Pennsylvania Southern Railroad


As the Pennsylvania Southern is a reasonably large layout, considerable attention has been given to its operation.  Trains are run in a nominal sequence without a fast clock, this is because over the road running and yard and switching operations operate on very different time scales.  As we have lots of all of these sorts of operations, a classic schedule makes no sense.  Also, it takes many evenings to run through the entire sequence of trains.  For these reasons, the sequence is graphically represented by a string diagram, click here to see it.

We use an Employee Timetable that was created by crew member Greg McCartney in the image of a B&O Monongah Division timetable.  The schedules in the timetable are an artifact of the requirements for the National Model Railroad Association Achievement Program’s Chief Dispatcher Certificate and, as noted above, are not observed during our sessions.  The time table in its printable form resides in two Microsoft Publisher files, one for the cover and one for the interior pages.  In its printed form it is 4.25 inches wide by 8 inches long.  I have generated a PDF version that includes the cover and all pages that is convenient for viewing on screen but not for printing, click here to see it.  If you want the Microsoft Publisher documents, let me know and I’ll send them along. 

Here is a link to a PDF file of a PowerPoint presentation I have prepared as a clinic for delivery at several meetings.  It has been updated in October 2014 to include a limited track diagram with photos pointing to locations on the diagram as well as expanded fiddle staging comments.

Operations on the Pennsylvania Southern

For those new to operation, here is a a link to a PDF file of a PowerPoint presentation that describes some of the issues those getting started in operations may wish to consider.

Getting Started in Operations

Also check the Listen link for audio recordings of the radio chatter from our operating sessions.

Dispatcher Log Program

In the July, 2007 issue of Scale Rails, the NMRA monthly magazine, I published a short article describing a database I developed to track operators’ progress toward meeting the operating requirements for the NMRA’s Chief Dispatcher certificate.  As one might expect, there have been requests for a copy of the database.  Rather than email it to every requester, I have chosen to post it here for download.  The file is about 1.1 MB and should download quickly if you have a broadband connection.

There are a few things you should know before you start using the database.

This file is a Microsoft Excel document saved in a format that should work with versions 1997 to the present.  It contains macros that are necessary to realize the full value of the database.  If you security software raises a fuss when you try to download the file, that may be why.  You have my word that these macros are not going to damage your computer or its contents.  You may have to adjust settings in Excel in order to use the macros.  I also assume that you have a working knowledge of the various sheets within an Excel workbook and how to manipulate them. 

The file contains three sheets.  The first, “Raw Data”, is where you can enter data.  As downloaded, the file is fully populated with the operating data from our layouts.  Feel free to delete the data to start over with your data.  There is one major caution.  There are four columns, F, H, I, and J, that contain calculations.  Columns F, H, and I are hidden.  If you delete all the contents of the sheet, these columns will be gone and you will have nothing.  Delete with care and caution 

On this sheet, enter the layout name, date, train description, NMRA job code, time on duty, time off duty, and operator.  Column J calculates the time on duty in hours.  The hidden columns just my way of dealing with the odd way in which Microsoft handles time manipulation.  I welcome any better ways to do this!  The button at the top of the sheet activates a macro that can be used to sort the data by time and date. 

The second sheet, “NMRA Form”, contains selected fields from the Raw Data sheet.  These fields (excluding the Crew field) are those used on the Chief Dispatcher Statement of Qualifications.  The data are all copied from the Raw Data sheet.  DO NOT DELETE, ENTER, OR SORT DATA ON THIS SHEET.  If you do, the whole sheet will become all messed up and unusable.  If you must sort the data, do it on the Raw Data sheet as the results will appear sorted on the NMRA Form sheet.  This sheet is set up to allow the use of filters.  To see what any one operator has done, select the drop down menu at the top of the Crew column and select the operator in question.  The data can then be copied to a form of your own creation that you can use as part of the SOQ. 

The third sheet, “Summary”, will present an operator by operator summary of how many hours each has in each operating category.  Click the Update button (another macro) to update this list.  I am not certain there is not a bug lurking somewhere in here so if you see something that does not look right you may not be doing anything wrong.  Just let me know what is happening so I can try to fix it.

I am not a software engineer so this whole thing is probably not done as well as a professional might do it.  I created this for my own use then was encouraged to write about it and share it.  I welcome any suggestions for improvement. 

There is one final note.  As I stated in the magazine article, this database computes operating time from start to finish of each run.  Except for yardmasters and dispatchers it does not credit time off between runs.  Obviously, this makes record keeping easier.  The NMRA Achievement Program Executive Assistant Manager, Frank Koch, is the gentleman who passes final judgment on every SOQ filed for approval.  He has told me that he reads the rules to mean that an operator should be credited for the full time that the operator is in attendance at a session regardless of time spent at the throttle.  Obviously, that is a bit more liberal than the way the database calculates time.  For hard core operators, however, the difference quickly becomes moot.  I’m sure Frank won’t reject your SOQ if it has too many conservatively measured hours. 

If all the information above has not scared you away, right click here, select “Save Link As...” or something similar depending on your browser, and follow the prompts.  I think you will find this database a handy way to keep track of activity on your layout.

Cab Throttle Addresses

This sheet keeps track of the addresses assigned to the NCE throttles used interchangeably on the Pennsylvania Southern and Lin Young’s Grafton and Greenbrier.


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