On Sheet – Foul Play

On Sheet – Foul Play

omething I’ve noticed on our sectional railroad we take to shows – we let the kids run trains. They have a blast since the signalling system is standard easy-to-understand ABS (which means a train in a block protects itself with a red signal behind it, and a red signal is protected by a yellow signal behind it). But the funny thing is that kids drive their trains like mommy and daddy do their minivans, pulling right up to the base of a signal as if it was a traffic light.

“Kids,” I scoffed, laughing to myself. That is, until the next session on a CTC layout when I noticed that the operators were pulling up dead onto the signal post.

Look, you don’t need to get that close.

Real trains have long stopping distances. Once they are fully in the block, they will stop with at comfortable viewing distance from the signal. Why risk your career (and possibly your life) by braking late and sliding through a red board? You gain nothing by hugging the mast. In fact, on a model railroad you might accidentally sit on a rail gap, resulting in a short, a blown chip or even a melted truck.

Of course, sometimes a siding is short and then you need to pull all the way in – nothing to be done about that. However, it even that is not enough, if the back end of your train is still hanging out, make sure to call the dispatcher and report you are fouling the turnout behind you. This protects you from getting rear ended or sideswiped.

Here’s an interesting fact (and one I would not try on an actual ops session). In modern-day reality, sometimes trains pull just far enough into a siding to clear the turnout behind them before stopping. Why? It comes down to only having a brakeman in the engine with you. This leads to two scenarios…

1) The train stops at the siding entry turnout and the brakeman climbs down to align the switch. He stands there while the mile-long train goes into the siding. Then he sets the turnout back, and then walks back up to the engine. The train is moved forward to the end of the siding. Once the meet is made, he throws the forward turnout so the train can reenter the main, standing by it until the train is fully clear, then restoring the turnout to the main and, again, walking back up. This is the scenario most of us play, without all that walking bit. Or…

2) The train stops at the siding and the brakeman steps down to throw the turnout. The train pulls into the siding. The brakeman realigns the turnout and then finds a shady spot to wait. Once the opposing train is past, the brakeman realigns the turnout, the train backs out, the brakeman realigns the turnout to the main, climbs aboard and off they go.

You’ll notice the second scenario does not involve someone walking two miles.

On a model railroad, this is tricky to do. With  the sidings so close together, you might back into a trailing train. Furthermore, backing a train is far more likely to result in a derailment. While I’m Mr. Reality when it comes to my ops, I hesitate on this one. I think my little imaginary brakeman has some walking to do.

The point of this is to only pull up as far as you need to. Don’t foul and don’t gap.

And for goodness’ sakes, realign your turnouts behind you!