Switching Curlew

This is a start of the new crew job descriptions for operating the layout with the addition of the new town of Curlew. The number of operating positions grows to fully four with the added number of industries to be switched at Curlew and at Carson.

A Bit of Philosophy

Grand Forks is a true interchange hub, as the S&BC runs north and south through it, the CPR runs east and west, and the GN comes in and back from the southeast. Lots of cars must be interchanged between trains at Grand Forks, which requires a dedicated switcher job to classify the incoming cars. There are also 6 industries in Grand Forks that need to be switched, plus the new adjacent town of Carson has a few more. As Carson is right on the US border, it did not make sense to switch it with a way freight that crosses the border, due to the paperwork involved. Instead, all deliveries and pickups at Carson are made by a turn out of Grand Forks that never crosses the border. Southbound cars leaving Carson will be brought back to Grand Forks and then sent south on the next scheduled way freight, after their customs papers have been drawn up.

The new town of Curlew is located between Carson and the original temporary end of the line at Darestof. It has only S&BC trains passing through it, and a number of industries that need to be switched. The initial ideas around how to switch Curlew were to parallel Grand Forks with a dedicated switcher that handles blocks of cars from the passing trains. This is really not a good approach as there is not enough work for a full time local switcher because there are no interchanges with other trains.

A Better Scheme

An alternative is to have the passing way freights switch all of the industries at Curlew when they are in town. This will provide lots of work for the way freight crews, in spite of the fact that the layout is still very short, even with the addition of Curlew.

With this approach, for example the southbound S&BC train will now leave North Staging, block its cars for Grand Forks, swap blocks in Grand Forks, carry on to Curlew and switch all industries, then on to Darestof and switch those industries, and finally end in South Staging. The northbound train will reverse this sequence. This will give those crews a lot of way freight style switching and each train will take about one half of the session to complete.

The eastbound and westbound CPR trains will continue to leave staging, swap blocks of cars in Grand Forks and return to staging, as they did before. The only change will be that there will now be two trains each way each day instead of only one, in order to get more traffic to service the additional industries.

The GN train that originally arrived from the east and returned was dropped on the prior operating scheme due to space issues that have now been sorted out. It will be reintroduced to provide more traffic over the layout.

I want to experiment with the through trains either blocking or not blocking their cars before they arrive at Grand Forks. While I realize that it is good prototype practice to do this, and we were doing it in the previous sessions, it may simplify the Grand Forks classification job too much, leading to boredom. If the cars off each through train arrive in one block, but all jumbled up as to final destination, that will result in more work to be classified. We will see how this plays out. In either case, the same cars will go to the same destinations, it is just shifting the sorting function between jobs.

This then leaves some local switching to round out the jobs. The industries at Grand Forks consume less than a full day’s time, so we need additional work for that position. Adding a turn that runs down to Carson, switches it and returns helps, but is still not enough. There are now three mine locations on the layout, including the original one at Archibald which was switched by the north and southbound S&BC trains. That mine will now be served by a new turn out of Grand Forks to add work for the industry switcher position. The new Curlew section has two new mines that are similar, so turns out of Curlew will handle them in a similar manner. It is hoped that the combination of Grand Forks industries, plus Carson and the three mines will be enough to keep one person busy for the session. Because the Grand Forks classification and the industry switching will have some overlap in time, it is expected that the two positions may want to cooperate where it makes sense.

So to recap, here are the four positions:

  • Grand Forks classification switcher – now handling nine trains per day, up from four
  • Industry Switcher – handles Grand Forks, Carson, and the three mines
  • Road 1 – runs two CPR through trains, one S&BC way freight, and one half of the GN turn
  • 4 – Road 2 – runs two more CPR through trains, the other S&BC way freight, and the other half of the GN turn.

The day can be split neatly at the mid-point due to the symmetry of the trains so that if one person does not want to do either of the two S&BC way freights with all of the switching, they could just run the simpler through trains, leaving some poor fellow to handle both S&BC way freights!

There may or may not be room in this schedule to run a passenger train, which really was only there to irritate the Grand Forks switch crew anyway. It will be left off for now.

Some other ideas to possibly consider:

  • Split the Grand Forks industry switching into two phases, one to spot cars early in the day and another to pull them later in the day. This means that there would be no cars sitting at any industries over night, so there must be space for them elsewhere on the layout.
  • The Grand Forks industries could be worked throughout the day, but only where the cars can be moved ahead of time, such as pulls. This may throw off the free space in the yard, but it is worth considering. Some crews have done some of this in the past, only to discover that they have ended up with a bit of a mess because they got ahead of the program, but it may be workable.

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