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:
(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:
(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!