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.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Progress Report 43

This year I have had fewer opportunities than in previous years to run trains on the railway. Firstly, the weather has been very changeable which has meant that there have been relatively few days when an unbroken spell of decent weather could be guaranteed. On a couple of occasions, I had spent an hour or so setting up the railway, only to have to gather everything together and dash back indoors as a shower of heavy rain blew up. Secondly, I have spent several days during the summer period visiting full-scale narrow gauge railways for a new blog which I have set-up (see Narrow Gauge Railways UK). Mostly, these visits seem to have coincided with a spell of decent weather which I could have used for running the railway.
Orenstein & Koppel 0-4-0 locos Utrillas and Montalban at the West Lancashire Light Railway

 Thirdly, I have spent quite a bit of the summer, doing running repairs, constructing signals, making a set of buildings for the copper mine and experimenting with radio control (see below).

Running repairs

These have mostly centred on improving the running of stock which had wheels which were incompatible with LGB pointwork (see How I made IP Engineering wheels compatible with LGB pointwork). There would appear to be very little conformity over back-to-back measurements and flange depth of wheels across manufacturers when it comes to 45mm gauge. As a consequence, when products from different suppliers are brought together, there are often problems with smooth running through pointwork. Whilst I have sometimes re-wheeled stock to overcome these difficulties, there are occasions when this is not possible or desirable as, for example, when journals or axle stubs wheel sizes are non-standard. I have developed a rough-and-ready method of beefing-up finer scale wheels to improve their running characteristics through the coarser scale frogs of LGB pointwork.

Another issue associated with LGB pointwork which I have uncovered over the seven years I've been running my railway has been a steady and consistent breakdown in electrical continuity between the running rails, point-blades and lead-rails before and after the frogs. I could have removed every point and soldered invisible connections beneath the rails and sleepers, but when I have done this in the past it has caused more problems than it solved. Consequently, I opted for an in-situ solution of soldering jumper wires from the stock rails to the switch rails.
For more information see - How I repaired LGB pointwork

Constructing signals

As I try to run my railway according to light railway prototypical practices (which of course were often quite idiosyncratic), I decided that with up to three trains in steam at any one time, it was about time I supplied the line with signalling.

Using the signalling diagrams which were provided by a fellow modeller who also happens to be a Railtrack signalman (see Progress Report 36) ........

......... I figured that even the most minimal approach to signalling the railway would require 20 signals (around 4 per station). I explored various kit-built options but decided that the cost would be prohibitive. I had no option but to construct my own signals.

Although the signals were  of the same basic design as I wanted to batch-produce them, there were two alternatives in terms of the types of base. One type had a plate base for mounting on hard surfaces, while the other had a concrete base, for mounting in soft surfaces .......

All the signals are equipped with flickering LED lamps..........

 ....... which are shuttered at the rear.

At present, the signals are operated individually but eventually I hope to have them operated through linkages to a ground frame at each station, as per prototype.

For details of construction see Garden Rail edition 224 (April 2013).

 Mine buildings

Up until now, the sidings for the copper mine have had only a backdrop of the laurel hedge.

Ever since the extension to Beeston Market and the copper mine was constructed (see How I built the extension), I have been planning to add some buildings and loading hoppers.

At this stage, construction is well under way - with a variety of techniques being deployed.
The crusher shed and manager's office
The workshop
 The buildings are still very much work-in-progress with a lot more tidying-up and detailing needed. Once completed, the buildings will include a Gn15 feeder line from the mine workings together with loading hoppers and conveyors. See How I constructed the Mine Buildings - pending)

Radio control

I have been broadening my experiments with battery operation and radio control, following the construction of my first battery powered radio controlled vehicle, a double-ended railbus (see How I constructed a railbus from two Andel coach kits).

A chance-find on eBay resulted in the purchase of a couple of cheap 2.4mHz radio transmitters designed to be used with low-cost helicopters.

I discovered that the transmitters worked with cheap FlySky receivers and so, after setting-up a test-rig, I explored the potential of this cost-effective approach to radio control.

As you can see from the video, with the modest outlay I'm figuring it's worth producing a small fleet of battery-operated locos to run alongside and maybe eventually replace the track powered locos. I have a couple of spare ToyTrain loco blocks which can be pressed into service and one day I will get around to converting my LGB 0-6-2 U-Class Zillertalbahn loco into a representation of the Southwold Railway loco No. 4 Wenhaston.