Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Facing point switching

We have a local Conrail (Shared Assets, so it is still Conrail, shared by CSX and NS) branch nearby that runs out of Camden's Pavonia yard towards Mt. Holly. It is former PRR and then Penn Central, and it used to go further east, and was called the Pemberton branch. It even featured passenger service including RDCs into the 1970s, and when the line went to Fort Dix, featured troop trains during WWII.

Back to the present day, the line sees trains pretty much every weekday. And as pointed out by Lance Mindheim in various articles and clinics, not every industry is switched every day. There are a couple of different industries that receive different car types, so sometimes it is easy to tell what will be switched just by looking at the manifest of the freight train.

One thing that is interesting is how I have seen the crew operate facing point sidings. Although there is a run around further down the line, the local does not always make it all the way there based on industries that need to be switched. One of these is a paper company that receives a number of boxcars from the northeast, Canada and the upper midwest. Sometimes the train is only switching this one industry in a day's work.

I have seen the train with 2 locomotives on the head end work a facing point siding by stopping short of the siding, separating the lead unit from the train and pulling it into the siding. Then the second unit with the train pulls past the siding. The lead unit backs out onto the main track and is able to work the train from the rear, pulling the cars in the siding and respotting cars as necessary. This includes putting some cars back that have not yet been unloaded, and spotting cars at specific delivery doors. All of this has been covered by Lance various times, and it is good info to use when designing, building and operating your layout. It takes a bit of time for the crew to switch a single siding. A lot of times on a model railroad, we simply pickup what is there and drop off what we have. On the prototype it is much more complicated and time consuming, but if you like to operate, a lot of fun.

Lately I have noticed that the crew has arrived with a locomotive on each end of the train. This eliminates the need to separate the locomotives once at the facing point siding. Here is a picture I took recently as the train stopped in Maple Shade across the street from a Wawa (a local convenience store in our area) to grab lunch before getting busy switching further down the line.

The 4 man crew has exited the train to pick up lunch before continuing work further down the line.
A quick look at the boxcars on this train, and the fact that the train is 6 cars in length, confirmed that they only needed to switch the facing point paper company siding this day.

I find this interesting as I have been looking at how to operate 2 locations on my layout that have facing point turnouts in regards to the locals that will switch them. Lyndonville along the CP and Johnson, the talc mill along the LVRC, both not only have facing point sidings, and are also complicated by coming off the mainline which is on a grade.

This earlier work in progress photo shows the siding at Johnson. The yellow LVRC loco is downgrade. Operationally, this siding would be getting cars out of Morrisville, upgrade and along the track at the bottom left of the photo. A local would therefore approach this siding head on, a facing point switch to be worked.

A model railroad solution would be to add a run around off the main, or as part of the siding itself. Sometimes that is prototypical, but usually not. It is interesting that when the paper company located along this CR branch in the 1990s, the railroad built the siding but did not build anything extra such as a run around track to make switching easier. They knew there were ways to accomplish the task without building more track.

Another solution is the out and back turn local train that only works trailing point switches on the way out, and then trailing point on the way back (which were previously facing point). Sometimes that is how Conrail switches this siding, just going right past it on the way out, and then switching it on the way back towards Camden. That doesn't work for me for perfectly as I do not model the portion of the line where the Canadian Pacific turn around would occur.

For example on the CP, the local originates out of Newport, which is staging on my layout, runs to Wells River, also staging on my layout, then turns back for the return trip. I could get around this by first operating the return train coming back from Wells River before modeling a different local train in staging that would then switch Lyndonville as a trailing point siding. It would work, and best represents what the prototype did. The oddity would be modeling 2 different versions of the local.

Another way around this might be to do some active staging during the session to put the locomotives and caboose on opposites ends while in staging, and then have the train operated later in the session. This would preserve the locomotives and cars of the original local turn, and I could drop and add some cars within staging representing work done off the visible layout before returning. However this would require someone to actually do this during a session.

But another option is to look at what the Conrail local is doing and use 2 locomotives operating independently on my local. Either of the 2 methods would work well, and with DCC it is easy to duplicate. In my era, it would have been more likely to split the locomotives at the siding instead of having one at each end of the train.

Another advantage is that this method eliminates problems with the mainline on the grade. For example, if it is switched as a trailing point siding, I cannot leave anything on the main without some sort of braking system for the cars left on the main. Even the caboose would have to be switched into the siding complex, which does not seem too prototypical (outside of needing to clear the mainline for through freights). By having the locomotive proceed past the switch (and go downgrade), the locomotive will provide the necessary "anchor" to hold cars on the main while the switching work is done.

I can't say I have decided yet on how I think it will be best to operate these 2 locations. All these methods will work, and I can certainly try each of them out to see how it goes with the operators. The key thing is that by looking at the prototype, I found another solution that could be employed.

One last picture of a car in this train, a Maine Central boxcar, albeit in Pan Am paint. Somewhere under there is the Harvest Gold and green pine tree. Occasionally I have seen some older paint schemes on boxcars for the paper company, but that is getting more scarce nowadays.

MEC 31786, FMC 5272cf XP boxcar, series 31750-31899, built 1978.

1 comment:

Phil D said...

Mike, I watched them do the whole put the one engine in the siding and pull forward the other day. Sometimes they'll do that and then go all the way down to the Hainesport industrial as well. Going by Pavonia on the RiverLine, I haven't seen it leaving there with one on each end so I'm not sure where else they might make that move.