Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Ten Ways I Added Play-Value to the Hanley Spur

In a previous operations post on this blog and a similar running trains post on my Kingston's Hanley Spur blog, I discussed how operations on my HO-scale home layout work. Those post were published after building my current layout iteration and operating it for awhile. While wanting to publish some recent wrinkles in operation to my Hanley Spur blog, I decided the details fit better on this blog. The Hanley Spur blog is history, research and the results in my modelling, but here on Trackside Treasure, it's 100% trains, 100% of the time. So here we are. Check out that CN baggage car spotted at the CN Express building, near the Montreal Street CN Outer Station (top photo).

Just as I'd like to call my model railway a 'vast transportation empire concerned with the timely movement of goods in and out of 1970's Kingston' let's face it. We're playing trains. And just as I'd like to describe the layout's operations as a 'carefully choreographed movement of trains and cars serving shippers and connecting to a vast regional and national network' let's be real. We're playing trains. So while playing trains, shouldn't we be concerned with 'continually enhancing and revising operations to suit shippers, make train runs more efficient and drive down the operating ratio' let's just say we'd like to add more play-value.

Hanley Spur operations do not involve a coal mine or terminal grain elevator with long strings of cars. It's loose-car or single-car railroading. Put-and-takes, one in/one out. This can get a little mindless, even for someone who likes operations. An earlier operational wrinkle for the six spots at the CN freight shed was a "great new deal". Here are ten new ways I've added play value recently, with photos and descriptions following:

1. Off-spot cars on CP siding.
2. Add-a-car to longer spurs.
3. Choose cars from CN interchange.
4. Make a run to CN interchange.
5. Deal out an industry from the CP sequence.
6. Lift an industry without setting-out.
7. Check the CN yard for what's needed.
8. Reload home road empties for back-haul.
9. Make cars appear from unmodelled industries.
10. Set-out two short cars in a one-car spot.

Some CP industries have loads in (MacCosham, Anglin) while others have loads out (Cohen, Woolen Mill). If those loads arrive in home-road CP cars, I will give them loads as back-haul. While waiting for their next spot to load, I stash them in the CP run-around track and write "Off-Spot" on their car card. Once spotted, I cross that out. This also happens if more than one car is brought in by CP for an industry with one car spot.

To break the one in/one out cycle, on spurs that can accommodate more than one car, I'll sometimes set out one and not lift the previous one, leaving two on the spur. They'll both be lifted from Imperial Oil's limestone warehouse next trip.

Rather than setting out and lifting all cars to/from mainline CN freights  at the 'interchange', I will sometimes lift fewer than I set out. 'Cherry-picking' needed cars, such as the SP gon, not it and the CN car of steel, adds play value.

Rather than lifting and setting-out from the CN mainline at the interchange on a regular switching run, sometimes I'll make a special run. In addition to the normal switching cycle, here's an interchange run arriving back at the Outer Station yard.

I can only switch half to a third of my CP industries due to space constraints on the run-around track. So I switch the industries in sequence, say the top five industries' cars in the CP Industries pile of cards. Sometimes I'll reshuffle the top card or two to the back. In this way, I'm not switching the very same five or six industries repeatedly in exactly the same sequence.

I normally decide which industries to switch by having one car to lift, with one to set out. If I don't have one to set out, I'll sometimes lift the car regardless. Two cars of minerals are heading to Frontenac Floor & Wall Tile, without a CP car to lift from this jointly-switched CN/CP industry.

Just as a car-checker used to wander the yard with a pad and pencil, I'll sometimes go through the CN Yard card-pile with a post-it note stuck alongside the CN industry list. Hashmarks denote the number of cars in the yard waiting to be spotted at an industry. Horizontal dashes mean there's none. Those dashes alert me to which cars I need to grab for the next draft of cars to be set-out from the mainline to the Hanley Spur!

Just as I mentioned the CP Off-Spot cars held on the CP siding above, CN industries that bring in home-road car loads like Presland Steel or CN Express make empties. Those empties are stored in the CN yard, or switched at once to nearby industries that generate loads, like the tannery (above) or the CN Freight shed.

I don't have room to model the full length of the Hanley Spur, so the lead further downtown ends at the freight shed. It's one of the only tracks without a stopblock. Sometimes, cars with Really Big Things or finished locomotives appear at the end of this track, to be lifted by the next CN run downtown. Normally, empties are set out for the Shipyards or CLC, but not always!

Once I realized that the 1970's (and earlier) involved lots of tank cars and still more coal hoppers, I needed more of both. I made an online purchase for seven of these diminutive Proto tank cars. They're so short that two of them fit into a one-car spot!

I'm sure I'll find some more play-value pieces of the puzzle as I go along. I'm actively looking for them. These are not the traditional 'set out a bad-order car' or 'run a circus train' event cars that some big layouts use to generate different movements. These are an a much smaller, micro scale. That's the nature of single-car railroading in Kingston, back in the day!

Running extra...
The end of the buffer car era is at hand. Speaking of the end, check out uberVIAphile Mark Sampson's photo of the first unbuffered No 1 about to depart Toronto Union on Sunday the 21st, classic VIA drumhead and all (well, try not to look at the 'paddle'). In case you're not interested or aware, VIA was mandated by a Transport Canada ministerial order to operated unoccupied cars on either end of HEP stainless-steel consists, way back in mid-October. I'm proud, though bemused, to say this was Trackside Treasure's longest-running, continuously-updated post

Boy, have I ever seen this screen a lot:
Frankly, I was deathly afraid of deleting this long-running post inadvertently. Every time the post was open, and I was documenting another buffer car on another VIA train, I realized that I was always one or two keystrokes away from zapping the whole post. A wrinkle in Blogger's software, the backing-up time is down to milliseconds. I suppose I could continually save it as a Draft. But instead, I copied and pasted into an article that is slated to appear in Bytown Railway Society's Branchline magazine in the coming months!
Though there were complaints about the needlessness/cost/political agenda nature of the buffer-car implementation, I think that once the Siemens trains are operating in the Corridor, unendingly, we will wallow in nostalgia of this just-past era. Just for fun, here is a visual reminder of the End Times, when the red-shaded cars were being removed from Corridor HEP sets on May 17th: To paraphrase an old expression, now it's just 'Buffer Down the Well'.


JasonPaulSailer said...

Sure glad the buffer car phase has ended for VIA - be great to see the Park cars when I go east this summer.

You have an interesting model layout there! I often wonder how people determine which cars go where on their layouts. I find it a bit confusing but I am sure there is a reason for how its done! :)

Eric said...

Yes, I had mixed feelings about seeing the buffer cars go, Jason. And when they went, they went quickly!

In terms of moing cars on the layout, it's about matching industries to cars in one's fleet. Then, it's about cycling them on-and-off and not forgetting about them in a box! I have two ways of doing that...looking in the car box, or looking in the car-card box to see which ones haven't been used in awhile. I specialize in 'loose-car railroading'!

Thanks for your comment,

JasonPaulSailer said...

Thanks Eric!