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Operational details

The North Local switch crew has several “obstacles” to contend with before they switch Dow Chemical. From unlocking and opening the fence gate, removing the derail, and having the industry representative remove the blue flag, all of these operational details replicate a prototype procedure and add time to an operating session.

On a small layout modeler railroaders are always looking for ways to extend an operating session. One of the ways is to add operational details. On my layout I have operating overhead doors, fence gates, and derails. In addition, I have End-of-Train (EOT) devices that must be attached to the coupler of the last car in the train, and Blue Flags at industries that can only be removed by the industry representative (the layout owner). These operational details don’t take a lot of effort to do during an ops session, but it gives the crew something else to contend with before they switch an industry and slows the switching operation down.

An operating derail was made by modifying an Alexander Scale Models 120-9501 Hayes Derail set. I converted the switch stand style derail to a flip over style by drilling a hole in the derail casting at the hinge point. I trimmed off the “leg” portion of the derail casting as it is not needed and would interfere with the derail flipping over. I added two shims on top of the ties on each side of the derail at the point where the hinge pin would rest, and used a piece of .020 music wire as a hinge. I checked that the derail would properly flip over and made adjustments as necessary. I placed the derail in position on the rail, then carefully glued the hinge pin to the shims, making sure not to get any glue on the derail casting. You can also see a video under the How To tab on my website, How to build and operating gate and derail, that shows how I built the operating derail.

Recently I added a padlock to the fence gate control cover. I purchased an “L” shaped screw hook and bent the “L” portion into a loop large enough to pass a padlock hasp through. Next, I drilled a hole in the fence gate control cover (a hinged outdoor electrical outlet cover) so that the screw hook loop could pass through the cover. The padlock is one that typically comes with a suitcase and has a key to open. I placed a cup hook to hang the key on next to the cover so that crews would have easy access to it. Now when crews need to open the gate they use the key to open the cover, and then use the gate control handle to operate the gate.

Once the fence gate is opened, the derail removed, and the blue flag is taken down, the crew can then line the switch to the industry. These are the same procedures that the prototype crews must perform before they can switch Dow Chemical. Dealing with these prototypical details helps the crews feel like they are really switching the industry and keeps them focused on their job. I hope you consider adding a few operational details to your layout.

On Saturday, October 17 at 9 PM (EST) the final episode of Small layout, big opportunities, on the Model Railroading Live YouTube channel will air. The topic of the show will on operational details and super detailing. I hope you can join us for the show.

Here is a link to the Model Railroading Live YouTube channel.

Until next time, stay safe and keep them on the rails.

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1 Comment

Michael Armstrong
Michael Armstrong
Oct 12, 2020

Hi Tom: Really good information that adds to operating like the prototype. Thanks for sharing. Mike

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