Category Archives: Paper/e-Paper

Operations on a Maintenance Centre Layout (Part 7 – Op till you Drop)

Welcome to the final instalment of the Operations on a Maintenance Centre Layout series. In this post, we’ll run through the game using the layout as the game board, the train sets as the pieces and using the cards offered in the last post as the modifiers and randomisers for the game. Let’s begin.

Setting Up

If you have not already read through the series, I suggest that you do so, You really need to have the background and knowledge of the previous posts to make the most sense of this. Still, it’s your electrons, so let’s get started on operating the layout as Rob Chant has envisioned for Aaron.

Please keep in mind that the following four steps (which are all paperwork related) can be done well before your next operating session once you have your train sets built, and the paperwork bundled together (as I posted in part 4). Now you see why I say you need to read all the previous parts to simplify this final post.

Step 1 – Set up your train sets

As we’ve already discussed a train set consists of a locomotive, a cab car and one or more trailer cars. This is the smallest (whole piece) in the game. Each train set needs to be stabled on the layout. Where it is doesn’t matter, it must be on the modelled section of the layout to matter at the start of the operating session.

Step 2 – Set up your train set paperwork

Using a train set holder (see part 4 for more information), that contains the basic set data, match your locomotive cards, cab car cards and trailer car cards to the locomotive and cars in each train set. Once this is completed you can now determine the state of the train set before the start of the running day in step 3 below.

Step 3 – Using dice for randomness

Each train set has to be cleared before leaving the yard for the mainline. This requires a dice roll (I’ve referenced this in Part 4) which I’ve decided can be a 6-sided dice. Keep in mind that if you’ve skipped the previous parts, what we’re doing is looking for switching opportunities (that is operations) within and without the yard. The dice assists in allowing chance to determine what train set is fit to run out of the yard, and what needs servicing or maintenance.

Step 4 – Consulting the card packs

With the die cast for each train set you now work through the results of the die roll to see whether the train set runs out as expected (which should be the bulk of outcomes), or maintenance on a loco, car or set is required.

Where a loco, car or set requires servicing, you consult the specified card set and follow the advice thereon. (Part 5 contains the downloads that allow you to print the cards in PDF format)

Minor delay cards mean just that. A set may not be clean and ready to run out. Or lights might not be functioning on a car in the train set. Sometimes no fault is found by our maintenance and train staff (represented by the die roll). I’ve skewed almost 43% of the cards toward this outcome because it is quite common that while a fault is reported by the train crew during use, maintenance staff either clear it on first touch or the fault has cleared by the time they get to it.

Medium delay cards work in the same manner, as do the major delay cards. The difference with these two card packs is that they provide for switching operations of “spare” cars and locos between sets, and require in some cases that cars and locos be moved to a higher level maintenance centre (for resolution of the problems) and thus you now have switching moves to complete.

Step 5 – Generating a switchlist

I suggest using a switch list as it allows me to enjoy the switching without the headache of remembering what goes where (click this link for an example I built using Excel in a new tab). You can keep it super simple and write everything you need to do using a pad of paper and a pen or pencil. Whatever floats your boat.

Once you understand what you need to do from the switchlist, it is time to get playing (or switching if you prefer). Among the things that you may need to do to train sets on the layout could include:

  • Moving train sets to service tracks,
  • Cutting locomotives off train sets and replacing them with another loco, or
  • Cutting a car, or cars out of a train set and moving them to maintenance tracks, before cutting a replacement car or cars into the train set, and clearing it for service (to staging),
  • Moving trains sets from service tracks to storage tracks when ready for service,
  • Building trains to be moved to upstream maintenance centres, and finally
  • Moving trains (of cars, of locos, or mixed consists) off the layout to those service centres.

After your first operating session, you will also be receiving cars and locos back after they’ve been fixed by the upstream maintenance centres (staging). These will require switching to either storage roads or into train set consists. And so the operations will go from there onward.

Final Thoughts

For small layouts built around maintenance centres, the hope of long term use and enjoyment at home or for exhibition use requires an easy means to make the layout work for you. Through the use of switching activities, randomness and an adversary (as mentioned in a previous post)  you may find that you have more than enough to keep your interest using my method here.

I hope that you’ve found this series of benefit to you and your layout. Perhaps you can adapt what I’ve described to your own use and situation. Perhaps you can use it as is. If it gets you thinking about how you can use a system like this to improve your small layout operation then I’m a happy man. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook (link at the bottom of the page) how you have put it to use.

Till next post.

Resources

Where to buy stuff:

Australia:

Overseas:

  • Head your Office Depot (or similar retailer)

The series so far:

Staying in Contact

Interested in keeping in touch or discussing posts, pages and ideas?  You can do that in several ways:

Recovery, Delayed Posts and the flat-out best Chain-Link Fence tutorial ever!

I wrote back in December 2021 that I caught “the virus” and was hoping to be over it in short order. Yeah, well that didn’t happen.  Read on…


Recovery and Delayed Posts

What doesn’t kill you gives you a set of unhealthy coping mechanisms and a dark sense of humour” – Unknown

So, what started out as an optimistic case of COVID-19, turned into a 7-week absence from work, including 5 weeks (solid) of 24 hour-a-day coughing fits, being as weak as a kitten, and 2 plus months of continual work to get back to my fitness level. I get that everyone’s story with COVID is different. I was lucky not to have ended up at the hospital, but it was a close-run thing. Thankfully, Australia’s public health system held up and is outstanding; I had a fantastic team on my side made up of my GP, The Royal Melbourne Hospital‘s COVID triage team, Nurse-On-Call, family and friends to help out. Seems that raising a child is not the only thing that requires a village.

I’m still finding that overwhelming tiredness at the end of the day remains. Each day that goes by, thank the fates, I am still here and getting back toward normal. While my wife caught COVID, it was less aggressive with her than with me. It would have been better not to have caught it at all. I’ve now had my 3rd vaccination and hope not to catch it again. Let’s just hope that it turns more benign as time goes on and as we become used to having it in the world at large.

If you’ve been through it I hope that you are O.K. and that your family and friends likewise are on the mend.

Needless to say, posting has been delayed as life, in general, has taken priority. I hope that you will stick with me as I get back on track to work on finishing the last post in the “Operations on a Maintenance Centre Layout (Part 7 – Op till you Drop)” series. In this post, which I’ve begun working on again will take us through an op session on the layout. I aim to finish that soon.


Chain-Link Fence Tutorial

Boomer-Diaries on YouTube has been a must-watch, that I found during my time watching ‘everything’ on YouTube during my convalescence. He recently posted what I feel is the best Chain Link fence tutorial I’ve ever seen or read. I’ve linked it below. Watch and enjoy as you get a masterclass in how-to modelling, painting and dressing a great scenic item.

Once you go down this rabbit-hole though, you may be some time, to misquote Capt Robert Oates (of Scott’s doomed Antartcic expedition) as Boomer diaries has a big collection of outstnading videos on the current layout build.

Talk more to you all soon.

Andrew


Resources

This series so far:

Staying in Contact

Interested in keeping in touch or discussing posts, pages and ideas?  You can do that in several ways by:

    • Commenting on this post (I read and answer each one)
    • Sending me a note using our About page (email)
    • Connecting with us on Facebook at Andrew’s Trains

Operations on a Maintenance Centre Layout (Part 6 – Service Patterns & Impacts)

Before we dive into playing the game, I need to make sure I’ve not proceeded on assumed knowledge. That is, assuming that what I  know – you know. Let’s follow that thought down the rabbit hole.


Understanding Service Patterns

Passenger operations (from a depot perspective) are not regularly discussed in the modelling media, which is a crying shame. And rarely does anyone write about modern-day commuter operations in-depth in a way that would help modellers understand the operation. And that’s an even bigger shame because there is a whole realm of modelling operations that modellers are missing out on.

In this post, I want to start discussing how things are where I work, from a higher level operations point of view. In this pre-game post I’ll be covering three major topics:

  1. service patterns, covering the different times and traffic patterns during
    • morning run-out,
    • morning peak,
    • inter-peak,
    • afternoon peak,
    • evening,
    • evening run-in, and
    • overnight services
  2. how operations staff (drivers, conductors, etc) report and deal with issues, and
  3. how service patterns affect the maintenance side of operations (locally and upstream).

Once we’ve covered this the situation cards and overall game-play will make a lot more sense. And most importantly we’ll all be on the same page (or card).


Understanding Service Patterns

If you can get them, commuter system timetables tell us a lot about how a system operates. Primarily they give us the number of how many services run at certain times of the day, known as headway. Headway is the time between passenger services. Non-peak services operate with greater headways than do those services running during peak times. In our case (at work) we have the following general time frames. It should be noted that from Sunday through Thursday we do not run services throughout the night. These are exclusively for Friday and Saturday nights when the party animals come out (well they do now after two years of COVID-19). Services local to you will likely be different in their operating patterns, so a little research will be needed to understand how your prototype operates.

How our timetables are set out

Our timetables are built around four distinct service day patterns:

  1. Monday to Thursday,
  2. Friday,
  3. Saturday, and
  4. Sunday

Each requires a different operating pattern and time spread. For our operators (we have a driver-only operation), day’s start one day and finish in the morning of the following day. So you’ll note that times exceed what would be considered normal 24:00 hours. 25:00 hours means 01:00 the following morning and so on.

Services for operators run in only two directions: UP or DOWN.

In your jurisdiction, they may be EAST and WEST, or NORTH and SOUTH or another combination of these. In the UK (where we took our ideas from) services are also UP and DOWN.

Let’s dive in and understand what each one means for you as a modeller.

Morning run-out (05:00 – 07:00)

With no services running overnight the early morning period is about getting services out from the depot to do two things:

  1. getting the first service from the depot to the end of each line served such that they are ready to run the first full (end-to-end) service, and
  2. establishing the pre-peak morning headways.

Starting headways are 20-minutes, and are down to 10-minutes by 07:00.

Morning peak (07:00 – 10:00)

From the end of the pre-peak period services begin to surge out of the depot. Headways come down from 10 minutes to as little as 5 minutes. After about 10:00 AM those 5-minute headways begin to extend. With sets coming in off the road and back to the depot our headways double during the morning from 5, to 7, to 8, and finally to 10-minute headways. By the end of the morning peak, only half of those peak services are running. The rest are parked up and snoozing back in the depot.

Inter-peak (10:00 – 16:30)

The inter-peak period keeps the same 10-minute headways that were established during the end of the morning peak. This is usually the most settled period of the day with a little upward blip as people go about their shopping and move around the city for work.

Afternoon peak (16:30 – 19:00)

The afternoon peak is the same as the morning peak, with the exception that people are generally going home instead of coming to work. Train sets that were sitting at the depots begin to surge out once again. Usually cutting in between other services, and so cutting headways from their 10-minute or longer inter-peak times to as little as 5 minutes again. Just as it was in the morning, services begin to lengthen headways toward the end of the evening peak. With the services running in toward depots from their furthest station, some running in-service, others running as out of service express movements. Usually, by the 19:00 hour mark, we are out to 12-minute headways.

Early to Late Evening (19:00 – 22:00)

The bulk of peak services have gone from the rails by 19:00 hours, not all, however. Services continue to run into the depot, at a slower pace than earlier, until almost doubling the headway from 12 to 20-minute headways by 22:00 hours.

Night to Final Run-In (22:00 – 25:00)

Services from the beginning of this period to its end remain at or near the 20-minute headway set earlier in the evening. In general, our last two or three services from each end are run-in services and cover a little more than half the stops (since our depot is roughly in the middle of the lines we service). By just after 25:00 hours all train sets are back in the depot and the cleaning staff are going to work, cleaning internally and also sanding our sets overnight. This ensures that they are ready to go for the morning services only four hours later.

Weekend (Saturday & Sunday) Services

In general, Saturday services run an hour longer than normal and come into the depot at around the 26:00 hour mark.

Headways begin at 20 minutes in the morning, dropping to 10-minute headways throughout the day until evening when the timetable moves out to 20-minute headways until the last service at around the 26:00 hour mark on Saturdays. Sunday services have similar headways with the last service finishing at our depot around the 25:00 hour mark.

Overnight (Friday & Saturday) Services

Friday and Saturday all-night services are only on one line for our depot. This is fairly common through most depots in our network. These are primary lines with the highest patronage and assist in getting the night-owls home after their big night out.

Running on 30-minute headways from 01:00 through 05:00 hours (from which time regular services take over) these services remain out on the network until around 07:00 hours and then return to the depot for cleaning and servicing.

Public Holidays

Public Holidays are treated as Saturday timetables. The differences are that all services end one hour earlier and that there are no all-night services.


How operators deal with on-road issues

For our operations’ staff all technical and mechanical (train set) issues are reported in one of two ways:

  1. To the depot starters (before leaving the depot) during crew preparation and testing, or
  2. To the Operations Centre or OC (after leaving the depot).

In situation one, the set is failed by the crew, a replacement set is assigned to the crew, and the testing regime begins again. Once the set is tested and found fit for service it leaves the depot. Failed sets are assigned to the maintenance staff for rectification and eventually released for service.

In situation two, faults on any set become a problem for the OC. They assist in troubleshooting and fault clearance. If the fault cannot be cleared, but the set is movable, we get to the next platform, alight all passengers, and the train set is returned out of service to the depot for further attention.

Major issues require higher levels of assistance, and it is here that the heavy trucks and technical support crews come into play. They provide the first response mechanical and technical support to get sets moveable and recovered to a safe, off the mainline, location. Often these incidents cause delays (from normally timetabled services), diversions and or short running (where services are rerouted or run a shorter shuttle service) to the platform nearest the failed set. In some instances another train set is brought up to propel or pull the failed set to a safe location for stabling, or to get it back to the depot.


How service patterns affect maintenance staff

Our primary maintenance crew are scheduled for day shifts. This is when the most mechanical and technical service happens. You’ll need to do some research as I’m sure that your prototype will do things differently.

Late evening to overnight (our maintenance staff work 12-hour shifts) see our roving crews going to outlying depots to perform maintenance work on reported failed sets to prepare them for service the next day.
Generally, the maintenance staff do the most work during day shift hours. This is because the depot is generally empty, so moving train sets, and single cars around is much easier, Something to think on when you are planning your own operations. After hours with train sets coming backing into the depot, switching/shunting space rapidly runs out. Evening work is relegated to those maintenance shed roads, already filled with cars and sets switched/shunted their from earlier in the day, or assigned to one of the said tracks when the crew car it in at the end of their run. We find little switching/shunting is done for maintenance after hours.


Takeaway

I hope that I’ve been able to give you a high-level overview of the operations with which I am familiar. It is important (I feel) that you understand how things work before we dig into the game. Context is key in my mind so understanding how things work gives you the context for getting the most from the gameplay.

I promised that this post would be published last weekend, for which I apologise. Life does get in the way and my life is not exempt from little issues that cause big delays. Roster changes and family stuff has to take precedence. So thanks for being as kind and understanding as you are.

I’ve begun working on the final post in this series (playing the game) and I aim to have that completed in the next week or so. So keep an eye out for that.

Till next time

Andrew


Resources

This series so far:

Staying in Contact

Interested in keeping in touch or discussing posts, pages and ideas?  You can do that in several ways by:

    • Commenting on this post (I read and answer each one)
    • Sending me a note using our About page (email)
    • Connecting with us on Facebook at Andrew’s Trains

Site Seeing – December 19, 2019 – The Open top car loading edition

Ever wondered how you should load an open top (think gondolas, flats, pulp wood racks, etc…) car. Well now you can answer that question thanks to Douglas Harding. Read on for more.


You’ve got to be a member

To get Doug’s file you have to be a member of the Ry-ops-industrialSIG at groups.io. This group’s primary mission is to discuss railway operations and industries and how to model them and  is the primary discussion list for the Operations SIG of the NMRA and the NMRA’s Industries SIG. So there are some operations heavy hitters here with the answers you won’t find elsewhere. It can get a little esoteric at times, but well worth the time spent here. If you are modelling the North American scene then this group is a worthwhile addition to your modelling resources.

Click this link to head over to the group home page. Complete the sign-up process and once you’re done click the link in the “Get the PDFs section below to download.


Get the PDFs

OK so now you’re a member, it is time to get the 2019 XMAS Goodies. Before you blindly start downloading though here’s what’s covered in the AAR Car Codes Open Top Car Loading Rules as supplied by Doug:

  • Section 1 Rules 1988.pdf
  • Section 2 Loading pipe part 1 1987.pdf
  • Section 2 Loading pipe part 2 1987.pdf
  • Section 3 Road Farm Equipment 1987.pdf
  • Section 4 Misc Machinery 1987.pdf
  • Section 5 Forest Products 1983.pdf
  • Section 5 Forest Products 1987.pdf
  • Section 6 DOD Military 1984.pdf
  • Section 7 TOFC Containers 1987.pdf

If you’ve not fallen asleep yet from too much eggnog, or the technical nature of this post, then Click this link to get to the PDFs. Happy reading and modelling.


Resources

This time around all of the resources are mentioned in the section above. Don’t forget to take part in the reader survey right now! Your thoughts and feedback will assist me in writing and presenting more of the content you want to see.

Click here to take part in the survey.

Interested in keeping in touch or discussing posts, pages and ideas? Connect with us on the Andrew’s Trains page on Facebook