Sunday 21 April 2024

Intro to Ops on the KVMR for Novices

  An increase of novice train crew at operating sessions lately has prompted this post which is designed to aid first-time attendees in their task of running a train on the Kettle Valley Model Railway. Too often they seem intimidated by the complexity of this large layout and the 14 people gathered to play a pleasantly sophisticated and fully animated game. We hope this post alleviates their nervousness and helps them to relax a little and better enjoy the event. We will touch on basics of Timetable and Train Order Operation as modified for our particular sessions. The rules concerning our game emulate the prototype where the concern was to avoid collisions and get people and goods from A to B safely.

From our March, 2024 session, we see a Westbound  passenger train, No. 45, approaching Iago with Len at the throttle. As is common in mountain territory, we have a single track mainline with sidings every 5 miles or so to allow opposing trains to bypass each other. It is the dispatcher who often (but not always) "fixes the meet".

According to the Timetable, Len's time at Iago is 3.00 in the morning. He will stop to cool the wheels of his train and likely take water. While he can arrive early at the station, he cannot leave earlier than the specified time of 3.00 o'clock. Len carries a Train Card with him which is something of a crib sheet to describe features of his run with No. 45. Here is the second page of the train card which is relevant to where his train is in the photo. Train Cards are provided for all trains in a session.

His train is a first class schedule, superior to all but a first class Eastbound train.  Earlier, he had taken the siding at Romeo further up the grade for a meet with just such a first class Eastbound, No. 46. The Rules had required him to be safely in the siding 5 minutes before the scheduled time of No. 46.

The Timetable specified the meet for 2.35 as you can see in the Timetable below. This means he should have been secure, "in the hole" with switches lined for the other train by 2.30.

 Even if No. 46 did not appear for hours for whatever reason, No. 45 would still hold in the siding till No. 46 did appear. He simply could not venture out of the siding without authority from the dispatcher.

 In another scenario, if Len's train , No. 45 had been running late and he reckoned that he could not get his train into the Romeo siding before 2.30, he would have taken the siding at a station further up the line such as at Coquihalla and waited there for the Eastbound. The Eastbound Passenger train would count on him following the rules and would therefore carry on up the line to Coquihalla where the meet would be made.


Train Orders

Besides a Scheduled train such as the passenger trains in the forgoing example, on the KVMR layout - as on the prototype - trains are granted authority to run on the layout by means of Train Orders. Train Orders supersede Timetable schedules. The most common train order is a Run Order which grants authority to an engine and crew to "RUN EXTRA" from one station to another as in this example from the March session.

Almost half of the trains in a session are run as "EXTRAS" on the authority of the dispatcher by issuing a Train Order. In the case of Engine 5134, they are given authority to run from Odlum to Brookmere as Extra 5134 East. These Extras are inferior to all Scheduled Trains and must keep out of their way by taking the siding at least 5 minutes before the superior train is due at that station.



Odlum is the western most station on the Kettle Valley Division which is a junction with the Mainline of the CPR. Our Dispatcher controls movements between the staging tracks on the upper level which represents Odlum (and Ruby Creek) and the tracks on the lower staging yard at Penticton.

Here is a photo of the staging yard at Penticton seen through the small opera window. There are two passenger trains and 4 freight trains ready to go out on the mainline at the next session. The Penticton Operator's telephone can be seen in the distance. Most trains will run out of staging to the yard at Brookmere or run the other way from Brookmere to either staging yard.

The page of the Timetable for the Princeton Sub is presented below to help illustrate the following points. This portion of the layout is situated on the lower level.


For both Regular trains and Extra trains, the dispatcher can issue a "Meet Order". This is relatively simple to understand as it spells out where two trains are to meet and, in this case,  which one will take the siding.

Here is the Order for the Extra 592 West which was "hooped up" to him by the Station Operator "Smith" at Princeton. The time of the order is 8.59 so Engineman John would take care to slow for the meet at Tulameen. He has right to the main track and his opposite will take the siding.

Here is the other copy of the same Meet Order (No. 7) that was passed up to Engineman Mark before his departure from Brookmere. The Brookmere Operator would have filled this out along with a clearance and a copy of Train Order No. 8 granting him authority to run Extra Brookmere to Penticton. He would have taken the siding at Tulameen on arrival there.

He would also have to study the Timetable to see if there might be a scheduled train running against him. As it turned out, No. 91 was already in to Brookmere at 6.35 according to the Register and No. 93 is not due out of Penticton until 12.30 which should be well after his own arrival there. So all he has to  concern himself with is the meet at Tulameen. Otherwise he has a clear run to Penticton.


In the photo below, we see the meet taking place with Extra 592 West waiting patiently while "holding the main". Her head end brakeman would have thrown the switch for the siding for the opposing train. The reader might discern the white extra flags displayed on both engines which signals denote that they are running as Extras. The modeled station area at Tulameen is relatively undeveloped with minimal scenery and structures.



This should be sufficient to get a novice acquainted with the basics of how to proceed with a train over the line. For more information, one could peruse the post written up in February 2018 but some of the descriptions are out of date as there has been a major expansion of the layout since that post and our operations are somewhat modified as a result.:

One other note about operating on the KVMR: to handle the TO Forms, the Timetable, the train cards and the car cards, it is advisable to wear an apron or wear clothes with generous pockets so that one's hands are free to work the throttle. It has happened on occasion that a throttle has dropped to the floor while the engineman has tried to juggle the aforementioned items. Sometimes the floor has rendered the throttle inoperable and we would dearly like to avoid that outcome.

Coquihalla Man

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