Northern Rails op session and leadup

I didn’t forget about my blog! It’s just hard to make interesting posts sometimes.

After the redesign, I had an op session. It went well. I went back to doing some scenery – I might do a post on that later. That’s not what this one is about.

With Cranbrook in, I took another look at Nelson sub. operations. I decided to keep the 2 Cranbrook-Nelson freights each way, but get Creston in the mix. I didn’t have time to lay all of Creston so I laid the necessaries – main, siding, backtrack, and a temporarily extended sawmill track.

Ops sequences for the first session were essentially the same as before, and I tested them out to make sure everything ran smoothly. An 0600 call for a west crew out of Cranbrook started the session, but they had work in Creston – a theoretically quick lift from and drop to the back track. However, I hadn’t thought things through and had too many cars on the back track that were supposedly at industries. Additionally, they had to stay out of the way of 11. That train ended up coming into Nelson around 0830 or so – but it had a ton of cars for train 87, due out at 0830, and needing to be blocked. Clearly that wasn’t working. Major changes were needed.

The goal was now twofold. Firstly, unclog Nelson. It was a switching hell. Cars scattered across so many tracks and in no order. Second, get rid of sequential events that could cause chain reactions that caused sessions to grind to a halt waiting for a single train.

New order:

0630: All crews on duty / Nelson yard starts blocking No. 87

0700: East wayfreight departs Midway, No. 11 departs Cranbrook.

0830: 87 departs Nelson.

1000: Nelson wayfreight departs Cranbrook (cars for 81 and 87 the next session), 11 arrives Midway, crew to 81

1100: Creston switcher on duty to move cars from the back track to industries and vice-versa. (Need more track for this to be more than an 0-5-0 assignment!)

1130: 81 departs Nelson, leaving space for the Nelson wayfreight to enter yard

1150: 984, now timetabled from Castlegar to Nelson (previously only on the Nelson sub) departs Castlegar

1215: 984 departs Nelson

1300: 90 departs Nelson with previous day’s cars, lifts and drops at Creston

1500: West freight Cranbrook to Nelson (cars for 81 and 87 for the next session)

1600: No 91 departs Cranbrook for Nelson – now timetabled as fourth class on the Nelson sub

1700: No 91 departs Nelson for Trail

1640: 12 departs Midway

1600-1800: East boundary wayfreight arrives Nelson

1830: 92, mostly boundary loads, runs Nelson to Cranbrook

In this list, only 1 thing needs to happen for another in the session – 92 carries cars that are dropped by the eastbound Boundary sub wayfreight. That’s it. All the other moves between the Nelson and Boundary subs are inter-sessional.

A little change was adding photo printed speed signs to the fascia. Previously the speed limits were buried in the time table, and without little mileposts flying by, it was very hard to know how fast you should go. I went with this style of my own design.

So I called back my faithful crew to whom I am very grateful for another session the following week, and was incredibly pleased with how it ran. I’ve never seen my layout operate so well! I ended up dispatching myself, and it was quiet. Pretty much everything ran per timetable and very few orders were issued. The craziest thing that happened was that the Kraft switcher’s power (GP7 8423, H16-44 8552) couldn’t manage the train back to Nelson from Castlegar. Here’s some photos that I managed to grab in the first and second sessions when I had a free moment!

OS Creston: No. 92 through at 1844. 4240 is a Life Like C424 that I installed LokSound in – it sounds fantastic. It’s going to emerge from the paint shop with correct details in Action Red later this year as 4216 as part of Operation MEGACHUGG.

OS Creston: No. 12 out at 1905.

Remember the 4° curve I mentioned in my last post? It looks FAB. I can’t overstate how pleased I am with it! In that previous photo, I tried to recreate the view from Sunset Seed that I’ve seen multiple photos taken from. Here’s the information sign on the former sawmill site in real life.

East of Creston, I have the temporary Canyon bridge in. I suspect this will be here for many years as it’s such a good stand-in!

Next session I had much more time for photos.

Before the session started, I had to run another train into Nelson to beef up the car count for the outbound freights – this would be the 0500 Extra 8596 West.

With much less time pressure, the Nelson sub wayfreight would be powered by a 4-unit CLC consist and run as Extra 4104 West. The work at Creston was much easier this time.

A bit later, fourth class No. 81 is scheduled to arrive into Castlegar at 1150, with a bolded meet with superior second class No. 984. 81 (Engine 8549) slid into Castlegar at 11:40, just in time to be clear, while the conductor stepped off 5742 to get a coffee and clearance from the station.

I don’t remember exactly what happened to get 4240 over the summit to Midway, but get there she did. Here she is climbing out of Fife.

12 is by the grain elevators at Creston – the fire truck belongs to ACU, who spent some of the summer here and got a lot of Kootenay time in!

Where is ACU, you might ask? His favorite place, plugging away at the Kraft.

I added a bit more fun to the Kraft, 8423 is the newest unit on the rails with Loksound.

Amazingly, all trains for the day were run (save for the GN turn due to lack of manpower)
Here’s No. 92, running on schedule!

Here’s the train sheet so you can see how everything ran. Almost everything is within an hour of timetable, which is pretty good for me.

Okay, great test, everyone! Let’s do Northern Rails, my layout is in prime condition!

The unfortunate few file in to find all their paperwork ready to go…

I blocked all the trains out of staging because that’s cruel to do operators during a session. Out of Cranbrook, the two extra wests are ready for Nelson, and 91 has 8909 on the lead. Presumably it’s heading back to Trail to get grimy in Tadanac.

The GN turn into Grand Forks was still left over from the previous session, and I decided to occupy Cal S. with this until 0830 when the Kraft was on.

Back in the dispatcher’s office, Mike S. confers with Brian D, our dispatcher for the day.

Nelson yard was hard at work right away – 50ish cars total needed to be blocked and ready for trains 87 and 81 before 0830 and 1130, respectively. Glen P. was the yardmaster, and I was lucky to have Brian K (of the Wolverine Lynx) to help get that started.

The eastbound Boundary sub. wayfreight was a bit earlier into Grand Forks than expected and held short of the west siding switch until the GN turn had finished their work. West of the siding switch is the swing gate. Please, nobody open it.

Extra 8696 West today was the Nelson sub wayfreight. Here it is lifting 1 and dropping 12 at Creston.

8602 has been conspicuously absent for the past 2 sessions. It was sidelined with decoder issues and slated as the first member of Operation ULTRATHRUMM – Sound in Kaslo H16-44s. Not an easy task, and this will drag on considering the current Atlas factory situation!

Here it’s arrived at Castlegar. Today, 81 didn’t manage to slip in before 984’s departure.

This is when things started to get WILD. I was running 984 and didn’t get to watch all the proceedings, but things went south in a hurry.

81 was over tonnage for the hill, and we had to decide whether to run pushers down from Farron or have him double. John G, engineer, decided to double. It’s a long way up the hill – 4 scale miles! Luckily (?) extra 4105 East, the eastbound Boundary wayfreight, was struggling with the sheer amount of switching required in Grand Forks.

The first clue everything was going sideways was that both the order boards in Farron were dropped.

81 squared half their train out of the way in Castlegar. I knew I built that yard for something.

Next I saw, they had their train up at Farron and were ready to come back down. The dispatcher was furiously typing up orders to both 81 and X4105E – 81 was to work between Farron and Castlegar, grab the rest of his train, and run up to the shorter siding at Shields and take the siding for X4105E to meet him.

In the midst of all this, a complication. No. 12, the Kettle Valley Express, was due soon and running 15 minutes late. Everyone needed to move for the varnish! Knowing the siding at Farron was occupied, X4105E was held at Grand Forks until 12 was past. 35mph can turn into a blur quickly.

12’s tail was barely past the bridge when 4105’s head end brakeman threw the switch and they started pulling onto the main – but there were complications, they couldn’t get a good joint between an open hopper and the next car.

12 was fine, though.

Things got a bit busy and so a few photos are missing. Eventually X4105E departed Grand Forks, but like so many before, missed their work at Fife and had to back down! They also had work at Farron. 12 met the second part of 81 at Castlegar, and they boogied back up to Shields to patiently wait for X4105E as the meet had been prescribed and they had no choice. 81 was into Shields at 1600, 12 was through around 1800, and 4105 finally boogied through around 2000.

The Kraft Switcher was in Nelson by 1748. That was ridiculously fast, and I’m well impressed.

4105 OS’d into Nelson at 2059. Luckily, the only train contingent on its arrival was No. 92, scheduled out at 1830, but which was annulled. There will be an extra east to move power and cars , either prior to the start of the next session, or at the start.

Flights needed to depart, and we had to call an end to the session. 81 tied up in Grand Forks, making sure to split the crossings. The clock was stopped, but a fresh crew will be taxied in from Nelson to finish the run and make sure everything doesn’t get too bogged down before the next session!

Nelson yard is running incredibly smoothly. Too smoothly? There’s an amazing ebb and flow, it empties nearly completely during the day and fills back up at night for the morning departures.

I was especially impressed by Brian’s dispatching. Many of the operators here are part of the Vancouver group, and while my layout is the only one in Calgary that runs on time table and train order, there are a good number in the Lower Mainland that use it. They all keep in practice while we develop rust and barnacles.

Some things that went wrong – There were some issues with the phone system that I’ve never seen before and wasn’t able to replicate after. I want to add another power district so Nelson yard is on its own. There’s a few more signs I’d like to put in. I still want to blast out a foundation wall and expand aisles. Lots of quick, easy fixes and one that is absolutely not.

Here’s the train sheet, all in all, a good session!