Sunday, February 27, 2011

Great Expectations ... Whoops ... Better luck next time

Last night I had the first true timetable run of Cassino. It would be an understatement to say that we had some interesting events. The plan was to stage all the trains at their place of origin, and have the trains depart on time and run through a fast clock 24 hour period using the NCE built in fast clock. We had myself relegated to the North Coast Controller stuck inside the helix between Cassino and Fairy Hill Loop. I had the train graph, the timetable, a magnetic mimic diagram, and a copy of each individual train's timetable with various instructions, like take the loop, await cross with #7 at Cassino, etc.

Photo of me in the hole - as North Coast Control, with Fairy Hill Loop and Geoff in the background (Photo by Shelton D'Cruz)

The Train graph and the timetable
More train graphs and my CB to communicate with the crew

Barry volunteered as the yard master for both Acacia Ridge Yard and Grafton Yard. He sits down next to there with a numbered list of all departure and arrivals out of or into each yard. He has a list of what loco and train is in each track. Drivers who sign on were supposed to turn up and say they were there for train #5 or #12 etc. and he would tell then what track it was on and loco number. Each driver had his copy of the individual train timetable with that train's instructions. But as we know things never run to plan.

Barry in the distance doing Yard Mastering.  Photo taken from inside the hole - out through levels in the helix

Permission for a train to leave a loop was granted by North Coast Control. We had about 4 or 5 NCE radio Procabs and the rest were plug in Procabs. I prefer the Procabs over the CAB04's so drivers could see the fast clock time compared with their timetable and track their progress or lack of it. When a driver was given permission to leave a loop, he had to pull a staff from the staff machines and upon arrival at the other end of the section sink the staff to someone else could use the section.

6 of the Crew - Darren, Brendan, PK, Geoff, Peter and Shelton
More Crew - Rob with Peter half hidden

Some trains were making good progress, others were not. With 54 trains to be operated, there was something like 1000 radio calls to North Coast control to be made. Boy it gets busy at Control. To make matters worse, there was the odd derailment, uncoupling, and train stealing. Train stealing I hear you say. Yes Train Stealing. One of my operators, Geoff, was supposed to take #3 from track number 5 at Grafton yard, but ended up with NL1 - the Brisbane Limited which was in track number 3. An easy mistake a passenger train for a cement train. So now Geoff will be known as a train stealer. We had to stop the clock and reverse his train back to Graton Yard and let him drive his cement train back to where it was discovered he had stolen the wrong train.

The Stealer himself - returning the NL1 Brisbane Limited consist before taking the correct cement consist

Later on in the session, Brendan was taking a double headed 422 train with about 7 oil pots in it out of Grafton Yard destined for Old Cassino and Lismore Shell oil sidings. These wagons have sat in these two sidings since the track for these areas was laid about 2 or 3 years ago. They had never been run before. So on their first run out of Grafton, they made it to the first tunnel, just past Baker's Farm and then "Thud"! They hit the roof of the tunnel and could not go any further - Doh! Great planning by me!

Re-inactment by me - you can see the low roof inside the tunnel

Later when NL1 was due to run, it made it to Cassino all right, but the driver took the train to Old Cassino and towards Lismore before North Coast Control worked out he was heading the wrong way. North Coast Control thought that when the driver called in saying he was at Old Cassino he actually meant Cassino as he did not call in at Cassino. But No. He actually meant Old Cassino and he was heading down the branch.

Later on the staff machines failed between Old Cassino and Cassino, Old Cassino and Lismore and Old Cassino and North Fork. There might be a pattern here somewhere but I will check that out during the week.

My timetables were printed front and back for the Up and Down trains. This will change to just one side, as some of the drivers were thinking they had to then take their trains back again, even though it might have been 18 (fast clock) hours later, when there was a truck load of other trains to run in between. I will leave the timetables at a central point and drivers will take a timetable, run that train, when complete - return that to the bottom of the pile and take another. We had drivers standing around not doing anything and trains missed their departure time, as I was busy doing other things. Drivers just need to sign themselves on and report to where ever the trains needs to depart from.

One thing I did learn is that those Powerline 81's and most of the Powerline 48's and probably whatever Lima locos (the 422's, and the one 44 I have left) will probably all get tossed, unless I can get them running a whole lot better. They run quite well at a reasonable speed, but low speed they are crap compared to all wheel pickups of the Austrains, Trainorama and Eureka motive power. Another thing is that I think I will have too many trains at Murwillumbah at the same time, as all arrivals are basically sequential and all departures are also sequential, as all the tracks are full, trains can't run around and shunt. So this will be attended to.

We were down about 3 hours in the timetable after the first 9 hours of fast clock time operating. We were so far behind time that we reset the fast clock back 3 hours after we had some supper and restarted proceedings. In summary we only got to half way through the timetable at about 10:30pm at night when we called it quits. We had a couple of clock suspensions to rescue a few trains that were derailed in tunnels and the like.

So radio Procabs are certainly the way to go. I need someone to take on the jobs of North Coast Control so I can be out and about to fix any issues as they occur a lot quicker than occured last night. There were quite a few shorts by locos and wagons going over the Peco large radius points, so I will have to borrow the wife's nail polish to fix this. Something I have not wanted to do, but I do need to now. Quite a few wagons have been bad ordered. I think many are too light and wobbled too much on their bogies. A few points were split and caused a few derailments, so my manual point control will get a tune up in the coming weeks. Once I've refreshed my supply of beer and softdrinks in the Shed fridge, we might have another one of these around the Easter/ANZAC Day weekend that hopefully runs a lot smoother. It might also be during the day as well.

Today I wired jumpers to 2 sidings at Murwillumbah that were not powered on Saturday Night and adjusted the coupler heights on two wagons with KD washers.  I also found the bogie screw at Rocla Siding for the first wagon of my Cement train, that was sitting at Murwillumbah Cement siding when it was noticed the screw was missing and the wagon went into the dirt - that is a run of about 64m - Not a bad feat - I don't believe it.

I also found that the container train that was sitting at Lismore and heading towards Murwillumbah, was actually the train that was meant to go to Acacia Ridge.  The branch line train was fitted with 45' and 60' foot wagons, while the mainline version had 80'ers.  The branch line version was also slightly shorter in length. So that was another slight mix up.  During the night there was also a couple of trains in Grafton Yard and Acacia Ridge Yard that were facing the wrong way.  Both yards operate via the clock-wise principle when entering the loops.  These ones were facing thewrong way.  I know I forgot to advise the Yard Master that fact - but I will issue him with a bung anyway.

I'm told everyone had a good time, there was certainly lots of laughing going on, even though I was stressed to the eye balls as the North Coast Control. So lets hope for better luck next time.


  1. Craig, it was a great night and was very enjoyable. There is a lot to do but that just makes it all the more enticing for the next one. I will be there with bells on and hopefully not riding around on section cars on the same day. Darren

  2. Craig

    Having been involved in the first operation nights of a couple of layouts (inc. mine) I can tell you that your night sounded pretty typical.
    It's amazing how you think you have everything covered and then on the night all sorts of odd things happen and you find trains in places the weren't supposed to go to and wagons from the pick up goods also washed up in sidings not on the set out lists.
    All good fun though.

    Ray P

  3. Was one of the best train nights I've ever had! Good fun and good mates.

    Craig, you might want to get your CB radios fixed as there was this brrrrppppp sound coming from them on a regular basis - I hear the Train Stealer knows how to fix that sort of thing....

  4. Now I do need to set the story straight I believe. In all my years of training staff, I'd have to say that it is the TRAIN-ERS responsibility, rather than the TRAIN-EES responsibility to ensure that the training has been completed successfully. That is that the trainee does indeed understand the directions that have been given and is able to competently carry out the aforesaid newly aquired skillset.

    What a great night!