What's your operational success rate?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by EngineerKyle, Jun 23, 2006.


What's your success rate?

Poll closed Aug 22, 2006.
  1. 45-50%

    0 vote(s)
  2. 51-55%

    0 vote(s)
  3. 56-60%

    0 vote(s)
  4. 61-70%

    0 vote(s)
  5. 71-75%

    0 vote(s)
  6. 76-80%

    0 vote(s)
  7. 81-85%

    0 vote(s)
  8. 86-90%

    0 vote(s)
  9. 91-95%

    0 vote(s)
  10. 96%

    0 vote(s)
  11. 97%

    0 vote(s)
  12. 98%

    0 vote(s)
  13. 99%

    0 vote(s)
  14. 99.5%

    0 vote(s)
  15. 100%

    0 vote(s)
  1. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member

    Hi all,


    I suggested, in another forum, that my success rate for my layout operations was 91%. I was very suprized by the number of fellow modellers who thought that was pretty low.

    Let me take a minute to explain how I arrived at that figure, then YOU take a minute, if you would, and help me complete this little survey, by adding your success rate, actual or estimate. Thanks!

    I define a "job" as randomly picking up one or two cars and running with them, and/or dropping them off somewhere. The engine which performs this task is also randomly assigned. I have 26 cars and two engines available for these operations. Five more switchers can help. 11 Locations (sidings and stubs) are possible pick up and drop of points. I use the Kadee magnetic ramps which delay uncouple for me. A goal is to never touch the train.

    Errors that count against my success rate are derailments caused by mechanical or operator error. Mechanical errors include track and turnout problems, dirty wheels and track, rolling stock with wheel, truck, frame or weight problems. Operator errors are me, asleep at the switch, or drunk... and sending a train the wrongway through a turnout, etc.

    Currently I have logged about 1,020 such jobs since 2/7/06 and my error rate is;

    Mechanical errors 3.7% Operator errors 4.2% SUCCESS RATE 92.1% :thumb:

    It is interesting to see the unforced errors fluxuate, where the mechanical ones are staying pretty constant.

    What's your batting average?
  2. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    Hmmmmm, I never thought to keep data on operations succes. I'm impressed that you logged the results of 1020 jobs!

    Derailments are down since I weeded out the bad orders (that are still on the RIP track!). Locomotive efficiency is up since I used Wahl oil on my track. Traffic is up since I added a car float operation. Couldn't express a percentage of success though. Well, since I've never lost a box car for 18 months I guess I'm doing better than the prototype Penn Central. :)
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I don't have facts and figures for you, but more "anecdotal" evidence.

    Based on my experience operating at the modular club, plus at various friends' layouts (mine is not at the operational stage yet), I would say you have a great success rate.

    At one place where the layout is still being built, there are constant "mechanical" errors due to trackwork, underweight cars, differing coupler heights, etc. Almost every move has some sort of problem requiring a hands-on fix. The hands-on part does not include uncoupling, as no one I operate with uses the magenetic ramps - it's all manual.

    Contrast that with another layout I have been at where there are no mechanical errors. Trackwork is flawless, and all engines and cars go through a rigourous inspection before they are allowed on the layout.

    As for "operator" error, I would hazard a guess that 5% or so is about right with an experienced crew. Newbies would have a higher rate, while the owner of the layout operating alone would probably be under 5% (as you are). I think that the various methods of operation can be a source of error for those not familiar - car cards & waybills versus switch lists, or other. Even the way the switch list is written can change the result.

    The modular club has a very "mature" operations scheme using car cards and way bills. There are virtually no operator errors, as everyone is familiar with this method, and there is also a dispatcher to keep everyone in line...! At a friend's layout, the switch list method is still "experimental" and takes a slightly different form at each session. Feedback is incorporated for the next session.

    Hope that helps shed some light on the "success rate" question.

  4. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I have to agree with Ralph, and I would say that your success rate is probably well above mine. While I can't be bothered to keep a detailed account of problems, cars or locos that are repeat offenders get the necessary adjustments, as do any track areas that cause undue problems.
    However, there's another factor which can come into play, and that is train length. While I don't yet have a formal operational system (it'll be car cards and waybills when the rest of the layout gets built), my layout is set up so that the passing sidings will accomodate two locomotives, a twelve car train, and a caboose. Under these conditions, my success rate is probably similar to yours. However, I also like to run long trains with pushers. On a layout comprised mostly of curves and fairly severe grades, my failure rate seems to grow exponentially. In a 24 car train, a boxcar that normally gives no problems derailed repeatedly: when it was removed, train operation was flawless. I recently ran a 65 car train (totally unrealistic for my operational scheme, but I just felt like trying it), and derailments shot up. This involved both cars that had shown no problems in "normal" operation, and track areas that were not problematic with shorter trains. It's my feeling that train/track dynamics change as train length increases. Interestingly, this same 65 car train was backed, without incident, over one scale mile, through a wide-radius "S" bend, and two horseshoe curves. (perhaps the lesson in this is to run all of my long trains backwards. :rolleyes: )
    Also of interest, at least to me, is that train weight does not seem to be the prime factor in this. My only regularly scheduled freight train consists of two locomotives, 12 hoppers (with "live" loads) and a caboose. Total train weight, excluding locos, is 100 ounces. I can't recall this train ever having a derailment, and ditto for its empty counterpart at 34 ounces.
    As for "hands-off" operation, most uncoupling is manual. I'm of the opinion that my operations are successful enough when my derailments don't end up as a showcase for underbody detailing (or lack of same) on my freight cars.

  5. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member


    Regarding long trains....

    My problems really increase when light cars are in front of heavy cars... do all your cars weight about the same?

    My worst case is backing up a train that has a real "lug" as the last car, but is being pushed by a very light one.... the light one will derail... Anyone have this?

    Lately, I take more care in weighting all cars closer to the same NMRA weight.
  6. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Mine would be low, in the 71-75% range. Two factors reign---couplers, get bumped around in the carrying case more than I'd like and motors, I use older motors which are more fussy and not as easy to control as the newer ones. For these reasons I tend to stay with mainline runs with very little switching. There is a satisfaction with tinkering a DC71 motor into submission that can't be matched to a switch list though.:thumb:
  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Kyle, most of my cars are close to, or slightly over NMRA recommended weights, although there are a few 40' and 50' cars that are up around 10oz. These don't seem to cause much in the way of problems. The loaded hoppers mentioned in the earlier post (Athearn 34 footers) weigh 8 oz. each, while the same car empty is only 2.5 oz. Loaded hoppers interspersed in a mixed freight generally track well, but the empties need to be near the end of the train, or they cause problems. A light car near the front of a long train can be lifted off the rails by the drag of a long train coupled behind it, but the same situation can be caused by the run-in of slack from behind, especially when a train is in transition from climbing one grade to descending another. Another example of this is the case that you cited about a light car being derailed during pushing by a heavier car behind it. Once you've eliminated most of the track problems, like out-of-gauge, too steep vertical curves, uneven roadbed or railjoints, etc., and tuned up your rolling stock with regards to weight, coupler height, and wheel gauge, I think that the major cause of derailments is slack action. By the way, most of my rolling stock has plastic wheels and I can't say that I would attribute any operational problems to that, although I do have some Athearn passenger cars with plastic wheels (on metal axles) in metal side frames that have the rolling qualities of a brick. I'm sure that a couple of these behind an empty hopper might cause a problem.
    I have a friend who used to run (his layout is in storage at the moment) 50 car freights or passenger trains 20 or 25 cars long, with nary a derailment. His "secret", once wheel gauge, couplers, etc. were correct, was to add weight until the cars would stay on the track. (His trackwork was flawless, as I often took stuff there to run, and had no problems.) It was very impressive to watch 6 or 7 F-units on a long passenger train, with each car weighing over 15 ounces. I used to kid him that he'd eventually have to relay the track with heavier rail, as these trains would surely wear it down. The other factor in his smooth operation was that there were no grades, and the trains ran at a fairly constant speed, so slack action was very limited. Also, operation was more-or-less round and round on a long and multi-track mainline: not my preference operationally, but it was for him.

  8. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    For me, I have stupid (bleeping) problem,after stupid (bleeping) problem, nearly EVERY time I operate....It's a real pain in the (bleep) , but I manage to deal with it by being optimistic, but I really need to find the root of my problems...Carwieght, coupler-coupler conversion, bodymounting, coupler hieght, non-smap switches, that need caboose industries ground throws...ect! :( :mad:
  9. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    :D :D
    I know you didn't mean it quite like it sounds, Miles, But it's still a great truth,
    that model railroading is a wonderful therapy!!!:thumb: :thumb:
    I think I really enjoy those types of problems because no matter how it turns out or
    how long it takes, they don't really affect production, or the project budget, or the
    annual review!!!
  10. zedob

    zedob Member

    My track record at the moment is zero. When my layout was up and running, I'd say I was running about 75%, but it was getting better due to me bringing wheels and track into gauge. I didn't have any ballast, so I didn't have any point fouling problems. Most of my track was fairly level, so grade wasn't much of a problem either and I did't run very long trains that could cause a derailment from excessive length. I would say that car weight and couplers was my biggest problem.
  11. Relic

    Relic Member

    I guess I have nothing much to bi... complain about. I too am not yet to the " opperational" stage yet but I can run trains, mostly just arround to make sure my track still works. I feel pretty good if I get a full lap(about 70 ft) with no problems BUT my grandson(was eight at the time) ran a sw1200 two boxcars and a van for 20 laps at full throttle with no derails. I will NOT try to break that record.
    meby I'll get Dee to help(do) show yuz atrack plan one day soon.
  12. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    My biggest problem is dirt. If I wish to run with virtually no problems i must clean track & Loco wheels. Derailing is a minimal problem if I keep train length reasonable coming out of one hidden yard (20 or less freight 40 or less coal) the other hidden yard no problem. I have no grades other then hidden yard exits and all curves are minimum of 33 inch radius. Not including hidden yards I have pulled 100 car coal drags and 50 car freights no problem other than nerves. Normal run is 35 coal & 25 freight. When I have open house I usually run longer trains, it looks good. My operation is not just running in circle, it is picking up and dropping cars. I use car cards & train orders. My biggest problem is uncoupling in yard all tracks have magnets and never fails at least on kaydee will malfunction. I will go with 91-95% if I keep myself under control, I like to push it.
  13. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    EngineerKyle, EXCELLENT THREAD!:thumb: having a 8'x30" switching layout i seldom run at speeds over 15-20mph, given that, i am plagued with mainly 2 problems. PROBLEM 1- at that slow of speeds some cars give me problems on the "Y" switches. i next to never have problems on the #6's:thumb:. PROBLEM 2- sometimes couplers will not couple. uncoupling is NOT a problem as i use a "Rix pick" and it is 100% flawless:thumb:. ALL my engines are equipped with sound decoders that have "back EMF", so engine control is OUTSTANDING, except for the occasional not coupling up to a car:(. i think a fair estimate would be 76-80% success rate for metooth1. **AGAIN, GREAT THREAD!!!:thumb::D
  14. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I have posted how I operate on Model Rail operations. Thought someone might be interested.
  15. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member

    Thank's for the kind words, UP... I was just curious, because users of another forum (Atlas) thought running in the at 90% was kinda low. So far, info gathered here seems to be proving otherwize.

    I agree with Miles and Cid... it IS therapeutic to solve MRR problems.

    Dirt's a problem, Les.... and you can see the quality of the action gradually degrading as the dust and so forth builds up over time. I lightly wipe things down about once a week. About once ever 60 days or so I pull all the cars off and really give it a good cleaning.

    I vacuum the track... hit a few spots with an "ink" eraser, one of those white and grey jobs, then I wipe down the rails with alchohol swabs. I put a drop alcohol on each rivet of each turnout and throw and close them. Finally, I clean all the loco wheels buy running each truck over a alcohol (or even mineral spirit) soaked rag while the other truck is in contact with the freshly cleaned rails. I gun it in both directions.

    Sometimes I put a minscule point of clipper oil on one spot on the layout.

    Man, can I expect some smooth operations after a cleaning like that! :thumb:

    Finally, Wayne, I would pay money to see and handle a 1 pound HO car!!
  16. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Kyle, it was quite something to see those passenger trains rolling, and sometimes there were 3 or 4 running at one time, along with long freights! For a time, I was also ballasting my passenger cars to a similar weight, less to prevent derailments than for the solid rolling qualities. I eventually reverted to more conventional car weights, as most of my cars have plastic sideframes: that amount of weight riding on needlepoint axles in plastic bearings would eventually spell trouble. Most of my friend's cars were brass and those that weren't had been upgraded with metal trucks.
    I remotored perhaps two dozen brass steamers for the same guy: it was his conviction that a model locomotive had to run and pull well, or it was gone! Obviously, no dummy units on his layout.
    The half-pound hoppers that I run played a big part in my own loco upgrades,

    Boosted output from an amplified Mike...

    although I also enjoy the challenge of operating derailment-free when there's a chance that a mishap will spill over four pounds of "coal" all over the landscape.

  17. FiatFan

    FiatFan Member

    Interesting idea! I've never done any documentation on success/failure rates. I will have to start this and see what I come up with.

  18. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Kyle,As I said on the Atlas forum nothing less then a 99% is acceptable to me.I allow 1% for "human errors" on my part.
    You see every car and engine is inspected before going into service part of this inspection includes proper wheel gauge and the couplers checked for the correct coupler and trip pin height.
    I take my time when I lay track and switches checking for smooth rail joints and kinks.All track is checked with the NMRA gauge to insure its in the correct gauge.
    I found by doing the above will assure me that 99% trouble free operation that I want..
  19. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member

    Larry... That is the way to do it!
  20. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member

    Hi Crew,

    I resurrect this thread in the hopes that more of you will take the poll before it closes. Interesting so far....

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