Category Archives: Operations

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

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:

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 – 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 Seeing – The David Barrow fan boy edition – September 24, 2018

We moved back to Australia in 2006. So, I have to live through others when they visit David Barrow in Austin Texas, my wife’s hometown, and where we spent 10 years from 1997. Trevor Marshall visited recently and came away with a great post on the man and his layouts – including his new small (comparatively speaking) O scale layout which really piqued my interest.


David Barrow’s layouts

Hi – my name is Andrew – and I’m a David Barrow fan boy tragic…

I first remember reading about David Barrow’s Cat Mountain and Santa Fé layout in the 1980s in Model Railroader magazine. As a young man, dreaming about my large future model railway plans, David’s layouts (there were at my last count about 17 versions of the Cat Mountain) were my ideal. While I dream of those massive layouts still I took another path to small layout designs.

Recently David Barrow has followed down that rabbit hole, this time in O scale, with a new layout. You can read more about that in the second link below by Trevor Marshall.

David’s layout design and presentation skills are unique in the hobby. Not to everyone’s taste I’ll grant, yet having seen and operated on the layout once in 2005, I did not notice its minimal scenic treatment. I was too interested in the operational side of things.

Image 1: Davids Barrow’s entire O Scale layout – battery-powered and operated by radio

Once again the layout design is the centre of attention and the scenic treatment is classic David Barrow – minimalist. However, you can use the design and then scenic it to your heart’s content. Hmmm – now let me see – I have 3 boards in the garage on which that layout design would fit perfectly…

You can out more on this layout in the Model Railroad Planning 2018 publication from Kalmbach.


Resources

Site seeing – the Second Hand Inglenook edition – September 20, 2018

I admire modellers who can get to the meat of a project, quickly and with vigour. Gazmanjack (Gary) on RMWeb used second-hand track, wood and other parts from his modelling left-overs to create a stunningly good small layout for operations. Read on for more.


Linden Ford – the second-hand layout

Gazmanjack (his handle on RMWeb) back in 2014 built an outstanding layout from left over bits and pieces, as an adjunct to his current layout, to give himself something to operate on during the other layout’s longer build. I’ve only just found it and wanted to share the forum post with you.

And what a cracker this layout is. I won’t go into too much detail here, as I think the adage of a picture telling a thousand words is true on this occasion. There is plenty of information in the post too on the build including scenery, tree armatures, and so on.

Image 1: Linden Ford – an outstanding small Inglenook layout

I hope that you find inspiration in the post. So much with so little that turned out so well. Well done Gary!


Resources

Site seeing – Op till you drop – Blue flag “Video” edition – August 26, 2018

In my August 18 post we looked at modelling and using Blue Flags for your operating sessions. Thanks to Charles Malinowski’s timely reminder, there’s an additional video for context.


MRR Video Series – Taking Care of Business

Model Railroader magazine has a series of videos (most are pay to play). However some of the best of them are free for you to watch. One of these focuses on the SMS Rail Lines industrial park in New Jersey.

I did try to embed their video (as they offer this as an option – like YouTube) however, it didn’t work. Instead you’ll find below the link for the video. THis will take you straight to the page and then play away.

The video is narrated and professionally shot and edited. It is really well done and shows the operations in the Industrial Park and the blue flag in action. Thanks to Charles for reminding me of the video. I hope that you all enjoy watching and learning.

Don’t forget to comment on and share this post with your friends.


Resources

Taking Care of Business: SMS Rail Lines

Site seeing – Op till you drop ‘Blue Flag’ edition – August 18

In this post we’ll be looking at blue flags; what they are, what they do and how to model them.


What blue flags are, and what they do

Blue Flags are used in the North American  railroading industry to show that railroad or other personnel are working, on, about, under or between railroad equipment and that the railroad equipment may not be connected to. These signs may be posted at the entry to the track upon which the vehicle sits or may be at, or close to, the railroad equipment itself.

Whoever places the flag is generally the only person that may remove said flag. However anyone from that same ‘craft’ may remove the flag. While this generally applies to railroad mechanical departments many customers have also begun to use the blue flag to ensure that cars loading or unloading have the same level of protection. Railroad crews are so used to dealing with these safety items that ‘everyone’ in the industry understands what their placement on a siding or spur means.

Canadian Pacific’s safety regulations state the following:

12.3.7 Blue flag protection is used to indicate that CP or Contractor Personnel are working on, under or between Railway Equipment and movement of trains or other Railway Equipment is prohibited. Blue flags must not be tampered with or obstructed. Blue flags can only be removed by the person or group of persons who originally applied it. Application, use, and removal of blue flags, when appropriate, may only be done under the authorization and guidance of the Manager in Charge.


Modelling blue flags

Have you considered adding ‘blue flag’ operations on your layout? Adding prototype processes to an operating session provides two important benefits:

  1. It makes the time you spend on the layout more meaningful through the application of, and adherence to the rules, and
  2. It slows down the session and forces you to work in real-time.

Over on the Model Railroad Hobbyist blog of Craig Thomasson he recently described how he builds HO scale blue flags for operations and how they are used on his layout. I found his blog post interesting and think that you might find as interesting and useful as I did.

Resources

If you’ve not met Blue Flags in the operations sense before here are some resources that you might find useful: