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…

20 thoughts on “Clearing Charlotteville Street

    • Hi David:
      A very good question. My interpretation is that there are different classes of traffic in each. The boxcar has LCL (basically, a value-priced cartage service). The combine carries express (time-sensitive, higher value) and fragile freight (eg: cases of eggs or live chicks). The baggage-mail car carries mail – probably pre-bagged, as opposed to having postal clerks sorting on board.
      Each of these classes probably had different origin points – the LCL car would start at a freight house, the combine would start at a passenger station, and the mail car would start at a post office.

  1. Trevor,
    Here in Colorado we had a freight house in the Colorado Springs area that serviced the LCL freight along with the regular freight. LCL was handled and accounted for by the Freight Department, while Express was handled and accounted for by the Passenger Department. The US Post Office Department handled the mail and parcel post was totally independent from the railroad in its accounting, renting the RPO apartment from the railroad. So each got handled on the by separate organizations. While the only person stationed at the St. Williams depot is probably the station agent, at larger depots you might have station baggagemasters, and freight agents who would individually handle the express and baggage and the LCL. Here the local postmaster or one of the clerks would meet each train to take charge of the mail and parcel posts for the town or region.

    • Hi Tom:
      Good info – thanks. That helps with my thinking, that the LCL Boxcar, the combine and the baggage-mail are all carrying different classes of goods.

  2. Trevor, I’m amazed at how much generalmerchandis was handled by LCL. This really adds a whole new dimension to operations compared to what “ops” have been on layouts in the past. In the past we added more spurs and interchanges so as to generate as much traffic as possible to keep our operators busy. Typically this resulted in unprototypically short spurs and a general overcrowding of the layout. By adding the LCL operations we can now keep our operators plenty busy, on layouts that more represent reality. Thanks again Trevor for sharing this information.

    • Hi Jim:

      Thanks for the kind words, and good observation about operations. You’re right – LCL, express, and other merchandize was an important source of traffic for railroads that is not often modelled. As you note, it helps keep operators busy without adding track. I would add that as a layout owner, it means I spend less money and time to build and maintain a layout to deliver a given amount of play value. It’s a whole lot cheaper to tell the crew to “back up”, than it is to add a spur for an industry.

      This style of operation is not to everybody’s taste, I know – and this is a hobby so people should do whatever is fun, satisfying, challenging, or however one measures success. But this is definitely working for me, and I’m glad others seem interested in the ideas as well.


  3. To do the station work, the crew had a brakeman flag the crossing for the shove back over it. He would stay there and cut the tail end of the train clear of the crossing, then signal the hogger to move forward until the crossing was cleared.

    Not realised by many in this time now so removed from the steam era was just how profitable train service on the branchlines was. The provincial highway system consisted of many gravel roads and Highway 2 being the major route between Montreal and Toronto. Toronto-Niagara Falls had the QEW, and that was it for superhighways in Ontario in the early 1950’s.

    With roads as they were, there was not a lot of competition for mail, express and LCL traffic. Which the railways hauled much of. Railway express did the job that UPS/FedEx, etc. do today. Even forensic evidence was shipped by railway express, this being a court-approved method.

    CN Express had dedicated crew runs between the major cities and branchline terminii. The Canada Post Office had assigned crews in the mail car or mail section of a train for Royal Mail. Baggagemen handled express on the runs with express business not justifying a CN Express employee with their own dedicated car. Then the railway had a less-than-carload service for business too bulky for Express.

    Often, the conductor was the only member of a mixed or branchline passenger train crew that wore a uniform. The rest of the crew wore overalls, as they were busy with running an engine, unloading LCL or throwing switches and applying handbrakes. Break or couple the steam pipe on a train? Not the conductor’s job.

    The loss of this traffic with improved highways in Canada removed almost all this traffic. The end of the branchlines followed.

  4. Hi Trevor,
    As a child I have witnessed the Conductor in the coach with the fireman and head end brakeman helping to load or unload the lcl or baggage from the station cart which would be piled high. The mail contract which was very profitable to CN lasted until 1959 when it switched to trucks. After the demise of passengers in 1956 the baggage car was still in the consist for sometime.
    You could always spot your coach and baggage on one side of the crossing which I have seen done, run your boxcar over to unload and reconnect.You also have 5 minutes on the crossing.
    Hope this helps,
    Monte Reeves

  5. The comments on here are fantastic. I have learned so much in just 7 months. Add that to the quality (and quantity) of modelling and posts, and this is amazing.

    Thanks, everyone!

    • Hi Simon:
      I second that. Fantastic comments, everyone. I’m learning a lot, and my layout is benefitting as a result.

  6. Trevor,

    Is there a requirement to service the combine first?
    It seems to me, it would be safer to keep the cattle (people) on the train to handle the LCL work first, than move the train forward and work the combine. Now the passengers getting off the train can safely exit, get in cars and use the road to exit. Also, anyone arriving late can get on the train if they see it in town…

    If the LCL work would take more than 5 minutes, than the combine could be cut off on arrival to keep the road clear. Then connected again and pulled up to the depot…. (you could specify time time handle LCL)

    What about when the train is headed in the opposite direction? Won’t the engine be crossing the road when LCL is being handled? Then the whole train when combine is serviced? Can the 5 minute blocking limit be met?

    FYI: A few years ago I watched the IORY switch across a road for more than 45 minutes. Many drivers just sat there and honked some…Even though there was a path around on more major streets. In 1950, would the railroad have been king in a rural town such as St. Williams? Thus would a longer wait time be acceptable?

    • Hi David:

      Good questions – and since it’s a railway, there’s a rule that helps with answers.

      Rule 16 of the Special Instructions in my 1953 CNR employee time table states:

      16. Whenever it is necessary, after arrival, for a mixed train to back up the passenger cars away from a station platform in order to perform switching, unloading of freight, or other service, a second stop must be made at each platform before final departure, if there are any passengers to detrain or entrain.

      This deals directly with your question about latecomers. The train must make a final stop at the station before it leaves St. Williams for Port Rowan. And while it doesn’t deal directly with your question about which work to do first, it does imply that passengers are dealt with before other work – including “unloading of freight”.

      Also, a good question about the train headed in the opposite direction. It’s only a couple of miles from St. Williams to Port Rowan. I suspect that all LCL business – loading and unloading – was handled on the way down the branch. Freight loaded in St. Williams would get a free ride to Port Rowan. It’s highly unlikely that freight would move by rail between St. Williams and Port Rowan: The two communities are so close that if a St. Williams resident could find what they wanted in Port Rowan, they’d likely just go there and get it themselves.

      Rules about blocking crossings are pretty clear. Five minutes, or the crew can get in trouble if someone complains.

      Neat story about the IORY.


    • David–

      This is a bit wordy, but may help explain the IORY’s blocking the crossing for 45 minutes–US rules were and are a bit different from Canadian rules. In Canada, our Constitution (sec., 92 {10} ) states that railways are under Federal jurisdiction. In the US, it appears to this Canadian that railroads are under a mix of federal and state control. Years ago, cities in the US were able to pass legislation that set time limits on how long a train or engine could occupy a crossing.

      Then along came a court (US Supreme?) ruling that proscribed states and municipal government from making legislation regarding interstate commerce. One US railroad’s recent (and likely current) operating rules state–“A public crossing must not be blocked longer than 10 minutes unless it cannot be avoided.”

      Note the use of the phrase “unless it cannot be avoided”. I’ve noticed that in Michigan, motorists are quite good at slaloming around crossing gates in front of approaching trains. Probably they find this preferable to being stuck behind a stopped or switching train for a while.

      In Canada, if people complain to Transport Canada about repetitively blocked crossings, they will send a Railway Safety Officer to monitor the situation. The offending crews are subject to sanctions for blocking crossings, so we tend not to block crossings for long periods of time while switching in Canada. I personally have moved my train or movement clear of the crossing while switching or doubling up my train to allow road traffic to pass. And try to keep to the five minute rule. Irate motorists are never fun to deal with when you are the guy standing next to the crossing!

      This would have been the case even in 1953 at Port Rowan–crews were subject to discipline for this, even then.

  7. Trevor, It seems following CN practice will add nicely to your sessions.

    Steve, thanks for the history lesson. Always interesting why things are the way they are…

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