Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Work Session Update

 E.J.'s New York Central Hudson made a few laps during the Accepted Students Open House.

On Saturday, April 12, the club room was open for tours during RIT's Accepted Student Open House. We had more than a few visitors come down, and hopefully we get some new members in the fall! There was supposed to be a Club Faire somewhere on campus, but darned if we could find it.

In the morning, we hung new LED rope lights on the valence above Niagara Falls. Thanks to E.J., Otto, Matt, Charles, and James for helping with that project.

Elliot and Matt focused on making repairs to the helix. By the end of the day, one track had been realigned. Repairs will continue to fix the second track and then connect everything back to staging.

Otto worked on installing cork roadbed for the future Niagara Food Terminal in Niagara Falls. Corey and Nick installed ties to fill in gaps around the main line and branch lines.

Eve came down for a little while to work on her pumpkin patch! It's coming along quite well.

Next meeting is April 15, next work session is April 19. We are gearing up for the big ImagineRIT festival on May 3, which will be our next open house. Lots of work to be done before then!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Accepted Students Open House - April 12

We'll be hosting an informal Open House for Accepted Students on Saturday, April 12, from 12:00-4:00 p.m. Stop by, say hello, see what we're up to! We will have trains running and members will be available to answer your questions. ALL ABOARD!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

First official op session a success!


After a light work session and open house for new accepted students touring the campus, we held our first organized operating session on the new R&IT Saturday evening. We were able to run a full schedule of trains and keep many operators busy, and everyone seemed to have a good time learning the ins and outs of operation. Here's the schedule of trains were ran, more or less in order:

  1. B-100 - BUF-SYR Road Train
  2. S-101 - SYR-BUF Road Train
  3. P959 - B&O-NFL Commuter Train
  4. ABN-1 - IRQ-373-ABN Local Turn
  5. P962 - NFL-B&O Commuter Train
  6. BO-1 - B&O Branch Local
  7. TV-11 - BUF-SYR Conrail TrailVan (intermodal) Detour
  8. V806 - SYR-BUF Conrail Coal Train Detour
  9. P965 - B&O-NFL Commuter Train
  10. P968 - NFL-B&O Commuter Train
  11. P979 - B&O-NFL Commuter Train
  12. P982 - NFL-B&O Commuter Train
  13. P999 - B&O-IRQ Deadhead
  14. IRQ - Yardmaster
  15. NFL - Yardmaster
We enjoyed some pizza and pop while we conducted a brief orientation and took a tour around the railroad to identify locations and customers. Our helix and staging areas are undergoing some repairs, so we were only able to stage four trains, two in "Buffalo" and two in "Sryacuse," using the leads to the helix and some of our hidden return tracks. Since we weren't doing any continuous running, we were able to use the hidden tracks for staging these trains. Alumni member Otto Vondrak took on the role of Superintendent, acting as a sort of referee and floorwalker to offer assistance any time anyone had a question or to resolve any kind of conflict. He explained the purpose of each train and what their role on the railroad was going to be. We then developed a sort of "seniority" system based on actual seniority, based on your actual club membership join date. Alumni member Ryan Kane had everyone beat with a seniority date of 1997, but he kindly deferred to the oldest student members in the club.

We officially started the operating day at 5:00 p.m., with club president Matt Glazer going on duty as the R&IT dispatcher. We have not yet installed block detection on the layout, and only a couple of important turnouts have been powered up with Tortoise switch machines, so moving trains across the layout was very much a manual process. We provided the dispatcher with a simple train sheet to record the movements of trains. We also noted the crew, train number, engines, and number of cars (a very important piece of data when you're trying to pass trains in sidings). The example at left shows some sample data and doesn't reflect an actual session, but it should give you an idea of how we used the sheet during the operating session. Train movement instructions were given verbally over the radio.

As soon as the dispatcher went on duty, we sent everyone who wasn't operating a train out of the room to wait for their "crew call." The scene in the hallway outside of Room A-420 quickly turned into a typical sandhouse bull session amongst railroaders. The Irondequoit yard job went on duty with Mike Smith as yardmaster, followed by Jimmy Paterniti in charge of the Niagara Falls Yard. The first train to go on duty was the B-100, the Buffalo-Syracuse road train with alum Ryan Kane as the crew. This train goes on duty at Buffalo (staging) swaps blocks at Niagara Falls and Irondequoit before it ties up in Syracuse (staging). Each train had a switch list made up explaining what cars were to be dropped at each yard. If there were cars to be picked up, they were then added to the list. We currently don't use a waybill system because so much of the fleet is in flux, but it's an idea to consider for the future. Right now, the switch lists help guide our crews and yardmasters, and gives the trains just enough work to do without becoming burdensome.


With the B-100 making its first steps towards Niagara Falls, the S-101 Syracuse-Buffalo road train was called on duty, with Phil Sutter as engineer. His first move was to swap blocks at Irondequoit yard. With two trains and four operators on duty, we checked with the dispatcher to make sure he was comfortable with the system. Assuring us that he was, we added a third train into the mix, the first Rochester-Niagara Falls commuter run. The commuter trains are an interesting operation in our fictional universe, funded by NYSDOT and RGRTA and operated by the R&IT. They originate at the old Rochester Main Street terminal at the end of the B&O branch (now home to Nick Tahou Hots), crossover to the Falls Road secondary at CP 373, and make stops at Albion, Lockport, and Niagara Falls. The trains layover at Niagara Falls before reversing direction and returning to Main Street. At first, it would seem like there is little matter to the commuter run, except for the fact that it adds a first class schedule to our railroad, and of course, has rights over all other trains. Therefore, the dispatcher much be aware of any conflicting movements and keep any delays to the commuter train at a minimum. It also means the other trains are challenged to get out of the way, and must plan moves accordingly. At Niagara Falls, the train lays over at the station, which is located along the main line. There is a long siding at Niagara Falls which allows trains to pass around, but use of the siding is under the jurisdiction of the Niagara Falls yardmaster, adding yet another operational challenge. Fortunately, the commuter train uses push-pull equipment, so the locomotive does not need to be turned or switched to the other end; the crew merely changes ends, does a brake test, and heads on its way back to Rochester.


Once the B-100 and S-101 drop off their cars destined for Irondequoit, the yardmaster can then start building the ABN-1, the Albion Local Turn. This train goes on duty at Irondequoit Yard, drops off and picks up B&O interchange at CP 373, then proceeds to switch customers at Albion. While this sounds easy enough, the operation of picking up and dropping off interchange at CP 373 required both main tracks to be occupied while the moves were being made. Did we mention that the main line between High Falls and CP 373 were controlled by a separate CSX main line dispatcher? That role was also fulfilled by Otto, and any R&IT trains using trackage rights over the CSX tracks had to work through him. The commuter train also had to get permission to crossover the CSX mains  to connect from the B&O branch to the Falls Road Secondary. Of course, the CSX dispatcher is going to favor CSX movements first, so some R&IT trains found themselves sitting while traffic cleared up for them to cross through.

That CSX train never seems to leave CP 373...

By this time, about 45 minutes had passed, and we only had run three trains, with many more operators waiting out in the hall way for their turn. The S-101 was just finishing up its swap at Irondequoit, and the B-100 was getting ready to leave Niagara Falls. The P962 commuter train was still a few minutes away from departing Niagara Falls. We couldn't call the TV-11 Conrail intermodal detour because the engineer for that train was still on the commuter run. We couldn't call the V806 Conrail coal detour because there was no room in Buffalo staging for him to tie up. So unfortunately, the folks out in the hallway had to wait just a little longer. Once the commuter train tied up at Main Street, we "taxied" engineer Kyle Mark back to Buffalo to hop on the TV-11. Meanwhile, the S-101 had arrived in Niagara Falls, and was cooling its heels in the siding waiting for TV-11 to depart (because S-101 was going to take TV-11's place in staging). While it did cause a little delay, no one really seemed to mind too much, and it did add a bit of realism since we know many trains suffer delays due to "terminal congestion!" Once we have staging fully operational, delays such as these should be minimized. We should also note that once both R&IT road trains arriving in Niagara Falls, the yard crew could make deliveries to the chemical plant and food terminal located there (which at some point required crossing over mains).

 Jimmy handles the work at Niagara Falls Yard.

With TV-11 now on the move out of Buffalo, the B-100 was in Irondequoit making its swap. Now that the Irondequoit Yard had received interchange from both the east and west, it could now build up the ABN-1 local. The B-100 tied up in Syracuse, and the V806 coal train was called on duty with Corey Rapp as engineer. Since ABN-1 was not ready to go on duty yet, we called the next commuter train round trip. David Stavans was the engineer on the P965/968 turn. By the time the commuter train arrived at Niagara Falls, the ABN-1 was going on duty. Now that ABN-1 was going on duty, the BO-1 crew went on duty at Rochester Main Street, since the ABN-1 would soon be arriving with interchange. The BO-1 crew consisted of engineer Elliot Courtney, using a Rochester & Southern GP38 and a Chessie System wagontop caboose to represent a "foreign road" crew. The ABN-1 departed Irondequoit with Charles Rothbart as engineer and Nicholas Coriale as conductor (since this train would have a lot of switching moves to make, we thought it would be a good idea to have this crew work as a team).
The first move for ABN-1 was to run over the CSX main to CP 373, pick up the outgoing B&O interchange, and drop off the incoming, with the help of the R&S crew on the BO-1. Both tracks of the CSX main were tied up for a few minutes, which soon became a problem as the P968 commuter train was departing Albion and headed east towards CP 373. The dispatcher allowed the train to pull up to Buffalo Road crossing just outside of CP 373 and sit while the two crews completed their moves. For extra realism, the "annoyed" engineer kept calling the R&IT dispatcher on the radio asking "what's the hold up?" With the ABN-1 train now back in one piece and in the clear on CSX Track 1, the BO-1 crew now had to clear up to allow the P968 through. With the BO-1 stuffed safely out of the way, a delayed P968 finally crossed through the plant and tied up at Main Street. Around the same time, the V806 coal train had tied up in Buffalo staging.

By this time, we had run the full schedule of planned trains, and some club members had peeled away to catch up on homework and other tasks. Ryan Kane took over as second trick yardmaster at Niagara Falls while everyone else was content to hang out in the hallway and continue the railroaders' bull session. Since we had the time, and the only train on the road was ABN-1, we added one more commuter run to the mix, P979/982/999. Of course, we made sure the ABN-1 was in the middle of making their most complicated switching moves at Albion before sending the commuter train barreling through! The ABN-1 scrambled to clear up (twice), but managed to complete its moves. The BO-1 crew worked their switch list and delivered covered hoppers of flour to the bakery, a boxcar of merchandise to the BR&P warehouse, a boxcar of lumber to Morse Lumber, and a boxcar of newsprint for Gannett in the Subway. If there were already cars spotted on the siding, they were to be assumed empty, and were pulled and placed on the interchange track at CP373 to be picked up by the next day's ABN-1. With the BO-1 completing all moves, the crew parked their power in the clear on the runaround and marked off.

 The commuter train is eastbound on the main line near High Falls, making a deadhead run to Irondequoit for servicing.

The BO-1 cleared up just in time for the P982 to arrive at Rochester Main Street, with Corey Rapp as engineer. The commuter train had one more move to make, and this was a "deadhead" move (an equipment move with no passengers) to Irondequoit Yard for servicing. The P999 was approaching CP 373 about the same time as the returning ABN-1, so once again the local cooled its heels with the deadhead crossed over and then reversed eastbound on CSX Track 2. With the commuter set spotted in the yard for servicing, and the power parked at the engine house, the ABN-1 soon followed after.

All in all it was a very successful operating session, running the full slate of planned trains (And then some) in the scheduled three hours. Everyone had fun and we learned a few things about how the railroad can operate. Not all of the customer sidings have been installed, and staging needs some repairs before it can be used, yet we were still able to keep our operators very busy. We may try to squeeze in one more op session before the end of the year, stay tuned!