Saturday, November 24, 2012

Managing freight on the railway

One of the greatest pleasures I gain from running the railway is the handling of freight operations. To my mind, the sight of a mixed goods train winding its way through the greenery in the garden is far more evocative than watching a passenger train.

 In addition, I enjoy the logistical problems of shunting goods wagons to form realistically configured freight trains.

Operating sessions

Operating sessions centre on the running of a daily timetable which is based heavily on the 1923 timetable for the Southwold Railway.

Interspersed with this passenger timetable is a daily pick-up goods which sets out in the morning from Beeston Market, wends its way along the line dropping-off and picking up wagons, and then returns in the afternoon. The first passenger train of the day includes a flat wagon which picks up milk churns from halts and stations along the way .........

 ........ and the last train of the day is sometimes a mixed train, dependent on need.

 The goods traffic for the railway is generated by a relational database computer program which keeps track of the location of each wagon and generates trains in a semi-randomised way, based on percentage weighted traffic movements (ie the % likelihood that a particular wagon will travel from one station to another on the railway (see Computerised freight operation).

Traffic between the copper mines and the transshipment siding at Beeston Market is slotted-in between the above workings - usually running to three or four trains a day up and down the line.

Working out freight traffic needs

Over the years I have acquired and constructed a range of goods vehicles to handle the freight traffic on the line. The types and number of wagons on the railway have been determined by considering the needs of the local community. As the Peckforton Light Railway is hypothetically located in the rural countryside of Cheshire, the goods carried on the railway comprises coal, agricultural equipment, milk and cheese, soft fruit, livestock, building materials and general merchandise such as supplies for local stores and public houses (see Progress Report 12). In addition, there is a timber yard at Peckforton and, of course, the copper mines which form the main raison d'etre for the railway, both of which generate regular traffic. The mines not only require the transshipment of crushed copper ore and spoil from the workings to be transported as land-fill for sea-defences on the Dee Estuary, there is also a regular requirement for fuel oil, coal and explosives.

To cater for these needs, the railway has acquired 18 open wagons with coal and mixed loads.

The majority of these have been constructed from my own resin castings mounted on Hartland wagon chassis (see How I constructed my third batch of open wagons).

In addition, there are timber wagons,

a couple of tanker wagons (see Anglicising LGB tanker wagons),

 cattle wagons (see How I constructed cattle wagons from plasticard),

flat wagons (see How I created some flat wagons and Progress Report 39).

and closed vans (see How I converted an LGB Balcony van into a closed van).

There are also two rakes of weathered ore tipplers, one fully loaded and the other empty (see How I created loads for tipplers - and - Weathering tippler wagons).

Most of the open wagons and flat wagons have removable loads so the wagons can run fully laden in one direction and as empties in the reverse direction (see Progress Report 39). For more information see the railway's stock list.

Meeting those needs

At the start of a running session, my first job is to check the timetable to see where I had reached in the previous session. In an ideal world, each operating session would see the day's timetable run through in its entirety. In reality, I seldom manage a complete day's operation in a session and so have to leave off operations and then pick them up again at the start of the next session.

To assist in the above process, every siding on the railway has its own stock-box. At then end of an operating session the stock is rolled into its relevant box and the boxes are stored to be taken out again at the start of the next session (see How I made some stock boxes).

Locos and passenger stock are then restored to their previous locations and then, if the pick-up goods or mixed train is likely to be run in the session, the computerised freight program is fired-up to generate the day's freight traffic movements, and printed-out (see Computerised freight operation)..

Once the track has been cleaned, the next train of the day is run (see Track cleaning).

I get a great deal of satisfaction from conducting shunting operations - should that wagon be picked-up or dropped-off as the pick-up goods travels down the line or on its return-journey? How can I ensure the loaded cattle wagon is marshalled adjacent to the loco to avoid too much jostling of the livestock? How do I ensure the tanker wagon is marshalled as far as possible away from the loco? etc. (see Shunting Puzzles website)

From time to time I insert a special goods train. As its name suggests, at Beeston Market there is a Smithfield market adjacent to the station - much the same as Welshpool station on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway.
The Countess at Welshpool Market - source:
 What better reason to run a market day special in which all the livestock wagons, some of the flat wagons with agricultural machinery, a couple of vans containing produce and a workman's coach for the farm-hands accompanying the livestock?

Or, once in a while, a special coal train is run - assuming supplies need urgent replenishment following a national strike.

One of the greatest joys of garden railway modelling is that it can cater for all tastes. There are those who like to see trains running around the garden behind a live steam loco, those who enjoy seeing scale length express trains running at speed along a representation of a main line, those who want to display their collection of pristine rolling-stock and those who want to recreate a representation of a railway run more or less on prototypical practices. Whilst there are flaws in my approach, what is more important to my mind is the pleasure which I derive from playing trains.

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