Train Scheduling Issues

I've visited many model railroad websites, including those that include
prototypical operation, yet have seen very little written about how a layout
owner goes about designing a traffic flow pattern and hence a train schedule.
This page explains a few of the issues I faced and the decisions I made in
developing the schedule. Hopefully some readers will find the information helpful.
If you are modelling an exact prototype, then perhaps you can follow the prototype's
train schedule and not have to worry about developing your own. The P&W follows general
PRR practices, but the layout does not represent any specific area of the real railroad.
Hence, I needed to develop a schedule of trains that might have run in my modelled area.

The P&W schedule contains a mix of through freight and passenger trains, coal
drags, local freight and passenger trains and an interchange run. Annville Yard
is located roughly in the middle of the mainline and generates a few local freights
a day. The basic freight schedule began with one or more through freights running
eastbound and westbound at the beginning of the session, dropping off blocks of cars
at Annville Yard to be sent out in locals that originate in Annville Yard later in the
session. One or more eastbound and westbound freights were also needed late in the
session to pick up cars collected by the locals and delivered to Annville Yard.
The interchange run is also a destination for early cars and a source of later cars.
Passenger trains were inserted into the schedule after the freight trains were set.
This was the easiest way for me to add them. The original schedule has also been
modified four or five times in the five years I have been hosting monthly operating
sessions. You should expect your schedule to evolve as time goes by. For example,
if your yard is too crowded with cars or too busy, you can originate a local out of
staging instead of from the yard. If a certain train seems to always be in the way,
maybe it can be moved to an earlier or later position in the schedule, etc. One
feature I wanted in my schedule was to have all operators busy at the beginning of
the session. I didn't want to make someone wait a half hour or more before they
could run their first train of the operating session.

Before we get into the train schedule and how it works, I want to talk a little bit about
making the most of staging tracks. My East and West staging yards each have six in and out
loop tracks so that trains can be re-used later in the session. An example of how this
works will be shown using a sequence of three coal trains that in reality use the same equipment.

Here is a schematic diagram of the railroad showing the routes of three coal trains: PS-21 which is a loaded coal train from the mines on the Petersburg Branch (in East Staging) to the coal marshalling yard at Shire Oaks (West Staging), SA-44 (The Coal Peddler), which is a loaded coal train from Shire Oaks Yard (in West Staging) to Annville Yard and finally train AP-30 which is a train of empty hoppers from Annville Yard to the mines on the Peterburg Branch (East Staging). Coal Train Routes
Here is westbound train PS-21, which is one of the first to run in the op session. It is assumed that the Petersburg Branch is hilly, thus PS-21 rates doubleheaded class L1s Mikados. The doubleheaded locomotives are also handy for climbing the 3.5% grade from West Valley to AE Tower on the P&W. The lead locomotive will be cut off at Annville Yard for servicing (work for the Hostler) while the train continues on to Shire Oaks. Doubleheaded Train PS-21
Later in the session, eastbound train SA-44 runs from Shire Oaks to Annville. Here is SA-44 arriving at Summit. Note that physically this is the same consist as train PS-21. SA-44 Arriving at Summit
The SA-44 train crew is contemplating the switching moves needed to deliver a load and pickup the empty from Summit Coal. You can see step-by-step how this is done by following the "Switchback Operation in Summit" link on the main Operation page. SA-44 and Summit Work
In this photo (from a different op session with a different train crew), SA-44 has left most of its consist on the Main in Lebanon while the locomotive switches Lebanon Lumber & Coal. SA-44 in Lebanon
After Lebanon Lumber & Coal is switched, SA-44 has cars for the Annville Power & Light Co. Annville P&L
Upon Arrival in Annville Yard, the power from SA-44 is cut off and run to the service area for coal and water. The Hostler has retrieved a second L1s 2-8-2 from the roundhouse and has spotted it on the ready track (with tender backup light on). Assembling Power for Train AP-30
After adding coal and water, the two L1s locomotives are coupled together as power for train AP-30 which will return empty hoppers to the Petersburg Branch late in the op session. AP-30 Power on Ready Track
Here is AP-30 descending Horseshoe Curve on the way to the Petersburg Branch. Once some loads are dropped into the hoppers between sessions, this consist will be ready to run as train PS-21 again at the start of the next operating session. AP-30 Running to Petersburg Branch
As mentioned earlier, my overall traffic plan is to run several through trains at the beginning of the session, the locals in the middle of the session and a mix of trains at the end. The first 7 trains (3 freight, 2 coal and 2 passenger) have car swaps at Annville Yard but no other switching (with the exception of a local passenger train which does some work at West Valley and Summit). All over-the-road operators are thus busy at the start, as are the Annville Yard crews, but there is nothing to plug up the Mainline. Note that the mid-session local trains do not traverse the entire mainline. At most, they have one other train to dodge in the process of getting work done. Overview of Traffic Plan
In this photo taken early in a session, westbound train PC-5 waits on the Passing Siding in Lebanon while eastbound train CWM-28 enters town on the Main. In the background, westbound local passenger train 53 is entering the tunnel approaching AE Tower. Train Meet in Lebanon
Another early session photo shows westbound train EC-11 passing LW Tower at the west end of Lebanon. This train required a snapper (Pennsy-speak for helper locomotive) on the 3.5% grade from West Valley to AE Tower (grade in the middle of the photo). The 2-10-0 snapper locomotive was cut off at Annville Yard and can be seen running in reverse at the top of the grade on its return to the snapper pocket in the town of East Valley. EC-11 Westbound
Here is a mid-session photo showing the crew of westbound local freight train AS-37 switching the Lebanon Team Track. This train departs Annville Yard, switches the Team Track, Quality Meat Packers, Lebanon Lumber & Coal and the Lebanon Freight House. The train then continues to Summit where it switches two team tracks, the A&P Warehouse and Summit Oil Co. Finally, it reverses direction (becoming eastbound train AS-38) and returns to Annville Yard. AS-37 Switching Lebanon Team Track
While the AS-37 crew works in Lebanon, the crew of coal train SA-44 is busy switching Summit. Here the Engineer is spotting a coal hopper while the Conductor prepares to operate one of the remote uncouplers from the Summit control panel on the layout fascia. After their work is completed, the Dispatcher will allow SA-44 to run from Summit to the Lebanon West Approach Signal. This signal will have been set to a "stop" indication by the AS-37 crew while they work Lebanon. When AS-37's work is complete and they have the train in the clear, they will set the approach signal to "clear" which will allow SA-44 to enter Lebanon. The Dispatcher will then clear AS-37 to run to Summit and work. This situation can also be reversed. If AS-37 finishes its work first, it may be allowed to run to the Summit East Approach Signal until SA-44 is finished and in the clear. It is up to the Dispatcher to manage the movement of these trains so that the crews are delayed the least. AS-37 in Lebanon, SA-44 in Summit
This view of the WMA-41 crew at work shows how locals tie up all tracks in a town while they work. Model railroads are notoriously short on track capacity, and the P&W is no exception! A train schedule requiring several mainline trains to pass by while a local works is pretty well doomed to failure. Either the mainline trains will be held up or the local won't have time to do their work, or both. WMA-41 in West Valley
Here is the crew of late-session local train AF-44 discussing how they will switch the Altoona Brewing Co. in the town of Franklin. This challenging job involves switching a facing point reefer cooling track, a facing point reefer loading track, a facing point grain track and a trailing point team track, all in a very confined space. After work is complete, the train must also reverse direction for its return to Annville Yard. The "switching puzzle" track plan in the town of Franklin was purposely located on the branch line, and AF-44 is intentionally scheduled late in the session and after all other branch traffic has run. Because of this scheuduling, it doesn't really matter how long the AF-44 crew takes to complete their switching moves. AF-44 in Franklin
This late-session photo shows train ARD-31 switching the Reading Interchange Track in Lebanon (foreground) and train ES-37 (The Mine Run) switching Furnace Hill Mine (background). ARD-31 originated in Annville and will switch the Reading Interchange track, Leighsom Pipe Co. inbound and outbound tracks and the fuel oil company in Lebanon prior to returning to Annville Yard. Train ES-37 came out of Enola Yard staging headed westbound and ran through to Summit. It will pull loads from the mine and spot empty hoppers in their place (using the Summit passing siding as a base). When its work is complete, it will continue westbound to Shire Oaks Yard staging. ES-37 and ARD-31
Finally, this late-session photo shows eastbound train CE-12 stopped at the Annville West Approach Signal. This train came out of Conway Yard staging, will pick up some cars at Annville Yard (those cars came off the mid-session locals) and will set out some cars for "tomorrow." At the right, you can see a tank car set out on the oil track by ARD-31 and a boxcar at the head of the interchange cut set out by ARD-31 on the Reading Interchange track. Since this photo was taken, PRR trainphone antennas have been added to the roof of this locomotive. Nose lift rings have also been added. CE-12 at Annville West Approach Signal