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Freight Car Forwarding

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  1. Freight Car Forwarding Steve Prevette Burnt Hills & Big Flats RR Pasco WA Fluor Hanford City University

  2. Introduction • This clinic will cover some basic methods to designate destinations for your cars. • Car Cards and Marker on Car will be included • This is one of the first steps to bringing Operations to your layout

  3. Why Operations? • You’ve built your empire, what do you do now? • Running trains around in a circle, switching cars aimlessly can get boring

  4. Let’s Bring Some Order:Freight Car Forwarding • Where should the car go next? • How does the operator know where the car is to go? • What is the car carrying? • What does the car do once it is delivered?

  5. What System is Best? Thinking Man’s Wheel Order Switchlist Card Order Tab on Car Tack on Car Cargo Operation IT DEPENDS

  6. Complexity and Realismversus Ease of Use • Generally, the more realistic the freight forwarding system is, the more complicated it becomes • We are hear to have fun – at some point the trade off between complexity and ease, realism and fun must be made. • It’s your decision Easiness Realism

  7. No computers today • We’ll stick to non-computer systems for this talk. • Personally, I use a computer program that I wrote in QBasic to assign destinations to cars and then I put tacks in holes on the cars.

  8. What this means to you • You’ve been assigned a local train. • You arrive at a town and are told to switch out the industries. • How do you know which cars to set out (deliver) and to pick up?

  9. Thinking Man’s – No Paper • Used by John Armstrong • A train crews picks up whatever cars they would like to, sets out as many as they want to. Easiness Realism

  10. Paperwork Systems • These methods provide paperwork to the train crew to tell where the cars are to be delivered • Paperwork must be handed off to and from the yard crews • Can have problems reading reporting marks on the cars, but some people add photos of the car to the paperwork

  11. Wheel Reports – One piece of paper per train • Cards are made up for each train listing the number of each car type for the train. • Make several card sets to give variability • Pick up like cars to replace cars set out. Easiness Realism

  12. To be used on odd numbered days

  13. Basic Car Card – One piece of paper per car • Make one 3 x 5 for each car • List about 10 destinations down the card • Use paper clip or pencil check mark to annotate the next destination • When at bottom, erase check marks or slide paper clip to top Easiness Realism

  14. New Haven 40 foot plug door boxcar 45097 • Cadosia Team Track • Erie Lackawanna Track 2, Big Flats • Amphenol Electronics, Sidney Utica Staging C. Auter Track 1, Cadosia Lackawanna Tool & Die, Scranton Note: Next Destination is Utica Staging

  15. Card Order Two pieces of paper per car • Make one 3 x 5 for each car • Make a pocket to hold a smaller “order” card • Order cards provide up to 4 destinations • After last destination, replace order card Easiness Realism

  16. The Car Card Make one card per car Graphics from “Ship It”

  17. The Order Card (can be 2 sides) Make “lots” of order cards. Note: “HD” implies hopper

  18. Card Order Notes • Make a box to store excess Order Cards in, organized by car type • Make a pocket to hold a smaller “order” card • Order cards provide up to 4 destinations • After last destination, replace order card • Probably the most common method used, can develop very realistic car routing sequences

  19. Markers on Cars • These methods put markers on the cars in order to tell the train crew where they are to be delivered • Generally incorporates color coding (though car cards can also be color coded) • Very friendly for clubs and new operators • Avoids having to read reporting marks • Need supporting method to assign the markers to the cars

  20. Cardstock Tabs • Print labels on cardstock – ¼ inch by ½ inch • Bend the corners down with tweezers • In practice, tabs have lasted years • Watch out for Sneezing! (make out of metal?) Acme

  21. Plastic Tabs • Use plastic H-columns • Paint and letter each side • Can have one destination on each side • John Allen used a long-short-long-short sequence. Acme

  22. Tacks • Use common thumbtacks, with dry transfer letters • Advantage – magnetic and stable • Disadvantage – must drill holes in cars A

  23. Other • Magnetic strips with magnet or metal glued on underside of car roof • Can stack these so can last for multiple op session before putting on new markers • Sticky Dots • Yellow Sticky Pad paper

  24. Assigning Tabs/Tacks to Cars • The next slides provide some ideas on how to assign tabs/tacks to cars • Car routings can be fairly realistic, but probably not as realistic as can be provided by car cards.

  25. Two Sided Tabs • Put one destination on each side of a H type tab. When delivered, flip to other side. • Car shuttles between two spots • John Allen managed a 4 cycle routine with a long-short / flip / long-short color coding. Easiness Realism

  26. Allowable Car Types on Back • Mark on backside of tab or tack what car types can receive the tab. • Randomly draw a handful of tabs/tacks and start placing on the allowed car types • Keep going until all cars are marked Easiness Realism

  27. Cargo Operation • From a Model Railroader “Bull Session” in the early 1970’s • Draw up order cards specifying the type of car, the load, origination and destination. • The order cards are used to assign the tabs/tacks Easiness Realism

  28. 40 Foot Gondola From: General Electric switch lead, Big Flats PA Load: Scrap Metal To: Jack’s Scrap, Oneonta NY Via: Delaware and Hudson Interchange, Sidney NY

  29. Cargo Operation - Empty • Deal out a card • Find an empty car of the type called for • If none available, put in a “hold” box • If going offline, try to find a “foreign” empty • Put tab/tack in car to get it to origination • Put card in box for that town (card is not needed by train crew) • Car is delivered to origination

  30. Cargo Operation - Load • After car is delivered, remove tab/tack • Find the order card for the load • Load the car (if open-top) • Place tab/tack in car for destination • Put order card in box for destination • After car reaches destination, “unload” it by removing tab/tack and treat as empty • Put order card back into deck

  31. Comment on Cargo Operation • I used it on 2 HO layouts at a teenager • Gives realistic traffic flows • May need a deck for each staging origination • Realistic job for traffic agent – finding appropriate empty cars to use • No paperwork for the train crews • Some loss of realism – if two box cars come to the same location to be loaded – which went with which order card?

  32. Burnt Hills & Big Flats • I currently use tack-on-car in N scale • Tacks are assigned by computer • Tell the computer the car type and current location, and computer gives next location • “Empty return to home road” is a destination • Works well, I have 280 cars on the layout

  33. What’s Next? • Determine what to put on the cards or tacks, how many of each to make. • To do this, list all your destinations (including interchanges and staging) and choose how many cars of what type they should get per week. • May even include detail as to types of loads • Use this table when making cards / tacks.

  34. What’s Next 2? • What trains to run? • I have a clinic given at PSX 2004 on Traffic Flow that may help. It is available on my website at

  35. Conclusion • Freight car forwarding can be as easy or complicated as you would like it to be • This overview of some simple systems should help you get started • Operations is Fun!