Category Archives: Prototype

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Maintenance Centre Layout Operations (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

I’m working on a new series of posts – here’s a quick teaser…

It’s been a while right?

Shift work, long days, cold nights, and all that stuff.

The good news is there’s a batch of content coming focusing on Locomotive, and Railcar maintenance facilities… you are going to love it. How to model each one, operations possibilities and all in a small space. I want to thank Rob Chant and Aaron Riley for beginning the discussion on Facebook.

Here’s a taste of what’s coming over the next few days! The day it posts depends on how I feel after my second COVID-19 vaccination tomorrow. Here’s hoping for the best outcome and no headache, etc.

There’ll be more posts to come during October though covering a range of topics from the micro size to the mammoth 8′ x 2′ footprint, including:

  • Motive Power Depots (MPDs) for diesel or electric locomotives,
  • Electric Multiple Units (EMUs), and
  • Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) throughout October.

Aaron Riley’s Metra Railcar Facility layout

Based on a Rob Chant design (more on that in the next post) Aaron has built a cracker ‘L’ shaped layout in only  96″ x 53″ with a width of only 18″.

This is a taster, there’ll be more in my next post!


Resources

  • Visit Rob Chant’s Facebook page for more great designs.

Staying in Contact

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

Evans Hollow layout hits a milestone (been a long time coming)

The Evans Industrial shelfie layout has hit a major milestone! Read on…


A quick heads-up for those of you following along with the slow build of this layout. We’ve hit a major milestone, with the completion of the wiring of the layout underside. No track down at this stage, but that is coming in the next day or so, and aiming to be at the testing stage during the Mothers Day weekend.

(That’s the second week in May if you need reminding like me!)

I’ve completed the wiring to my wiring standards. You can download a copy from this site, just head down to the resources section at the bottom of the page.

Just a couple of notes for those of you wondering:

  • Yes, I love wiring and electrics
  • Yes, the wiring is designed as a modular unit, to facilitate troubleshooting and replacement as necessary over the years
  • Yes, the wiring is extensible, in that this layout will be able to join up with other small layouts  being planned in the future for this series
  • Yes, I had a lot of fun, and a little frustration – more on that in the article that I’ll be publishing in the next week or so – plus there’ll be a video too that I’m working on for the remainder of my vacation – I go back to work Sunday.

Hope that you have been able to get out and also do some modelling, and thanks for continuing to follow along with me. Stay well, stay safe, and stay modelling.

Regards Andrew


Resources

Staying in Contact

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

More first Mile/Last Mile? We can do that…

I posted a while ago about a flour mill, here in Melbourne, that showcases a loads-in, empties out flour milling operation. Today we’ll look at another operation, this time in Montpelier Ohio which is an empties-in/loads-out facility for grain. This is truly first/last-mile railroading at its best.

Switching the Montpelier Ohio Elevator

We’ll talk about modelling a facility using the track layout and operations featured in this post next time. For now, I’d suggest that you watch this outstanding video from YouTuber Scott Taipale. With WAER 223 an SW 1200 switcher (ex IHRC 223, ex TRRA 1223) working a unit grain train at the elevator in Montpelier Ohio.

This SW 1200 switcher was built for the Terminal RR of St Louis in 1955. Later owned by the Indiana Hi-Rail and successor Wabash Erie, it is now used exclusively by the Edon Farmers Co-Op to handle the bulk car movements you’ll note in the video.

A couple of notes on the video from Scott:

  • The line furthest right (North) used to be Wabash’s 1st district which ran from Toledo to Montpelier (now truncated, it ends 4800 feet behind/east of the camera)
  • The branch line connects to the former Wabash yard in Montpelier (now Norfolk Southern)

In my next post, we’ll look at how you can model a layout based on the track diagram and how you can fit this facility into your space and time limitations. Thanks for reading along.  and if you get the chance please like and subscribe to this blog, and to the Facebook page. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Resources

My switching first/last-mile playlist on YouTube

Previous Kensington Posts:

Scott Taipale

Staying in Contact

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

Every day’s the same, just different

A recent Facebook post in the Micro/Small Model RR Layouts group regarding problems with a member’s switching layout prompted me to write this post.

Here in essence is what was said:

I built a switching layout based on Lance Mindheim’s “One Switch Layout” plan. The first time I ran a switch job it was very absorbing. The second time (different switch list), I realized that I had figured out the “trick”, and it was more tedious than interesting.

Working in the rail industry this is the standard operating procedure. The first time you do a thing is often stressful if not outright terrifying, and then the tedium sets in as you make this just another part of your day. And perhaps, that is the difference between knowledge and understanding.

Most days are going to be the same. You drive a train. You deliver and pick-up. You go back to your starting point and berth the train or hand it over to another crew. And this is a good thing. When things get very different there is a problem and that can ruin your day. Each industry may be simple to switch or there may be gyrations required to get cars fettled into the right spots. You don’t know until you get on-site and check the tasking from the receiver or shipper. Same but different. That’s the nature of the business.

In the same vein, the model should be much the same. Every time you operate the layout, the track and switches won’t change (unless they break). However, with an interesting industry, with more than one spot, nothing will ever be the same twice. This is where the interest comes in for me. It is the troubleshooting required to get a car out of spot 2 of the 3 on the spur, get another car into that spot and work with the industry to get it out that makes it interesting.

So what do we take away from all of this? Tedium is a daily part of any ‘work’ task. Adding interest is the job of the layout designer and builder. Ensuring that you have industries with more than one spot and that at least one of those spots requires a certain car on occasion will ensure that you have operational interest in all of your operating sessions.

Your takeaway

Working with the industry is how you make sure that your layout does not go stale. There are resources available for understanding this concept. I’ve linked to Tony Thompson’s outstanding website (see resources below) for more on ‘Sure Spots’.


Resources

  • Visit Tony Thompson’s excellent website “Modelling the SP” using the link to get to part 1 of 4 on Sure Spots. I’ll quote Tony here on what a Sure Spot is: “The concept of a “sure spot” means a particular point at which a car must be spotted, such as one particular spur, or a particular loading or unloading facility along a spur, or even a particular door at an industry.”

Staying in Contact

Got a comment on this topic? Interested in keeping in touch or discussing posts, pages and ideas?  You can do that in several ways:

Site Seeing – More on Grain at Kensington

I’ve written previously on the Allied Mills facility at Kensington (inner Melbourne, Victoria, Australia). Marcus Wong I’ve discovered has a great blog post on his site about the facility that goes in-depth about what it is, what it does, and where it is headed.


Visit Marcus’ site

First off here’s the link to Marcus’ site

So visit there for an in-depth review of how things get from A-B.


Resources

Visit the previous post on our site:

Staying in Contact

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

Site Seeing – The Little Critter that could edition

It’s not often that you get to see internal (in-plant) company railway operations today. Thankfully “Saginaw Terminal Docks” (Facebook and YouTube) posted a video from Reid Machinery in Lansing, Mi showing how they use old freight cars to store valuable machinery on their site prior to sale.


Reid Machinery’s internal railroad

Reid Machinery Inc of Lansing Michigan have specialised in moving machinery, primarily in the forging industry, throughout North America since 1992. And while that may not seem like the most worthy thing to write about on the third Tuesday in July – I urge you to hang around a moment longer. You see they also hold their large (as in big – not lots of) inventory on and in their own railroad assets.

Yes – they have their own switching layout.

Thanks to Saginaw Terminal Docks we have a front row seat, and a cab ride on one of these switching moves. I asked him about connections to the rest of the world. He tells me that the in-plant line connects to the JAIL/Adrian & Blissfield on over a mile of old track through Lansing’s south side.

And this is so modellable…


YouTube video

Some of the things to watch out for in the video are:

  • The three person crew (Engineer, conductor, and digger – and yes it’s a guy with  a shovel)
  • Slow switching speeds
  • At around the 18 minute mark – opening the boxcar door with the forklift forks (we often model the result but the actual operation is rarely filmed)

So sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy the show.


Resources

Site Update – New Gallery – Pyke Brush Cutter

A new gallery has been posted covering a very unique piece of UP M.O.W equipment I found back in 2000 on Austin’s Bergstrom Lead. This comes about because of a post on the MRH website where member cr9617 is modelling one in HO scale.


Not something that you see every day

Maintenance of Way equipment is a fascinating field of study and I was very pleased, as well as lucky, to have caught this piece of equipment on the Bergstrom Lead back in 2000.  (It is hard to believe that these digital images are almost 20 years old as I write this – where has the time gone?)

To view the gallery click here, or use the menu and hover on the Galleries > USA > Austin, Texas, Pyke Brush Cutter and click the last pop-out. Enjoy and leave a comment if you can.

Site Seeing – Last mile switching on the Florida Central

Danny Harmon spends a day out following a railfan friendly switch crew of the Florida Central as they switch customers around Orlando, Florida.


First Mile / Last Mile

This is where I believe that real railroading happens. It is where the customer meets the railroad. It’s also where modellers with small spaces, budgets and time allocation get the most bang for the buck when designing and building a layout. There’s a lot of great locations and close up detail shots of the crew working and the locations for inspiration.

Sit back, put on your headphones and enjoy the sights and sounds of a couple of vintage locomotives as the train crew prepare their train, run out to, and then switch, the customers spurs. (Clickable video below)



Make sure to like and subscribe to Danny’s channel. Recently he’s been doing a lot of switching videos. I hope he does a lot more to come. Supporting him might just get him to do more too.

Site Update – RailBox XAF10 Modelling pages updated

The modelling article on the RailBox XAF10 class cars have been updated. There is new content and the third step of the rebuild article promised some time ago. There’s more information below.


What’s happened

My last update on this project covered the addition of a short history of the class. This time we’re getting into the meat of the project.

This new page covers the dangly bits between the frame and the rails – brake rigging. This is a task focused modelling article on how to simulate the brake rigging on the model without going over the top. Thanks go out to Tony Thompson whose original post on his blog got me started on this particularly enjoyable journey. (There’s a link from the new page to Tony’s original blog post.)

Throughout the series I’ll be aiming to complete the entire project section within an hour (between getting home and dinner for example) and at the end of it have a model that you can be proud of. Here’s what I mean using before and after photos:

Image 1: The basic Athearn BB kit sans brake rigging

Image 2: Same kit (undec) with brake rigging – a subtle difference but well worth the effort

You can head direct to the page by clicking this link, or head over to the project home page clicking this link. I hope that you enjoy this new part of the project. Like, subscribe and follow to keep up to date with all the new content here on Andrew’s Trains.