Ragnar's HO Model Trains Weeb Site Ragnar's HO Model Trains Weeb Site
Freight Trains
High-priority, General merchandise and Way freights

Carring freight has always been the bread and butter of the trains

High-priority freights         Train Operations Page

carry important goods that must reach their destination at a ceoain time, goods such as food or first-class mail. Schedules are fcist with v" little switching

General merchandise freights         Train Operations Page

carry almost any kind of non-priority cargo. These trains are often long with many kinds of cars; switching may be done at most yards along the way

Way freights         Train Operations Page

switch nearly all spurs and sidings along a route. They relay their cars to main yards where the cars are put on high-priority or general merchandise freights

Because way freights are neither fast nor glamorous, they are sometimes snubbed by model railroaders. Way freights, though, are a vital facet of railroad operation-both prototype and model.

The way freight is often the first and last link in the chain of movements that sends a freight car from one end of the country to another. Cars that have been brought to a terminal yard by through freights must be forwarded to their final destination by the way freight, and vice versa. The way freight must move cars fror,n industries to a yard where they can be picked up by, or assembled into, a through freight.

A way freight usually does not have a fixed set of cars. One day it may start out with only a locomotive and caboose and pick up some cars along the way. The next day it may start out with 2 cars or 10 cars. The freight cars in the way freight are called pickups and setouts, de- pending on their routing. They are either set out or picked up at local industries, team tracks, or freight stations. The caboose is the office where the conductor keeps records of all the shipping movements and directs the crews.

Handling a few pickups and setouts can take hours of time. Some switching may be done at nearly every spur and siding along the line. For this reason a typical way freight may cover only a few miles of route. Because it is difficult for the way freight to maintain an exact schedule, it is often classed as an "extra" by the dispatcher. An extra doesn't have a schedule to follow, but it must get out of the way of any train that does.

Here's where the challenge and interest of the way-freight operation lie. The crew needs to plan movements like a game of chess. Cars must be set out and picked up like pawns. The men must think about the time required to do each job and plan each move so they can be out of the way when a passenger or through freight hurries by.

In model raiiroading a system of waybilling is optional: Some like it, some don't. However, switching is important to the model railroad because it makes for interesting operation, creates realism, and effectively "lengthens" your railroad in terms of time spent out on the road. And the planning and execution of switching moves is often more fascinating than one might think.

Most switching rnaneuvers fall into two categories: those at trailing-point turnouts (switchpoints trailing in the direction in which the train is traveling) and those at facing-point turnouts (switchpoints facing the direction of travel). And combinations of the two at a location can make for some enjoyable probiem-solving when switching.

On the prototype, some preliminary sorting may be done in the yards before the way freight leaves to help the engineer and conductor get the job done. This is called "blocking." For a way freight, the first cars to be set out are usually "blocked" closest to the engine, except for cars destined to facing-point spurs. These cars are placed closer to the caboose. At each stop the cars are dropped off in order and pickups are placed just ahead of the caboose. When the train reaches the end of its run, all the cars are pickups, which will be blocked by the yard crew for the next train out.

Way-freight operation can be duplicated easily on model railroads, with a few industrial spurs and a couple of runaround tracks. On doubie-track main line, two crossovers can act as runarounds. You can do other things to make operation of way freights more interesting: You can put switchbacks and crossed spurs in the track design, and you can locate more than one industry on the same siding. To reach the "hidden" industry you must switch the cars that are in the way.

The locomotive must run around the train at a convenient siding, then push the car to be set out (solid color) into the spur. If the facing-point spur is some distance away, the locomotive may take the whole trciin along.

Trailing-point spurs are easiest to switch. The caboose is usually lieft on the main line, especicilly if several moves are involved. (NOTE: Cars to be set out are solid color.)

Industry A is located on a switchback. A locomotive will have to make cin extra move to reach ecirs at A; cars at B may have to be moved to do this To recich the car at "hidden" industry C, cars at industry B will have to be switched out of the way if they are not ready to be picked up themselves

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2005 December 28