Monday 23 February 2015


Today you are called for an Extra East out of Brookmere.  The Agent has handed you the consist in the form of car cards and waybills.  In a sense this is a "Switch List" or "Train List" when grouped together in order with AAR car type, load, shipper and consignee.  You note that all but one of the waybills have the blue stripe with the text: "Penticton and East" across the top. Thus, there will not be any on-line switching to do on your run today.  The one waybill without the blue stripe is an idler flat for the overhanging load which of course will stay with the Gondola load of poles to its final destination.  A straight shot to Penticton.  You note the maximum consist is 16 cars including caboose, so your 13 cars is well within the limit. You scan the "Train Card" instructions which give a brief outline of the important things that need doing before you are ready to go.  Next, over to the Roundhouse.

The locomotive foreman has assigned Engine 3628 and you are pleased to have her 'cause she's a good steamer with a power reverse. This makes switching a lot easier.  You ease your iron horse out of the roundhouse and onto the Turntable.  You do not have to turn her today, just a short move for the 'table to the vacant engine lead, then back up through all the switches to get her over to the run-through track, which is Yard Track #1.

Trundling down the track and approaching the station, the fireman rings the bell until clear of the platform.  For the rest of your switching moves in the yard, the bell is not necessary.

Backing into the Caboose track, you couple on to your conductor's early "mobile home" which is conveniently the first in line.  We try not to disturb the slumber of the occupants of the other "cabeese" or did you hear about yet another game of cards in which an unknown quantity of lucre is most probably changing hands.

You set out your caboose on Yard Track #1, then reach into Track #2 for the cars on your switch list.  Looks like you are taking everything that is going east to Penticton.

Pulling them clear of the switch, your brakeman gives you the sign for backing them onto the caboose.


You push them well into the yard track.  The caboose is almost opposite the station which is convenient for the Conductor who has been inside, talking to the Operator. 

Following the information on the waybills, two more cars are retrieved from Yard Track #3 for the train.  That should do it for the switching.  Time to pump up the air, walk down to the station to meet the Conductor, check your watches and go over the Train Orders.

Only one Order today which is a combined "Runner" and a Meet Order on No. 91.  The Dispatcher is making your life easy today by fixing a meet with the opposing Westbound.  Could be she is running late or switching in Princeton.  No need to choose where to duck into a siding for No. 91 but you would not want to delay her.  Time to go.

Two longs on the whistle and bell ringing, you slowly pull out of Brookmere, stopping or at most crawling into the clear of the Yard Lead switch to let the Brakie back on.  Remember to re-line that switch back to "Normal".

The caboose rolls by.

This has been a morning in the yard at Brookmere for an Extra East on the Kettle Valley line in September of 1949.  This is a simple run for clarity and conciseness in illustrating procedures in Brookmere yard for train crews attending our operating sessions.  Recently, construction work in the yard has produced a detailed and working Locomotive Turntable which is evident in a photo in this post.  It was a great deal of work and thus delayed the writing of this post.

Coquihalla Man

Monday 9 February 2015


Today we consider part of the operating procedures for Brookmere yard as it was worked in later steam days.  This is what we try to replicate in our operating sessions every month or two and we are pleased to report that a good time is usually had by all.  The description that follows is in part information for the crews who attend our sessions on Saturday afternoons - especially those new to the layout.  Today we will examine the movements for a freight train arriving at Brookmere from Penticton.  We are guided in this by information supplied by several KV veterans over the years, gleaned in particular from the conversations surrounding the display of the layout at the annual reunions about which we have written in the previous post.

Our photograph shows a train headed by Engine 3639, arriving in Brookmere with 7 cars in tow - a shorter train than normal for brevity and clarity in our illustration.  It is Fourth Class train No. 93 with its schedule highlighted in our Timetable reproduced below. 

In prototype terms she has 3 loads and 4 empties - the caboose always figuring in the car count as an empty.  This car count would have been supplied to the Dispatcher by the Conductor through the Penticton Operator which is the Initial Station for this train.  She is taking the main track, arriving at Brookmere in the early afternoon. As a scheduled fourth class train, even though she has right, she approaches at Yard Speed in anticipation that the main track may be occupied by another train or engine.  These latter are permitted to occupy the main without protection within Yard Limits (see Rule 93).  By the way, YARD SPEED is defined as "A speed that will permit stopping within one-half the range of vision."

In the case of our No. 93, the crew needs to know what to do with the cars in our train because the cars are going somewhere.  In order for these cars to be expedited to their intended destinations, they will be set out on the appropriate tracks in Brookmere yard. Those intended destinations are stipulated in the Waybills that accompany every freight car on a railroad.  For the model layout, we use a set of Waybills that is fairly standard for operating layouts.  They are accompanied by "car cards" that are somewhat of a substitute for a switch list.  We are considering developing a more prototypical looking set of Waybills and even a Switch List.  See Thompson's many posts one of which is here:

Here is the set of (model) Waybills (attached to Car Cards) for the train under consideration.  On the top right is the Locomotive Card with a brief description of its work and how to do it written on a Train Card.  In this case the back page of the Train Card specifies that No. 93 arrives in Brookmere on the main track and will spot its caboose on the [Princeton Sub] Caboose Track East and then yard the rest of the train.  On the top left is the Car Card and Waybill for a Pacific Fruit Express Refrigerator Car, PFE No. 62265.  The colour of the heading and text reflects the actual colour of the model car and its lettering, in this case an Orange car with black lettering. This feature is very handy for setting up consists before operating sessions and finding particular cars.  It is also meant to help our train crews.

The red stripe and text on the waybill states that the car is headed for California via the interchange at Huntington BC.  It is an empty (MTY).  In the pressure of the operating session, the red stripe is a quick and convenient way to establish where a car must be spotted in the yard.  In this case it is going to the Westbound through freight track along with 3 other cars (which also have red stripes on the waybills).  Two empty log flats have no stripe which means that they are "shorts" bound for a local shipper/receiver on the modeled part of the layout.  In this case they are destined for the log spur at Thalia.  On the prototype, the conductor would have a complete set of waybills in his caboose.  From the waybills, the conductor or a yard clerk in his originating terminal would make up a Switch List or Train List with every car entered on it with a few details about lading, consignee, shipper, weight and possibly special handling instructions.

This is the yard plan for Brookmere with the names of the tracks labeled.  This view conforms to the physical orientation of the layout with the roundhouse immediately in front of the viewer and East being to the left.  We have chosen to retain the currently modeled numbering of the yard tracks.  Our westward train, No. 93 is arriving on the main track from the left.

According to the KV men, the movements would be as follows (summarized on the Train Card):
  • the caboose goes to the (Princeton sub) Caboose Track - East
  • the 3 reefers and the single box car are headed west and thus they will be going to the passing track which is located on the far side of the main track
  • the "shorts" will be spotted on the Yard Track #3 - or if it is full - Yard #2
  • the Engineman will then take his locomotive to the shop tracks or the roundhouse 
Here is the sequence in photos.
No. 93 is occupying the main track and approaching the station.  Bell will start to ring as it gets closer continuing in all the back and forth movements needed to set out the caboose on the nearby Princeton Caboose track.  Once clear of the station the bell ringing can cease (Rule 30).
Cars on the left were set out by an earlier train from Penticton.  They will eventually be combined with our cars for a trip down the Coquihalla to Ruby Creek.  There a mainline crew will take the cars to Port Coquitlam and other points west.

On the right are some tank cars on Yard track #2 awaiting an Eastbound through freight.  Cars on Yard track #3 are "shorts" which will be delivered to various on-line customers to be served by the appropriate wayfreights for the Princeton Sub, Coquihalla sub, and Merritt sub.

All in all, today there are quite a few cars headed west but not too many for the east.

Setting out the caboose.  Note the yellow pin which is not to be found on the prototype.  This pin marks the centre of an uncoupling magnet.  No "picking" necessary.
Real life Conductor "Kettle Valley Gus," who appeared in the last post, advised that the real life operation of setting out the caboose would not involve a backing movement of the train.  Rather, the conductor would pull the pin "on the fly" thereby uncoupling his car from the rest of the train as they approached the station and employing the handbrake to arrest their movement clear of the switch points.  The brakeman would detrain and throw the caboose track switch, after which, the conductor would release the handbrake allowing the caboose to roll on its own into the caboose track where it would be brought to a stop again with the handbrake.  There was a good enough grade east of the station for a car to roll away on its own.  (see grade profile here

No. 93 continues on the main track to the west end of the yard where it will stop to cut off the last two cars of the consist which are destined for the "shorts" track in the yard proper.  The other four westbound cars are now taken forward over the road crossing, bell once again ringing and a 14L being sounded on the engine's whistle (rule 14 L).
The four car cut is  backed into the "passing siding" which is not used at all for passing.  The cut is coupled up to any standing cars already there and brakes applied.  Derail is reset.  There are no model brakes and no model derail installed yet but perhaps one day the latter.
 Engine 3639 cuts off the westbound cars and couples back on to the log flats destined for Thalia.  They are pushed back onto the Yard lead and will be set out onto the Yard Track #3.  Now clear of the road crossing, the bell ringing is finished. 
 Spotting the log flats on Yard Track #3, coupling them onto the other two cars already there.  The pin for the uncoupling magnet is just visible.  As to the use of the yard tracks on the prototype, it seems that cars were actually set out on any track available.  We have had to adopt a standard practice of assigning cars to tracks 2 and 3 due to the "busyness" of the model yard in an operating session.  Realize that we do in four hours what the prototype did in 24. 
Having completed our work, Engine 3639 is parked on the shop track.  This is somewhat preferable to parking in the roundhouse where repairs and servicing were carried out.  The near shop track was normally left vacant for access to the turntable and the cinder-pit seen in the foreground.  On the layout, we have installed an electrical "isolator track and switch" allowing the newly arrived engine a respite from any electricity flowing through its veins.  This mutes the engine's decoder, thereby extending its life.  This view also illustrates that normally, a break was left in the parked railcars both in front and behind the station to permit access by the employees and public.

Now to book off, returning the Car Cards and Waybills to the Agent and advising him of the 2 cars laden with perishables that we have just set out.  Ready for another assignment?

Coquihalla Man

Sunday 1 February 2015


Kettle Valley railroaders and their families held an annual get-together for many years on the second weekend of August - usually in Brookmere.  I was happy to attend most of them beginning in the late 80's but I felt like an intruder at first being a "model" railroader.  Many professionals do not have much time for rail-fans and modelers who try to show they know a lot about railroading or have too many questions.  One has to hang around without being annoying.  After a while I was tolerated and some of my questions did seem to elicit a considered response.  Eventually, I started to bring along models that I had worked up as accurate reproductions of the structures and equipment these men had worked with.  Comments and corrections were offered by them and they saw that I was sincere in my quest for historical and mechanical accuracy and perhaps they saw that here was an opportunity for the preservation of their little corner of history.  They were an interesting bunch that one of their number by the name of Alan Palm, eulogized in his poetry:
Yet back through the haze I remember with awe
We were the best damn railroaders this world ever saw.
 I was very fortunate to meet and talk with trainman Alan Palm at the one Brookmere meet he attended as for most summers he had other family commitments.  He was the perfect resource for a modeler with a great love of his job as a railroader on the Kettle Valley and a keen mind for detail which he was glad to share.  I pumped him for all I could get.  He wrote an interesting monograph of his days on the KV  that used to be available through the Penticton Museum.  I have read it many times.  It is well worth acquiring if still in print.

As progress on my home layout developed to the point of being presentable, I hit on the idea of taking the entire model of Brookmere rail-yard all the way to Brookmere itself.  I believe this was 1990.  With the help of my friend Colin, the layout was transported in a trailer and was set up in the old school which had become the village meeting place.  Here is the trailer in front of the school as we reloaded the display for our return home.  My version of Brookmere (and most of the rest of the layout) has been built in demountable sections of  6 to 9 feet long.  For this trip, only 3 of the 4 sections were ready.
It took a lot of time to set up but the effort and cost of the trailer rental was well worth the investment as it turned out.  The response was all I could hope for with many people coming for a look and staying for extended discussion (and not a few friendly arguments).  I had a small tape machine going and managed to get some of the conversations recorded.  The following year, I took all 4 sections up and got the same response and the information that was flowing.  Unfortunately, nowhere near enough was recorded or noted in writing.

A few photos taken by my friend Colin, of the first display are here presented.  As you can see, the interest of those gathered is tangible.  But the lighting was not at all flattering for the layout.

An overview of the layout which is only 3/4 present, the western end remaining at home.  Many structures are not represented or are unfinished.   The layout was operational although the visitors were not all that interested, preferring to talk about this or that adventure.  In the narration would come out a detail that I could ask further about.
Can't remember this particular discussion but obviously everyone is listening.  Several men commented on the inappropriateness of the snowplow because it was a mainline single wedge plow.  A friend loaned me the model along with the passenger cars sitting in front of the station. About the plow, I did not know any better but the criticism was just the sort of thing I needed to know.

I did learn about the turntable's unique qualities and and then how one of the inexperienced hostlers drove some brand new GP-7's through a set of doors on the roundhouse.

Many of my rolling stock models were generic  at that time and I was not particularly proud of them.

Here I am asking about the ashpit; specifically did it still exist in 1949?  Answer was that it was gone by late 1950.  One more reason to choose 1949 as my target year since it is a nice feature to model.  This from the fellow in the cowboy hat who was the young hostler mentioned in a previous post.  The one who sent three freight cars on a freewheeling trip down to Brodie.  Engineman Tubby Moore in the red cap argued with Conductor Gus about a few things in good fun but both were very informative about how they worked the yard.  Fireman Wilf (blue cap) had a few stories to tell and provided music on his accordion at the nightly campfire.  My recorder is in hand.  Hope I turned it on for this conversation.

Here are Wilf and Evelyn discussing things about life in the small railway village while looking at old photographs.  Evelyn grew up in Brookmere and had things to share about her childhood activities, one of which we will get to.  Wilf fired engines up and down the Coquihalla for three years or so.  Being a handy, mechanically-inclined fellow, he maintained the stationary engine for the hoist on the Coal Chute when it was situated on the main track in addition to his duties as a fireman.  To one of my questions he affirmed that his engines on occasion, did indeed run light down the Coquihalla sub for a push back up.  He quit in 1944, choosing to pursue a career in automotive mechanics.
On the second trip, the layout looked more complete but unfortunately, we have no photos of it.  Several fellows did a lot of taping and one of them made a short documentary of the Brookmere Campout experience with a short feature on our modeling efforts.

Next up will be some information on how the crews worked Brookmere railyard and how we work the model version.  Until then...

Coquihalla Man