Radio Dispatching Experimental Meet
With encouragement from the owner and others, I am organizing a radio dispatching event to take place Friday the 27th, the 28th, and the 29th of March. There will be a briefing in the depot at 5:30 pm on the 26th. The style of the operations will be very similar to what has been done in Texas for many years.
In this style of operations, train movements are authorized either by timetable or via radio communications between the dispatcher and a train's conductor. Trains with a schedule in the timetable ("regular trains") have priority over "extra trains" (trains lacking a timetable schedule). The "regular trains" run according to their schedules while the "extra trains" run according to instructions from the dispatcher. The dispatcher keeps track of trains using tokens on a board with a schematic of the rail line.
Guiding the scope of this operations trial is the intention to graft some dispatching into the existing card-order operations (in April and October). The intention is that the dispatching will only be done on the Tracy City branch, though Tracy City Branch trains will go to other parts of the railroad. The Tracy City branch is a good place for this for three reasons.
First, the branch is exceptionally beautiful and thrilling. Second, while long enough for significant operation (six stations (meeting points) over roughly 5-1/2 scale miles), it still leaves the bulk of the railway system for those who prefer the status quo (signal control). The third reason is the single entrance-exit at Tracy City Junction; it facilitates the return of equipment that has been lent out, such as radios.
Yes, there will be A FEW loaner radios for those who want to try this type of train coordination, but who do not (yet) have a radio. (I will provide the loaners.) However, if you attend and already have an FRS (Family Radio Service) radio, please DO bring it. Tests conducted earlier this year showed that radios with a transmission power of 429 mW were adequate for communications on the branch (and out to Saddleback Junction). To find out the transmission power of your radio, enter the FCC ID number into the field at
Please find attached at bottom a DRAFT timetable for the Tracy City branch. The different colors correspond to different sets of equipment (locomotive and cars, if any). As per C.& I.G. (Comanche & Indian Gap) practice, a single crew will generally run all the train schedules of a given color, on a given day. This practice isn't rigid. If a crew gets tired and someone else wants to run their schedules then such a swap is fine. Otherwise, trains can be annulled. If very many folks want to run regular trains, then we may have one crew run, say, the red schedules in the morning and another crew run the red schedules in the afternoon.
You'll see pretty quickly that there are both first class and second class trains on the timetable. At first I shied away from this level of complexity. Then the desire to blend in the timetable with the existing operations drew me back to it. The first class trains have times that correspond to the times in the pre-existing Eagle Point schedules. As per mid-century, North American practice, the extras and second class trains must stay off of the times of the first class trains but the first class trains don't have to even know about the other trains (ignoring superiority by direction here, as you'll see is acceptable). So, a traditional E.P. (Eagle Point) passenger crew could arrive at the depot, pick up a schedule, confirm their schedule assignment with the trainmaster, and set out on their 1st-class run without any need to figure out other trains on the branch.
Something to think about. Let's say, for example, that you're conducting a 2nd-class train heading south (down-hill) from Monteagle (toward Sewanee). You are scheduled to meet a northward 1st-class train at Cowan at 4:14 pm. You're running a bit late but not so late as to loose your schedule authority. You look at your watch as you're just pulling into Sewanee and the minute hand has just passed into 4:13 pm. What do you do? Something in the notes under the columns of times in the timetable should give a clue if the answer is not evident. You might want to think about this a little before reading further onward.
The timetable also indicates that the southern-most station in the branch schedules is Saddleback Junction, a station on the main line. Thus, branch trains will be traveling out to Saddleback Junction in order to turn on the wye at Saddleback Junction. This enables full use of the branch without trains having to back up between stations. It also provides for an easier transfer of passengers (if any) at the shelter at Saddleback Junction.
Of course there is the possibility that attendance might not be tremendous. In that case, it will be important to fill the branch roles first, so as to fully exercise the (relatively) novel part of the plan, the radio dispatching. There are two "desk" jobs, but no one would be asked to play that role for more than a day (out of 2.7 days). I've already spoken with one other person besides myself who would be willing to staff a "desk", so don't think there will be a large demand for folks to fill unpopular roles. And if you haven't ever worked a desk job at a meet, you might just find that you like it. Just say'n....
Something to think about, revisited. Let's say we have the same scenario as previously: a 2nd-class train heading south, pulling into Sewanee at the stroke of 4:13 pm, with the timetable indicating a meet with the opposing (northward) 1st class train at Cowan at 4:14 pm. Now, instead of being on the 2nd-class train, you are the conductor of a southward extra train at Sewanee, where you'd been waiting so as to avoid the scheduled meet at Cowan. Now what? Desk job, anyone?
Jeff Benton