Over the past few weeks I have held another solo operating session. This follows the CP operating session I had. I ran CN 404 and then CN 403 through the layout, doing some local switching along the way.
On my layout, train CN 404 runs east from Melville, SK to Winnipeg, MB. This train performs local switching in Georgetown, the town that is the main focus of my layout. CN 404 switches the Irving Oil spur and the Manitoba Pool grain elevator, when required.
In this session, CN 404 spotted a tank car at Irving Oil and exchanged grain cars at the Pool elevator.
Please note that I had the train number wrong in the video. In Canada eastbound trains have an even train number and westbound trains have odd numbers.
As you might guess, CN 403 on my layout runs from Winnipeg to Melville! The train also does local switching in Georgetown, but only switches the CP interchange track as required. It also switches the Cargill grain elevator in Helene.
I had to split the videos to get them under the 15 minute limit.
In the first video, CN 403 switches Georgetown. It had one car to drop off for CP and picked up three cars.
The second video shows CN 403 working the Cargill elevator.
Both are fairly limited in the switching they do in Georgetown, so they were quicker than CP 948 in particular to run.
The instructions for CP 949 specify that it runs from Winnipeg to Brandon, picking up any westbound cars from the siding and dropping any Georgetown-bound cars in the siding. As it happens, it did both!
Here’s the video showing CP 949 from start to end:
I also recorded a short “on board” video using my cell phone in a very Rube Goldberg style mount on a gondola.
Check out the setup:
Note the weights clamped on to the right to counterbalance the phone. This made for a very wide load and it is not ideal. I’d appreciate any suggestions for inexpensive on-board cameras…
The last train was CP 975, the Minnedosa local returning to Minnedosa.
Its switching instructions for Georgetown are to spot any Georgetown-bound cars, pick up any Minnedosa-bound cars, and head out on the Minnedosa subdivision to staging.
The train did have a car to spot on the interchange track, but it had nothing to pick up, so it was a quick stop in Georgetown before going to staging.
That’s the end of the CP trains that operate on my layout! The four trains that operated were:
CP 976, Minnedosa local, from Minnedosa to Brandon
CP 948, eastbound mainline freight, from Brandon to Winnipeg, with a lot of switching in Georgetown
CP 949, westbound mainline freight, from Winnipeg to Brandon
CP 975, Minnedosa local, returning from Brandon to Minnedosa
The only train I can see adding on the CP side of my layout would be a VIA Rail RDC to run on the Minnedosa subdivision. I don’t have room in CP’s staging for a full size passenger train.
Next I will be working on the scheduling for CN trains, and then I’ll be running those. I might work on coordinating the schedules to have a meet or two in Georgetown rather than just running them in sequence.
I added a train information card to the front of the card packet. This gives the train number, origin and destination of the train, departure time, and switching instructions en route.
I’m not using the maximum cars yet, and the departure time is only used to determine the sequence of trains. At some point I’ll jiggle the times to set up meets in Georgetown.
I’ve seen one problem already – the train number is hidden by the clip. Rev 2 will be better!
The Minnedosa Local
CP 976, aka the Minnedosa Local, was the first to run. The train had GMTX 768, five cars and a caboose, which is about the longest train you can stash in the Minnedosa sub / staging without the head end being visible.
CP 976’s instructions are to proceed west to Brandon, dropping any eastbound cars in the Georgetown siding and picking up any westbound cars from the Georgetown siding. As it happened, the train had two eastbound grain hoppers that it had to drop. There was nothing to pick up so it was a relatively short run.
CP 948, the Brandon-Winnipeg (eastbound) train was next. This is the busiest of the four CP trains I have on my layout.
CP 948 runs from Brandon to Winnipeg through Georgetown, and works Georgetown industries while it’s there. The switches to the three CP-based Georgetown industries (warehouse, team track and grain elevator) and the CN-CP interchange track have eastward-facing points, so an eastbound freight can work them easily.
948 was short coming out of Brandon, with only three cars and a caboose behind big MLW CP 4505. They had one BN car for the CN-CP interchange, an eastbound scrap gondola, and a centerbeam flatcar for the team track.
There was lots of work to do in Georgetown. The three boxcars at the warehouse had to come out, the interchange track had two cars and a locomotive to remove and deal with, and the team track had a car that was heading out.
I had to split this into two videos to stay under the 15 minute YouTube limit.
In part 2 they switched the warehouse and put their train back together before continuing on to Winnipeg.
The next train is CP 949, the Winnipeg-Brandon train, followed by CP 975, the local going back to Minnedosa. Neither of them have much work in Georgetown so they should be quicker to operate. Read on!
This past Sunday, I spent 4 1/2 hours operating on William Brillinger’s layout. What fun! You may recall I operated there once already, so this was round 2.
After I arrived at Bill’s house at 1 PM, Bill offered me the choice of operating CN 532, stopped at Letellier, or a BNSF grain train from Noyes to Morris.
For background, Bill is modeling the CN Letellier subdivision between Morris, Manitoba and the US-Canadian border at Emerson, plus the BNSF track between the border and Noyes, MN, with staging at both ends (track plan).
Following Bill’s advice, I elected to take CN 532 while Bill took BNSF. After seeing what was on the train, I brought it forward into Emerson. Bill is modeling the border crossing procedure so his app covers the customs procedures required to obtain clearance to cross into the USA. You can follow that link to see the procedures. I used the app to “contact BNSF” and “request clearance”. It worked very well and seemed realistic to me.
I had a bit of work to do before crossing the border.
As I completed the crossing procedure, Bill was ready to cross the border into Canada with his train. We had to meet somewhere, so I pulled into one of the Emerson yard tracks and he passed by on his way north to Morris.
I crossed over the border, pulling slowly through the VACIS machine – a giant X-ray machine, essentially. The app told me that three cars had to be set out for further inspection by Customs. I set them out and pushed the rest of the train into a yard track behind the cars waiting for me to bring into Canada. Here’s the video for that movement:
Bill is visible in the distance, and I make a cameo as I checked to ensure the movement was able to clear the standing cars.
Once I dropped my cars, I picked up the Canada-bound cars, did the brake test (also in the app) and executed the Canadian customs procedures to cross over. I did a bit of work in Emerson and then carried on to Letellier to switch the ADM Corn Processors plant (and the Agricore elevator) there.
The ADM plant is a challenge to switch, as it has two tracks of tank cars with 5 spots each. The challenge is that the tank cars can’t just go in any location on the two tracks – each car may have a different product and products can only go in certain spots, so there is a lot of pulling and respotting cars.
Once I finished there, I carried on to Morris as there was no more switching to be done. Bill uses car cards, like I do, although his system is a little different. The car cards he uses incorporate the “to” and “from” and other details, whereas I use a car card with a pocket that holds the “to” slip. On my layout I don’t track where they came from.
Each car card also has a blocking code in the bottom right. This is a handy indicator to show where on the layout the car should go. In many cases the code indicates an off-layout (staging) location. Bill explains it here.
After my pickup in Noyes and the switching in Letellier, the train was a jumbled mess. I had to do switching in Morris to block the train so that all of the blocking codes were together in the train. This took a fair amount of time and the challenge is increased because there are limited siding tracks in Morris and several crossings you have to blow the horn for. I confess I forgot to blow the horn a few times. Fortunately, no train-vehicle collisions occurred.
Once the train was finally sorted, I ran around it to couple up to the head end and pulled it north out of Morris and into staging.
Note I didn’t do the mandatory brake test… oops.
Somewhere in the middle we broke for the traditional Allagash Lemon Cake with Bill’s wife and son. They are very tolerant of Bill’s train “play dates”… maybe because they get to eat cake too.
After the operating session was over, I bought a couple of tank car kits from Bill, along with one of his Simple Switch Machines that I am eager to try out. I’ll write a review once I assemble it.
On my way home up highway 75, I encountered the 1:1 scale CN 533 just north of St. Jean-Baptiste, and I photographed it approaching Morris, and passing the older Paterson grain elevator in Morris itself.
Thanks, Bill, for a great session and for inviting me to your layout again!
Here’s my first video showing the track running all the way around my train room. It is very clearly rough track and it needs a lot of work, but you have to start somewhere. The part at the start and the end is temporary and is coming out, to be replaced by something a lot sturdier. I just wanted to get trains moving. Please enjoy the first circumnavigation