Still Too Much Congestion

While running simulations of the revised operating scheme whereby we have no dedicated switcher at Grand Forks, but simply let the way freights switch the industries and exchange cars between the railroads, once again there is a pile up of cars that get “stuck” in the yard at Grand Forks. This is fundamentally no different than when we had the dedicated switcher, just to a different degree. It occurs on fewer tracks, and involves less cars, but it is still an undesirable outcome that will lead to unsatisfactory operations.

One thought was that we should try to minimize the shipments that are selected during restaging to ones that have a more clear path from staging to the first delivery point. This is called “congestion” and is a measure of how full the tracks are along the car’s route to its first destination. The restaging logic now considers only those shipments where the path congestion is below a certain level, with the idea that this will help the overall car flow by not overloading the paths that already have lots of cars along 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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