Modelling what might have been in southeast BC and northwest Wasington

Who Should Switch Grand Forks Industries?

The town of Grand Forks on the layout is based on the real Grand Forks located in southwest British Columbia. In its railroad heyday, it was served by three railroads, the Canadian Pacific, the Great Northern and the Spokane & BC, which is the main focus of the layout.

The industries that are modelled on the layout are a mix of prototype ones and some “could have been” fictitious ones that never actually had rail service. The big question then is which railroad or railroads should switch the industries. There are multiple possibilities: Option 1, Each railroad switches all of them; Option 2, Each railroad only switches some of them exclusively; and Option 3, Only one railroad switches all of them.

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Too Much Yard Switching Busy Work

The original scheme for handling cars through the Grand Forks yard was to classify all arriving cars using a local switcher, including those cars destined for the local industries at Grand Forks. A separate switching operation would then deliver them. This seemed to work well when there were only a few trains through the town each day, but with the recent additions of Carson and Curlew and their extra industries wanting more cars, this approach has broken down. More details of the first attempt at operating using that scheme can be found in the article “First Attempt at Grand Forks”. Suffice it to say that it did not go well due to the extra traffic to be handled through the Grand Forks yard. So, what to do instead? Time for some serious rethinking of the process, and a bit of detailed analysis.

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Operating Grand Forks as a Classification Yard is a Mistake

At the start of operations on the S&BC, there was very little main line track to other towns. The entire layout pretty much was the Grand Forks town, plus the upper and lower staging yards. This resulted in some traffic to and from the local industries in Grand Forks, but most of it simply was interchanged between the CPR and the S&BC and went to and from the staging yards. Consequently, it made sense to operate the yard as a classification point in order to best handle the interchange traffic.

Now, with the addition of the new towns of Carson and Curlew that have in combination more industry spots than the entire layout had before, continuing to operate Grand Forks as a classification yard is proving to be a big mistake.

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First Attempt at Switching Grand Forks After the Addition of Carson and Curlew

Following the construction and commissioning of the new towns of Carson and Curlew with their new industries, a new operating scheme was developed to include service to these new towns. It was a simple extension of the one used before, whereby trains from all four compass points would exchange cars in Grand Forks. The local industries were switched as part of the classification switcher duties at an appropriate point in time. This proved quite successful and was used at VanRail 2017 for two sessions.

With the addition of significantly more industries wanting cars, it was expected that the classification role at Grand Forks would need to become a full time position, with the local industries being switched by a different job.

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