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Where’s that?

The GNRR North Local crew spots a tank car at the Westoak siding. Crews that work the line everyday know the different locations, but how do new crew members know where Westoak is on the railroad?

Tom Holley’s father Odie, a long time professional railroader, told Tom when he was beginning his career on the railroad, there are two things you need to know, “where you are, and what you’re doing”. Truer words have never been spoken. Knowing where you are is critical on the railroad for safe operation and proper spotting of cars. Prototype railroads provide crews with track diagrams and every track is named or identified. Many times the names of the tracks don’t make sense today as the feature or industry they were named for has long disappeared. Tradition dies hard on the railroad. Depending on the railroad, these track diagrams can be identified by different names. On the Santa Fe, the trackage diagrams are known as Car Location Identity Codes (CLIC). These track diagrams are a guide to crews for locating customer and yard tracks. The Santa Fe assigns a 6 digit code for each track, the first two numbers are the zone, the second two the track number, and the last two digits are the car spot (if necessary). On Norfolk Southern (NS), crews have access to a NS Industry Reference Guide. Each industry is assigned an alpha numeric code and a track diagram is included to identify car spots, derails, industry gates, and close clearance locations. These documents are used to orient new crew members to the industry locations and hazards.

On our model railroads we also need to name and identify every track on the railroad. While the layout owner may be familiar with each industry and track name, it is important for first time guest operators to also know the locations and names. Track diagrams can be made and placed on the fascia to assist operators. In addition, industry name tags can also be made to help operators identify the industries. Signs on the structures are another easy way to pinpoint the industries on your layout. Many prototype structures have signs to promote their business to customers, photos or scans of these company signs can be copied and reduced down to the proper scale and placed on our model structures.

I made my track diagrams using Microsoft Windows Paint, an accessory program that comes with the Microsoft suite of programs. It can be found under the Windows Accessories tab, and is relatively easy to learn. Recently Ron Marsh, of Ron’s Trains N Things, made a YouTube tutorial video on using the program to crate track diagrams. Here is a link to his video.

I chose to make the track diagrams based on blocks that I use to issue clearance on the Track Authority Block Sheet. Each track diagram identifies every track and industry in the block. Once I had the track diagrams done, I laminated them using peel and stick, 4 mil thick, self-adhesive laminating sheets. These sheets protect the track diagrams and allowed me to use double side tape to mount them to the fascia. Now crews can quickly refer to the track diagram for each block to double check the location of a track or industry. This simple project pays off when crews don’t have to ask, “Where’s that?”, now they know.

Until next time, stay safe and know where you are.

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Michael Armstrong
Michael Armstrong
Sep 02, 2020

Good information, Tom. Thank you for posting this.

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