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An L&N crew works the interchange at Dorchester Jct. (diorama) - Stu Thayer Photo

Operations on the Dorchester & Dixiana Branch are modeled after their prototype.  I LOVE switching, so I chose a prototype where every train will perform some swiching operations--there are no run-throughs on this layout!  Operations will initially cover the 1968-1971 timeframe when the Southern's F-units could still be seen on mine runs and "yellow ball" shuttle hopper operations were in full swing (see the prototype page for an explanation).  When running a typical 1/2- or full-day schedule, there is sufficient work to keep 2-6 operators busy for hours. 


There are 7-8 trains/jobs on the layout for a 24-hour period.  The Southern ran two mine runs per day up the Glamorgan and Dixiana Branches as well as two "hill crews" to handle the heavy interchange traffic between the L&N and Clinchfield and work the yard and tipples around Norton, VA.  In addition to the Southern's trains, the L&N ran two scheduled trains daily from Corbin, KY to Norton, VA (along with their reciprocals) and the occasional extra.   On the layout, these L&N trains will turn around at Dorchester Jct. instead of Norton because the L&N/N&W interchange traffic is not modeled.  Finally, the N&W ran several mine runs out of Norton and worked the yard with any available power.   On the layout, this will consist of one or two N&W yard jobs (visibly staged) to work the Interstate/Southern interchange and a few industries at Norton.  Work on all trains will consist of one or more of the following activities:  placing MTYs and pulling loads at tipples, working interchanges, sorting cars at the yard to divide local interchange cars from Southern-bound cars.


I envision most operating sessions running about 2-3 hours and covering a half-day's worth of trains.  Sessions will alternate between morning and evening.  There are several reasons for this.   First, a 3-hour session seems just about right to me.  Second, running a half-day will cut down on the time pressures people feel and keep the pace consistent but leisurely, just like the prototype.  Third, I want crews to really identify with the train crew(s) they are simulating--in a 1/2 day session, a crew will only run one or two trains making this more likely.  Finally, some of the larger tipples in this area were served twice-a-day.  Working a 1/2 day session will allow me to recycle loads/MTYs between sessions to simulate the day's loading.  Having said all this, I do envision hosting the occasional Saturday "full-day" session that lasts 5 hours.


Because of the longish trains (20-40 cars) and amount of switching required, crews on the D&DB normally consist of two:   an engineer and a conductor.  Crews will be assigned to one of the following:

Interstate Mine Runs - (First Mine Run and Third Mine Run) Each mine run works several tipples north of Norton.  Brings MTY hoppers from Andover and picks up additional MTYs in Norton.  Works Glamorgan, Dixiana No.1 and Dixiana No.2 and other tipples as needed.  Sets off N&W/CRR-bound cars at Norton before returning to Andover with Southern-bound tonnage.

Interstate Hill Crews - (First Hill Crew and Second Hill Crew) First Hill Crew works the L&N interchange at Dorchester Jct. and the yard at Norton.  Classifies CRR-bound traffic by destination prior to delivery to CRR at Miller Yard (staging).  Upon return, works the N&W interchange at Norton and sets off MTYs for tipples on the Glamorgan and Dixiana branches for pick up by the mine runs.  Brings CRR traffic to L&N interchange at Dorchester Jct. and returns to Andover with Southern-bound tonnage.  The Second Hill Crew delivers transloader shuttle cars (aka "yellow balls") to tipples around Norton including Dorchester, Bruton's Siding, Holton and Camp Creek and brings loads destined for the Westmoreland transloader in Appalachia back to Andover.

L&N/N&W Crews - (two L&N trains, one or two N&W trains) L&N trains will bring CRR bound coal and other traffic to Dorchester Jct. and return with interchange traffic from the CRR and Interstate/Southern.  The N&W trains will work the Interstate/Southern interchange at Norton and work several industries in the Norton area.  If there are an odd number of operators, this crew will have only one operator.  May also be called upon to add coal loads to MTY hoppers at Glamorgan and Dixiana No.1 for a full-day session.


I do not intend to employ a dispatcher for operating sessions.  Rather, trains will be deconflicted by schedule (e.g. Mine Runs will be working the end of a branch when the Hill Crews are working tipples closer to Norton) and yard limits will rule the railroad (trains must be able to stop in half the distance of line-of-sight) to prevent collisions.  To prevent disasters in the helix, crews will need to announce their arrival and departure from "East Norton" (helix). 

Crews will pick up their orders when they pick up their train.  The orders will simulate the dispatcher's direction.   Orders will tell a crew which tipples, industries and interchanges to work and what yard work to do.  Orders may also tell crews when they need to leave an open track for another train's movement--this will be important through the choke points at Norton and Holton.

Car Movement

Cars will be moved via switch lists.   The switch list will list the destination of every car in the train and the every anticipated pick-up.  Master switch lists will be placed in a few key locations to identify the destination of every car on the railroad so minor classification work can be done by the Mine Runs and Hill Crews.  For a full-day session, hoppers will have both an MTY and load destination listed on the master switch list.


Operations in this area changed over the years while the trackage remained fairly constant, so it will be easy to move the era back or forward a few years to keep operations interesting. 

1973. One variation would be a 1973 session.   By this time, the coal boom of the '70s was really heating up, and it was the last year large amounts of L&N interchange traffic for the Clinchfield rolled over Interstate rails.  In a 1973 session, hoppers would be overflowing at all the yards and interchange points, creating a real switching challenge for crews.  For example, Dorchester Jct. has two tracks for MTYs and two tracks for loads.  When the Southern was slow moving the loads, the L&N would pile strings of new loads into the MTY tracks creating a real log-jam for Southern Hill Crews. 

1976. In '76, the coal boom was raging, and the Interstate crews were no longer worried about L&N interchange traffic, so mine runs ruled the day.  The "yellow ball" fleet was starting to move toward 70T cars, and only the occasional plate "C" car would be interchanged at Dorchester Jct.  This session would lend itself well to a smaller crew since the L&N would no longer need to be run.

1978. For a period in '78, the Clinchfield ran its matched set of F units between Miller Yard and Dorchester Jct. to move empties during construction on the N&W's Clinch Valley line.  This would add some different motive power and mix the car fleet up a bit (more 100T hoppers).

1965. Ah, the ultimate goal for a second era.  1965 was the last year the Interstate's RS3s ran on the line.   In fact, the Interstate was still running as it always had, and the Southern influence was still subtle (some hoppers repainted into a Southern-style scheme and the Southern gave the Interstate some old offset hopper hand-me-downs. 

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