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Enquiring minds want to switch

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Enquiring minds want to switch
Posted by Murphy Siding on Friday, October 22, 2021 10:37 AM

     I see things I don’t understand, so I ask questions. I don’t know any better ways to do things, but I wonder why things are done a certain way. Here’s a switching operation that makes me wonder.

Setup: a train has a car to deliver and a car to pick up at a random lumber yard on the prairie. The locomotive must push the cars about a half mile on the customer’s spur.

Here’s the way it was most recently switched:
1)Locomotive and full car are disconnected from the front of the train
2)They move forward through the switch
3)Switch is thrown for the spur
4)Locomotive pushes full car a half mile
5)Full car and empty car are coupled
6)Locomotive pulls both cars back a half mile through the switch
7)Switch is thrown for the main
8)Empty car is coupled onto the parked train
9)Empty car is uncoupled from full car
10)Locomotive and full car move forward through the switch
11) Switch is thrown for the spur
12) Locomotive pushes full car a half mile
13)Full car is placed for customer
14) Locomotive pulls back a half mile onto the main
15) Switch is thrown for the main
16) Locomotive is coupled onto the parked train
17) Train heads on it’s merry way.

Now the dumb questions:
1) Why did they push the full car in first?
2) If they started with just the locomotive, wouldn’t the switchman have ridden the loco 3 times and the car once? Loco in/ loco out/ car in/ loco out?
3) The way it was done, with the locomotive and full car from the start, wouldn’t the switchman have ridden the loco 2 times and the car 2 times? Car in/ loco out/ car in/ loco out?
4) Is there a preferred or mandated order to switch the cars?

For what it’s worth, they had a switchman on the ground that came in a crew hauler, and a switchman on the train riding the cars. There’s a derail switch at the halfway mark that must be worked.

What do you think zugmann?

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, October 22, 2021 11:02 AM

Well, I'm not Zug, but...

Unless there was a siding on the siding, a place to stick the one of the two cars while handling the other, the way you described was about the only way to do the job.  

The other option would have been to go in with the locomotive, pull the empty car, run back out to the train, pick up the load, with the empty still coupled to the loco, then push both cars back in to spot the load.

I think I'd rather push one car than two.

Someone has to be on the point of the push moves.  Aside from that, riding the loco when possible would have been the safer alternative.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, October 22, 2021 11:40 AM

I'm not as good as Zug, and I hate switching problems (I find Allen's Timewaster an invention inspired by the Adversary, second perhaps only to the Tower of Hanoi or those idiot lacing toys as a silly pastime) but it seems very obvious why they did it the way described.  You couldn't get 'around' the empty to deliver the full car and leave it any other way.

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Posted by mudchicken on Friday, October 22, 2021 1:13 PM

They could always demand you put a runaround track on your lead on your side of the derail (or refuse to switch you) ...be content that you have an older legacy facility and just watch the conductor's decision making process.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, October 22, 2021 1:42 PM

Not all Conductors minds work the same.  In most cases their minds will work to minimize the footsteps they have to make.

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Friday, October 22, 2021 2:46 PM

Murphy,

It is six of one and half a dozen of the other. Walk thru your moves starting with engine going in light and pulling car first.

The way he did it is less likely to derail the empty due to shoving it off the track if a sharp curve is involved.

Mac

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Friday, October 22, 2021 2:48 PM

mudchicken

They could always demand you put a runaround track on your lead on your side of the derail (or refuse to switch you) ...be content that you have an older legacy facility and just watch the conductor's decision making process.

 

Like I said in the first paragraph, I'm just curious why they do something a certain way. For what it's worth, the facility was built 12 years ago. The spur was built with consultation from the BNSF and from the land developer, who owns the D&I railroad.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Friday, October 22, 2021 2:52 PM

PNWRMNM

Murphy,

It is six of one and half a dozen of the other. Walk thru your moves starting with engine going in light and pulling car first.

The way he did it is less likely to derail the empty due to shoving it off the track if a sharp curve is involved.

Mac

 

I'm not sure I follow the part about derailing. There's a curve, but the locomotive is pulling the empty car out. Once it's back on the main, it's pushing the car into the parked train to couple it. Is that where you're talking about?

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Posted by cv_acr on Friday, October 22, 2021 3:01 PM

What's a runaround got to do with anything. It's a standard old trailing point spur from the sounds of it. Maybe a bit longer than others, but that doesn't majorly change things up. Trainmen ride shoves longer than that.

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Posted by mvlandsw on Friday, October 22, 2021 3:47 PM

In the current fuel saving times going in first with just the light engine would use less fuel since you would only be moving the loaded car once. And as Murphy Siding said a crew member would only have to ride a car once. That's the way I would do it.

Mark Vinski

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Posted by zugmann on Friday, October 22, 2021 4:57 PM

How I would do it:

 

Pull up to the switch.  Tie the train down (but put the handies on the cars behind your new load).  Test your handbrakes.  Run lite engine into the siding, and pick up the empty.  Run back out and grab your load, take it in and spot up.  Run back out, do your air test it, knock off your brakes, and be on your merry way.  

Unless the siding is on an extreme curve.  Then you'd take a car in to make it easier to couple up (drawbars on lumber cars usually move more /easier than engine ones).

   The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Friday, October 22, 2021 5:07 PM

Murphy Siding
 
 

 

I'm not sure I follow the part about derailing. There's a curve, but the locomotive is pulling the empty car out. Once it's back on the main, it's pushing the car into the parked train to couple it. Is that where you're talking about?

If you pull MTY first, come back to train pick up load and then shove load first then empty back in to spot, you have the empty in a more vulnerable spot than would otherwise be the case.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Friday, October 22, 2021 5:12 PM

zugmann

Unless the siding is on an extreme curve.  Then you'd take a car in to make it easier to couple up (drawbars on lumber cars usually move more /easier than engine ones).

Those green teflon pads or whatever they are sure make drawbars slide easy.  Except when they fall out and don't get replaced.....

Along these lines, we had a customer who loaded cars with tightlock couplers and would always leave them right at the top of a hill and in a curve (the joys of cramped industrial sites).  Sometimes the height difference between loaded and empty cars plus the angle of the hilltop meant that the couplers wouldn't go together, and the engine drawbar was stiff sometimes you couldn't move it over enough.  

Sometimes we had to prop up the loaded car's drawbar with a rock (the customer had a couple burly employees who were strong enough to lift it), but shoving in with a different car was a better option.  

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Posted by zugmann on Friday, October 22, 2021 5:13 PM

PNWRMNM
If you pull MTY first, come back to train pick up load and then shove load first then empty back in to spot, you have the empty in a more vulnerable spot than would otherwise be the case. Mac

You'd have to be doing something pretty extreme to derail an empty shoving only a car or 2.

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Posted by zugmann on Friday, October 22, 2021 5:20 PM

SD70Dude
Those green teflon pads or whatever they are sure make drawbars slide easy.  Except when they fall out and don't get replaced.....

Not in the budget.

 

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Friday, October 22, 2021 5:30 PM

     OK, I get it now. The locomotive would be pushing the loaded car with an empty car.

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