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Scajaquada Valley Northern Railway: Pt1



This is a fictional description of a train ride from Amherst Yard to Barrington Yard along what will eventually be my model railway. I am hoping this will help me focus on a plan.

Amherst to Barrington

Joe, the Engineer on GP38-2 1601 for today, walks out of the prefab yard office. The yard, a 6 track flat yard with a single ladder at each end, being the rail companies main yard. It was small, but the yard crews were usually able to handle the daily traffic without getting too far behind. Joes assignment for the day was to take 1601 South 30 miles to the CN interchange at Barrington. Barrington is the companies southern limit, and is where a lot of freight gets exchanged with the Class 1 line. Joes train is on Track 4, and with the yard crew already pulling a rack of cars out from Track 3, he must be cautious while he walks over and inspects his train.

The train consisted mostly of covered hoppers and centerbeam flatcars, filled with plywood and other lumber products from one of 2 lumber mills that the line services. The Plywood is from a plant up the line in Sweet Water. The dimensional lumber from a mill in Ora, about 5 miles South of the Yard. The Yard is in the town of Amherst. The Covered Hoppers originated from a Cement mine near the town of Walleye Run. There was also a single boxcar which originated from a factory which processes biodisel, right here in Amherst. The cargo is 55 gallon drums of Processed bio diesel on pallets.

Not too many empty cars head towards the interchange. This line tends to produce a lot of materials, and it is always exporting raw and processed goods in large quantities. Joe and his Conductor step into the cab of the locomotive. 1601 was recently rebuild, and included a Canadian Comfort Cab. The small shortline was slowly upgrading its aging fleet, mostly at its brand new engine facility. The Engine Facility is located at Barrington. While a small shop is located at Amherst, the company decided that Barrington was a better spot to locate a larger maintenance facility.

Joe waits for the yard job to shuffle its rack of cars in to track 5, and once clear of the switch, the yard job's conductor throws the switch for Joe, and giving a friendly note from his horn, Joe throttles the locomotive into Notch 1, and slowly into Notch 2 once it begins to roll. The couplers slap together and the train begins to snake down the ladder track towards the South entrance to the Mainline. On the roll, they call for clearance to enter the mainline, and are granted the clearance. The automated signal and switch infront of them switches to allow them access. There is also a derail which retracts. Modern safety enhancements which have been added in recent years, all controlled by the line controllers.

The train begins to speed up as it enters the mainline, a single track, well ballased, curving through a forested ravine for a mile or so, before straightening out and cutting through two small fields. Soon the line meets Ora siding, a controlled passing track just South of the yard. Ora siding is also where the dimensional lumber mill is located, and off of the siding is a single ended yard track, and a small industrial spur line into the mill. When the mill is busier they have their own small switcher which shuffles cars around. But typically the local crew does this for them. There were 2 empty centerbeams in the yard track waiting to enter the factory as they passed, and from what they could see, it looked like another loaded car was in the factory ready to be picked up.

South of Ora was a bit of a grade. The heavy train powered by only 2 GP38's had to notch up all the way to 8 to gather some momentum in order to crest the hill at a decent pace. They said the grade is 4%, but the rumor is that it is higher than that. The mainline speed along here is about 50km/h. The terrain is generally cleared rocky grazing fields along the tracks. Random erradic rocks litter the grassy field, and some granate rock cuttings along the grade of the track show that this is indeed a bit of a highland. Cresting the hill, and coasting down the other side, Joe begins to apply dynamic breaking as the train begins to speed up.. The curve ahead will align the right of way alongside the Scajaquada River, and Joe has no intention of speeding down the hill, and dumping the train into the river.

Mile post 19 marks the beginning of the Hannah Siding, a poorly maintained siding with manually thrown switches, if you are coming South. A Grade crossing is present here, as the rail line pases through Hannah, a small farming town on the bank of the Scajaquada river. There is a small MOW single ended yard track at the South end of the siding, which is mostly overgrown. it is often used to store MOW equipment. Passing the siding, and exiting the town, the line again curves and climbs a grade through a forest. This winding stretch of the mainline is often troublesome as it has a heavy grade, and passes a deeply forested nature area. It is not uncommon to chase Moose or Bears along this stretch of rail, and winter operations tend to be tricky here. The line continues up grade for several miles, however it is only about a 2% grade. A few grade crossings are present in this area and the Engineer must watch to ensure he sounds the horn for them.

Cresting this grade at Mile 12 there is a well used passing siding. This is Franks Hill siding, a controlled siding which is engineered to allow a train moving up grade to maintain momentum and speed no matter which track they are assigned. It is a slightly longer than usual siding and levels out slightly. However once the mainline clears the siding, and another grade crossing, at Mile 8 there is a South facing switch which diverts to a 5 mile spur line servicing a Nickle and Copper Mine. This line diverts down a slight grade and under the mainline as the mainline continues up-grade. The Spur is called Luna Lake Spur Line, and services the Luna Lake mine facility. The geography in this region is fairly rocky with pine trees and some ravines. Joe again notches 1601 up to full power to climb the mainline up towards Barrington.

Approaching Barrington, the track levels out, and the pine trees give way to marsh and then industrial lots. Some random low traffic industries populate the trackside features rolling into town. Passing the Locomotive rebuild shop, Joe begins to apply the breaks and rolls into the recieving track of the small yard facility. Five tracks populate this yard. The mainline effectively ends (or begins) here. One of the tracks leads towards the rebuild plant and the local industrial branch. Typically this yard has a daytime yard crew ho shuffles cars around in the yard, and also services the local industries. Sometimes they will also be tasked with work up at Ora or at Luna Lake if there isn't much going on in Barrington. Typically Track 3 is used by Joes run to drop the loaded cars off which are headed towards CN trackage. Track 5 is a run around track, Track 1 and 2 are used for local sorting and collecting and storage, and track 4 is used for interchange cars destined for Amherst yard, or beyond.


After securing his train, Joe and his conductor visit the yard office and hand in their paperwork. After they are handed their paperwork for the return trip, Joe and his conductor wander across the street to a small diner where they enjoy an hot meal and coffee.

The yard job has already sorted the cars delivered by CN on CN's interchange track, onto Track 4, and made them ready to be delivered. They have also added a full, and an empty boxcar from the local industries onto Track 4's rack of cars, to head up to Amherst Yard. They were now also taking lunch, and will move the cars just delivered by 1601 onto the interchange track after lunch, then proceed to Luna Lake for the afternoon to handle some switching there.

Returning in about an hour, Joe decouples his set of locomotive power from their previous consist, and runs around the yard, connecting to the rack of cars on Track 4 which will be what they are pulling back to Amherst for the day. Their lead Locomotive this run will be 1211, an older GP38 which hasn't been rebuilt yet. The cab isn't quite as comfy, but it is what it is. Joe checks the train: 5 open hoppers, empty, 3 box cars, 2 empty, one loaded with goods. 6 empty covered hoppers, 2 full diesel tankers, and 1 full chemical tanker. 2 empty tankers, and 2 empty centerbeam flatcars pull up the rear. A small enough train, but it does involve some hazmat, and so they need to fill out an extra form to prove they did an extra safety check of the breaking system and checked the seals.

Barrington to Amherst

Departing Barrington from Track 4, Joe contacts the controller for permission to head back to Amherst on the main line. At the same time, Joe observes the Northbound Passenger train pulling into the Yard from the South, from CN Trackage. The railway operates passenger service further South to link up with service provided from a national line, and CN allows it to operate over its trackage. Joe knows it will be stopping in Barrington for at least 15 minutes, and hopes to get a head start on it. Control, aware of the passenger trains schedule, replies to Joe that he is cleared to Franks Hill. He is to hold there until cleared further. He sighs and shrugs... At least he tried. Throttling out of Track 4 onto the mainline, he begins to head North again.

As Joe pulls onto the mainline, Bill Bell, an Engineer on 2106, a train originating at the Luna Lake mines, calls on the radio, also asking for clearance North beyond Amherst. 2106 is running the daily ore train from Luna Lake to the refinery up in Thomson Bay. This train is considered a higher priority freight as per the agreement the rail company has with the mining company. It is however not as high priority as the passenger service. Joe again sighs and takes a sip of coffee from his mug. Some days the schedules just don't work to his favor he thinks to himself. Control gives 3106 clearance to the switch point on the Luna Lake spur for the time being. Joe can predict what will happen next, but stays silent.

It isn't very long at all until Joe is passing the Mile 8 switch to Luna Lake, the aspect facing him prior to passing, a solid yellow over red, changing to a green over red at the last moment, before switching to red over red as Joes locomotive passes the signal, and rumbles over the trailing points of the switch. Just as Joe thought... as the radio crackles in. "1211, you are cleared to Hannah Siding, take the siding when you arrive and hold." Yup! They are rolling him through to the manually controlled siding to wait for both the ore train and the passenger train. Oh well... at least it is a nice enough day.

Joe guides 1211 down the winding mainline towards Hannah Siding and stops just short of the signal and switch, which is a Red over flashing Amber. "Diverge"... The conductor gets out and throws the switch as Joe eases it into the siding slowly. The siding, being so poorly maintained, causes the train to rock and sway slightly as it creeks in along the older ties. With the train clear of the mainline, the conductor radios in to Control that we are clear after throwing the switch back to the mainline and locking it. He then walks up to the front of the train to wait until he has to throw the North end switch. Being a conductor sucks sometimes, thought Joe, watching his co-worker walk the length of the train from his roost in the locomotives cab.

Not five minutes go by before we hear the rumble and horn chimes from the passenger train, and it passes through Hannah like the wind. Not ten minutes later, the deeper rumble of the ore train can be heard, and it thunders past them, Bill Bell giving them a shave and a haircut sounding of his horn as he passes. Well that wasn't so bad, thought Joe. As the Ore train trailed out of sight, he radioed Control for permission to continue. Control gave him clearance the rest of the way to Amherst, and the small light beside the track switched from Red, to flashing Amber. This siding, being manually controlled, relied on the conductor to throw the switch. Therefore it didn't give solid indications on stop and go based upon the switch. Joe rang the locomotives bell, and the conductor waved at him and then went to throw the switch. Once it was thrown the conductor gave Joe a wave and stepped back, as Joe throttled up and slowly pulled the train back onto the mainline. Once clear, the conductor radioed Joe that he was clear, and Joe stops the train. The conductor throws the switch back to normal, and then locks it. He then walks back to the cab and once he hops on, Joe is throttling up again to head North.

The 1211 is roaring to life as it begins to climb from a stop coming out of Hannah's siding. The small grade it now climbs is extra stressful because of their slow speed. The trip to the siding has added about an hour to their schedule. Cresting the hill they power towards Ora. Now traveling downgrade, they gain speed quickly, and while they begin to speed slightly, Joe ignores the breaks, allowing the train to gain some speed. He does however ease off the throttle as they pass the speed limit. Approaching Ora they pass a Green over Red aspect, and then an Amber aspect on the North side of the siding. Those reluctantly forces Joe to apply the breaks to lap. The train begins to compress and slow down to medium speed. In this case 25km/h. Joe maintains this speed as he approaches the yard, as he knows his supervisor is likely near the yard at this time of the day.

Rounding the bend, he sees Amherst yard through the trees before him, and radios the yardmaster for instructions as to which track he wants the train on. The yard is busy today. The yard job is working the South end with a rake of cars, blocking the ladder track. The yardmaster instructs Joe to maintain on the mainline through the yard, and then reverse in from the North, backing his consist into the North end of Track 5. Joe then radios Control asking for the further permission on the mainline to conduct a yard move. Control then gives him permission and clearance for no more than 1km North of the North switch for the Amherst yard.

Joe drops his conductor off at the switch, at the North End of the yard. He will not throw this switch, but he will hop on the rear car once it passes, and side it back into the yard to help guide Joe in. He will also have to throw the switch on Track 5 to guide Joe into the track. With his conductors help Joe safely backs his train onto Track 5 and clears the mainline. Another job done, and another day logged on the books.

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