waybills2Current operating plan:

Train OD-2 from Columbus, Ohio arrives in Dickinson yard from staging with empty hoppers and merchandise freight

Hitop Mine Run assembles empty hoppers from OD-2 and departs up branch to Hitop and Morris Fork, exchanging empties for loads

Train NT-7 is assembled from return of Hitop Run with loaded hoppers from this train and any in yard, then departs for Columbus, Ohio (staging)

Day Pickup is assembled with merchandise freight for industries along the branch, departs, and switches Allied Chemical, Kanawha County Feed and Seed, and Morris Fork Hardware and Farm Supply, then returns with any empties (or loads from Allied)

Gauley Bridge Local departs Dickinson yard with any C&O/N&W interchange traffic, and heads for staging via DB Tower

Train OD-4 from Columbus, Ohio arrives from staging with empty hoppers and merchandise freight for Dickinson yard

Morris Fork Mine Run departs for branch with empty hoppers, switches Morris Fork and Hitop, and exchanges empties for loads, returns to Dickinson yard

Train NT-5 for Columbus departs for staging with empties from branch industries, loaded hoppers, and loads from Allied Chemical

“Night Crawler” switches freight house and Armitage Furniture at Dickinson, cleans up yard

End of operating day

hoppers at morris forkA short operations update here. Well, maybe not so short. In running the mine runs to Hitop, I must either shove a cut of hoppers out of Dickinson yard through the tunnel to Hitop, which I have seen and have known to be done on some WVa branch lines, or I can take the train up the branch above Hitop between there and Morris Fork, where a passing track/siding exists. There of course I can run around my train, then head downhill to switch out the Hitop mine.

Therein lies the challenges. First, since the branch has very sharp curves and grades as does the prototype, longer, larger cars will not track well through these curves. Nor will six axle power, this is why six axles are banned from the branch. As for the larger cars, I’m speaking of 70 and 100 ton hoppers. Fifty ton hoppers are no problem. This is also why only fifty ton hoppers are allowed up to Morris Fork, due to track curvature once again, but also due to space limitations at the loadout.

These are ideas one can factor in, as I have, when planning or running operations. Longer, larger, heavier cars can also be banned from a branch due to weight restrictions on any light weight rail as well. Just another operations idea to think about….

Give it some time….

For modelers, one thing perhaps missed in home operating sessions is time. Replicating time it takes for example for the crew of that local or road freight to grab it’s orders, switchlist, manifest, etc., and climb on board. Then there’s the time it takes to get clearance to depart, whether by signal indication or by train order/authority. Trains just don’t get up and go like jack rabbits. Sometimes you sit on the prototype waiting on traffic to clear, or that broken down train ahead that has a broken knuckle, or whatever the situation.

Time can be taken as well in simply operating at prototypical speeds. Set that throttle to step 128, and momentum, and you’ll see what I mean. Trains don’t fly at a scale 100 mph either, unless you’re modeling Amtrak in the Northeast Corridor.

Time can be replicated elsewhere on your layout as well. Take time to stop your train to let that head end brakeman, or rear brakeman for that matter, to throw those manual switches, and climb back aboard. All this takes time in real life railroading. Time can be taken as well for a simulated emergency application of air. Or time can be taken on those lonely branchlines to stop at the local deli or store by the tracks for that cold bottle of pop, and friendly chit-chat.

Finally, time can be taken to confer on those switching moves, a few seconds for that radio command or hand signal from the man on the ground to be acknowledged. All these factors can be taken into account on your home layout to add more time (and realism) to that ops session. These simple steps I use on my layout to replicate the prototype, and not only does it feel more prototypical, it also stretches out the ops session….

Operational Challenges….

Reading another blog post about the difficulties and challenges facing a local crew on a particular layout made me think of some on my own layout.

Per the previous post above about challenges on my branch concerning working my mines with different size hoppers, I’ve had to change out one operating procedure. Since to switch out my Hitop mine I would normally have to pull my train of 70 and 100 ton hoppers up the hill to the end of branch, then run around my train, I’ve changed this procedure.

As these larger hoppers don’t do well on the tight curves on the branch between Hitop and Morris Fork, they are in fact banned from the upper part, also on account of lighter rail and deferred maintenance. Headed into Hitop the mine lead and switches are facing point switches.

To accommodate this arrangement, a train of empty hoppers for Hitop is made up in Dickinson yard, the power is tied on the east end, and as there is a caboose on the west end, the train is shoved all the way to Hitop. This of course eliminates the move up past Hitop and running around the train.

Even working the end of branch at Morris Fork, care has to be exercised going around the tight curves on the branch, especially between Hitop and Morris Fork. The curve in particular starting at MP 33 has to be taken at 5 mph account the degree of curvature and the fact a passing siding starts right at the west end of the curve.

Speaking of the end of branch, as the Morris Fork hardware and farm supply is at the end of the same siding as the Morris Fork mine, cars for the hardware and farm supply have to be blocked in the right position in Dickinson yard, since at the end of branch the power must run around its train and shove any cars into the siding, as again, the siding and passing track both have facing point switches.

The same must be done for the day turn out of Dickinson going up the valley to switch, especially the Kanawha County feed and seed. In other words, these cars must be blocked in the correct position before leaving the yard. Just more operational challenges to add to the fun and realism of running the Hitop branch.


I thought I would do a short piece here on my waybills  that I use when operating. When building my layout I read many articles and books written on waybills, timetables, train orders, switchlists, etc. Having worked with both on the prototype, I wanted something I thought would add more realism to the layout. In other words, realistic looking waybills.

What I came across in the February Model Railroader was an article by Ted Pamperin on his system, which is illustrated above in my waybills. I liked this system, and it looked realistic, yet small enough to fit in the Micro-Mark bill boxes I had already ordered for the layout.

I use the system simply as a two-sided waybill. When the car is loaded at an industry, it faces outward with its printed side showing. The next operating session, the waybill is turned over on its blank side to signify an empty car ready to be picked up. When a loaded car is in Dickinson yard on a specific track (and I have specific tracks for specific cars), the cards and corresponding cars are pulled by the yard crew in the order they’ll be spotted down the line. Of course, the waybills in the yard are turned over accordingly, as to whether the car is loaded or empty.

Speaking of specific tracks, many railroads have specific tracks for either certain cars, or certain blocks that make up each train. The prototype Dickinson yard is no exception. It had certain tracks that were “leased” by the chemical companies up and down the valley to store or “hold” tankers until they were needed. My yard follows this practice.

Track 1 is the freight house and Armitage Furniture Co siding. Track 2 is for any overflow cars. Track 3 is the track designated for the chemical tanks. Track 4 and 5 are for coal hoppers, and track 6 is the loco and caboose service track.

When a road freight or local is about to depart, the crew takes the stack of waybills for their train and carries them along down the line, replacing each “load” and “empty” waybill as they go about their switching duties (local turns). The loaded waybills are then of course turned over at the start of the next session. Next time I’ll talk about the switchlist I use to tie in with these waybills….

New waybills and switchlist…

As a collector, it comes in handy to have such a collection when also modeling. I have been a collector for about 30 years now, and have accumulated mostly paper related items, forms, rule books, timetables, track diagrams, photos, etc., with a few pieces of china and lanterns thrown in. Believe it or not, NYC, PRR, and PC have always been my favorites to collect items from, as for one, I grew up watching these roads at close hand, then worked on ex-NYC/PRR/PC trackage.

These items certainly come in handy when modeling the same road in miniature. My timetables for the PC Southern Region are a good example. It gave me valuable information on the area I decided to model, as did former NYC timetables for the area, being that this was all ex-NYC territory.

Such is the case here. In getting acquainted with PC employees working out of Sharon yard, even taking a few photos of the guys there, plus getting a cab ride across the yard in a GP-38, I was able to obtain some of these forms, which I have always treasured. In searching through my collection, I knew I had two forms which would come in handy for use on the Hitop branch, namely my car movement card, and switchlist.

These were scanned at home, then taken to a retail printer to be done. The switchlist however was reduced to 1 page, and a smaller size at the printer, then the car cards were color printed, also reduced in size by them to fit in the card holders from Micro-Mark.

So, I have replaced the previous switchlist I was using, along with my former waybills with these, to add that much more prototypical feel to the layout.


The Prototype used in Operations…

The use of prototype materials can go a long way to planning and carrying out operations on your model railroad. In fact, some prototype materials can be useful in even planning your scenery.

Take for example track charts. Track charts can give you detailed information such as where waterways are, where road crossings are, and where other railroads cross. They can also provide info on where and what type of signals were on the line. Other information detailed can pertain to sidings, curvature, and industrial tracks.

Another helpful tool are employee timetables. These of course can give special instructions on train handling, and station locations and call signs for example. These are just two of the tools useful for planning and operating a model railroad. Three such examples are below:





Per Request….

Here are two photos of the current switchlist that I use for the layout. This was copied by FedEx from an original PC switchlist revised in 1969, which is in my collection. Again, it helps run the layout using actual forms your prototype railroad used!