CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Chief Dispatcher documents for M.M.R.

For the Master Model Railroader: Chief Dispatcher requirement you must develop an operating scheme and then draft up some paperwork. Since my own home layout would never suffice (it can barely hold two trains at the same time), I used the Adirondack Live Steamers track to accomplish my requirements. They regularly hold proto-operation days throughout the summer but they use dispatcher-issued Form D paperwork. It looks like the MMR requirements are more in favor of Time Table and Train Order (TT&TO), so I started from scratch.

Requirement #1: prepare a schematic drawing of a model railroad layout meeting the operating conditions described in (A), and indicating all pertinent simulated distances. 

Below is what I came up with. ALS has actual mileage marker posts every 88 real feet, so creating a properly scaled drawing was pretty simple. Because of the way the branch lines are arranged at ALS, they look a bit larger here than in real life. But, everything else is pretty close. Locations in the schematic in RED represent towns with passenger stations and passing sidings where trains can meet. All other passing sidings shown on the schematic may not be used for train meets. Because the layout is a giant loop, I am using Wilton to represent the westernmost town and Broadway to represent the easternmost town even though they are in fact the same place.

Requirement #2: Develop a timetable appropriate to this model railroad, simulating prototype time, covering a period of eight hours or more, during which at least three scheduled mainline trains move in each direction. 

This was a lot of fun. I started by doing two first class passenger trains (#16/17), one in each direction, which only stopped at the red passenger stations. I gave them 10 minutes at each station to board passengers. Then, I added a pair of second class passenger trains (#18/19). They operated on the same time frame as the first class trains, but presumably have older equipment.

Then I added two local freight trains (#52/53), one in each direction, that stopped at every location and did any necessary switching. I gave them 20 minutes at each location, whether they needed it or not. Nearly all of the towns on the railroad have passing siding track arrangements. There are two industries on each passing siding, one at each end. When switching these locations, crews are sometimes able to use the passing siding to sort cars for spotting. However, if cars are already located on-spot and are not ready to be moved then the passing siding effectively becomes two sidings: one facing point and one trailing point. In such instances, the crews may only spot the cars that they are able to access and the remaining ones must be taken along to a future location where they can be spotted for pick up by a train heading the opposite direction for future delivery.

Most trains are multiple cars long and are connected with safety cords or chains, which need to be removed or installed after each switching operation (much like connecting air hoses). All cars must have their wheels chocked on sidings and frequently on the mainline when left without the engine (much like applying air brakes). Derailments are an uncommon occurrence but must be dealt with as well, much like the real thing. As such, the time built into the schedule to switch various locations reflects the actual time that the crew will need to do their work. When operating trains of this size and weight safety is a real priority and slow and careful maneuvers are necessary. No need to fake adding time for "prototype actions" as we really need to do them here.

Pierson yard is sort of in the middle of the railroad, and I added a pair of Peddler freight trains (#142/143) that work in each direction clearing the yard of cars and making whatever drop-offs it can. Finally, I added a pair of branch line turns (#224/225) which operate two different branches (actually, portions of our older mainline that are now downgraded) in an out-and-back method.

A lot of white-out was required to get it all to work, but here is what I came up with. Time slots marked in orange represent scheduled meets.
Requirement #3: Develop an operating train chart (graph) which interprets the above schedule for timetable operation of the model railroad. Indicate at least one train meet on the schematic drawing required above. Show the position of the trains involved and describe the action, giving pertinent time and movement data to effect the meet. 

I had never done one of these before. I had read an article somewhere about how to do it but at the time it looked boring so I skimmed it and now I couldn't find that article. Doh! Thankfully, once I found a sample online I saw what it looked like and I put mine together pretty quick in Microsoft Paint. Having worked everything out in the timetable, I didn't have a single conflict at all and it all fell together pretty well. I even discovered my schedule was a little back-heavy towards the end of the day so I shifted one of the branch line trains up a few hours. Here is what I came up with:

This represents ten trains in an eight hour span. There are some gaps in the schedule. If I wanted to really get cute I could probably schedule more trains to create more meets (which are always fun). But, there are four scheduled meets already. And, it doesn't show the work that the yardmasters have to do to get the trains ready to go, or the time people have to get their trains out of storage and engines fired up, as well as going through the paperwork. After taking an hour or two to stage everything beforehand and the same to clean up, an eight hour shift in between can really add up! There is plenty of room for a couple of extras, but I am happy with it just as it is.

Apparently, based on a discussion on an online forum you can set up a spreadsheet in Excel to do the hard work for you. But, I am glad I did it myself.

Requirement #4: Develop or adapt a system of operation for the layout in (A), including all the necessary forms and explanations for their use for controlling car movements, train makeup, and operation in a prototypical manner.

I also drew up a station register for the three/four towns that trains will sign in to when passing through. Additionally, at ALS we use waybills similar to the ones originally marketed by Old Line Graphics and now by Micro-Mark. I made some sample cards and filled in industry names actually used as ALS. I even made up some Form 19 order templates which the dispatcher can use to modify trains' schedules or add new extra trains. Finally, I explained my operating scheme for ALS and how we make up trains in the yard based on the car cards, deliver them to the industries at the club, handle the waybills as required, and run trains to clean out yards of extra cars or cars that couldn't be delivered earlier.

It isn't a full explanation of TT&TO operation. You would need a book (or at least a healthy-sized chapter) to accomplish this. Instead, what I did was create a simplified operating scheme based on a timetable of scheduled trains with the flexibility to add additional ones through dispatcher issued Form 19 forms. I think I met all of the requirements that the NMRA is looking for regarding this certificate at least as it involves creating an operating scheme.

Requirement #5: Have participated in the operation of a model railroad, either home or club, for not less than fifty hours. A minimum of ten hours each must have been served in three of the five categories (Engineer, Yardmaster, Hostler, Towerman, Dispatcher), and one must be Dispatcher.

Unfortunately, I still need to accrue 50 hours of operating other people's model railroads. As of right now, I have about 20. Most of the model railroaders around me meet on Wednesday nights for operating sessions, but I am a conflict on Wednesday nights. So it will take a while to get. But, I am slowly getting closer to finishing this certificate.

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