Yard switching

Discussion in 'Model Rail Operations' started by cabdriver, Apr 5, 2005.

  1. cabdriver

    cabdriver Member

    I have been posting our modeling adventure in the HO forum and posting some pics in the Photography forum, but a recent experience made me want to re-post some items here to see if I can get some perspective from some of you operations folks.

    This past weekend, I went to a local yard and saw some amazing switching going on which I don't know is typical or not. If it is, I never thought that was how various cars were moved onto sidings. I'll copy some of my post from the other forum and see if you guys can give me some insight. Here goes..................

    Saw some really fun activity down at the yard today. [​IMG] A very large grouping of UP engines were hooked up to a relatively small number of cars and were moving up and down the rail switching the cars onto various tracks. I've never seen this type of operation before -- the engine group would move forward, then a guy would jump off the back of the train and throw the switch, then the engine group would back up, literally unhook and throw off the back four cars, which would go careening down the track un-attended, and they would slowly stop in EXACTLY the right place, just on their own rolling power pushed off previously by the locos. [​IMG] [​IMG] Forward they would go again, then manually throw the switch, and 6 hopper cars would roll down the rail to a resting place. [​IMG] These guys worked the rail for about a half hour until all of the cars were gone, then the 5 engines went down the rail to rest. WOW. Many of you must have seen this many times, but this was a first for me!. Really showed me how operations in a yard work -- I never would have thought they would just "throw" those cars off down the rail like that. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Sorry for the stupid question, but is this how all yard switching works? I always thought that they would back the cars up into position, unhook, then move forward, switch tracks, back the cars up into position, unhook them, etc, etc. [​IMG] I am amazed to see the engines gaining some limited momentum, then literally pushing the cars off the locos onto the tracks free-wheeling. I'm not sure how they unhooked them -- maybe they unhooked them before they started backing up then stopped the engine all of a sudden which would send the cars rolling on. I'd be curious what others have seen around their yards. [​IMG] [​IMG]
  2. Tileguy

    Tileguy Member

    Switching on the fly......One of those rules that gets ahhh overlooked once in a while.
    By the book this would not be allowed.
    In reality it is done all the time.
    The yard operators are very good at it and can get cars very close to thier intended resting area's.
    Ive heard some guys make a contest of it (kinda like lagging to break in a pool game :D )
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The cars being "kicked" have to be uncoupled at the time that they separate from the rest. If the coupling is pulled earlier, it will drop back to the latched position. The air hoses, however, will separate by themselves. (opposite to coupling, where the couplers will join automatically, but the air hoses have to be done up by hand.)
    Whenever I've seen it done, there was a brakeman on the cut as it rolled to apply the handbrake.
  4. cabdriver

    cabdriver Member

    Thanks guys. This was an amazing thing to see. I've never seen this type of yard activity.

    Tileguy, I think you nailed it. ;) These cars were kicked off the end of the loco and it was really like a lagging exercise -- there was rolling stock parked all over the various rails -- these guys were kicking these cars off with just enough force to position them exactly where they wanted them on the rail. It was amazing to watch. :eek: :eek: I stood there and thought -- these cars are going to hit those cars...but amazingly they didn't and in fact stopped right where you would have thought they should stop. :eek: Pool table lagging, exactly. :cool:
    60103, you are using terminology that I'm not familiar with. What do you mean "there was a brakeman on the cut as it rolled to apply the handbrake". This may have been the guy that I saw and showed in my pictures.
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    We'll get you talking like us in no time.
    a "cut" is a group of cars. without markers. (with markers they'd be a "train").
    There's one brakewheel on each car (used to be up near the left top of each end) and these can be used to apply or release the brakes. They work with a chain onto the assorted rods that apply the brakes. Have to be released again because the air brakes won't release them. They used to have brakemen on the cars to adjust the speed so that nothing struck at too high a speed.
  6. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    Kicking cars isn't against the rules in the book. Even with the rules about getting on and off moving equipment, kicking cars is still possible. We kick cars all the time in level yards. There is an art to it, knowing how fast to let a car go. When you uncouple a car, you use the cut lever. We call it pulling the pin, which harkens back to the days when the pin was literally on top of the coupler. The couplers on an engine are still top lift design. Before we had radios, we would give the kick sign and the engineer would start the move, gathering slack and getting it up to 10 mph or so as quick as possible. The foreman would give the stop sign and the engineer would then stop the cut as quick as possible. The further the car had to go the faster we would kick it and if it wasn’t going far we stopped the kick sooner. We also tried to keep the rail tied, coupled up, so they would roll into the rail and hopefully make a joint at about 2 mph.

    In a yard on a grade, you don't kick them. All you have to do is "pin them off" and that is simply bunching the slack and pulling the pin. The slow speed was enough to get them rolling down the lead. If they were going into a clear track the switchman would ride them in a ways and tie the hand brake to stop the car or cars. After a few cars were in the rail with brakes on we would just drift the rest down on top the cars.

  7. cabdriver

    cabdriver Member

    David and Greg,
    Thanks so much for the replies and the tutorial on terminology. I'm still learning. :) What I saw was exactly as you stated. The guy on the ground was working a radio, I assume talking to the engineer on the locomotive. He did ride one of the "cuts" down the rail, presumably to gauge their speed and to stop them if he had to. After that activity, they just kicked them off with remarkable accuracy. I'd love to see this again.
  8. cabdriver

    cabdriver Member

    By the way, can you guys suggest some reading material that might help me with railroad operations and some of the terminology. The thing I really appreciate is having you guys give me the real terminology used in the yards versus the "textbook" terminology I might find otherwise. Your descriptions of how this works in the real world is fantastic. However if there is a good source that will serve as a foundation, I'd appreciate you pointing me to it, otherwise, I'm going to have to hound you guys with questions based on what I see around the railroad! :) :D ;) :thumb: In either case, thanks for your willingness to teach! :)
  9. cabdriver

    cabdriver Member

    OOOPS....:oops: Sorry -- Self policing here. :eek: I just did a search on the operations site and found the sticky with info on books to read on operations. :eek: :eek: I'll check these out. Any other suggestions besides these? You'd think I'd have figured out by now to search first then ask.... or is it ask first then search -- so confusing! :confused: ;) :p
  10. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    The Language of the Railroader, by by Ramon F. Adams, includes a lot of railroader's jargon, although much of it is older steam-era usage. Many of the terms haven't really changed, and the steam terms have a lot of character--and are of course ideal if you model steam!
  11. Tileguy

    Tileguy Member

    The railroad what it is what it does
    by John Armstrong

    Tony Koester 2 books on operations.1 about 2 years old and the other less than a year old.Both are valuable referances.
    Andy Sperandeo's book on Freight Yards is also very good although its a large subject and it only covered most of the basics.

    It would be nice to see him come out with another or have somebody write a thorough book on Yards,operations of yards and practical development of a yard for model operations as oppossed to prototype operation.And here is my opinion why it is needed.

    Many prootype practices do not work well with a model railroads mainly due to the heavy concentration of traffic combined with the limited space for the yard.This is one of the main reasons most operating model RR's include a long Drill track where typical prototypes may not.
    Switching in the yard can remain continuous rather than using the main for switching and having to "Pull into the clear" and wait for the mainline to be usable again.
    While this may be do able for some model rr's and actually lend a sense of realsim,on any model RR where more than 1 or 2 inbound trains need classification these little slots of downtime raise all kinds of hell with yard work and soon schedules are at a standstill and the yard is packed beyond usability.A book about practical model RR yard designs for operations with many examples(call it the 101 yard plans book for operations if you will) would save alot of frustration on the part of many modelers who complete a layout only to find that thier yard just is not usable.Its this kind of frustration that drives people from the hobby.lets face it, laying out a yard,wiring it adding all your manual or automatic switches, uncoupling etc take alot of time and alot of work.We really could use a comprehensive guide that goes beyond simple suggestion.
    Somebody very familiar with Prototype Yards and how they operate yet also a devout model railroader could likely do a great job with this.Perhaps even make enough money to help pay for thier hobby :)
    I know I would buy it!!!
  12. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    The WP yard in Stockton CA had a great lead for switching. It was long and the only time we needed the mainline was to build trains and swing them over to the mainline or departure tracks. While Stockton was big for the WP, it was really a small yard with around 40 tracks. Not all were used for switching either. We used the 1,2 and 3 rail as arrival and departure tracks. Trains coming in to be switched would come into 9-11 rail and have to double over many times. Doubling over is when you pull in the clear on the rear and set over what it takes to clear on the head end.

  13. Wabash Banks

    Wabash Banks Member

    The trains in the yard near where I grew up move cars this way all the time. My 3 year old daughter loves to watch them work. We go to a piece of property that is right next to the right of way so we are about 6 feet from the track as they go gliding by. She loves trying to guess which track they are going to go down. She hasn't quite learned how the turnouts work and gets confused and what the brakie has done to set the path.

    A yard built on a grade is called a hump yard. You basically push the cars up the backside of a hump and they roll down the front side of the hump into the yard.

    It is a pretty enjoyable way to watch trains. There are lokies, cars, noise, people, all the stuff that makes railroads fun! For me and my daughter it is a chance to work on car types and what might be in them. The only car she doesn't know really is the lumber carrier. She even knows the Cargill logo and knows that those tankers contain food prodicts.
  14. cabdriver

    cabdriver Member

    Sorry for the delay in responding. I've been watching the yards and have not seen the process I mentioned previously, unfortunately. :( I am slowly getting to know the schedule of some of the trains, and ran into a group of folks who are into railfanning in the area. :wave: One of the guys mentioned that a guy in their group has a handheld scanner that they use to know what is going on in the yard and to listen to the chatter between the various members of the crew and the yard. Will have to look into this. :D
  15. NewGuy

    NewGuy Member

    Cabdriver, this is going to be long reply....

    I noticed that there is at least one post from a UP engineer in this thread. He is a very accurate source of information. You may know that I am a conductor for the BNSF. While going through my training, I had be certified to work several jobs for the BNSF:
    1) Conductor (self-explanatory)
    2) Hostler (runs 'light-power' (ONLY engines or consists of engines (can not move cars coupled to engines) in and around the yard. Also assists with brake tests by 'setting some air' on the cars after a train has been built))
    3) Switchman (again, self-explanatory)
    4) Brakeman (again...)
    5) Utility (this term varies from RR to RR and even from yard to yard. Basically the jack of all, master of none. He would "bleed" (let the air out of the resevoirs) cars from an inbound, "lace" (put the air hoses togther between cars) the train after being built, conduct the air tests on the cars (which would include making sure the cars were ok for movement on the main, i.e. good brake shoes, cut-levers in place, all saftey equipment in order (sill steps, grap irons) and make sure there were no hand brakes still tied (set).

    So, I may be able to answer many of your questions about yard work and main line flow. Most of the rules for BNSF have been adopted by and are used by nearly all RRs nationwide, mostly becuase the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) has their hands in everything we do. So, I can tell you from what I know, that "kicking" cars is fully permitted on the BNSF. However, do not get that confused with a "gravity switch move", which is only allowed in certain yards. My home terminal yard does NOT allow it, period. It is an offense that would be punished with time off from work. What you described with a guy riding a cut of cars and tieing the brake to stop it exactly where he wanted it is an example of a gravity switch move. Since on the BNSF you can NOT ride ANY equipment to a joint (coupling), gravity moves are just too risky. Kicking of cars is when the switchman is at the cut (where the cars will be seperated from the rest of the train, still coupled to the engine). He gives the kick sign (or radios to the engineer (unless of course the enigine is remote controlled)), pulls the pin and when enough speed is present, gives the stop sign. The cut then rolls into the track it was lined for and couples to the standing cut already in there (this/these car/cars would have the handbrake set so the cars would not roll out the other end of the track.)
    Typically now days up here in BNSF land, there are two guys to a switch crew, not counting the engineer. (Although, we do not have Yard switching engineers up here, it is all done via remote control locomotive (YES, A HUGE RAILROAD SET:D ). One guy works the switches up on the lead, while another works the switches deeper in the yard. Really depends on how the is layed out though, obviously. Both guys have a control pack on their waist to control the engine. Pretty neat to watch and fun to play with until you realize the yardmaster would REALLY like that outbound train built before you go to 'beans' (lunch break), too bad it eliminted so many jobs. Sore subject with a lot engineers on a lot RRs, especially BNSF.

    If you have the means to get your hands on a scanner, go for it. At least you could hear what the crews are talking about while switching. Any lingo question about what you hear I would gladly answer. I would be interested to hear the differences between RRs (BNSF, UP, NS, etc.) and just different parts of America.

    PLEASE, feel free to ask my anything. If I have to, I wil look it up in the rule book. (A 2" three-ring binder style filled with nothing but rules:eek: )

    Hope this helps,

  16. cabdriver

    cabdriver Member

    Hey, Newguy, thanks for the excellent post. :wave: :thumb: Sorry for the delay in replying but I've been out of town. Just now trying to catch back up on the-gauge and on the layout.

    As a matter of fact, I did buy a scanner (from Radio Shack) and programmed it with the railroad frequencies. I can now pick up our local yard and consistently hear the dispatchter and the trains communicating. At first I wasn't sure that I was hearing the local yard or another yard farther away, but then I heard the engineer call out UP151 and discussed leaving on track 2, and sure enough here he came. That was fun. :D :D

    Your post was full of glimpses into the inside world of real railroading and I appreciate you letting me know some of the terms used today. I'll certainly listen for them on the scanner. I'm sure I'll be taking you up on your offer for translation services.

    Thanks again for the post! :thumb:

Share This Page