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Author Topic: Prototype Ideas to improve model train operations  (Read 9488 times)
Desertdweller

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« on: May 10, 2014, 05:33:18 PM »

I would like to start a thread of ways ideas can be adapted from the actual railroads to improve realism/operations on model railroads.  I am sure there are many, but one came to mind yesterday that has application to model railroad operations, and can perhaps start the ball rolling seeking further suggestions.

Any model railroad operation that involves switching of any type can use this.

The number one cars of switching accidents on actual railroads is blind shoves.  What is a blind shove?
It is an unprotected backup move into a track that either ends in a dead end, or has equipment already standing on it.

It happens when a switchman or conductor calls for the engineer to back the train into a track, without the ground man actually being able to observe the end of the string of cars being shoved, or not being able to observe the clear distance to the point where the movement is supposed to stop.
The fewer people working the ground, the greater the chances of this happening.

Unless your model has a very good momentum throttle, this is not such a problem for a model railroader.  As we all know, cutting power to most model locomotives stops them instantly.
It is not so easy on an actual railroad.  The engineer must allow some distance to stop, and instant stops are not always a good idea even if they could be performed (you might throw a crewmember off a car that stops too suddenly).  At least no one is going to get hurt on a model train.

How do railroads prevent this from happening?
First, there is a rule against making blind shoves.  This is common sense, but sometimes gets overlooked.
Second, there is a rule that shoving movements have to come to a stop by a set distance from the end of track or other equipment on that track.  Generally, this is three car lengths or 150 feet.

Although on a model railroad, there is generally only one set of eyes per train, these are rules that can easily be followed.  How many of us have shoved cars off the end of a track, or slammed into a cut of cars we have forgotten about on our model railroads?  Be honest now.

If we adopt this rule on our model railroads, we can have smoother and more realistic operations at no extra expense at all.  And maybe even prevent something from getting broken.

Anybody else have any real railroad rules they would like to suggest?

Les
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BillD53A

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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2014, 06:06:37 PM »

Try incorporating time into your crew's day.  There are fast clock programs available to use your computer as a fast time clock.  I use 4 to 1 ratio to run a 12 hour workday in 3 real hours.  It takes time to run a railroad.  Everytime a loco couples to a car, the brakeman must connect the brake hoses, cut in the air,  and knock off the hand brake. On my railroad it takes 2 minutes.   Then the brakes have to be tested.  First they must be applied and a brakeman must walk the train to ensure the brakes are released, then the brakes are released and the train must be checked again.  You cant just couple up the loco and go.  On my railroad a brakeman can check 3 cars in 1 scale minute.  I also keep track of where each crewman is.  If everybody is at the front end and a switch needs to be thrown at the rear end, we are going to sit here for a while, while someone walks back there.
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rogertra


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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2014, 03:38:41 PM »

Good topic.

Trouble is, I think the vast majority of people on this forum are not prototype nor operation oriented modellers.

They generally just like to run trains and many of them do not have model railroads designed for prototype operation.  Usually just 4 x 8 circles.  Not that there's anything wrong with that if they get enjoyment from it but it's difficult to emulate the prototype on a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood.

Me?  My GER is designed for prototype operation.  To some extent, I follow what Les laid out though I'm not a believer in waiting for the brakeman to walk the train nor allowing time for the air to pump up.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

My take on prototype operation is following the rules, as closely and practically as possibly on a model railroad.

- Follow Rule 14 regarding whistle signals.

Most modellers who use the whistle, use them too excessively.  When switching, you usually do NOT use the whistle to indicate when you are moving forwards or reverse.  It's a good neighbour policy.  If you are crossing a road at grade, while switching, it's usual to have a crew member flag the crossing so all the engineer needs to do in this case is ring the bell, not sound a 14L on the whistle.

- Follow Rule 30 regarding the use of the locomotive bell.

Most modellers over use the bell, as well as the whistle.  The bell is not rung continuously when switching.  Go watch a freight yard and listen.  Hear any bells?  No!  Why, because the bell is only used as a warning, say when passing a cut of standing cars, when passing between cuts of standing cars to give a warning to anyone taking an (illegal) short cut between cars.  The bell is always rung when entering or leaving a building or passing loading platforms, or passing between close clearances as between warehouses etc. in industrial areas, when moving along street trackage and when approaching crossings at grade or station platforms.  Even out on the road, the bell is usually only rung when passing standing cuts of cars or stationary trains at meets, when approaching crossings at grade or station platforms and when approaching and traveling through tunnels.

- Headlights: -

I model 1958 so in daylight, steam loco's usually do NOT have the headlight illuminated except for switchers, where both headlights are on "dim".
Diesels.  Headlight is lit when on the "road".  Diesel switchers, both headlights on "dim".
 
- When making a "joint" stop 10 feet away from stationary rolling stock before making the joint.

- When starting away from a station stop, or a meet,  ring the bell and two short whistle blasts to acknowledge the conductor's signal to proceed.

That's a few of them.

Anyone else have examples of what they do when following the prototype?

Cheers

Roger T.
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RAM

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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2014, 09:05:58 PM »

I have never seen a brakeman on a local walk the train to ensure the brakes are working correctly.  They just connect the air hose and cut in the air.  Walk back to the locomotive and off they go.  I just hope that they do a running brake test. However we no longer have any local set out or pickup.  We do have one train each way some time in the night. 
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Desertdweller

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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2014, 10:20:36 PM »

Roger,

You make some good points.  The bell is not rung continuously.  It is a warning that the engine is about to move, or to provide a warning in the situations you mentioned.  It is also important to ring it when passing workers near the track.

Horn honking needs to be done judiciously.  Two shorts to move forward, three to back up.  Switching moves are in response to a ground man giving instructions.  The problem with the horn is you can hurt someone with it.  You would not sound the horn if you have a crew member riding the front of the loco unless he had good ear protection.

If the engine is backed up, before starting the move, the ground man must give an estimated distance in number of car lengths.  If the engineer does not hear from the ground man by the time he has moved half that distance, he must stop until he hears further instructions.  Of course, it would take a crew of at least two to do this on a model railroad.

Even very small model railroads can use these rules.  All you need is a switch and a track to back into.

RAM,

Cars can be moved around a yard (within yard limits) without an air test, or even without air connected, as long as it can be done safely.  Cars that are to be handled beyond yard limits must have an air test.  A "running air test"  is just a check to see if the brakes are responding to a drop in train line pressure.  It is not a real air test.

There isn't any way I can think of to simulate this on a model railroad, except to spend some time to simulate the steps needed.  The cars must pass both a leakage test and a brake test.  An entire train may be tested at once.  These tests require a person to be on the ground.
To simplify the explanation, the air pressure at the rear of the train must be read and conveyed to the engineer.  The brakes are set, and the brake pipe is shut off from the loco's air supply.  A timed interval is done to check the amount of leakage.  This leakage can be read from the locomotive.
Meanwhile, the ground person has to walk the entire length of the train (or the cars being picked up).
He has to walk both sides, to make sure the brakes are applied beneath each car.  He also checks for loose rigging and shifted loads, etc.  Then, after the leakage test is passed, he must walk the train again (both sides) to make sure the brakes have all released when pressure is restored.  On a long train, this can take an hour or more.

Another thing we can simulate on our model railroads is observing the Yard Limits Rule.  While rules for air tests are relaxed in yard limits, responsibilities of train crews is expanded.  The Yard Limit Rule says basically that the train or locomotive has to be able to stop within half the visible distance to another train, loco or car, or person, misaligned switch, set derail, red flag or fusee.  In any case, maximum speed under this rule is 20mph.

We can follow this rule on our railroads by being careful to observe how switches are lined ahead of our trains, and not going too fast.  My own model railroad is all within Yard Limits, as it models an urban terminal operation.

Generally, if you want to simulate actual railroad operations, you need to slow down and enjoy the experience.  Actual railroad crews that try to do their work in a hurry are the ones that have accidents.
Trying to hurry model railroad operations will have the same result.

Les
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rogertra


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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2014, 11:16:25 PM »

Roger,

You make some good points.  The bell is not rung continuously.  It is a warning that the engine is about to move, or to provide a warning in the situations you mentioned.  It is also important to ring it when passing workers near the track.

Horn honking needs to be done judiciously.  Two shorts to move forward, three to back up.  Switching moves are in response to a ground man giving instructions.  The problem with the horn is you can hurt someone with it.  You would not sound the horn if you have a crew member riding the front of the loco unless he had good ear protection.

If the engine is backed up, before starting the move, the ground man must give an estimated distance in number of car lengths.  If the engineer does not hear from the ground man by the time he has moved half that distance, he must stop until he hears further instructions.  Of course, it would take a crew of at least two to do this on a model railroad.

Even very small model railroads can use these rules.  All you need is a switch and a track to back into.

Les

I agree with what you write, including the info I snipped but I have a minor point re the use of the whistle (Rule 14 still calls them "whistle signals"  Smiley  ).

In a yard, in response to the ground man's signal to move either forward or reverse, the whistle is usually not sounded neither is the bell rung if it is clear all around.  Again, this is a good neighbour policy.  As well, it becomes annoying to people working on, in and around the engine.  Usually a yard is fairly empty of people.  It's just the engineer, yard foreman and the ground crew anywhere near the engine.  Of course, as you point out, if there are people near the engine, then the bell is usually rung in a yard, though not the whistle, except in an emergency or if someone wanders into your path.

I speak from practical experience here having been a locomotive engineer, albeit in a working railway museum but railway rules still applied as we were also working with professional railroaders on our crew(s) and woe betide you if you broke any of the rules.  Smiley

Cheers

Roger T.
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Desertdweller

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« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2014, 02:45:57 AM »

Roger,

In modern times with radios, instructions to the engineer to move the loco are repeated to be sure there is no misunderstanding.  Before the use of radios, hand signals would be used by the ground person and acknowledged in some way by the engineer (short whistle signals).  Car counts would be given to the engineer by a chopping motion of the arm.  These could not be repeated back.

In a situation concerning safety, signals would need to be acknowledged by horn or bell.  Being annoying doesn't count.  Taking the safe course of action is always rule one.

What needs to be kept in mind, regardless of if you are working on a short line or a museum or tourist railroad, is that even though the railroad may be small, the equipment is full size and can do the same damage to a human being.  The cars are Class One size even if the railroad isn't.

I am a retired loco engineer and supervisor of engineers, among other railroad positions.  All my railroading is now done in my basement.

Another idea for model railroad operations:  in engine servicing areas, speed limit is usually 5mph.
When Mechanical Department people are working around equipment, that equipment is protected by a blue flag.  The blue flag is placed by the Mechanical Dept., and can only be removed by the same class of employee that placed it.  Equipment protected by blue flags cannot be coupled to, and tracks blue flagged cannot be entered.  The Mechanical Dept. people have their own switch locks with keys that are only issued to them.  A locomotive under blue flag protection will, in addition to carrying a blue flag (often a metal sign) will have a blue flag hanging on the control stand.  Engine crews may not do anything with a locomotive blue flagged, unless under the direct supervision of a Mechanical Department employee.

The reason for this is obvious: to prevent a loco being moved while people are at work on it, between units, or even beneath them.  Also, a loco being worked on may have some of its systems disabled (like maybe the brakes).

There isn't much we can do to model this.  On my last model railroad, I had blue lights installed on my engine service tracks to indicate work being done under blue flag protection.

My present model railroad uses a simple system.  Straight pins are bent so they can be pivoted out over the track to be blue-flagged.  The heads of the pins are painted dark blue.  Blue flag protection can be given cars being loaded or unloaded as well as being worked on.  Be sure to check for blue flags before pulling into one of these tracks!  It is a real no-no, even on a model railroad, to knock down a blue flag.

Les
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rogertra


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« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2014, 01:37:29 PM »

Roger,

In modern times with radios, instructions to the engineer to move the loco are repeated to be sure there is no misunderstanding.  Before the use of radios, hand signals would be used by the ground person and acknowledged in some way by the engineer (short whistle signals).  Car counts would be given to the engineer by a chopping motion of the arm.  These could not be repeated back.

In a situation concerning safety, signals would need to be acknowledged by horn or bell.  Being annoying doesn't count.  Taking the safe course of action is always rule one.

What needs to be kept in mind, regardless of if you are working on a short line or a museum or tourist railroad, is that even though the railroad may be small, the equipment is full size and can do the same damage to a human being.  The cars are Class One size even if the railroad isn't.

I am a retired loco engineer and supervisor of engineers, among other railroad positions.  All my railroading is now done in my basement.

My observation of real time railroading is while working in a yard, the bell is not used that often.  I cab ride with a CPR engineer friend who spends most of his shifts these days in yard service, he has enough seniority to hold down a regular day shift.  In regular back and forth switching, unless approaching the grade crossings at either end of the yard, the bell is hardly ever rung.  In these parts, distance to a joint was given by bending the elbow and touching your shoulder with the arm giving the hand signals.  Of course, as you say, it's now radio. 


Another idea for model railroad operations:  in engine servicing areas, speed limit is usually 5mph.
When Mechanical Department people are working around equipment, that equipment is protected by a blue flag.  The blue flag is placed by the Mechanical Dept., and can only be removed by the same class of employee that placed it.  Equipment protected by blue flags cannot be coupled to, and tracks blue flagged cannot be entered.  The Mechanical Dept. people have their own switch locks with keys that are only issued to them.  A locomotive under blue flag protection will, in addition to carrying a blue flag (often a metal sign) will have a blue flag hanging on the control stand.  Engine crews may not do anything with a locomotive blue flagged, unless under the direct supervision of a Mechanical Department employee.

The reason for this is obvious: to prevent a loco being moved while people are at work on it, between units, or even beneath them.  Also, a loco being worked on may have some of its systems disabled (like maybe the brakes).

There isn't much we can do to model this.  On my last model railroad, I had blue lights installed on my engine service tracks to indicate work being done under blue flag protection.

My present model railroad uses a simple system.  Straight pins are bent so they can be pivoted out over the track to be blue-flagged.  The heads of the pins are painted dark blue.  Blue flag protection can be given cars being loaded or unloaded as well as being worked on.  Be sure to check for blue flags before pulling into one of these tracks!  It is a real no-no, even on a model railroad, to knock down a blue flag.

Les

Ah yes, the blue flag.  I simply use a blue flag made up from a pin and a piece of brass painted blue but without the white surround, I'm not that accurate a painter.  Smiley

Too bad we can't put the maintainer's padlock on the switch thus locking the track out of service.

And speaking of bells, the bell is rung almost continually while moving around the roundhouse and service areas as there are usually lots of people around.

Cheers

Roger T.
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Desertdweller

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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2014, 08:09:38 PM »

Roger,

That method of signaling car counts must be a regional thing.  The rules allow for a lot of leeway in hand signals, as long as there is a clear understanding among the crew as to their meaning.

Another variation between railroads is the method used for requesting permission to enter the space between cars, and the actions needed to be taken by the engineer in response.  Depending on the railroad, the ground person may request "red zone", "going in between", or "three step"..the latter meaning the engineer should put the reverser in neutral, set the independent brake (or automatic brake if necessary to prevent movement), and shut off the generator field switch.   Regardless of words used, there must be an affirmative reply from the engineer before entering that space.  Of course, if more than one person is going "in between", each one must be heard from that they are in the clear before any movement is made.

The members of the crew in this situation literally have each others lives in their hands.  They have to trust each other.

I don't know how to simulate this on a model railroad, unless there is a two-person crew.

Have you ever switched using hand signals only?  The rules actually call for hand signals if they are able to be used.  The problem now is the crews are so small, there is no one to relay the signals.
When they can be used, they are very elegant and efficient.  I have heard of switching being done on a model railroad using hand and finger signals, but have never done it.

Les

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rogertra


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« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2014, 10:34:06 PM »

Roger,

That method of signaling car counts must be a regional thing.  The rules allow for a lot of leeway in hand signals, as long as there is a clear understanding among the crew as to their meaning.

Another variation between railroads is the method used for requesting permission to enter the space between cars, and the actions needed to be taken by the engineer in response.  Depending on the railroad, the ground person may request "red zone", "going in between", or "three step"..the latter meaning the engineer should put the reverser in neutral, set the independent brake (or automatic brake if necessary to prevent movement), and shut off the generator field switch.   Regardless of words used, there must be an affirmative reply from the engineer before entering that space.  Of course, if more than one person is going "in between", each one must be heard from that they are in the clear before any movement is made.

The members of the crew in this situation literally have each others lives in their hands.  They have to trust each other.

I don't know how to simulate this on a model railroad, unless there is a two-person crew.

Have you ever switched using hand signals only?  The rules actually call for hand signals if they are able to be used.  The problem now is the crews are so small, there is no one to relay the signals.
When they can be used, they are very elegant and efficient.  I have heard of switching being done on a model railroad using hand and finger signals, but have never done it.

Les

Hi Les.

Back in the late 1960s, when I was a learning, we only used hand signals.  It wasn't until around the mid 1970s or so we finally had the use of radios.  Made life a little easier but we all had to learn the correct radio usage and language, like the "three step".  We were trained by volunteers who were also CNR and or CPR professionals who were also volunteers.  In the summer months, I spent many a Sunday as engineer of the passenger train.  It became a somewhat routine run and to make the day more of a challenge, I'd make a "game" of stopping at intermediate station.  One only reduction on the train line to stop right on the mark.  As the station platform was on the fireman's side, I'd placed 12 inch piece of white painted rock just on the edge of the ballast as a cue where to stop.  With the white painted rock under the cab window you were a perfect fit in the platform.  It made the day a little more challenging than just tooling up and down the line for eight hours.  The passenger run was not as interesting as the opening and losing of the seasons switching moves.
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jward


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« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2014, 07:23:58 AM »

one thing most non railroaders don't know about are electric switch locks. these are used in signalled territory to protect hand thrown switches kike an industrial spur.

electric locks are tied into the signal system. if there is no train in the block, the electric locks is not engaged, but opening the witch wi;; drop the signals on either side of the block to drop to red.   if there is a train in the block, the lock is engaged and the switch cannot be opened unless the train is within about two carlengths ahead of the switchpoints, then the lock disengages and the switch can be opened to service the spur.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Desertdweller

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« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2014, 06:15:18 PM »

I've never worked with electric switch locks, but I have worked with power switches that were controlled by the dispatcher (Centralized Traffic Control).

One situation that sometimes happens on both actual railroads and model railroads alike is when a power switch fails to work.  The dispatcher then gives the crew permission to "take the switch in hand".  This means to unlock the switch with a key and throw the switch manually.  On an actual railroad, this generally happens when the switch is frozen.  Ice must be chipped out of the switch and swept out.  If the switch then won't throw by its switch machine, it must be thrown by hand.

On a model railroad, this is generally caused by a piece of ballast or other foreign material getting lodged in the switch machine.

On my own model railroad, when a switch does not throw by remote control, I've found the problem is usually corrosion on the electrical contacts on the switch control box on the control panel.  Must easier than taking up a switch and disassembling it.

Modern railroads operating in cold climates often use switch heaters on remote-control main line switches.  A gas-fired heater blows hot air onto the moving switch parts.  These heaters run on propane and have propane tanks nearby.

Les
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jward


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« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2014, 08:56:18 PM »

the older style switch heaters actually applied flame to the stock rails. they were covered by a snow shield and had a purple flame well visible at night.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Desertdweller

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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2014, 08:31:46 PM »

Here is another idea.  Actual trains (even light engines), operating outside of yard limits, must display a red marker light (a red flag by day is sometimes acceptable, depending on the operating rules) on the rear.  The idea here is not only to make your train visible, but to indicate that the last car showing the marker is indeed the end of the train (there is not a cut of cars left behind).

A good, cheap way to simulate this is to apply a red sequin on the rear car or caboose.  These are available at Ben Franklin stores on a card in a variety of sizes for $2.  They consist of a clear red lens on a chrome base.  They come in a variety of sizes, several of each size, with a removable adhesive on the back.  They can be stuck on your equipment and removed without leaving a mark on the surface.  They will even adhere to end gates on passenger cars.

Les
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rogertra


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« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2014, 01:57:10 AM »

I model the 1950s, an era when cabooses were assigned to conductor who, like most operating personnel, bid on jobs every three months.  The man with the most seniority gets the job.

All my cabooses, like all my freight cars, passenger cars, and locomotives have a car-card and waybill.

The caboose waybills and car-card all have a red band across the top to make them stand out.

However, that's not the main point.  In the 1950s, every conductor had "His" caboose.  It was assigned to him and him alone and woe betide anyone who put the wrong van on the wrong train.  It had to be removed.  So, as all my vans have a waybill, that waybill contains the name of the conductor (Usually a model railroader friend) and the train the van is assigned to, it important that this information is read and acted upon.

My main station and yard is a division point.  So, not only are all steam locos changed,  on through trains, diesels work through, but also cabooses are changed as well.  Some vans are assigned to conductors who only work westward and return and some vans are assigned to conductors who only work eastward and return.  This adds further work for the yardmaster as not only must vans be swapped but also the correct van must be put onto the rear of the correct train that the van/conductor has been assigned to.  So there's no taking the switcher of to the caboose track and grabbing the most convenient van.  Nope, the switcher has to get the correct van and be ready to remove the ii coming van and replace it with the out going van.  Meanwhile, at the head end of the train, the other yard engine is removing the block of "shorts" and replacing them with the outgoing "throughs" and possibly placing them in the correct block(s) within the train.

Once all that's done, the new steam engine is backed onto the freight and away it goes.

Hang on.  Steam engine replaced?  With what?  The most convenient steam engine on the ready track?

Oh no.  Railroads in the 1950s typically assigned steam locos to trains and the same engine and the same van for that matter, would frequently be seen on the same train day in and day out.  I do the same thing.  I use the waybill to assign engines to trains so this makes the roundhouse foreman's job just a little more complicated.  No just getting the most convenient engine from the ready track.  All engines must be serviced and placed on the ready track in the correct order of departure and facing the right way for their next job.  Tricky eh?  Ah but it gets even better.  Steam engine require things like boiler washouts that can take a whole shift, making that engine unavailable for its assigned  job.  Before an operating session, I randomly select a steam engine in staging and place a "Boiler Washout" card into the waybill holder of the waybill.  As soon as that engine arrives at the yard, it comes off the train and is placed into roundhouse Track 1, the boiler washout track.  It's now up to the roundhouse foreman to select a suitable spare steam loco, or two steam locos in a single engine powerful to work the train is not available so they can double head the boiler washout engine's regular train.

Of course, I have a model railroad that is large enough to handle this sort of prototypical work but some of it could be incorporated into a smaller layout, especially the assignment of cabooses.  You could simply say that all loco servicing is handled "off stage", like I do with my diesels.  I have, at the moment, no diesels assigned to my roundhouse, not even a switcher, so all diesels are run thoughs and servied at their terminals, off stage.

So, that's a couple of useful and prototypical pieces of work that are rarely modelled.

Cheers

Roger.
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