On Sheet – The Right Car for the Right Job

On Sheet – The Right Car for the Right Job

orry I was out – I was recovering from surgery (and no, it wasn’t brain removal). Anyway, last time we talked about using tabs-on-cars as a method of getting a car to a specific industry. This time, let’s make it even simpler – let’s assume that we’ll just switch by car type alone and not worry about reading those teeny tiny numbers or placing tabs on our roofwalks.

Most model railroads do this in one shape or form. For example, if you go to a layout with a coal mine, you probably will just shove all the hoppers under the tipple without too much problems or paperwork. Our LM&O club layout does it that way with autoracks, coal cars and ore cars. On my home Cuesta Grade, switching reefers into the four sheds at Salinas is done by filling shipper needs with any available car – after icing, you just need to get any four (or so) reefers to the requesting dock. We assume the freight department is keeping track of what went where). But on my microlayout Tuscarora Branch Line, we go one simpler. There are five industries. The scrapyard gets a gondola. The brewery gets a covered hopper. The fuel distributor gets a tank car. The brickyard gets a boxcar. And the freight house gets a boxcar at door one and a reefer at door two (the refrigerated section of the house). Yes, we use two box cars, I know, but you can further sort them by road name.

There are two locals and a turn that do the actual switch work and they generally spot cars dropped by passing freights in their location. The wheel report for this is shown below:

At the start of the session, the first freight in enters Tuscarora in whatever order we set him up on the interchange. The West Drill job sorts the train into the order listed on the wheel report above (randomly generated by Excel) above. Once the drill blocks the train in correct order, the first train (TE-1, Tuscarora to Easton) departs, setting out his front two cars into any spur he chooses as he leaves town.

It’s the local’s job to spot the two dropped cars – in this case, a Pennsy tank car (TN) to the fuel distributor and a covered hopper (LO) to the brewery. Most crews on my line know how it works – they glance at their wheel report, set it aside and start switching.

Later freights will drop other pairs of cars, and later locals will spot them. Given that the train comes in in random setup order, and Excel’s wheel report shuffles it again, it’s always a new puzzle (even if the same types go to the same industries). To keep things more interesting, between sessions we’ll swap the types out for other similar cars so it’s not always the same rolling stock in seemingly captive service.

You can see from the above that we’ve added a great deal of complexity in sorting six cars to six sidings. Everything is listed on the wheel report (a switchlist would work, too). But the space on the Tuscarora is tight so the switching can get puzzling. And nobody is laying out waybills all over the layout like a fortune teller.

When setting up your operations, don’t let yourself be forced to use methods that or overly complex (or too simple) for your tastes. Look at what you want to do and try it. Worst comes to worst, you’ll just have to come up with another method.

Rule one, as always, is to have fun!