Monday, May 20, 2019

Operations: Switch Lists

So in the last post, I mentioned that the primary job of the Station Agent is to write out switch lists for the crews. But what are they, and how do they go about creating them?

For years, Chris and I were trying to hunt down an elusive NH Switch List. We had an early one:
I'd seen some other switch list forms on from other railroads, but nothing that directly applied to our particular era.

We had come to the conclusion that crews often used them to do their work, and also had come to the realization that they were prepared for the crew, by the Agent. This makes sense, because while the crew would have waybills for the cars on their train, they wouldn't have any idea what work to do in a given town in regards to pick ups. This doesn't mean that the conductor might take that paperwork and write his own switch list in whatever format they prefer.

The first New Haven document that had specific information about switch lists is a document that describes the installation and use of a new computerized system installed by IBM in 1945 in Maybrook and Cedar Hill, to be expanded over the next few years to other major yards.

They showed a comparison between the old:

and new:

As this is a switch list for the Maybrook hump, it notes that it was made in triplicate, with copies for the hump yardmaster, the car marker, and general yardmaster. They were not provided to the trick yardmaster, home route clerk, or record clerk at the general yard office. In addition, it specifically states it was transcribed by the yard clerk fro the bills or inbound train arrival sheet.

In other words, they didn't know what cars were coming in until the train arrived.

For the new computerized switch list, it was transmitted ahead of the train, and copies were also furnished to the receiving yard office file, trick yardmaster, home route clerk, and record clerk. However, this only applied to yards with the new equipment, and small yards (like New Britain) would have to handle the paperwork the old way.

An important thing to notice is that while the handwritten switch list is on a form for that purpose, it only loosely follows the format, and there are two columns when the form is designed only for one. In other words, they didn't follow the format of the form or fill in all of the columns.

The handwritten list contains the following information:

In the header is the date, the originating road (O&W), and number of loads (81), the outbound train (NE-6),  and departure time (10.15 am).

There's one line (806 804) and I'm not sure what that is. If it's power, those would be G-4-a locomotives, not something I'd expect on NE-6.

Road - Car No. - Destination - Weight (I think) - Track No.

It ignores the columns for Station From, Consignee, Contents, Classification, Seals and Rider (which indicates this particular form was probably only used at the hump yards).

The computerized form contains the following information:
In the header:
Inbound train (L&H 1-92) arrived in Maybrook at 7.50 am on 7/11/46 with 64 loads and 1 empty.
Then the same info as the handwritten oneL
Road - Car No. - Destination - Weight - Track No., plus notes (several are listed as explosive)

What's clear in both examples is that it only lists important information for the crew to do their work, and nothing more.

I also came across what look like several B&O switch lists, specifically for blocking an outbound train:

This handwritten list is on the back of a B&O Home Route card. Without any more info, it's hard to know exactly what it was, but that's what it looks like to me. It's similar to a couple of NH Home Route cards that I have with what are clearly notes taken by a new employee at a yard, basically things to remember about the new job.

George Ford, once an agent at Thompsonville, has a sizeable amount of old railroad paperwork and had a folder labeled "Switch Lists" that simply held manila cards. He also had one of the old switch list forms, blank, with his wife's shopping list on the back.

The reason it has been hard to find NH switch lists is because they weren't a form required for the railroad to do business. They were simply a tool for the crew to do their work, after which they were just thrown out. Although they published some forms for the purpose, it appears that agents would use what was handy, rather than order the actual forms.


In talking to Dale and Joseph, who are both freight conductors on prototype railroads, they confirmed that they get switch lists when they come on duty. There's a different list for each cut of cars they receive, which is essentially a wheel report, in that it lists the cars as they appear in the cut. In addition, they get switch lists for pick-ups in town. They receive them via email, but also paper copies, which they just throw out when done.

They also confirm that where there is more than one crew, they all receive the same paperwork. The crews work out who will do what work between them (although since they do this every day, it's largely known by them anyway).


So for the agent on the layout, their switch list just needs to include whatever info the crews needs to do their work, and will probably follow the format of the handwritten NH example pretty closely. For inbound trains it requires the industry and track number or spotting location if needed. For cars being picked up, the outbound train and block must be noted so the crew knows how to build the outbound cuts.

They compile the lists from several sources:

Waybills from inbound trains. They list the cars in the order they appear on the train.

Report of Cars on Hand. This notes loads and empties that are ready to pull as reported at the end of the previous day (something that Joseph confirmed they still do on the Pioneer Valley Railroad). The loads have waybills, the empties have Home Route Cards unless they are a direct connection. Then no paperwork is required. The Agent has this paperwork to work from.

More requests for empties or loads to pick up that I provide during the session from industries.

In the past, Chris and I have used a Santa Fe switch list that I modified to add a New Haven header. Going forward, I may let the agent use whatever he would prefer for them, and if I can dig up a blank form 1426-1 switch list form, I'll have those available too.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Operations: Station (Freight) Agent

On Thursday, May 30 I'm hosting a couple of operating sessions on the evening before the New England Prototype Meet. So if you're coming to the meet and you'd like to come, let me know via email.

Since the layout is entirely within yard limits and has switching crews assigned to do all of the work, I have a Station (Freight) Agent / Yardmaster / Stanley Works foreman operating position. The goal is to use all of the relevant prototypical paperwork, including full-sized waybills, etc., since the agent has a desk and won't need to carry around a stack of paperwork while trying to run a train.

Inbound trains, of course, will have a stack of waybills, but since all they have to do is come into town, drop or pick-up a cut of cars, and deliver the paperwork to the agent, it shouldn't be too unwieldy. In addition, I have a desk/workspace for each switching crew, and also for the Stanley and through train crews.

Their primary job is to provide switch lists for the working crews. This is done using the waybills, home route cards, and a report that is produced at the end of the prior day. They also need to identify the outbound blocking and follow the car routing rules as best they can.

The job has evolved as we've developed the operating scheme and learned more about how the railroad actually works. Chris really enjoyed the job because when you're sitting at the desk, working with the actual paperwork, you can't really tell you're operating a model railroad. You're just doing the job.

In addition to research on the New Haven, two of my railroad buddies, Dale and Joseph, have also provided a lot of input as to how they do their job as freight conductors at the CNZR and Pioneer Valley Railroads, and it's pretty clear that other than technology (such as receiving switchlists via email), the process is much the same today.

Instructions for Station Agent / Yardmaster / Stanley Works Foreman

  The Agent handles all waybills and paperwork, and compiles switch lists for the crews.

1.          Create a switch list for each cut of inbound cars, starting with the west end of the cut of cars.
2.          Create a switch list for known work from the Report of Cars on Hans, Empty Car Waybills, and loaded waybills provided by the industries.
3.          Create additional switch lists as additional work comes in through the session.
4.          When writing switch lists for outbound trains, note both the outbound train and blocks required. Also note the car routing rules for direct connection railroad ownership (Rule 2) cars.

Empty Requests
  Empty requests should be filled using the car routing rules as much as practicable.
  Cars must be properly cleaned before being provided as an empty to another industry. In general, empty cars pulled from industries must be forwarded offline as there are no cleaning facilities or cleaning crew in New Britain. Requests for empty cars must be made to Hartford by 5.00 pm for delivery overnight.
  Stanley Works empties can be filled using cars they empty if they follow the car routing rules. They will clean the cars.
  Empty cars requested the prior day will have inbound cars left by the overnight freights.

  Loaded cars and loaded or empty tank cars must have a Waybill to their final destination. As a practicality, the waybills are already prepared. Those from trains delivered overnight are in the bill box. The conductor of a freight dropping cars during the session will have additional waybills. On the desk will be waybills for industries that have already requested a pickup, and additional waybills will be delivered by the clerk or the industry (Stanley Works) during the session.

Form 456 – Report of Cars on Hand
  Form 456 lists all cars spotted at industries and in the yard in town, except cars delivered overnight.
  Cars listed as empty or loaded can be pulled at any time.
Industries will call with additional loads or empties ready to pull throughout the day.

Form 1464 – Empty Car Waybill and Home Route Card
  Each car from a road that does not have a direct connection to the New Haven will have a form 1464 attached to the waybill.
·        Separate the Form 1464 from the waybill and file by road and number.
·        When cars are emptied, they return to their interchange point with form 1464.
·        If the car is reloaded, a new waybill is created and the form 1464 is discarded.

  Direct connection railroad ownership (Rule 2) empty cars should be returned to the nearest connection point with that railroad and do not have a form 1464. Direct connection ownership cars are:

Via Cedar Hill
B&A (Springfield)
B&M (Springfield)
CNJ/CRP (Oak Point)
CV (New London)
LI (Fresh Pond)
LV (Oak Point)
PRR (Bay Ridge)

Via Maybrook
LNE (Campbell Hall)
NYC except PLE and PMcK&Y (Campbell Hall)
O&W (Campbell Hall)

  Exception. “Rule 2” empty cars should be returned to road from which received under the following conditions: PRR, LV, CNJ-CRP when received via L&H, Erie, or L&NE at Maybrook; CNJ-CRP, LV when received via O&W at Maybrook.

  Direct connection railroad ownership (Rule 2) empty cars that are to be used for reloading will have a Form 1464 to indicate their use for reloading.

  Indirect connection railroad ownership (Rule 3) empty cars should be returned to the connecting road in home route as shown on The Home Route Card which was attached to the waybill covering the loaded movement of the car.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Engine servicing pits

And a new experiment in working with the cinders I collected from the Essex steam train. When installing them before, I scenicked the cinder ballast and dirt first, then wet with Future. For some reason the dirt darkened considerably more than on the other part of the layout, and the ash and cinders separated into more of a salt and pepper look, like this:

Since I'm working on the engine servicing pits, I decided cinders would be appropriate here, and if I want to add additional material (dirt, etc.) then I can add layers. This is actually two layers already. One section I did by spreading Aleene's Tacky Glue and adding the cinders to that. It works very well, but is impractical since I can't use that method to ballast track. So I wet the board with Future, then added the cinders, and vacuumed when dry. That removed a bit too much, so I added a second layer and that's working much better.

You can see the difference between the cinders that were glued with Aleene's (between the top two pits) and Future (the rest of the board). I still have weathering and a few additional details to add to these, then I need to build the old foundation and, if I have the materials, the storage building that's still standing just beside these.

Anyway, I'm very happy with the results, and it's quite repeatable which is really what I'm looking for. The cinders themselves are a mix of the actual cinders from Essex, but they turned out to be basically light gray ash, so I also sifted some of the coal dust from the next pile over. I really like the color, but as I noted, was having trouble with it separating. 

I'm going to try to finish this scene before the New England Proto Meet, since it's on a separate board and I can bring it to display.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Track Scales and Westfield Routing Questions

Question: It the New Britain Track scale in use in my era? What about the Middletown one?

Answer: Unfortunately, probably not…

In the March 10, 1941 Office List of Freight Stations, notation #3 indicates: Stations at which Track Scale is maintained.

Stations that have this notation (including their Station No)
70 Harlem River NY
4765 Beacon NY
4985 Poughkeepsie NY
5060 Brewster NY
5145 Maybrook NY

Huh? No Cedar Hill, Hartford, or Boston?

In fact, no Scale Track listed on the New Haven outside of NY. That seems odd enough that there may be a reason for that. So I'll have to see if I can confirm this in a later document, just in case the scale tracks were reinstated for WWII traffic, but I doubt it. 

I actually don't even have a photo of the Track Scale House in New Britain. We do have one of the Middletown one in a John Wallace photo, so we know it was still there (and Chris has a drawing that indicates when the track was being removed in the '60s if I recall). So I don't know if the track/house is even still present in my era. The aerial photos are inconclusive, the 1951 one shows the runaround is still in place, but maybe not the track scale building or track.

The station numbers, incidentally, were used for routing to/from other railroads. Every state's stations were numbered and this is consistent across the country. So I can look at the N&W or NKP Routing Guide and they list the same station numbers. Also "station" is a technical term on the railroad, meaning "town." Obviously it refers to the freight/passenger stations within a town, but it also designates all traffic to that town. 

New Britain is station #3910.


In an unrelated subject, Joseph and I were trying to determine what, if any, traffic came to the NH via Westfield. He's a conductor on the Pioneer Valley Railroad, and since I have freights running to Westfield/Holyoke and back, it's also useful information for waybills and traffic on the layout.

The NH Characteristics Charts reprinted by NHRHTA in 1978 includes Density of Freight Traffic maps for 1912 and 1918 (one for 1966 was on eBay recently).

The 1912 one shows 6 trains with 4,076 tons avg daily from Westfield to Simsbury. Between Simsbury and Plainville (with a little math to remove the 2 New Hartford Branch trains) and it's 5 trains, 3,783 tons.

In 1918, it's 8 trains to Simsbury, 7.381 tons, and 6 trains, 10,204 tons. So this would seem to imply a fair amount of traffic could be coming from Westfield, and thus through New Britain.

As I was digging through some things for RPI (they are adding a NYC portion to the layout in their new location), I found this:
A NYC pamphlet that lists New Haven stations and the junction to be used when routing traffic to that station. Inside is a list of the junctions:

Including Westfield. The rest is simply a list of all of the stations, and which junction to use for loads from points west of Buffalo. I also found that the specific stations listed are also confirmed in the routing guides of other railroads. For example, routes for the same stations for loads shipped from the N&W go through Westfield. Although for the N&W this is one of over a dozen routes that could be selected (the N&W has 83 different routes to the NH in the 1959 routing guide, and that's misleading because many of those routes have options within the route itself. For example:

1 N&W, Bannon, Ohio (CL), Columbus, Ohio (LCL), NYC (W), North Findley (Mortimer), Ohio, NYC&StL, Buffalo, NY, LV, Jersey City Terminal N. J., Float, Harlem River N. Y., or LV, Easton, PA, L&HR, Maybrook N. Y., NYNH&H.

Note that CL and LCL traffic go through different routings, but it also has two different routings from Buffalo, via Jersey City and car float, or L&HR to Maybrook.

But I digress. The point is, by 1944 and later, it would appear that only the following stations received loads via the B&A/NYC in Westfield:
915 Avon
920 Simsbury
925 Floydville (No agent. Inbound Freight Charges must be prepaid. Private Siding. Carloads only when consigned to Connecticut Tobacco Company). So it appears this was the only industry/siding in town.
930 Granby
935 Congamond (Carloads only.)
940 Southwick
945 Westfield
960 Holyoke
975 Southhampton (Carloads only.)
980 Easthampton
985 Northampton
990 Florence
991 Leeds (Carloads only.)
992 Haydenville

This is helpful, because NY-4/YN-3 is essentially the Westfield local (from Avon and points north, Berlin, and Cremo Brewery in New Britain because it's on the Springfield line just north of Berlin). So I'll have fewer cars to/from those stations on those trains. Staging for this train is 14 cars outbound and 13 inbound.

It was also the train I thought would be bringing cars from Lane's and Cook's quarries for weighing on the track scale. Now it appears that may not be the case. And I might not even need to install the track or the scale house.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Quick fix - Power to the Points

One of the things that I planned to do, but didn't was to solder very flexible feeders to each point on the Microengineering turnouts. The points are a separate piece of rail that receive power from both ends, and the one end is through a rail joiner.

Since I don't love adding feeders, and I was laying track at a rapid pace, I skipped the step. For the most part I haven't had any issues, even in the fully scenicked portions of the layout.

But while I was running trains for an open house this past weekend, I did have a spot where the locomotive would frequently, but not always, stutter or stall. This is a location where two turnouts are connected points-to-points, so initially I thought that since there was no feeder in that location I'd add a pair.

Once I add a bit of ballast, the new feeders will be entirely hidden. But it didn't resolve the issue.

So I tested power on each separate piece of rail and found one of the two points is not receiving power. This is a scenicked and weathered turnout.

So I cut a small piece of stranded wire, stripped the end and wrapped all but one strand to get them out of the way. I left a small section of insulated wire as a handle.

I put a slight kink as a "hinge" in the wire, tinned it, and soldered it to the back side of the points, right above the rail joiner. It's almost entirely hidden behind the rail. If I need to to it on the front points, then I'd do it on the front of the rail to avoid issues with derailments, although it's small enough I'm not sure it would matter.

Once I tested the rail for power, I cut off the "handle."

Since I'm lazy, I'll only do this where it's actually needed, but it really took longer for the soldering iron to heat up (and for me to type this up) than to actually do the fix.