look up Tony Thompson's blog. I have found it to be a great source of information.
     
  17. Rich_S

    Rich_S TrainBoard Member

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    Make sure your crews get permission from the cement plant to move their cars before you couple in. In reality, both locations although on the same physical piece of track would have locking derails. You don't want a car to get away at the cement plant and kill someone in the scrap yard. I've seen a couple of modelers use insulated rail joiners placed on top of the rail to simulate derails. They add a small touch of reality. Also remember to re-spot the cars and put the derails back up when your done ;)
     
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  18. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    If you are running a model railroad dated far enough into the past (prior to July 1, 1902), the rules for demurrage and the car service rules were different.

    Instead of charging a railroad for time a foreign car was on its tracks (per diem), it was charged by distance the foreign car ran on it tracks. So, short lines paid little money for a foreign freight car that came onto their rails and traveled a short distance to an industry, not matter how long that foreign car stayed at the industry. But, they got money for their own cars travelling long distances on larger railroads. Picking-up empty foreign cars was not a high priority before 1902, because it cost the railroad nothing to leave them there. But, that caused inefficient use of rail cars, so eventually, the rules were changed to keep the cars moving with freight in them.

    When the rules changed, it hurt the short lines. Some changed their tactics. For instance, the Ma&Pa built a coal trestle to transfer loads from foreign cars to their own cars right at the interchange point in Baltimore (North Avenue). So, after 1902, even when both railroads were standard gauge, there were some load transfers between foreign and "home" cars at interchange points, just like what was necessary for interchanges between standard gauge railroads and narrow gauge railroads.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2019
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  19. Rich_S

    Rich_S TrainBoard Member

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    I don't know about the car shop, but I can tell you foreign road locomotives go back home to be repaired. The only time repairs are made on a foreign road locomotive, is for safety appliances, i.e. someone can get hurt, wreck damage that would prevent the locomotive from being shipped home or air brake troubles that would prevent it from being placed in a train. If the wreck damage is too extensive, the locomotive will go home on a flatcar.

    We had this very situation several years ago with two UP locomotives. The one spent several weeks in the shop getting repairs made to it, so it could safely be sent home, the other went home on a flatcar.
     
  20. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

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    The railroad I followed made a boo boo once and picked up tank cars without being cleared. The hoses were still attached underneath.
     

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