“The Daily Effort” with Andrew and Chris

Yesterday, I hosted Andrew Batchelor and Chris Abbott for an operating session. Andrew took on the conductor’s role while Chris held down the engineer’s seat – and the session was different than most I host in several respects.

Ops - 2016-11-20
(The star of the show: M238 after collecting its lifts in St. Williams. It ended up being too long for my sector plate…)

This was the first session I’ve hosted in a long time in which we’ve run Mixed Train M233 / M238. Usually when guests arrive – especially first-time guests like Andrew – we run a freight extra because they’re more familiar to most hobbyists. But Andrew was really interested in the paperwork that I use on the layout, and since there’s a fair bit of paper involved with running The Daily Effort it was the better choice for an ops session.

Ops - 2016-11-20
(That’s a whole lotta paperwork…)

While I’m quite comfortable with using the waybills and switch lists, I’m a bit rusty with the paperwork for the mail, express, LCL and passenger portion of the Mixed Train, and it showed. My method for calculating the time taken to transfer packages etc between train and baggage wagon is clunky and distracts from the feeling of operating the train. This was not apparent when I was doing it myself, but is definitely an issue when I try to explain the process to guests. So I need to rethink this.

One possibility I’m now seriously considering is to use a set of triggered sounds to represent the time required. My layout’s ambient audio system easily supports this type of application. I may build several sound files that include the following:

– The railway car door unlocking and opening
– The rumble of a baggage wagon being positioned.
– The sounds of hand trucks and workers moving cargo.
– The railway door closing and locking.

If I were to build a half-dozen of these sound files, each of different lengths, and then have the audio system select and play one at random when triggered via a button on the fascia, that might add enough randomness to the time required for a station stop. The fact that each stop could require three such sequences (for combine, baggage/mail, and LCL boxcar) would further randomize the length of a station stop.

I would still retain the paperwork – the conductor would exchange these with the station agent, as he does now by using the pigeon holes at each station desk – but there would be less math during a session. And that would be a good thing.

I note that Kalmbach recently published a book by Jeff Wilson called Express, Mail & Merchandise Service. As the name suggests, it covers this head-end traffic and how to model it. I have not yet perused a copy, so I don’t know if it addresses how to represent the traffic at the kind of micro level that interests me, or whether it’s confined to (for example) moving carloads of LCL between freight houses. But I have other books by this author and he does a good job of covering a topic, so I’ll investigate next time I’m at my local hobby shop.

This session marked the first time we’ve run trains (beyond some five-minute tests) using my new DCC system – the ECoS 50220 command station and Mobile Control II wireless throttles from ESU.

Overall, things went well – although there were some minor issues. I put these down to the novelty of the new controllers. Chris, who was engineer for our session, is fairly used to my Lenz keypad throttles so it took a bit of time to adjust to the ESU approach.

For example, the ESU throttle knob also acts as the reverser: turn it all the way to the left until it stops then let go and it’ll click and switch direction. But we discovered that the movement has to be deliberate – if it’s done too fast the controller doesn’t necessarily register it. That’s not a problem with the controller – just something that operators have to learn. Now that I know this, I can explain it better to others.

Ops - 2016-11-20

On the positive side, I figured out ahead of the session how to program the physical buttons on the throttle. I mapped frequently used commands to them so that the operator does not have to look at the touch screen to use the horn, bell or progressive engine brake (which is a feature on the TCS WOWSound decoders I’m currently using).

On the slightly annoying and somewhat humorous side, we found that the throttle will save power by going to sleep – but the factory setting (one minute of inactivity) is too quick for a typical operating session. This is slightly annoying because Chris was spending a lot of time tapping the power button on the top of the unit to bring it back to life, and there’s a very slight delay while powering up. I’ve adjusted the sleep setting to a five-minute delay. We’ll see if that works. I can set it as long as 15 minutes, but of course the longer the screen stays active the more power it consumes. I’ve also tried to balance the extra power I’ll be using with the longer delay by dimming the screen.

The sleep issue was humorous because every time Chris woke up the throttle, the WOWSound decoder – which has something like 40 whistles built into it – would randomly change its whistle setting. The next time he blew the whistle, it would be different.

I have to admit that I’m underwhelmed by the WOWSound decoders. They have some neat features that my previous Tsunami decoders did not, including the progressive brake (which I really like) and an audio function to represent clearing the cylinders of condensed steam (which I know is vital when operating a steam engine). But the audio circuit occasionally blasts a “Matrix”-like digital distortion. And I’ve had other issues.

So I’m not too concerned about interoperability issues with the ESU throttles because I plan to replace the TCS decoders at some point. I’m waiting to see what Matt Herman from ESU in North America does with steam sound. He’s already done a great job introducing new diesel audio files under the “Full Throttle” banner and I know he’s been travelling over the past few months to record steam sounds across North America. So it’s only a matter of time. That Engine Brake button can always be remapped to the LokSound “Drive Hold” feature…

Naturally, food and drink was involved. Before our operating session, the three of us enjoyed brunch at Harbord House. While there are other places worth eating at, this has become the tradition of sorts for new guests. I’m currently quite keen on a Toronto brew, Henderson’s Best ESB from the Henderson Brewing Company.

Andrew: Thanks for getting in touch. It was great to see you and I hope the day answered some questions about paperwork. It did for me.

Chris: Thanks as always. Cheers!

LCL: AAR Form 99

Over on the LCL modeling group on Yahoo, a member asked whether anybody had a copy of the AAR standard form 99 – the waybill used for less than carload (LCL) freight.

As it happens, I do – in my copy of the AAR’s Railway Accounting Rules, published in 1951. So I shared it on the group – and I’m sharing it here:

AAR Form 99 for LCL operations

It reminds me that I need to continue to work on my ops plan for LCL and express, which is an important part of life on the Simcoe Sub to Port Rowan. I have come up with a scheme, but I haven’t held enough operations sessions to determine whether I like it…

Mixed Train Traffic Study

Hagersville-LCL photo Hagersville-Resize_zpsd9144a97.jpg
(The Daily Effort at Hagersville, Ontario – June 20, 1953. Photo via the Henley’s Hamilton blog. Click on the image to visit that blog and read more about the mixed train from Hamilton to Port Rowan and Port Dover)

I’ve written a few times on this blog about my desire to make operating the mixed train (M233/M238) a unique experience. M233/M238 hauls a combine, a baggage mail car, and a boxcar in LCL service. These three cars – and the people, express, LCL and mail that they transport – are essential to the character of the mixed.

 photo M233-CNR86-StWilliams_zps55169f21.jpg
(The mixed train, with no carload traffic in the consist)

But from an operator’s perspective, these cars don’t actually do much: They trundle along at the back of the train, behind the carload freight, like a 200-foot-long caboose. They’re re-ordered at Port Rowan, but the switching is minimal. It’s one of the reasons why I like to run two short sessions when friends visit: One with the mixed train, and one with a freight extra. This way, visitors get to experience a variety of trains.

But in doing so, my concern is that if the focus is on just the carload freight in the mixed train, it will feel a lot like running a freight extra. What’s more, given the train length constraints on my layout (imposed by the length of the run-around in Port Rowan and the length of the storage tracks on my sector plate), the play value of the mixed will suffer if the focus is on carload freight. This is because the mixed typically has only one or two cars of carload freight in its consist – so there’s even less switching to do than when I run a freight extra, which can accommodate up to five cars of carload freight while still fitting within the Port Rowan run-around.

 photo Ops-20140706-01_zps648ef68e.jpg
(A freight extra, hard at work in Port Rowan. Without that 200-foot-long “caboose”, a lot more carload traffic can be handled – and that means more switching during an operating session)

I’ve already created a number of receipts and tickets to represent the LCL and express that the mixed train carries, plus tickets for mail bags and passengers. And I’ve written about the idea of defining how much time needs to be spent making each station stop – so that the volume of passengers and goods actually influences the mixed train’s progress along the line. As noted in More progress on LCL and Express, I decided to test the following formula:

*The car must be spotted for five minutes, plus one minute per 200 pounds (or portion thereof) of freight listed on the receipts.

You can read that earlier posting for the rationale, but in limited testing this formula has been working for me.

However, the challenge has been that I’ve needed something to keep track of the spotting times – especially in St. Williams, where the platform is short and the train must be repositioned if all three of the “mixed train” cars must be worked.

I was using scrap paper for this, but I’ve been looking for something better – something “more railroady” to give the conductor a reason to actually be recording the times required for the work. What I really needed was a form to tie together all the other paperwork – the freight receipts, passenger tickets, and so on.

While pondering the problem, I recalled a document Roger Chrysler shared with me, which detailed the work performed by crews on his chosen prototype. If I recall, the document was created as part of a management/labour negotiation – and that gave me an idea:

Given that in the era I model, the CNR was looking to abandon mixed train service on the Port Rowan branch, it might make sense for management to run a traffic study – complete with a form for train conductors to fill out. While it would appear the form is being filled out to collect data, it would actually work as a tool for calculating the time required to do the work.

Inspired by the concept, I’ve created a suitable form to test during future operating sessions:

 photo MixedWorkDetail_zpsuheqrgy4.jpg
(Working on paperwork: This time, a traffic study form for the mixed train)

Each form has spots for listing mail, express, LCL and passengers. Small notes under each category appear to be targets for the study – but they actually provide the operator with a formula for calculating how much time must be spent performing each operation during a station stop.

Spaces beside each category provide room for entering the quantity (e.g.: 350 lbs of LCL) and for doing the time calculation and recording the results in the form of a start time and end time.

When the appropriate car is positioned and ready to be worked, the start time can be recorded, the calculation made, and then the end time noted. That car can’t be moved until the end time has passed.

For the sake of completeness, I’ve also included space to note the number of carload cars lifted and set off, and the time required to perform this work. Unlike the other categories, there’s no target time to perform the calculations here: The conductor will simply note the start and end times from each station’s fast clock.

The conductor will fill in one form for each station – so, three forms per operating session: One for each direction at St. Williams, and one for Port Rowan.

Is it a lot of paperwork? Not really. It’s the equivalent of writing down one’s work on a switch list – something my crews already do when handling carload traffic.

I also like that this Traffic Study form will remind operators that in the era I model, the job they are doing is being threatened by CNR management looking to abandon marginal branch lines, and annul services such as Port Rowan’s daily mixed train. I’m trying to tell a story with my layout and my operating sessions. As the tag under my blog’s title suggests, I’m trying to draw visiting operators into the world of “A Canadian National Railways branch in Ontario – in its twilight years”. This Traffic Study form may be a fabrication – but it’s one that should help me convey the story of The Daily Effort to visiting operators.

M233 at St Williams photo StW-Crossing-Trees-04_zps73bc3d71.jpg
(M233 stops at St. Williams to transfer passengers, mail, express and LCL)

Pickles and Chicks

In addition to the Hammond Mill photo, Monte Reeves sent along a couple more gems.

First, here’s a neat, undated photo of the pickle factory that used to stand in Forestville – another station on the line to Port Rowan:
 photo Forestville-PickleFactory_zpsdfdb3d9e.jpeg

Monte notes that the factory stood on the farm where he grew up, and that the property is currently owned by his brother.

Finally, Monte shared some information about shipping live chicks in the express car on the mixed train. Thanks to this information, I know have an idea of what the shipping crates look like (remember – drill lots of air holes in them!) so I’ll be able to fabricate some for the platform at St. Williams.

(Unfortunately, I don’t get to model a poultry car…)

Thanks again, Monte!

Ops with Thorsten, Pierre and Chris

On Sunday, I hosted an operating session for a few friends – including one who crossed an ocean to take part.

Okay, Thorsten Petschallies was in southern Ontario from Germany for several reasons – but getting together with Pierre Oliver, Chris Abbott and myself was on the list. I met Thorsten through Pierre a few years ago, and it’s always great to see him.

Since Torsten had come such a long way, we ran two operating sessions back to back. (This also gave all of us a chance to compare the performance of Sergent couplers versus Kadee couplers – part of my on-going tests of the Sergent EC64 as I decide whether to convert my rolling stock.)

The first trip out, Chris put on the conductor’s hat for mixed train M233 / M238, while Thorsten took the engineer’s seat and I handled the Sergent couplers. I loaded up the mixed with LCL and Express so we did all the paperwork and switching involved with those items in addition to handling carload freight.

For the second run, we switched a Kadee-equipped freight extra, with Thorsten as conductor and Pierre at the throttle.

Everybody had a good time and the layout ran very well, although I had a couple of minor derailments. I made a note of the equipment involved and the location where the derailments occurred, and will investigate further.

We were all pleasantly surprised that the Sergent couplers performed better than the Kadees during Sunday’s operating session. We even switched a couple of cars onto the elevated coal delivery track in Port Rowan – the least accessible spur on the layout – and the Sergent couplers performed flawlessly there. I did find a couple of sticky couplers, which I cleared up this morning by adding some graphite and working the knuckles a bit more to polish the moving surfaces. So far, so good.

A consequence of playing host is that I was too busy explaining the layout to my guests to take photos. Fortunately, Chris brought his smart phone and snapped a couple, which he has shared on his blog. Click on the image below – from left to right, me, Thorsten and Pierre – to read more about Sunday’s fun, from Chris’ perspective…
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Thanks for visiting, guys – I’m looking forward to the next time!

More progress on LCL and Express

It’s been a while since I wrote about introducing Express and Less than Car Load (LCL) operations to the layout. I’ve been testing various methods of determining how much time the mixed train should spend spotted at stations to perform this work:
M233 at St Williams photo StW-Crossing-Trees-04_zps73bc3d71.jpg
(M233 stops at St. Williams to transfer passengers, mail, express and LCL)

Handling LCL and Express is an important duty for the mixed train to and from Port Rowan. What’s more, I’ve determined that accurately reflecting LCL and Express during operating sessions is an important way to make running M233/M238 feel unique. (What I’m trying to avoid with the mixed train is having operators treat it like a freight extra with a really long, three-car caboose in tow…)

As noted previously, I’ve been testing two ways of determining the time required:

* The car must be spotted for a set amount of time for each package listed on the freight receipts.

* The car must be spotted for a set amount of time for each 10 pounds of freight listed on the receipts.

I’ve determined that basing the time on weight is easier for operators, but that 10-pound increments are too granular and require too much math. It also means that with any significant amount of freight, the station stop will become very lengthy. Since the reality is that this is forced idleness, I have to balance the need to represent the work with the need to not bore visiting layout operators.

So, I’m testing a third option:

* The car must be spotted for five minutes, plus one minute per 200 pounds (or portion thereof) of freight listed on the receipts.

The base time – five minutes – reflects the fact that regardless of the amount of LCL or Express to transfer, there are some basic operators that will take a set amount of time. These include things like opening and closing the Express (baggage car) or LCL (boxcar) doors, positioning the baggage cart and transferring paperwork between conductor and station agent.

The incremental time – 1 minute per 200 pounds of freight – means most stops will last six or seven minutes. With a 4:1 fast clock, that’s 90-105 real seconds. Not bad – and it’s likely the conductor will be busy during that time, checking freight waybills, drafting a switch list and so on.

On rare occasions, a heavy load – for example, a shipment of fifteen 100-pound sacks of tobacco seed – will require a longer stop. But still, not too long: Such a shipment would require 13 minutes (1500/200 and rounded up = 8 minutes, plus five minutes) – and at 4:1, that’s 3:15 in real time.

On other, rare occasions, there may be several freight receipts each with several packages/weights. But it’s still an easy calculation for the conductor to make and the 200-pound increments are coarse enough that I’m happy for a conductor to estimate the time required. For example, if there are three freight receipts and it’s obvious that each one has less than 200 pounds on it, the conductor may simply allocate eight minutes (five plus one per receipt) for handling the transfer.

More testing is required – but I think this is going to work.

“Any progress on LCL?”

M233 at St Williams photo StW-Crossing-Trees-04_zps73bc3d71.jpg
(M233 stops at St. Williams to transfer passengers, mail, express and LCL)

I was afraid someone would ask… although I’m also glad that Ralph Heiss did. Ralph runs the LCL Ops Modeling Yahoo Group, which has a lot of great info about less than carload operations and how to model them, so he’s keenly interested in the issue.

I found the group after publishing a blog post about representing LCL on the layout – or, at least, my first steps towards doing so. As the post notes, I’ve created freight receipts to represent Express and LCL.

Ralph, to answer your question: I’ve been testing various ways to use this information on the layout but so far I have not settled on a system I like.

The primary way in which LCL will affect operations is the time required to load and unload it at stations.

On my layout, this isn’t really an issue at Port Rowan, providing the train is spotted at the station while carload switching is performed. Even the time it takes for the crew to run their locomotive from the station to the turntable and back should be sufficient in most cases to transfer LCL and express, since the platform at Port Rowan is long enough to accommodate the whole train.

It’s a different matter at St. Williams, where the platform is long enough for a single passenger car and there’s a road crossing that the rulebook states cannot be blocked for more than five minutes:
St Williams House photo StW-House-01_zps3cc05621.jpg
(Click on the image to read about how to keep the crossing clear)

This means I need some way to translate the freight receipts into the amount of time the train must stop at St. Williams with the appropriate car (LCL boxcar or the baggage section of the combine) spotted at the platform. I have a fast clock system, which helps with this.

On the real railroad, the work would simply take place until it was done. Time isn’t an issue – it takes what it takes. But on a layout, we aren’t physically moving the freight so we need a way to represent the time it takes.

I’m testing two ways:

* The car must be spotted for a set amount of time for each package listed on the freight receipts.

* The car must be spotted for a set amount of time for each 10 pounds of freight listed on the receipts.

Either approach calls for the conductor to do some unprototypical time-keeping. To aid with this, I’ve included some notepaper in one of the pigeon holes on the slide-out work-desks at St. Williams and Port Rowan:
Work Desk w LCL Organizer photo LCL-Rack-01_zpsc8f050ea.jpg
(Click on the image to read more about the pigeon holes)

Using the fast clock, the conductor can note the time that the car is spotted at the station, then calculate how much time will be required to transfer Express and LCL on and off the train.

The short-comings of this system are two-fold:

* First, there’s the math. Nobody really likes doing math.

* Second, regardless of whether it’s calculated by weight or by number of items, the time can quickly add up to a lot of standing around for the operators – which, frankly, isn’t very fun.

Changing the amount of time per unit of measurement – for example, from 30 fast-seconds to 15 fast-seconds per 10 pounds – is one way to address the second problem. Breaking the work into unloading on M233’s trip west to Port Rowan, and loading on M238’s return trip east, also helps reduce the apparent wait time by splitting it. But neither solution does nothing about the first problem: The math.

One option I’m considering is adding a timer next to each fast clock on the work desk. If they’re mechanical timers, I can add some new faces – either marked in fast minutes or in number of packages. Some math would still be required to figure out how long each car must be spotted at the platform. But once that’s figured out, one could simply set the timer and do other things until it dings.

Nothing is decided yet and I’ll continue to work on this. Thanks again for asking the question, Ralph – stay tuned for more!

Pigeon holes

Work Desk w LCL Organizer photo LCL-Rack-01_zpsc8f050ea.jpg

It’s been a while since I introduced my ideas for representing LCL and Express during operating sessions, so I thought I’d provide an update.

I’ve now created some freight receipts to represent shipments from St. Williams and Port Rowan. To make it easier for conductors to organize their paperwork, I filled these out in red ink – but it may be too obvious a difference, so I’m thinking about other ways to help operators track inbound and outbound shipments. One thought that occurred to me is to fill out all freight receipts with blue ink, but add a red dot in one corner to highlight outbound traffic.

I’ll work on that but in the meantime, I have generated enough receipts that I can start testing the system in earnest. As I started using the freight receipts while running sessions with The Daily Effort, I quickly realized I would need something to organize and hold receipts on the slide-out work desks at St. Williams and Port Rowan. I looked for something suitable at office supply stores, but came up empty handed. Therefore, I decided to make my own.

I designed a set of pigeon holes to hold receipts, making them wide enough to hold a receipt inserted lengthwise and not quite as deep as a receipt so that the conductor would be able to grab them. The pigeon holes are a lot like the boxes people mount on their fascias to hold car-cards, but designed to lie flat on the work desk. I had some nice poplar project wood to hand, so that’s what I used.
LCL-Organizers photo LCL-Rack-02_zps31e5b183.jpg

As the above photo shows, five square strips are sandwiched and glued between two boards. A third board is glued across the back so receipts could not be pushed through. This board is taller than the box and hangs below the assembly so that the finished organizers hook over the back of the work desk surface. (In the above photo, the organizer in the foreground is upside down to provide a better view of this board.) I’ll add a screw or two next time I’m under the layout to hold the organizer in place, if I decide it’s needed.

I lightly sanded all corners and edges on the finished boxes to make them “finger friendly” – a practice I learned from Steve der Garabedian of Black Walnut Studio, who has taught some excellent wood-working courses at my local Lee Valley Tools. I’ve learned lots from Steve, but that’s one lesson that I use over and over on my layout now. (Thanks Steve!)

With the back board hooked over the rear of the work desk, the organizers peek out from under the fascia when an operator slides the desk all the way open. This makes them easy to see, but keeps them out of the way: Perfect!
LCL-Organizer-Installed photo LCL-Rack-03_zps70f2b953.jpg

As the photos show, I designed these with four slots although only two are needed to sort LCL and Express. But I’m sure I’ll come up with uses for the other two slots so this is one instance where I’ve planned ahead!

Clearing Charlotteville Street

Here’s an operations conundrum:

The picture below shows The Daily Effort heading westbound towards Port Rowan as it makes its station stop at St. Williams:
StW-Station Stop-Passenger/Express photo LCL-StW-Q-01_zpsf70a4d66.jpg

The train has just arrived. The combine is stopped just clear of Charlotteville Street, lined up in front of the station, so several things can happen. First, passengers can get off or on. Second, express can be loaded/unloaded. And third, the conductor can check with the station agent to see if any freight switching has to be done here. So far, so good.

But look at the boxcars in the train. The one behind the locomotive is a load or empty heading somewhere, so we won’t worry about that one for now. But the second boxcar – just in front of the baggage-mail – is in LCL service. (I know this because the paperwork tells me so.) Prototype photographs show that this is how the train was typically configured:

Locomotive — Freight car(s) — LCL boxcar — Baggage-Mail — Combine

The problem – at least, on my layout – is that the platform for the St. Williams station stop will end about where that first line pole is. Basically, across from the RPO section of the Baggage-Mail car. So, how will the agent and crew work the LCL boxcar?

Since this is all Yard Limits territory, the answer is relatively straight forward: After working the combine, the train backs up under flag protection to position the LCL boxcar in front of the station:
StW-Station Stop-LCL-BlockedCrossing photo LCL-StW-Q-02_zpscea8c222.jpg

The problem arises because Charlotteville Street is a (relatively) busy road, and this backing move blocks traffic:
StW-Station Stop-LCL-BlockedCrossing photo LCL-StW-Q-03_zps6bb1c828.jpg

Presumably, the crew can block the road for a short period of time. Railway rulebooks often have this specified, and it’s something like five minutes. That’s plenty of time to haul one or two packages out of the LCL boxcar and onto a baggage wagon – providing the packages are easy to locate in the car, easy to release from whatever measures have been taken to secure the load, are light enough to quickly haul to the wagon, and so on. But if there’s any significant amount of work, or if the LCL is heavy or awkward, then blocking the crossing would take much longer than is allowed. (And my look at a CNR freight receipt book showed that the many items moved via LCL on the railway included things like rolls of roofing paper, 100 lb bags of seed, mirrors, mattresses, stoves, a piano…)

One answer is to back across the crossing under flag protection, drop the passenger equipment in the clear to the east of Charlotteville Street, then pull forward to spot the LCL boxcar at the station:
StW-Station Stop-LCL-ClearedCrossing photo LCL-StW-Q-04_zps0a6ec4c3.jpg

StW-Station Stop-LCL-ClearedCrossing photo LCL-StW-Q-05_zps9ada13c3.jpg

Once the LCL work is done, the crew would have to retrieve its passenger equipment and conduct a brake test before leaving town.

I’m not sure if there was ever a situation on my prototype where this was necessary, but on my layout this is something that will add a unique bit of business for the crew of the mixed train – and that’s never a bad thing…

Representing LCL in operating sessions

Hagersville-LCL photo Hagersville-Resize_zpsd9144a97.jpg
(The Daily Effort at Hagersville, Ontario – June 20, 1953. Photo via the Henley’s Hamilton blog. Click on the image to visit that blog and read more about the mixed train from Hamilton to Port Rowan and Port Dover)

The Daily Effort to Port Rowan that I model on my layout is a mixed train. Such trains are interesting for many reasons. They haul carload freight, but as a passenger train they also have a schedule to keep. That schedule can be quite relaxed – more of an ideal than reality – and one consequence of this is that running a mixed train on a model railway often feels similar to running a local freight, but with one or more passenger cars tacked on the end of the train where the caboose should be.

Since operating sessions on my layout involve just one train at a time, I’m always on the lookout for ways to duplicate the activity of a real crew. I often run “two days”, back to back, in a single session – with a freight extra run one day and a mixed train run the other. I’m therefore also keen to find ways to differentiate between the two experiences. When I run M233 to Port Rowan, I want it to feel unique – not like Extra 80 West.

One way to do this is to represent the express and merchandise carried by mixed trains, in baggage compartments or separate boxcars. In addition to a few full cars of freight, mixed trains carried less than carload lots – otherwise known as LCL. Railway LCL was the precursor to today’s logistics companies – think Fedex, UPS, DHL, TNT and so on.

If you think about how such services are used today, it’s easy to see how LCL service made railways a vital link for the citizens in the communities they served. Back in the day, people in Southern Ontario might place an order the catalogue operation run by the T Eaton Company and have anything and everything from hardware to housewares delivered via rail to their local station for pick-up. Stores and other businesses would place orders with suppliers and their products would also arrive via rail – everything from cases of canned goods to stock the grocery store shelves, to a load of furniture for the local department store.

The challenge is, how to model this in a meaningful way. Currently during operating sessions, station stops are made in both directions at St. Williams to allow for the exchange of passengers, express and merchandise. In addition, after M233 arrives in Port Rowan and is ready to begin its switching, one of the tasks is to spot the passenger equipment (baggage-mail car and combine) plus the boxcar working in LCL service in front of the station. This is to be done as early as possible so that unloading and reloading may take place while other, carload freight cars are being worked.

But I suspect the importance of the work on the “passenger” side of the equation fades into the background as crews – myself included – focus on reading freight car waybills, drafting switch lists, and figuring out the moves needed to spot and lift cars. As I’ve already noted, that can make the mixed feel like a freight extra.

Fortunately, my friend David Woodhead has come to the rescue. During a recent visit, David loaned me an interesting book:
Freight Receipts - Book photo FreightReceipt-Book_zps3c74638c.jpg

This book consists of CNR freight receipts covering a couple of months in 1947, in the Maynooth area of Ontario. Here’s a sample freight receipt, which shows that on November 14th the railway delivered one bicycle from Kingston to Hybla, Ontario:
Freight Receipts - Sample photo FreightReceipt-Sample_zps78c94e8d.jpg

I was able to scan a relatively clean receipt from the book, clean it up further, and create a blank form. I resized this to 4″ wide (by about 3″ tall) so I can put four of them on a single page for printing.

I then set up the book on a table in good light and shot more than 350 photographs, capturing most of the pages (some were too faint to read so I ignored those). I’m using this information as a guide to filling out my own freight receipts, such as the two shown here:
Freight Receipts - Modelled photo FreightReceipt-Modelled_zps001e4172.jpg

Obviously, the receipts for Maynooth and area will be somewhat different than those for freight delivered on my line. But it’s easy enough to pick through the prototype paperwork and adapt it to my own needs.

I start with the names. To add local flavour I can use names listed in Down By The Bay, a book about the history of Port Rowan. I can also acknowledge people who have helped me with prototype information or with building the layout by making them customers of the railway. In the upper right, a “C Abbott” in Port Rowan is receiving a shipment. C Abbott is of course my friend Chris Abbott.

Chris’ shipment is coming from a real company – Garland & Son Ltd of Ottawa – which was listed on one of the prototype forms. That form also provided the description of the freight.

In the lower left of the above photo is a shipment to St. Williams. Here, I used information from a shipment of seed to Maynooth to create a fictitious load – 14 bags of tobacco seed from the Tobacco Board in Delhi. The weight, rate, and other information came from a real form for a seed shipment.

Note that both of these forms are for CN 481536 – a steel boxcar that I often run in LCL service on the mixed trains. I’m developing stacks of cards for at least one other CNR boxcar, as well as for my two combines. (I plan to introduce these receipts gradually to the layout, so I’ll fill out the forms as time permits.)

I am still developing my ideas about how these will be used in operating sessions, but here are some thoughts:

1 – As with the waybills and empty car bills I use for car forwarding, these receipts will be part of the paperwork packet that the conductor handles. The conductor will leave receipts at stations (in the waybill boxes at St. Williams and Port Rowan) as goods are unloaded.

2 – I will make up some waybills to cover LCL shipments from St. Williams and Port Rowan to the rest of the world. I can do this by modifying appropriate shipments in the prototype book.

3 – I will develop a set of rules about how to use the number of items on a waybill, the weight, or a combination of both to determine how much time it takes to unload or load the LCL. For example, it might take 30 seconds for the crew to transfer a 100 lb bag of seed from boxcar to baggage wagon. So, maybe 30 seconds per 100 lbs of LCL is appropriate. The conductor will then calculate how much time must be spent at the station stop to perform the work. I have fast clocks, so this can be measured.

4 – I noticed several receipts marked “Fragile” – including at least one receipt for an organ and chair (at 300 lbs). Goods listed on receipts marked Fragile may take longer to transfer.

5 – Depending on where the LCL is located in the train, the conductor may order that cars be repositioned to assist with unloading or loading. For example, M233 may stop at St. Williams with the LCL boxcar lined up at the platform to unload, then pull forward to make it easier to unload the combine onto the same baggage wagon. That adds an extra move to the operation.

6 – Some of the prototype freight receipts are addressed to the section foreman, and cover articles such as spikes, paint, and tools and the like. These receipts are marked “OCS” (On Company Service) in “freight” or “advances” column. Since I have a section house in Port Rowan, I could require that the LCL boxcar be spotted in front of the section house if there are any OCS shipments to unload. This would be in addition to any LCL that must be unloaded / loaded at the station.

7 – While not related to LCL, I imagine that the system I develop can also be used to help represent the passenger traffic on the branch. (There won’t be much of it, but collecting tickets – and perhaps pausing a little longer to help an elderly passenger off the train – will help breathe life into the operation.)

I will continue to think on this, and develop my ideas through tests during operating sessions. The important thing, for me, is that I have a record of the data so I can create freight receipts – and that looking at this very neat record of mid-20th Century life in a small section of eastern Ontario is giving me ideas to help enrich the operation of The Daily Effort to Port Rowan.

Thanks, David, for the loan of this book. What a great find!

UPDATE – July 13, 2013: I’ve just discovered the existence of the LCL_Ops_Modeling Yahoo Group. Membership is required to view the posts, so I can’t offer any more information about what one will find there, but I’ve applied for membership. If you’re interested in LCL operations, you might also want to give the group a look.

UPDATE – July 23, 2013: A friend reminded me that Ian Wilson wrote a useful article on LCL operations on the CNR out of Palmerston, Ontario, which appeared in the July 1997 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. It’s definitely worth revisiting if you’re interested in representing this style of traffic on your layout.