I explained in the last article how our train crews consist of one, two, or three operators playing the roles of conductor, engineer, and switchman. There are other jobs for our operators to perform when we have more operators available than we need to crew all of our trains. I will describe these jobs in the order of their importance for our operations.


The dispatcher assigns crews to trains and other operators to any other jobs that need to be filled. As crews deliver cars to their destinations, they bring the marked washers or loads to the dispatcher. The dispatcher uses a form to keep track of job assignments and to mark credit to train crews for each car delivered. For more information on what we do on the Lake Town & Shire with this record of car delivery credit, see the article on the company store. You can download the dispatcher form we use here. Since our operating sessions are divided into two one-hour sessions with a snack break in the middle, our dispatcher form has two sections so jobs can be reassigned after the break. After marking credit for cars delivered, the dispatcher hands the shipping washers and delivered loads off to the shipper for reuse. Often, one person does the jobs of both the dispatcher and the shipper.


We must have someone perform the role of shipper during our operations. It is the task of the shipper to place the marked washers and loads on empty cars. In doing this, the operator is providing shipping orders for that car load. Once a care is "loaded", train crews know to pick up the car and deliver it to its proper destination. The siding labels we use make the job of the shipper fairly simple. Look at the siding label below for one of the sidings in Hobbiton.


BOX -> B R R G D L

This label tells the shipper what to do with any car on the siding which does not have a washer or load on it. First, the code BOX tells the shipper that the industry on this siding only ships in boxcars. So any empty car on the siding of another type needs to be moved to another industry where it can be used. The shipper places a blank washer on the car to tell train crews to move the car to the next siding where it can be used. So for example, an empty flatcar should be moved to a siding where the siding label has the code FLAT on it. Second, the letters B R R G D L tell the shipper that he can place a washer with any of these letter/color combinations on any empty boxcar on the siding. These letters indicate destinations to which the industry at this siding ships.

The job of the shipper is absolutely essential. Without a shipper, an operating session would stop as soon as all the cars on the layout were moved to the destination for which they were marked at the beginning of the session. If all our young operators are assigned to train crews, then one of the adults does the shipping.


The station master controls the flow of trains through one or more stations under his control. Since our layout is single-track with return loops at either end, and there are no passing sidings between stations, it is important that trains do not meet between stations. The station masters communicate with each other to decide when trains may enter a section of track between two stations. Trains may not leave a station without the permission of the station master. The station master also tells trains coming into his station whether to take the mainline or the passing siding. To make this decision, the station master asks the conductor whether the train has cars to be delivered at his station and looks at the cars on his sidings to see whether there are cars that the arriving train should pick up. If an arriving train needs to drop off or pick up cars at a station, then it is not cleared to leave the previous station until the passing siding is available.

Smooth operations require good communication between train conductors and station masters. In some areas of our layout, the station master at one station cannot see or hear the station master at the next station because of the distance between stations and because of trees of shrubbery in the way. We provide our station masters with inexpensive walkie-talkies so they can communicate without running back and forth or shouting.

The job of the station master is important, but we do not always have enough operators to use station masters. When this happens, the conductors of the train crews must communicate with each other and coordinate movement between stations. We prefer to operate with two station masters, one controlling Gridley and Hobbiton and the other controlling Rivendell and Bree. If you take a look at the layout diagram for the Lake Town and Shire, you will see that this takes care of the longest stretches between stations.


On occasion, more than enough operators to fill our our train crews and all of our other jobs. Then we assign an operator or two to maintenance of way. These operators help with any derailments, troubleshoot any electrical problems in the layout or mechanical problems with turnouts. They also look for and correct problems with track ballast or with plants growing too close to the right-of-way. MOW workers also examine and correct problems with couplers or wheel spacing on cars that are giving problems.


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