Author Topic: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western  (Read 1071 times)

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mark dance

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TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« on: January 31, 2014, 10:52:13 AM »
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Hi all...

I put the finishing touches on a Youtube video explaining how we implemented Timetable & Train Order operations on the C&W.  Should you have any interest in the pain and suffering we went through ( :) ) please have a look.  I hope it proves to be something of interest to those who do view it. 

Operations has become my focus over the last few years.  Working together with other MR's to accurately simulate the problem solving of the prototype is very rewarding.  It really brings a layout to life and it is rewarding to see the years of design and construction perform...hopefully reliably!


Have a great weekend!

md
Youtube Videos of the N Scale Columbia & Western at: markdance63
Photos and track plan of of the N Scale Columbia & Western at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/27907618@N02/sets/72157624106602402/

seusscaboose

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2014, 11:29:58 AM »
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Mark
We have been on a similar journey here

The video is now a "must see" IMO for my Operators, as we migrate from track warrants (Mother May I), to TO's

This video is very useful!

Thanks
EP

PS you're place is on my bucket list
"I have a train full of basements"

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coldriver

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2014, 09:57:53 AM »
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Really helpful stuff here Mark.  I'm contemplating going in the direction of TT&TO at some point and it's great to have the benefit of your experience and detailed practical explanations. 

With the volume of trains you're running would you say the dispatcher's overwhelmed or that he's working at a fairly relaxed pace (once he's beyond the learning curve) and could handle additional traffic if it was thrown at him?

Did you have much of an issue with crew attrition as you implemented TT&TO - guys who just felt like the system was beyond their comprehension or felt like it took away the fun of running trains?  I'm sure it helped having other layouts in your area which had already implemented TT&TO, so crew members likely had some exposure before you tried it.  No one I know in my area (DFW) is doing TT&TO so it seems like starting with an all rookie crew (myself included) is going to be an uphill battle.  On the other hand, I work at one of the world's largest concentrations of prototype dispatchers who actually used TT&TO (BNSF HQ) so if I can rope one of those guys into helping out it should be much easier...

GaryHinshaw

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2014, 02:46:26 PM »
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I'm not Mark, but I have operated on the C&W many times, both as a dispatcher and a crew member, and can offer the following perspective.  First, I would rate myself as an "beginning to intermediate" operator who had no previous exposure to TT/TO prior to moving here 3 years ago.   One thing that helps the beginner a lot is documentation: Mark has some excellent written and video material that explains the scheme (in addition to the above video).   Further, he has jobs that span a range of difficulty levels, so beginners can get their feet wet without drowning. 

I find the way he has implemented TT/TO to be quite intuitive for the crew members: a train gets its originating orders from the station agent, then there are cordless phones at the ~6 TO stations on the line.  Here train crews assume the job of station agent and they telegraph (call) the dispatcher to update their status.  There is also a very clever scheme in place to let crews know if they have updated orders at each station along the way.  This all works very well and is pretty easy to learn.  The main problems I have observed with new crews - and even some veterans  :RUEffinKiddingMe: - is that they forget to report at a TO station.  (They also sometimes fumble the keystrokes required to phone the dispatcher.)

My experience as dispatcher is that the load is just about perfect.  There is some setup time required before the session to write up the first several orders of the day, but then things almost run themselves.  (I admit to being a little cavalier about issuing updated orders once a train has departed.  I often let the crews fend for themselves out on the line.   ;))  The phone system makes it very easy for the dispatcher to keep track of traffic flow on the line, but it is important to keep your train sheet up to date.

All in all, it's great fun.  I have not witnessed any perceptible crew attrition, but I'll let Mark comment on that.  He can also comment on how his implementation of the system has evolved over the years, tailored to meet the needs of his specific layout.

-Gary

mark dance

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2014, 05:08:56 PM »
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Thx for pinch hitting for me Gary.

To add a bit more colour, I think the level of work for the Dispatcher - if all is going to plan - is very low.  The layout  follows reasonably faithfully the laid back level of trains the prototype saw in 1970 and this is the type of environment I want as well...I don't want it to feel harried and rushed.  The prototype's speed limit across the summit was 20 mph after all.  And a 5:1 fast clock is not a rushed pace - unless you are in the yard, but then there are two yard switchers where the prototype had one crew.

If things do fall behind, such as a train very late in departing or the Superintendent throwing a work or snow plow extra into the mix, then the Dispatcher can be the bottleneck.  The crews generally don't mind waiting for orders but the Dispatcher feels a bit more pressure I am sure. 

The layout is designed with a lot of variety in the trains and with enough volume that each operator can work one of the wayfreights or a yard job should they choose a lot of switching.   If they want a leisurely run over the line - obeying orders and timetable of course - they can run a through freight or a pusher job as well as a wayfreight.  If all they want is switching then 4 of the 7 to 9 roles will keep them switching pretty much non stop all session.  Should they not want to worry to much about train orders they can switch the yard or the Slocan sub job which is alone on an isolated branch very shortly after departing the yard.

So while we use TT&TO, the ops aren't particularly TT&TO intensive.  We only very rarely run multiple sections and most orders are run late or meet orders.  Nothing fancy. 

As to how the crew took it, I can't really address this as the crew from the start has been primarily those interested in and familiar with lots of different forms of operations.  And the recent adds - like Gary - are exposed to it from the beginning.  A few of the local layouts *are* TT&TO intensive and the overall climate in Vancouver is increasingly knowledgeable about this form of ops even to the extent of having a visiting Dispatcher to conduct rules tests for operators to qualify on once or twice per year!  I can't say if this is unique but, as well, visiting operators from up and down the coast seem to have an increasing knowledge of TT&TO and so I would say it is an area of increasing interest and practice.  This may be because TT&TO is challenging but enjoyable and causes you to really think ahead and communicate while operating.

I hope that helps and I am glad you found value in the video.  The information is replicated and augmented in the current (February) and up-coming (March) RMC as well and complimented by Tim Horton's fantastic photos in both cases. 

btw: I am not sure that either article makes much if any reference to the C&W being N scale.  This is deliberate as there is nothing in the articles that is scale specific.  If you look through the most recent Dispatcher's Office magazine (the OP-SIG's journal) there is one N scale layout mentioned amongst the dozens of operating sessions chronicled.  *One*! The same number as Gn15" layouts! N scale can be every bit the operating scale of HO and I'd like us to show that.  One more barrier for N scale to break down...off soapbox now.

md
« Last Edit: February 01, 2014, 06:31:53 PM by mark dance »
Youtube Videos of the N Scale Columbia & Western at: markdance63
Photos and track plan of of the N Scale Columbia & Western at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/27907618@N02/sets/72157624106602402/

PGE_Modeller

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2014, 07:14:43 PM »
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     I have been a regular/occasional operator on Mark Dance’s Columbia & Western and about five other layouts (2 HO scale, 1 HO/HOn3 and 3 N scale) in the Greater Vancouver area for many years.  The HO, HOn3 and Mark’s all operate under TT&TO.  The other two N scale layouts basically operate on a sequential timetable.  The two HO standard gauge railways employ dedicated station operator positions in addition to the dispatcher (and in one case, the dispatcher is frequently a professional railroader located 600 miles away!) while the C&W and the HO/HOn3 layout have train crews assume the role of Operator when they arrive at the various Train Order  stations.  Either system works although, as Mark says, train crews occasionally forget to OS themselves at the various stations.

      All the layouts employ some form of car-forwarding system with the three N scale layouts all using some variation of the “marker on car” system.  The two standard gauge only HO layouts use car cards and waybills while the dual gauge layout uses computer generated switchlists.  My own preference is for the car card and waybill system although it is very easy to accommodate to whichever system is in use on a given layout.  My personal attachment to car cards and waybills may diminish when my 73-year old eyesight declines.  So far, reading reporting marks on cars has not been a problem (providing they are not too heavily weathered).

     Five of the layouts mentioned above routinely take part in the bi-annual VanRails invitational operating sessions which see model railroaders from other areas of  Canada and the Western US come to Vancouver for a weekend of model railway operation.  The format follows that of BayRails which operates in the San Francisco Bay Area in alternate years. 

     In addition, these layouts and others also take part in the operating sessions that accompany the annual “Trains 20yy” show in November of each year.  These sessions are open to anyone who registers for the annual Train show on a “first come - first served” basis.  The number of people signing up for the operating sessions usually exceeds the number that can be accommodated at the participating layouts so, if you are interested, I recommend registering for the meet early.  As information is available it is posted on the Trains website: http://bctrains.sbcrailway.ca/

Cheers

coldriver

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2014, 08:56:45 PM »
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I appreciate all your insight.  That's really a good (and obvious) point I hadn't considered before that yard positions don't need to know a thing about TT&TO if they never leave yard limits.  I have four full time yard positions out of a crew of ten so that will mean a tremendous reduction in the number of folks requiring TT&TO knowledge - that alone makes the prospect of attempting TT&TO much more do-able.  On the con-side, my operating scheme is all about maximizing interaction, and that's done primarily by the use of through trains operating at a rather heated pace.  That means high density single track mainline action with lots of meets and helpers in both directions - thus my inquiry as to dispatcher workload.  I suppose I could slow the pace - I essentially have a slower "day" session which focuses on locals, industrial switching, etc and a "night" session which is the more interactive through train focus.  So far my operators seem to be overwhelmingly in favor of the faster paced night sessions (which has been a big but welcome surprise to me), so I'm hestitant to tinker too much with the scheme by slowing things down.  The obvious thing for me to do would be to install a CTC system. 

My brother, Brian Ferris, went to Vanrails last year and he had glowing reviews.  His layout in Olympia, WA is now TT&TO and will be part of Soundrails again this year.  Unfortunately, after living my entire life in Western Washington I moved to Texas in 2005 so the PNW op's events are now a bit out of range.  Occassionally my work takes me up to the area (including a recent inspection trip of the Kettle Falls International Railroad which required me to drive from Grand Forks to Trail along some of the Boundary Sub!) so ideally I could time a trip like that to coincide with an op's event. 

Dean Ferris

Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2014, 11:49:43 PM »
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Just watched the video. I've never really gotten TT&TO ops until watching it.

Thanks for putting it together.

mark dance

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2014, 03:38:21 AM »
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I appreciate all your insight.  That's really a good (and obvious) point I hadn't considered before that yard positions don't need to know a thing about TT&TO if they never leave yard limits.  I have four full time yard positions out of a crew of ten so that will mean a tremendous reduction in the number of folks requiring TT&TO knowledge - that alone makes the prospect of attempting TT&TO much more do-able.  Dean Ferris

Well...yard crews do need to know a little bit.  They need to know that first class trains "own" the mainline during their scheduled time even when that mainline is passing through a yard.  So, if your layout is running first class trains (which the C&W does not), yard crews *do* need to be able to read a timetable to know when to stay off the mainline during periods when the first class numbered train "owns" the main.  Oh, and they need to know to stay inside yard limits otherwise the rest of the TT&TO rules apply!  Hope that isn't too confusing.

md
Youtube Videos of the N Scale Columbia & Western at: markdance63
Photos and track plan of of the N Scale Columbia & Western at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/27907618@N02/sets/72157624106602402/

coldriver

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2014, 09:44:41 AM »
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Well...yard crews do need to know a little bit.  They need to know that first class trains "own" the mainline during their scheduled time even when that mainline is passing through a yard.  So, if your layout is running first class trains (which the C&W does not), yard crews *do* need to be able to read a timetable to know when to stay off the mainline during periods when the first class numbered train "owns" the main.  Oh, and they need to know to stay inside yard limits otherwise the rest of the TT&TO rules apply!  Hope that isn't too confusing.

md


Right, it doesn't matter what scheme you're operating - if the passenger train's due you better get the heck off the mainline - so the switch crews already have an awareness of that.  I will say that from my BNSF yardmastering days in Seattle however, that a late running passenger train presents a golden opportunity for a switch crew to get out on the mainline and get some work done - because everyone else is in the clear.  As I think about it that's a question I've never seen addressed in any TT&TO literature.  As you indicated, crews need to be in the clear for first class trains in yard limits.  But if a first class train is running significantly late, is there a means to give a switch crew authority to occupy the main in yard limits in the meantime.  The switch crew wouldn't get that authority via a train order - is it enough for the yardmaster to call the dispatcher and ask for an update on the first class train (the way I used to in Seattle) and if he's running significantly late order the switch crew to make a move on the main.  Probably a question for Dave Sprau...


SAH

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2014, 05:00:08 PM »
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Terrific article Mark.  One of the N scale layouts here in the central NC area uses TT&TO ops.   We crew members are slowly learning how it works.    Each session is a bit better than the last.  It takes a whole different mind set to get over the road successfully in the TT&TO environment.  It's certainly a mental exercise on top of the regular railroad duties (set outs and pick ups and such) but great fun too.

Thanks for all the time and effort you put into your videos.

Steve Holzheimer

mionerr

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Re: TT&TO ops stuff on the Columbia & Western
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2014, 03:34:14 PM »
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I'll take this time to plug RockyOps South May 2,3,4 of this year. All of our 8 or 9 layouts are TT/TO. I was a bit intimidated when I moved here 4 and a half years ago, but all the local operators are very helpful. Scale is irelevant.
Roger Otto
Pueblo, CO