Monday, May 10, 2021

How I run my trains during an operating session

 About ten years ago, I posted an article describing a typical operating session. Although not much has changed, I focused that article on the hypothetical sequence of trains rather than the actual series of events carried out by the operator - ie me. Following a couple of enquiries asking how I actually go about running my railway, I've decided to focus this article on the actual sequence of actions I carry out during an operating session and the rationale behind the decisions I take.

Rather than describing a whole operating session, which can sometimes take two full days to cover one day in the life of the railway, I will describe an extract from one session, otherwise the article will become overlong and repetitive.

Firstly, here's the trackplan. This help you to understand where, how why each move takes place.

The main station is Beeston Market in the bottom left corner of the plan. From here, trains travel first to Beeston Castle, then to Peckforton and the take the crossover to go back round the workshop to take the line to Bulkeley. From here, trains descend the gradient to take the branch to Bickerton Station. 

Trains for the copper mine take the branch at the right hand end of Bulkeley station, around the back of the workshop and then the line towards Beeston Market, branching off at the copper mine.

We join the session mid morning. The mid morning Down passenger has just arrived at Bickerton, the sand hopper train is at the sand quarry just outside Bickerton being loaded, the empty ore train has just arrived at the Copper Mine and the daily pickup goods is about to be shunted at Beeston Market.

Move 1 - Beeston Market. 

I consult my freight management program on my trusty old Psion 3a pocket computer to see which wagons need to be shunted on to the daily Down pickup goods

 Move 2. Beeston Market.

I mark the wagons needed for the train with a small blob of BluTak. This makes them easier to identify and saves me having to keep consulting the Psion

Move 3. Beeston Market

I take Loco No. 6, Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST, Harthill from the engine shed to the yard to begin shunting the marked wagons.

Move 4. Beeston Market

The Down pickup goods is made ready for departure.

Move 5. Copper Mine

The full Up ore train departs. As you can see from the plan, the Copper Mine is located adjacent to Beeston Market station, though in the real world, it should be around six miles away between Bickerton and Bulkeley. We shall see why later.

Move 6. Bickerton

I now stroll across the garden to the other end of the line, Bickerton, where I run the loco around the recently arrived train.

Move 7. Bickerton

After the Down ore train has passed by on the mainline, the Up passenger departs.

Move 8. Bulkeley

I now follow the Up passenger and guide it into Bulkeley Station, where it pauses.

Move 9. Beeston Market

Meanwhile, the Up ore will have been slowly making its way through Peckforton and Beeston Castle stations and so I stroll over to Beeston Market to oversee its arrival.

The ore train is one of the most reliable and seldom derails - unless a leaf or twig falls on to the line - or sometimes I forget to set the points correctly and it ends-up back in Bulkeley or the Copper Mine.

Move 10. Beeston Market

Whilst I am at Beeston Market, I take the opportunity to depart the Down Pickup Goods

 Move 11. Beeston Castle

I follow it as it progresses behind the workshop and on to Beeston Castle. On the way, I consult the Psion and see that one wagon needs to be picked up and two dropped off. 

 Move 12. Beeston Castle

As they are or will be located on the Down facing siding, it's easier to do the shunting as the train is passing Down the line and so I stop the train with the relevant wagons about to enter the station

Move 13. Bulkeley

 Rather than doing the shunting at Beeston Castle at this point, I go back over to Bulkeley. The Up passenger has been sitting there for a while and so is ready to depart. I make sure the route is set correctly for Peckforton and set it off on its way.

Move 14. Beeston Castle

I now return to Beeston Castle and shunt the wagons which need to be moved, keeping half an eye on the progress of the Up passenger which passes by on the track just below the station.

Move 15. Peckforton

I am lucky today, I finish the shunting at Beeston Castle, just as the Up passenger is pulling into Peckforton station, so I walk over to Peckforton to ease the passenger to a halt.

Move 16. Peckforton

As I had already made the pickup goods ready to depart, I bring it on from Beeston Castle to Peckforton. Where I bring it to a halt.

Move 17. Peckforton

Whilst I'm here, I might as well depart the Up passenger ......

Move 18. Beeston Castle

...... and follow it to Beeston Castle, where it stops for a while. On a normal operating session, I might place the video camera down to film the train as it passes the River Gowy but today I simply watch.

Move 19. Beeston Market

Rather than going back to Peckforton to sort out the Pickup Goods, I decide that it's been a while since the ore train has had any attention and so I go over to Beeston Market and, after leaving the brake van in the siding, I propel the skip wagons back into the exchange siding (ie the hidden link back to the Copper Mine)

Move 20. Beeston Market/Copper Mine

The rake of full ore skips is swapped for the rake of empties (keeping the timber stake wagon behind the loco)

Move 21. Beeston Market

The guards van is retrieved from the siding .......

Move 22. Beeston Market

..... attached to the train of empties and then pulled up into the siding at the back of the station.

Move 23. Beeston Market

With the platform empty, the loco takes the train on to the loop and runs around it, so it is ready for departure.

Move 24. Beeston Castle

I can now turn my attention to the Up passenger which has been waiting patiently at Beeston Castle. I depart it from the station .......

Move 25. Beeston Market

...... and follow it round to Beeston Market.

Move 26. Peckforton

At this stage, it would have been easy to depart the Down ore train from Beeston Market, but instead I turn my attention to the Pickup Goods at Peckforton. Although a timber wagon needs to be dropped off, I decide it will be easier to do this when the train returns up the line - and so, the Pickup Goods departs Peckforton.

Move 27. Bulkeley

I follow the train to Bulkeley, ........

Move 28. Bulkeley

..... where the Psion tells me a cattle wagon needs to be dropped off. An open wagon also needs to be dropped off, but as that needs to be left in the Up facing siding, I decide to do that when the train returns Up the line. So, the cattle wagon is dropped off ......

Move 29. Bulkeley

And so the Pickup Goods departs Bulkeley ........

Move 30. Bickerton

....... and I follow it down the line to Bickerton, where I oversee its arrival

Move 31. Beeston Market

I now go to the other end of the line where the Down ore has been waiting to depart. If this was a real railway, the ore would have departed ages ago and would have been running down the line at the same time as the Pickup Goods. But as I have to run the trains on my own, these events have to happen sequentially rather than simultaneously.

Move 32. Beeston Market

However, sometimes I can run things simultaneously, provided they are not too onerous. In this case, while the ore train is slowly moving down the line towards Beeston Castle and on to Peckforton, I run the loco around the passenger train.

 Move 33. Peckforton

By the time I have finished Move 32, the ore train is approaching Peckforton, so I stroll over to supervise its arrival.

Move 34. Peckforton

The manifest required a small timber stake wagon to be moved from the Copper Mine to Peckforton timber yard. As the Pickup Goods does not travel up the Copper Mine branch, any wagon movements to and from the Copper Mine need to be done by attaching them to ore trains. The wagon could have been dropped off when the ore train went Up the line but, to be honest, I forgot. As the wagon is on the end of the train, it's a fairly straightforward process to get the timber yard shunter to detach it from the train, shunt it into the siding and then return the brake van to the train. Besides which, it's an interesting little manoeuvre.

Move 35. Peckforton

The next job is to depart the ore train from Peckforton ........

 Move 36. Copper Mine

....... and follow it to the Copper Mine.

 Move 37. Bickerton

Time to turn my attention to the Pickup Goods at Bickerton. A quick consultation of the Psion reveals two wagons need to be dropped off and four picked up.

 Move 38. Bickerton

To enable me to keep tabs on which wagons need to be moved, I use blobs of BluTak once more ....

Move 39. Bickerton

I now shunt the wagons.

 Move 40. Beeston Market

Now back to the other end of the line (and the garden), where the Midday Down passenger departs.

 Move 41. Beeston Castle

..... and I follow it down the line as far as Beeston Castle, where it stops for a while.

Move 42. Copper Mine

Now back to the Copper Mine, where I run the loco around the empty ore train, remove the brake van and then attach it to the end of the full ore train, making it ready for departure.

Move 43. Bickerton

Now over to Bickerton, where the Pickup Goods departs and ......

Move 44. Bulkeley

.... I follow it up to Bulkeley, where the manifest shows I have to drop off two wagons and pick up one. I stop the train beside the Up facing siding so this shunting can take place.

Move 45. Beeston Castle

I now return to Beeston Castle, where the passengers and crew have been patiently waiting. I depart the train ......

Move 46. Peckforton

...... and follow it down to Peckforton, where I leave it to wait.

Move 47. Beeston Market

I now trot over to Beeston Market, where Loco No. 14, Black Hawthorn 0-4-0ST, Burwardsley is taken from the engine shed and sent off down the line, heading towards the sand quarry.

Move 48. Copper Mine

After it has passed the Copper Mine, I send the Up ore train off - apparently pursuing it, but in reality it is at the other end of the line and, after going behind the workshop,  it takes the branch to Bulkeley....

Move 49. Bulkeley

.... where it stops, awaiting clearance to join the main line. The station already has the Pickup Goods shunting its train.

Move 50. Beeston Castle

The light loco has now reached Beeston Castle so I quickly dash over there to bring it to a halt at the platform. In theory, it could advance as far as the home signal outside Peckforton, but I prefer to hold trains in stations - it makes life easier when trying to find them again.

Move 51. Bulkeley

Back to Bulkeley. The Pickup Goods needs to be shunted so it can be moved to the passing loop.

Move 52. Peckforton

With the Pickup Goods now in the loop at Bulkeley, I depart the Down passenger from Peckforton. It could have progressed to Bulkeley as the other loop at the station was available but it's a case of juggling priorities.

Move 53. Peckforton

With the platform road clear, the light loco can now be brought from Beeston Castle to Peckforton, where it waits.

Move 54. Bulkeley

Meanwhile, the Down passenger has been steadily progressing to Bulkeley, so I turn around and bring it to a halt by the platform as the Pickup Goods simmers on the passing loop.

Move 55. Bulkeley

Rather than giving the light loco the right of way, I decide to despatch the Pickup Goods so it can make its way up the line to Peckforton.

Move 56. Bulkeley

While the Up Pickup Goods is making its way around behind the workshop, I move to the other end of the platform and depart the Down Passenger .....

Move 57. Bickerton

..... and follow it down to Bickerton, where I bring it in to the station

Move 58. Peckforton

As the Pickup Goods passes by, I follow it to Peckforton, where I bring it to a halt.

Move 59. Bickerton

Twisting around, I now take the opportunity to bring the Up ore train off the branch and into the station at Bulkeley. I now have to decide whether to send it on the Peckforton or give the light engine the Right of Way

Move 60. Peckforton

I decide that the light engine has been waiting long enough and send it Down the line to Bulkeley.

Move 61. Peckforton

With the light engine making its way under its own steam Down the line towards the quarry at Bickerton, I shunt the two timber wagons into the timber yard sidings (one from Beeston Market and the other from Bickerton).

Move 62. Bulkeley

With the light engine having passed through Bulkeley, I spin round and depart the Up ore. As it is making its way around the back of the workshop, I quickly follow the light engine Down .......

Move 63. Sand Quarry (Bickerton)

I bring the light engine to a halt in the quarry ......

Move 64. Sand Quarry (Bickerton)

..... and wait for the Up ore to pass by. In reality (?), the ore train is now actually approaching Peckforton about four miles away, but using some parts of the track twice is my means of compressing the distances into my garden.

Move 65. Peckforton

With the Up ore train approaching Peckforton, I depart the Up Pickup Goods to make its way Up to Beeston Castle.

Move 66. Peckforton

Almost immediately, the Up Pickup Goods arrives, so I bring it to a halt as the section ahead is occupied by the Pickup Goods.

Move 67. Beeston Castle

A quick sprint over to Beeston Castle. Although no further shunting is required here, I decide to halt the Pickup Goods. I could easily have let it progress on towards Beeston Market while I carried out the next train movement.

Move 68. Bickerton

I run the loco around the train at Bickerton

Move 69. Beeston Castle / Bickerton

This is why I halted the Pickup Goods at Beeston Castle, it provided a photo opportunity as the Up Passenger departs Bickerton I can depart the Pickup Goods from Beeston Castle on the line behind and above it

Move 70. Bulkeley

I bring the Up Passenger into Bulkeley Station and halt it, while the Up Pickup Goods makes its way behind the workshop

Move 71. Peckforton

With the section ahead now clear, I depart the Up ore from Peckforton

Move 72. Beeston Market

Meanwhile, the Up Pickup Goods is approaching Beeston Market and so I stroll over and bring the it to a halt in the station.

Move 73. Beeston Market

The Up Ore has been slowly making its way to Beeston Market and so I wait and bring it in to a halt on the exchange siding headhunt at the back of the station

If I had been paying closer attention, at this point I should have run the Pickup Goods loco around its train so it could start shunting the wagons into their respective sidings.

Move 74. Bulkeley

Instead, I decided to depart the Up passenger from Bulkeley

Move 75. Sand Quarry 

I now move down to the Sand Quarry and depart the Up sand train

Move 76. Beeston Castle

After pausing the Up Passenger at Peckforton, I then take it on to Beeston Castle, where it halts for a while. In the meantime, the Up Sand Train passes by on the line below on its way towards Peckforton.

Move 77. Beeston Market

I now follow the Up Passenger to Beeston Market and bring it to a halt in the station. You can see now why I should have taken the opportunity to run the Pickup Goods loco round its train. We have a bit of a bottleneck!

Move 78. Beeston Market

As the Sand Train is approaching, I need to move the ore train into the exchange siding - after first shunting its brake van into the spur.

Move 79. Beeston Market

The Sand Train arrives and is halted on the headshunt for the exchange siding.

Move 80 ...... etc

I am now about 5/8 of the way through an operating session. The Sand Train needs to be shunted into the exchange siding where the hoppers' loads will be removed, the Pickup Goods needs shunting, the Passenger train needs to make three more journeys down and up the line, one as a mixed train. The ore train needs to make another couple of trips and the last passenger of the day (a railmotor) also needs to run.

I hope this gives you some sort of feel for how I actually run my trains on the Peckforton Light Railway. I know it is not to everyone's taste, but it's what motivates me to get out in the garden and run trains. Although, each session follows a similar pattern, each one is different. The semi-randomised freight program generates markedly different goods and mixed trains each time and I will usually include a special train of some sort - maybe a Market Day Special or a special train for excursion tourists making their way to the spa hotel at Bulkeley.

And then, of curse, sometimes I just run a few trains round at random if I don't fancy having a full operating session. But, to be honest, it's the full operating sessions which I enjoy the most - they allow me to fulfil my ambition of running a railway properly.

 In summary - here's how this part of the session went: