I have been working on an overall pattern of operation for my layout, which models a mythical Southern Pacific branch line, and also includes a segment of the Coast Division main line. This means that through freight and passenger trains pass by the branch line junction at Shumala on the main line, but only the locals and turns would do any switching there.
I received an interesting question from Brian Moore in England, about the frequency and type of trains passing and stopping on my main line, as well as how they would be switched (e.g, whether there would be an allocated switcher, or would the train loco do the work, etc). I have touched on these questions in prior posts, but haven’t pulled it all together in one place, so I’ll endeavor to answer Brian and also give some links to the prior posts which touch on this subject.
On my layout, the junction of the main line and the branch, called Shumala, is only a few miles south of Oceano and accordingly is not a train-order station (for a brief discussion of my layout locale, here’s the previous post about it: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/01/layout-design-locale.html ). The depot therefore houses an agent but not an operator. For that reason, there is of course no train-order signal at the depot.
Moreover, passenger trains, even the mail train, would not ordinarily stop there (I might consider occasional flag stops.) In daylight hours, there were just two trains: the Daylight in both directions, and the mail train in both directions. I’ve discussed the trains themselves in an earlier post (see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/01/modeling-freight-traffic-coast-line.html ).
As I’ve pointed out previously, SP practice on most divisions was to operate through freights, that is, freights which ran from division point to division point, without any intermediate switching. These were usually scheduled trains, with additional sections, and sometimes extra trains, as needed. I will duplicate this on my main line by having freights which simply pass by Shumala in both directions.
The mainline schedule therefore shows, in effect, the freight and passenger trains which pass Shumala without interacting. I have cut and pasted from various SP prototype employee timetables to achieve the content I want. My timetable deviates from the prototype in 1953, in that I have shown the westward scheduled freight trains from a year or so earlier. (By 1953 westward freights on this subdivision were all extra trains, although still operating at about the same times; in other words, my schedule does reproduce a correct number of trains and their times.)
I have also included non-prototypical data for the mythical Santa Rosalia Branch (bottom of schedule), and of course for Shumala on the main line. The number of stations on the subdivision has been seriously compressed; the stations omitted are not on the layout anyway. Here is my timetable in its present form:
This timetable provides the basic framework for my mainline operations.
I should mention that although there are four first-class and four second-class trains shown in each direction in this timetable, these operate around the clock. For daylight hours of operation, which is my practice, those scheduled freights operated in late night or very early morning hours would not be seen, leaving me with at most two scheduled freights and two scheduled passenger trains in each direction, during daytime.
There was another pattern on most SP divisions, that a “turn” would be operated to switch most industries between a division point, and a town about half-way to the adjoining division point. The train would operate to that turnaround town and then return to the division point. In my area of the Coast Division, there would be turns out of San Luis Obispo north (railroad west) to King City and south (railroad east) to Surf. From Santa Barbara, there would be a corresponding turn to Surf, and from the north, there would be a King City turn from Watsonville Junction. At Shumala, the only turn encountered would be the Surf turn from San Luis.
Supplementing the turns would be local freights to serve areas with more intensive work, enough that a turn might be overloaded with work from that one area. From San Luis Obispo, a Guadalupe local operated eastward, relieving the Surf turn of the switching at Oceano and Guadalupe and also handling much of the interchange traffic with the Santa Maria Valley Railroad. This Guadalupe local would be the source of traffic to and from the branch at Shumala. I discussed these non-schedule freights in a previous post (link at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/01/modeling-freight-traffic-coast-line_17.html ).
In busy harvest seasons, there were two Guadalupe locals a day, one departing San Luis at mid-morning and one at mid-evening. These would return to San Luis, respectively, in the early evening, and about dawn. The bulk of the work of the local train(s) would be perishables, both setting out empties and picking up loads, and since the predominant crop in the area is vegetables, harvesting spreads over a long season. I have presented information on these Santa Maria-area vegetable crops and their seasons in a previous post (see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/08/few-words-on-packing-houses-and-produce.html ).
This means that in my normal operating session, which is in daylight hours from early morning to late afternoon, there could already be cars set out at Shumala by the previous night’s local, ready for switching, even before the morning local arrives. Or for simplicity, I can operate just the one morning local. But in the hours I operate, I will only see one local, the morning one outbound from San Luis Obispo. The Surf turn would simply pass by, since local work in the area of Shumala is the responsibility of the Guadalupe local, not the turn.
The likely arrangement of how the local would pick up and set out cars for the branch would be for the local’s locomotive to do that. This would mean that the cars to be picked up would be already be sorted and made ready for pickup. Shumala is only 17 miles from San Luis Obispo, so it would certainly be a logical possibility to switch the branch as a job out of San Luis. It might leave San Luis as a caboose hop and then work Shumala and the entire branch, returning also as a caboose hop, or it could handle some cars between San Luis and Shumala.
But there is also another possibility, that a locomotive (or two) might be stationed at the branch, as SP did with some branch lines elsewhere on the system. In that case, all switching at Shumala would likely be done by the branch locomotive, permitting the Guadalupe local to simply pick up and drop off.
I’ve chosen this possibility, and accordingly have locomotive servicing facilities at Shumala (I have briefly described what I’m doing and planning to do with my engine terminal, and progress to date, in a previous post at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/04/modeling-engine-terminal.html ). The Shumala locomotive(s) would be responsible for switching, but would probably be a road locomotive such as a Consolidation, not a switcher, since it has to operate the entire branch.
This then is the skeleton of my operating pattern. It is subject to modification as operating progresses, but for now it feels realistic and is practical to carry out. Those, of course, are important goals for any operating scheme.