Ops :: Pre-session “to do” list

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I’ve started to compile a list of things to do before any operating session in which I’ll be hosting guests. This is a work in progress, but here’s the list I have so far. I’ll add to it as I think of things. In no particular order, I should do the following:

01 – Check that I have enough copies of required paperwork, such as Employee Time Tables, switch list blanks and so on. If not, print (and assemble, in the case of the ETT).

02 – Turn any trains on the Sector Plate so they’re ready to enter the layout. When building new trains, cycle the freight cars, pulling new cars from the storage shelves below the sector plate. Check wheel sets for dirt when building trains.

03 – Cycle the freight car waybills: Select appropriate waybills for cars in trains on the sector plate. Pull waybills from bill boxes in St. Williams and Port Rowan and determine which cars will be lifted during the session, then replace the appropriate waybills with bills to lift the cars.

04 – Set up LCL and Express paperwork, if running the mixed train.

05 – Choose suitable pre-written Clearance Forms and Train Orders, or write up new ones.

06 – Prep the Conductor’s Package.

07 – Set the fast clocks: to 12:30 pm for the mixed train, or to 3:30 pm for a freight extra.

08 – If the St. Williams agent/operator has work for the train crew to perform, set the order board on the St. Williams station.

09 – Check that there’s space on the Train Register at Port Rowan for recording trains that will run during the session. If not, print a new register page.

10 – Test throw each turnout a couple of times to make sure the points move freely. (This isn’t a big job, since there are only eight turnouts on the layout.) Do the same for the derail in Port Rowan.

11 – Ensure there are pens for the conductor. Check that the batteries are working in The Galvanick Luchipher.

12 – Charge the iPod Touch used as a TouchCab throttle, if necessary.

13 – Check the layout for dust or cobwebs and clean if necessary.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it goes quickly and ensures that my guests have a smooth, enjoyable operating session – so it’s definitely worth doing.

Ops session :: Conductor’s Package

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I’m setting up for an operating session and thought I’d share some of the work that goes into that – starting with what I’ll call the Conductor’s Package.

This is the set of paperwork and other information that a conductor needs to safely navigate his train over the line. In this case, I’ll share the contents for a freight extra behind 2-6-0 Number 80.

First, there’s a copy of the Employee Time Table:
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(Click on the image to read more about this document)

This document includes a schedule of trains, notes, and special instructions adapted from the prototype time table. It also includes useful tips to help conductors and engineers do their work on the layout.

(I frequently have to make up some of these before a session, since I’ve started giving them away to visiting operators as a keepsake – which also allows interested operators to study the Employee Time Table in more detail at their leisure…)

Next, we have a Clearance Form and a Train Order:
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(Click to enlarge)

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(Click to enlarge)

These two documents authorize the crew of Engine 80 to occupy the railway. The Clearance Form includes a list of initial Train Orders – in this case, one order (Number 5). The Train Order gives the crew authority to run as an extra from Hamilton to Simcoe, and back to Hamilton. Since Port Rowan and Port Dover are both part of the Yard Limits south of Simcoe, authority is not needed to run to these two terminals – so it’s not given here.

(I created the Clearance and Train Order forms for my friend Pierre Oliver, by redrawing official CNR documents. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the Clearance Forms on this blog before, but they’re done the same way that I did the Train Orders. Pierre then took my artwork to a local printer, which printed up pads for us to use.)

Next, we have the telegraphy cheat sheet:
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(Click on the image to read more about my working telegraph system, including why I use simplified International Morse)

This is greatly simplified International Morse Code, which allows the conductor (putting on the agent/operator’s hat) to OS his train with the dispatcher when arriving and leaving St. Williams and Port Rowan. The information for the return trip – in this case, Extra 80 East – is printed on the reverse side.

Next, the waybills and a blank switch list for any freight cars to be delivered:
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(Click on the image for more information about the waybills)

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(Click on the image for more information about how the switch list is used)

The waybills are presented in the same order that the cars appear in the train. Finally, everything is secured, in the order presented here, to a small clipboard that represents the conductor’s desk in the caboose. This can be seen in the lead photo for this post.

In addition to this package, the conductor requires a pen and an uncoupling tool.

There’s more prep to do for an operating session, though – and I’ll cover that in a future post.