Category Archives: Diesel Rail Cars

All diesel rail cars (Singles and sets)

Reworking the Maintenance Centre Layout for modern prototypes

Overview

This all started when I saw a Facebook post by Aaron Riley showcasing his Metra Service Centre layout, adapted from a Robert Chant design, in HO scale. I reached out to him and asked if he’d be willing to share more about his layout with us all. Aaron was gracious and extended many images and much information about his layout that allowed me to create that initial post. What most struck me from the outset was that the layout in the photos does not look like what it is, a small footprint layout. It appears larger while providing a great deal of operating potential that would provide many years of interesting operations for anyone interested in building from Rob’s original design.

Inspired by the layout I pulled information from my day job working in a similar location and wrote the Operations for Maintenance Centre Layout Series (see the links for all 7 parts in the resources section below). While you don’t need to read all of the posts before taking on this post, there is a lot of contextual information there that will help in understanding the redesign that I’m proposing.

I want to take Rob Chant’s original layout design, which is more suited to an earlier time of operation (say through the early to mid-1990s) and bring it into the 21st century. Those not in the rail industry often think that maintenance centres change little over time. Nothing is further from the truth. As operational needs and operators change, major often drastic changes to facilities occur that allow operators to streamline and manage throughput (lowering costs in the process). My depot has changed twice in the last 20 years. Each time with major additions to its layout.

Enough preamble, let’s get into the meat of the article and look at how to bring Rob’s design into the modern-day.


Rob’s Original Design

For reference here is Rob Chant’s design, as used by Aaron Riley to build his layout. I’m going to be referring back to this image quite a lot. It may be worthwhile to either open a new window, or another tab with this image to make referring to it easier.

Rob Chant's original Track Plan with numbers keying to Aaron's gallery of photos
Rob Chant’s original Track Plan with numbers keying to Aaron’s gallery of photos

Bringing the layout into the 21st Century

The design below mirrors, to some degree, what I see at work every day.

A running depot for passenger operation of diesel hauled push-pull train sets
A running depot for passenger operation of diesel hauled push-pull train sets

Comparing the two designs you’ll notice right away the differences. The second design is streamlined and devoted to one function: getting train sets out of the gate and onto the mainline and the reverse as needed. To cover all of the changes I’ll start on the left and move to the right.

Parts Warehouse – GONE

Starting on the left top of the layout you’ll notice that the parts warehouse is gone, along with the scrapping line, sand house and locomotive shed. In modern facilities such as this, all parts have been moved into the main maintenance sheds and are now delivered by road. Except for rolling stock being returned from upstream maintenance centres, nothing arrives by rail.

Scrap Line – GONE

Scrapping too has moved off-site. As I mentioned in the article series major maintenance is carried out off-site at what I term upstream maintenance centres. Determination of end-of-life status for railcars and locomotives happens at this higher level and not at the running depot level.

To help you understand why running depots no longer have the means or the authority to scrap rolling stock onsite let’s go down the rabbit warren to understand the three major reasons for removing rolling stock from the asset register (or roster if you prefer):

  1. Condemnation occurs when rolling stock is:
    • life expired because of age, mileage covered, or material stress such as fractures in frames, failures of major high-cost components
    • determined to be uneconomic to continue to maintain or repair, often because of the rising cost of replacement parts or  sub-assemblies driving ongoing maintenance costs above those of outright replacement
  2. Withdrawal occurs when rolling stock is:
    • considered to be excess to current need due to adverse economic circumstances such as a downturn (COVID caused a lot of this), which usually means the asset will be stored out of service until needed later on by the operator,
    • determined to be no longer required by the operator, yet is still  in a saleable and serviceable condition in which case it will be put out for tender by interested parties and often sold into service with another operator, and finally
    • determined to be no longer required for operation by the operator, but usable as a source of spare parts to keep other similar units running by the operator
  3. Accident damage occurs when rolling stock is:
    • involved in an accident and has suffered damage sufficient to make the cost of refurbishment equal to or more than the value of the asset, its insurance value, for example, it will be stripped of usable parts by the maintenance teams, and then sold by tender to interested scrappers

Locomotive Shed  – GONE

Locomotives are generally left out in the open on an available track spot, so shedding is no longer required. All light maintenance that can be carried out at the running depot would be carried out in the regular maintenance sheds. These items would include checking and topping up fluid levels, replacing minor components such as oil filters, light globes, brake blocks, windscreen wipers, cleaning the crew compartment, emptying waste tanks, etc. All other maintenance items would be carried out at the upstream facilities.

Bulk Oil & Diesel Tanks – MOVED

The bulk oil tanks for locomotive fuel have been moved to the area near the admin offices. This allows for trucks to deliver directly to the tank area. No supplies are received at the running facility by rail. The tanks can be serviced by trucks 24 hours a day, and most likely receive a top-up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Road Vehicle Garage – MOVED

With the focus changed to getting train sets serviced and onto the mainline, road vehicles have been moved off the layout. Any of the greyed areas can act as parking spaces (so long as there is clearance between trains and vehicles).

Crew Amenities Building  – ADDED

The crew amenities building and the cleaners annexe have been added to provide better facilities for change rooms, meal (mess) areas, toilets and training rooms in line with modern practice.

Hazardous & Waste Storage – MOVED

These two sheds have been moved to the maintenance shed (off layout) in line with modern practice.

Paint Shop – GONE

All paint-work has been moved to the upstream maintenance centres.

Contaminated Storage Tanks – MOVED

As with the other storage buildings mentioned above, all of this storage is now contained within the maintenance building footprint.

Bulk Sand Storage Silos – MOVED

Sanding facilities have been moved to the roof of the maintenance facility to save space and simplify sand delivery to sandboxes wherever it is needed. Sand delivery comes in by road at the rear of 4 road on the paved area there. There is an air feed sand line that runs across the top of the maintenance sheds to the loco sanding facility between 9 and 10 roads.

As an additional point of interest, passenger cars can be filled by a sand buggy (not a dune buggy, unfortunately) that allows sand service to passenger cars when and where needed in the facility. The sand buggy has its own air supply to blow sand into the sandboxes.

Road Numbering – ADDED

Each road has been numbered and is used as follows:

  • 1-3 are for ‘ready; train set storage, that is these sets are ready to run out onto the mainline.
  • 4 through 8 are maintenance roads where:
    • 4 road is the washing road.
    • 5 road is the wheel lathe road.
    • 6, 7 and 8 roads are all pit roads for general service and maintenance of train sets.
  • 9 and 10 roads are for locomotive storage and supplemental sanding
  • 11 road is the locomotive fueling road

Modellers should note that fueling and sanding may occur without interfering with maintenance activity on 8 road. 9 road may be designated the locomotive arrival road. And when time allows sanding can happen here, before the locomotive goes to 11 road to be fueled. After fueling the locomotive can be stored on 10 road until needed.


Wrap-Up

This is the last post in the current series based around Aaron Riley’s excellent Metra Layout. I’ve tried to share my knowledge of the operation of these facilities and I hope that you have gotten something from the series. If you have a comment on what you’ve enjoyed and would like more of would be appreciated.

I’ll be moving on to looking at how I would operate the Australian RIP track layout I posted about some time ago. I have another very small layout design that I am working on at the moment in that vein, and I wanted to see what sort of operations you can have on a 4 foot long RIP track layout to keep it interesting. More on that in the next post.

Resources

Aaron Riley’s Metra Layout

Operations on a Maintenance Centre Layout Series

Staying in Contact

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

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:

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:

Site seeing – February 13

There are some who believe in Friday the 13th as a bad omen. I like to think of Friday the 13th as a good time to get things done while everyone else is cowering under their beds, waiting for the sky to fall.

Site 1 – Clear Iron (YouTube)

I just got through posting about the new Rapido RDC-1. If you are unfamiliar with this little cracker of a design enjoy this video from 1952 about the RDCs.

Site 2 – Trinity Railway Express (YouTube)

When we lived in Austin Texas we’d head on up to Dallas and Fort Worth every now and then so I could indulge my railfanning needs, which to be honest I never could really meet in Austin.

Of interest is the ex- B&M 6110 RDC-1 heading the consist of 3 RDC’s. TRE #2005, TRE #2006, and TRE#2007

Site 3 – US Budds (again from YouTube)

This much longer but just as interesting video takes a look at the US operators of RDC-1s including:

  • Belfast & Moosehead Lake,
  • Connecticut DOT/Amtrak (SPV2000’s),
  • Metro North,
  • Bellefonte Historical RR,
  • North Shore Scenic RR (Duluth),
  • Trinity Rail Express (Dallas area),
  • Reading & Northern, and
  • Cape May Seashore Line

Enjoyed a massive storm through Ballarat tonight, and now the temperature is dropping away. Hope the day has been great where you are.

Rapido trains in releasing a brand new model of the RDC

Introduction

I think that the RDC is a great addition to any layout. For those who model passenger operations anywhere from the late 1950s on, these little beauties fit right in. I believe that even in the USA they’re mostly gone now from day-to-day service.

Rapido’s new RDC-1

Thankfully they’re going to be remade by Rapido. And the work they put into this is amazing. Apparently they’ve scanned the real thing, and then worked off the scans and the blueprints to decide what was as-built, and what was in-service.

These cars also ran as is here in Australia. The Commonwealth Railways bought three of them for service in South Australia. I believe that ComEng (Commonwealth Engineering – Granville NSW) also built a set or two under license for use on the South Coast Daylight trains running from Sydney to Bombaderry (Nowra) and return daily but they never worked right for the NSWGR.

Eventually they had the motors pulled and became loco hauled (which is how I remember them in my youth on runs down the coast).

In chugging around their site I noticed that Rapido will produce units that are painted but unlettered. Hopefully this gets some of the Australian modellers interested.

They’re not cheap at CN$325 (especially with our rapidly sinking currency), however, I just checked and the Canadian Dollar is worth slightly less than ours at the moment (0.97 as of writing) so with shipping I’d expect landed costs to be under AU$375 mark..

Resources

The product information page: http://www.rapidotrains.com/rdc1.html

The versions page showing all the versions being produced: http://www.rapidotrains.com/rdcus.html