GSC Handbook Garden State Central
Model Railroad Club

Yard Switching (1 of 2)

In an attempt to operate our railroad many modelers are overwhelmed when it comes time to operate a large yard. Actually it is easier than it looks, and can provide hours of enjoyment if it is approached with the proper attitude.

Take Elizabethport Yard, next to Jersey City's passenger terminal, on the Garden State Central. (Many of you would add the word, "please," to sentence.) Like most large yards, it consists of several smaller sub-yards, each of which is handled by itself. If we look at each one separately, none of them, individually, need terrify us. This is not only the best way to operate them, but it is how they were built.

The yard has its own control panel, and a walk-around cab so that you can make almost all of the required movements all by yourself; and that is a good way to learn how to do it, by yourself.

The purpose of this yard is not to store cars, but to sort or classify them. With any given number of cars in the yard, some are bound for industries in the city, and the rest are destined for places up or down the line. We use a car-tack system to "flag," or indicate to the operators where the cars are going. In general, any car with a GREEN tack on it is headed for some place in E'port or Jersey City, and the rest are headed westward.

Before we can start switching, we need to get a crew to go over to the engine terminal and bring out a switch engine. If we are alone, we will have to do this ourselves, or the operator at JC's panel can send us one. At any rate, when nothing else is moving in the freight yard, and all other engines are clear of the yard, and isolated in the engine terminal, we spot the switcher in front of sand-house on the engine terminal departure track; throwing the switch for that track from the JC panel, we can pull out of the engine terminal onto the east yard lead. We stop and restore the engine terminal switch.

The first thing we always want to do is to clear 2 tracks through the yard so that we can easily get from one end of it to the other, and so another train can get into, or out of, or go through the yard while we are working. Since the rear most track in the yard is almost the shortest and since it connects to both ways in and out of the engine terminal, we should always try to keep it clear. If it isn't do so now.

The second track we want to clear is the front track, since it connects with the main lines west or "RU", and with all of the 4 trains on these hidden loops, as a simulated interchange with other, connecting railroads, but we will ALWAYS want to keep 1 of them to use as a switching lead. The most convenient one to use is the inside loop, since we then do not have to use as many of the cross-over switches at Brill.

Another reason for clearing the front track through the yard is that we will also be using it as a switching lead when working in the Communipaw area, dumping coal, and switching the car-float and other industries connected to only that track, at a later time.

If we throw the toggle on the JC panel for the east end of the yard UP, and turn the Green Cab OFF (Black Onboard/DC toggle), and tie the inside loop to the freight yard with its red toggle, we can now use the Elizabethport Panel and the walk-around throttle to switch with. What-ever other JC toggles are up will also be connected to our controls.

Now we can begin to switch the cars in the yard. The easiest way to do so is to look at the cars in the yard, and see how many have Green car-tacks. These will eventually be classified onto 2 tracks, one with odd-numbered tacks and one with even-numbers, in numerical order; lower odd numbers to the west and lower even numbers to the east. This is to facilitate spotting the cars with as few moves as possible.

Cars with tacks for points up the line are to be considered as "rush" or priority shipments. These can be sorted so that all cars for each destination are "blocked" together, and even blocked in numerical order as we did for the Green JC cars; this will save on the crews at these points some switching moves. However, often we will not have time to do all of this in time to make the next train due out, and we will let the other yards worry about that.

Through freights between Jersey City and Bethlehem, as well as between other points, generally should not exceed certain "tonnages," which we define as the distance between uncoupling ramps on our longest yard tracks. In Jersey City these 2 tracks are the 3rd and 4th in from the aisle, and are Departure Tracks. If we place all the out-of-town tacked cars on one of them, we may be able to add some more cars to fill it, and not exceed the tonnage ratings for a train. Untacked cars can then go out, as well. Just remember to leave enough room for a caboose as the last car, between the ramps.

If the yard is really full, we may wish to make up a second train right away, or at least begin to. When a departure track is full, except for one car-length, spot a caboose on the end to signify that the through freight train is made up and ready to depart.

Then you can call a crew, in the same manner as you did when bringing the switcher out of the engine terminal. In addition, you should obtain the engine number(s) of the locomotive, and inform the dispatcher of it, and the number of cars, and where the cars are bound. He will create a Train Order for the train, and give it authority to leave the yard by sending the Train Order to you and to the other towers that the train will pass.

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