Photo journal of today's operating brass RS11 really needs some paint and weathering!

The 318 is parked at its usual spot behind McMinn Asphalt

Heading east across Commerce Street...

and passing Dal-Tile.  No work here today...

Our crew pauses at Packaging Corporation of America to unlock and remove derails.  The storage siding is in the foreground, dock track is to the rear.

The 318 ties onto today's inbound cars, left on the interchange by CSXT. 

Watching from Ann Street as the crew inspects the cars and performs a brake test

The crew pulls the inbounds down to the fouling point, then uncouples.

They grab the two CSXT boxcars off the siding...

and couple them to the inbounds.

With all the loads now coupled together into one string, the crew begins classifying cars using the main and siding.  The starch hopper is not needed today; it goes onto the siding.  The GT car is to be spotted at the dock, and it too goes onto the siding temporarily.

The FBOX goes to the warehouse; it is set out on the main.

The CN car goes to the dock.  The ELS box is not needed.  Both go on the siding for now.

Finally, the two CSX boxcars (both going to the warehouse) are coupled to the FBOX.  The crew shoves the three loads down the main, clear of the warehouse switch.  They leave room for one more car between the three cars and the switch. 

They left room on the main because this CSXT hi-cube spotted at the warehouse is a partial load that needs respotted.  The crew pulls this car from the warehouse and throws it out on the main with the other loads.

With the CSXT respot out of the way, the crew can pull the empties from the warehouse spur.

They couple back to the loads on the main, then spot them at the warehouse.  Some jockeying is required to get the car doors lined up with the warehouse doors.

Still holding on to the empties from the warehouse, the crew goes down to the dock to pull two more empties there.

Making the joint...

All the empties are now set out on the interchange for pickup by CSXT.

Having dropped the empties, the crew returns to the siding.  They uncouple the starch car and leave it on the siding, taking the three boxcars with them.

Now it's a simple move to spot the GT and CN cars at the dock.

Finally, the crew pulls back with the ELS car (remember it wasn't requested today)...

and places it back on the siding with the starch hopper.

The crew shuts down the 318 and climbs off.  They'll complete their day at another switching operation across town.


  1. Very nice, clearly shows how a simple track arrangement might not be so simple. The weathering on your box cars is just fantastic. Can you show us how it is done? Particularly the rust effect on the roofs.


  2. The more I see your work the more I keep thinking of switching to O scale. Like Joe said, the weathering is so realistic! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Looking good Jack! Since you're using manual uncoupling, I'm curious as to how you determine the distance between tracks. Is O scale large enough that scale distances are workable or are you added some extra space?

  4. Very nice description (and photos) of a typical operating session on your layout Jack. Love that RS-11!

    Clearly demonstrates just how much prototypical operation is available on a small ISL.

    I'm pretty much at the same stage as you are, although I've only placed one building mock up on the layout. Track is temporarily pinned in place and I've been doing a lot of operating on it and am very pleased with how well it's working out. A typical session on my 20 foot long ISL taking 45 minutes and longer to complete.

    To sort of answer Mark's question; I too manually uncouple every thing (HO scale) and will even have structures placed between the track and the layout edge (the one building mock up). I have no problems at all with manual uncoupling. Always have manually uncoupled on any layout I've ever started and it's never been a problem.

    Really enjoy following the progress of your layout.

    Best regards,

  5. Wow Jack, you continue to amaze me.

    A couple of simple operations type questions if you will:

    1) Where/when are "derailers" typically installed? I assume they are to prevent cars "parked" in the industry from inadvertantly rolling out onto the main; but does the "storage" track have them too?

    2) The Brake test you menetioned -- how often is it performed? Just the once when new cars are delivered, or is one performed every time a car is hooked up?

    Great site and thanks so much for sharing. Dave O

  6. Thanks for your comments guys!

    Hi Mark: After a lot of testing, I found that a distance of 2.5 inches between parallel tracks works best for me. The NCIR is around 55 inches off the floor, and the 2.5 inch track spacing allows me to uncouple and read car numbers with no problems. If the benchwork were lower, I could have went with a little closer spacing.

    Dave: Exactly, the hinge-type derails are located on spurs to keep any errant cars from fouling the main. At the real plant (and on my NCIR) there are derails on each spur and on the storage tracks.

    The when and why of brake tests can get pretty complicated, but basically a test is performed when a train is made up at an initial terminal and/or when cars are added en-route. When picking up cars en-route, usually each car is tested/inspected before pulling them from a siding. After the cars are added to the train, the crew will set the airbrakes on the entire train and release them, observing that brake pressure on the rear car of the train drops when the brakes are applied and returns to 90 PSI when the brakes are released, thus ensuring continuity.

    Industrial switching operations like the NCIR usually perform an air test on the inbound cars received on the interchange before moving them. After coupling and charging the air, a conductor would walk the cars and inspect each one for any defects, at the same time checking to make sure all brakes were applied. Then, the conductor would have the engineer release the brakes. The cars are walked again (on the opposite side of the train) to make sure all brakes released. This way both sides of the train are inspected. If a defect was identified, the NCIR would set the car out and either repair it themselves and charge CSX or notify CSX to send a repair person out.

    Hope that helps!


  7. Indeed it does Jack! Thanks so much! :)

  8. *
    Loving your pictures and the creative and authentic way you have put your story across - you're an inspiration and I am following your journey - awesome work!

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