At the end of the last op session, there were a handful of trains that hadn't run. Rather than just leave them for next time, I decided to run a few of them. One of the trains was MN-68 which runs from Morgantown, WV to New Market, VA. This train has set-outs and pick-ups in North Pierce. While I had caught glimpses of this train being worked in the past, I had never brought it into the yard myself and worked it. Actually running the trains on the railroad can teach you a bit about what challenges the crews face and show what parts of the track plan design don't work.
The track plan diagram below shows the layout of Hollister Yard in North Pierce.
And the photo below shows a close-up of the track arrangement at Hollister Yard.
The yard is really two small yards combined- a coal marshaling yard and a freight yard. The intent of the original design was to have the freight yard worked by the lead on the left and the coal yard worked from Coal 1. Any freight train that needed to be worked would come in on one of the yard tracks. And while I knew there would be locals that would handle both coal and freight, I didn't plan for how the freight and coal would be combined in the yard prior to departure and broken up upon return.
As fate would have it, every yard crew to date has worked the way freights out on the main. The pick-ups are brought out onto either the main or the siding and the switcher works the train. Once the train has departed, the switcher takes the set-outs back to the yard. Looking at the track plan, you can see how far out of the yard the switcher has to travel in order to get onto the main and into the siding. Depending upon the number of pick-ups, the yard crew would have to go past the yard limits to the east. And on the west end, there's almost no room to get out onto the main without blowing through the yard limits.
So why aren't the freights getting worked in the yard as originally intended? At the end of the last session, I discovered why- the yard gets too full during a session to bring a train in and work it. The yard is relatively empty at the end of each session, and I knew it could get busy there mid-session depending upon the ebb and flow of traffic, but it never occurred to me that it would be too full to work a train. And if the freights were going to be worked on the main, something had to be done to cut down on the time and effort to get cars out and back.
So I proposed a solution to several of the crew members that usually work Hollister Yard. The photo below shows the result- a new crossover that's going in between the main and the yard.
This crossover will provide much better access to the main from the yard and should cut down significantly on the amount of time and effort it takes to work a train on the main. One of the crew also suggested a connection between the freight yard and the coal yard so that cars could be passed back and forth without having to run out to either end of the yard. The template in the photo above shows the proposed location of that connection. I had originally planned to located a scale here but that won't work for a number of reasons. So the turnout off Coal 1 (where the GP38's are sitting) will connect with Freight 4 just below the fuel tank of 2013.
And in order to provide as much flexibility as possible to the yard crews, another crossover will connect the main and the freight yard on the east end. The photo below shows where this connection will be made.
Hopefully, these changes will help improve the overall operation of the yard at North Pierce. It just goes to show, even the best laid plans...