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Operations Notebook 1: Buckeye Through Freight

With Erie Railroad 3315 in the lead, Train 401 passes Ohio Yard en route from Pittsburgh to North Pitt on the author’s Buckeye Railroad.

Operations Notebook 1: Buckeye Through Freight

2024 O Scale Trains Annualby Herm Botzow/photos by Mark Corliss

My O scale Buckeye Railroad is designed to represent scenes of mid-century railroading in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania, and hosts a variety of operations. This is the first of two articles describing the operations of one of two early morning express freight trains, Train 401. The train delivers 15 arriving cars for subsequent spotting at industries along my Buckeye Railroad. Unlike the multiple switching of single cars, this train switches only at the two major freight yards on the railroad. These yards are located at North Pitt and Ashtabula and the train drops and picks up nine and six cars, respectively, at these locations.

The “backstory” is that Train 401 began its westbound trip at Monongahela Yard east of Pittsburgh with Engineer Mike Goguen at the throttle of Erie Railroad Berkshire 3315. Actually, Train 401 comes onto the Buckeye from the layout’s Pittsburgh freight yard staging at the east end of the railroad. It begins its run by heading “west” 55 feet to the North Pitt classification yard.

Buckeye Railroad

ABOVE: The North Pitt Switcher places nine rear cars from Train 401 on North Pitt Yard Track 2.

At North Pitt, Train 401 will exchange the nine cars at the rear of the train with nine waiting cars bound for its imagined destination off the west end of the railroad, Gateway Yard at Youngstown, Ohio. After departing North Pitt, Engineer Goguen will run nonstop along the remaining 311 feet to Buckeye Railroad’s freight yard at Ashtabula, Ohio. There he will exchange the six freight cars at the front of the train for six outbound cars waiting on the arrival/departure track behind the freight house. He will then travel forward 30 feet to the end of his run at “Youngstown” (actually the same storage tracks where his train originated).

Between Pittsburgh and Ashtabula, Engineer Goguen will have a meet with Train 401’s eastbound counterpart, Train 400, as well as the eastbound morning milk train. Train 401 is the least complex of the trains featured in this series of four articles. It takes fewer than 20 minutes to complete its run but it will take up to an hour or longer for each of four subsequent trains to switch the cars that Trains 400 and 401 brought onto the railroad.

Buckeye Railroad

ABOVE: Train 401 meets Train 400 at Ellison.

Because Train 401 is westbound, its consist will include cars from eastern railroads such as New York Central, Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, Baltimore & Ohio, Chesapeake & Ohio, Pennsylvania Railroad, Boston & Maine, Maine Central, Erie, and Bangor & Aroostook. Its eastbound counterpart, Train 400, will have cars from western roads such as Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Western Pacific, Northern Pacific, Chicago Great Western, Milwaukee Road, and Great Northern. The eastern railroads will bring to the Buckeye industry products such as coal from West Virginia and potatoes from Maine. The products that the western railroads will bring to Buckeye industries include California tomatoes, Iowa grains, and beef cattle from Wyoming.

Starting an operating session with trains arriving from the “outside,” breaking them down for classification and, finally, delivery with a second and third tier of local trains in this manner adds greatly to operating realism. Realism is further enhanced if you have a variety of industrial destinations appropriate for the area that you are modeling. Serving the cities of Pittsburgh and Ashtabula with two separate yard drills and the rural main line with a “peddler” freight also adds interest and switching opportunities. The industries in Pittsburgh and North Pitt include a grain elevator, A&P grocery warehouse, BRR Freight House, coal tipples, a wheel manufacturer, and the railroad commissary. Located along the BRR main line are feed mills, coal yards, grain elevators, lumber yards, a sand and gravel yard, and a slaughter house. At Ashtabula you’ll find a bakery, coal tipper, wholesale grocer, and factories.

Buckeye Railroad

ABOVE: LEFT: Train 401 meets the Milk Train at Creston.

Buckeye Railroad switching operations begin in the “early morning” at the North Pitt freight yard when the two through freights arrive, first 401 westbound from Pittsburgh with 15 cars and then eastbound Train 400 from Ashtabula with eight cars. These 23 cars will be delivered to industries on the railroad during the operating session. Trains 401 and 400 will depart with a like number of outbound cars, brought to the departure tracks at the two yards during the previous operating session from the same two yard drills and the local peddler freight…

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This article was posted on: April 1, 2024