Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Job balancing

Remember while reading this that I operate very slowly with momentum and braking and brakemen, so it doesn't take long trains and huge staging tracks to eat up considerable time playing trains. Here's how the traffic balancing gets thought about and implemented on my layout.

I have an AM and a PM switch list for each operating area, and I have up to 11 operating positions now in 7 operating areas on my 500 (+ 200) sf layout. (I am slowly taking over the hallway, which has gone from temporary to permanent so slowly that my wife is just now realizing after 2 years what has happened with that extra 200 sf...ssshhhhh!)

The operating areas are yard, Bethlehem Steel, Maxwell House Coffee, float yard, docks and two remote pocket terminals Harlem Station and Lehigh Valley West 27th St Yard. I'll pick those pocket terminals off first as low hanging fruit explanations. 

My current car float holds 6 cars, so they have 6 cars to place and 6 to pick up and put on the float. That sets each 'round' at 12 car movements, which takes about 1.5 hours for Harlem Station, which can hold about 50 cars max. (I haven't operated the 27th, yet) from what I can tell after a couple of sessions. I can cycle that twice for a 3 hour session. Those cars are coming from the float yard on the HBS, so I know I need to get about 6 cars for each yard there half way through - or more likely, already have at least some of them there. I'll probably have float cut-off times that need to met when/if I have a clock. So the pocket terminals are easy.



Most of the switch lists for the last operating session

For the next operating area, the yard has shorts inside the yard to work, which has about 2 dozen spot locations. I have about 1/3 of that filled with cars at any given time. The last switch list for AM was the 14th Street job which had 5 pickups and 4 set outs.

The PM list, which is made up of cars from the Interchange Yard that should be there by the PM, was for the yard short job with about 2 dozen spot locations, which are industries not on 14th St and are accessed in the yard. There were 5 pick ups and 7 set outs. This job wasn't even started last session, because they yard was busy. No problem, it is ready for next time.

With all those available spots, it is easy to balance pick ups and set outs and not overfill anything. Cars that don't get moved this session I will know should be moved next session, but it doesn't really matter to anyone but me who is keeping track of those things...

So the other areas are basically governed by the ruling 18" radius curve on the layout which restricts my 44 tonner train lengths to about 10 cars due to friction. At Bethlehem I have 12 spots, so I move half each switch list - I just randomly pick which cars to move. On the last switch list there were 5 set outs and 5 pick ups. I just made sure no track would get too full. 

Since this is a busy industrial operation, cars could actually get loaded/unloaded during a session and move again without much operator angst. (I am thinking about having a timer.) In fact, I want to model some of that at Maxwell House where empties and full cars would get shuffled during a session like Chuck Hitchcock's grain elevator operational design element. Again, train lengths are about 5-6 out and 5-6 in from Maxwell.

I have 4 areas on the 'main line' that get served by up to two, two-man crews. I alternated them so there is less aisle crowding. Rinse and repeat for those 4 jobs with the philosophy that these locomotives are running back and forth all day on this short railroad with a handful of cars each time. The YM simple keeps writing switch lists for crews to work as soon as they get back to the yard. 

I believe I could operate for 6 hours straight without re-staging if I try. I can always re-stage in the middle of a session just by doing some mole activity in the Erie Weehawken Yard. There are 12 spots there and 16 in the Interchange Yard, plus I don't know how many in the HBS Yard. If I maxed out everything, I could operate that 6 hours easily. I should try some day having back to back crews in... hmmm.

So all of the balancing is about each job and it takes place in my head, but it is a small railroad, so that's not too hard. I think it takes about an hour to an hour and a half to stage. 

As far as keeping track of things in the yard, I may use a chalkboard at the pocket terminals to keep track of things, because that's how they did it. Then the crews can make up their own switch list from there, or just look at the chalk board... Maybe the same in the yard so the switchers can see it, too.  I don't know, yet... Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Viewer mail: Switch list generation

From a response I gave to a fellow industrial switching devotee's email question about how I handle generating switch lists on the PoNY. I thought some others may be interested as well:

For my switch lists, I simply walk around and make them up prior to a session. My railroad is small enough that there is no need to involve a computer or car cards. My mantra is "simplicity". I am a designer/architect and was by profession/am at heart an academic, and one of my favorites in that world is John Maeda who used to head MIT's design research lab and wrote about the Laws of Simplicity.

For my layout, I try to make everything as simple as possible. Battery power means no wiring, no track cleaning, no shorting, no etc. The prototype I chose means no signalling, CTC panels, telephones or radios, etc. Then, I am trying to be really rigorous by choosing no car cards and only using switch lists, not having a double deck, no hidden staging, no dcc, no plug in throttles, etc.

So for filling out the switch lists, I know which spots take what kind of car and how many. I have an idea of the traffic flow I want to create. My operator jobs are compartmentalized, and I don't use car cards, so the process takes only as long as it takes me to write the lists. Now the yard is something I have not quite worked out, yet. 

I don't want car cards, and unfortunately, those are very helpful in a yard as they are physical, self-correcting, and have a one-to-one relationship with the actual car, etc. I am trying to use wheel report sheets kept in real time by the Yardmaster who then makes up switch lists from there. I have the "staging" area, which is just Erie yard tracks that connect to the HBS, on one sheet by track with all the cars listed. Then as they are brought into the interchange yard, they are written on the sheet according to what track they get put on. Ideally, the cut of cars should come with its own switch list from the Erie operator. I'm still working this procedure out.

Inline image 1
Wheel report sheet for the HBS (above).
Inline image 2
Interchange wheel report sheet (above). The Erie tracks at the bottom are "staging" and the 4 tracks shown are the interchange yard. The idea is that the Erie operator and the HBS YM will jointly use this sheet to move cars back and forth between railroads.

Once in a track in the interchange yard, the YM can make up a drill order for his yard crews to sort the cars. Then they get put on a classification track for later, or in a track being made up for one of the local jobs. Once that is accomplished, the yard wheel report sheet is updated, and a switch list for the train is made up that the conductor will take with him on the job. When the car reaches ts destination, it sits until it happens to move according to my balancing the work of each operator job. 

As mentioned, jobs are compartmentalized, so traffic flow is first and foremost about a single operator's work. The consequences are felt in the yard, of course, but in a session, not too much can really go wrong, because there is enough room in the yard for the traffic, and we operate so slowly, that we have yet to really test the flow of cars on and off the railroad to the Erie. Crews are having enough to handle with the industry switching. I expect this to change as operators get more experience, but because operations are so slow, I doubt there will be problems.

I am having a session in September with lots of experienced operators visiting from all over, so that will be a good test. It will also be the most operators here at once - 11. So far I have only hosted 8 maximum. I do have another pocket terminal completed (pictures coming) that adds two operators without affecting the rest of the layout, so I am not anticipating any particular new problems...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Electric "trucks" on the Hoboken Shore

There is a reference by an ex-HBS employee to electric trucks being distributed in the morning and retrieved at night from the dock areas. At first I assumed these were road trucks, but I have come to realize they were actually much smaller devices for moving around pallets, boxes and loose materials. How long these were in service, I don't know, but given the age of the employee, there is a good chance that they were in service still in the 50s.

This will make a nice operation event as well as another 3d modeling project.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Generations of Hoboken Shore Locomotive photos

Representing early and late generation Hoboken Shore Railroad locomotives. All that is missing is the HH660. Yes, I would have to computer model and 3d print all but the 44 tonner... Backdating at some point with catenary? Fun to think about...!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Battery progress

Just arrived is the latest subject for my battery trials. I received (3) 800mAh Turnigy batteries today from Hobbyking (a radio control hobby web site). I believe this may be the sweet spot for my operations and locomotives. 

We had op session #5 a week ago, and operated for about 2-1/2 hours before the 500mAh equipped locomotives started to run out of gas. The lone 800mAh was just fine, so at this point I'm guessing I can get at least 3 hours out of them if not 3.5 hours. 

The batteries I just bought are a good compact form factor for the current version of battery car as converted box car. Eventually I would like custom MOW street sweeper cars that the HBS prototypically carried around to keep the flange ways free of dirt and garbage. 
See above for comparison of sizes. I promise at some point I will do a more careful comparison of run times, battery sizes, etc. as I settle into my optimal configuration. 

This installation is like a beta version .8. I'm still using JST connectors, which are a little large, but easier to plug and unplug. I've tried the tiny Soundtraxx connectors with success, but I don't really benefit from the smaller form in the spacious box car, but it may help in the future sweeper cars. 
Above is current standard configuration with a 500mAh battery. The 800 should fit same space. Next release version .9 will maybe have recharging plugs accessible from bottom of car so I don't have to fish wires out of box car doors, although that does seem to work OK. I'd just like something a little more elegant when I do the sweeper cars. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

HBS 701 11-11-1974

Creative Commons Licensing in collection of author.
Creative Commons License

In front of General Foods at the turnout to the engine house in 1974.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Waiting for the tug that never comes.

Waiting patiently for the tug that never comes.

It has been several months since touching the layout, and the citizens of Hoboken are in limbo until their dystopic city takes shape. A November 15 operating session is on the horizon, but life is probably too busy to play until then. I can most certainly feel the frustration welling within at the lack of progress on my own projects in life including the layout. I keep saying "rebalance", but it is slow to happen.

Fortunately my little plastic inhabitants are good at waiting quietly and waiting patiently.