There are five basic operating assignments on the Lackawanna Terminal Railway and the trains we run*

MAINLINE EXTRA CREWS - Operate through freights that originate at East Buffalo or are received in interchange from CSX, NS, or Conrail such as manifest freights, unit coal, and through stack and piggyback trains. Run-through manifest freights will drop off and pick up drafts of cars at East Buffalo as required. Most of these trains are run through from staging yard to staging yard. These crews will also run any scheduled or extra passenger trains.
LOCAL EXTRA ROAD CREWS - Local freight assignments are called at East Buffalo and Binghamton and will joyfully work consignees at various points throughout the Division as required. Local crews also run transfer trains between yards and local freight service within the Division. Transfers are run between the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's East Buffalo Yard and CSX, Conrail, and NS in nearby yards (staging). May be required to man helper engines when necessary.
YARD EXTRA CREW - Handles all switching in the yard at East Buffalo including the make-up and break-up of drafts for through and local freights and can deliver cars to local industries as needed (or when they are in the mood). They can also work the car shop and engine repair and service facility. May be asked (begged) to switch trains in the staging yard as well as making up locomotive consists based on horsepower needs and availability.
PLANT EXTRA CREWS - These crews are called out of East Buffalo/Binghamton and are responsible for all plant switching duties at the National Chemical and Refining Plant,  and Stradivarius Steel as directed by the plant's yardmaster. Three crews are generally assigned to these plants to provide twenty four hour, seven day a week service. Crews deadhead to and from their assignments in the company van. The drill crew at the Mount Morris Intermodal Terminal signs up at Mount Morris thereby eliminating deadhead and the resulting reduction in productive effort at the facility.
DIVISION SUPERINTENDENT - Wanders around aimlessly on operating nights, giving conflicting orders to the crews most of which are impossible to implement on the best of days and are rightly ignored by the crews in any event. Usually has an uncomprehending blank expression on his face featuring glazed eyes and an uncontrollable nervous twitch. Always has the best interest of the railroad at heart though he is frequently the target of cruel but justified remarks concerning his intelligence and ancestral lineage. Often told to go stand in a corner. Can be seen oiling leg irons prior to work sessions. In sole possession of the "bottomless" soda can. Could run a great office if it wasn't for the railroad. He is the personification of the Stop Signal. Resembles owner of the railroad.

Dispatching Center - The Lackawanna Terminal Railway leaps into the future with Dispatching!!

In the early days of construction, the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Management Team had a vision of what the Lackawanna Terminal Railway was meant to do, its reason for being, its ultimate profitability, its corporate identity, if you will. As construction progressed, as the physical size and corporate scope of the railroad became more and more a reality, the Management Team  considered the necessity of establishing a central dispatch center that a railroad of this size and complexity would need to keep things orderly. Naive advocates of employee empowerment, however, insisted that a dispatch center wouldn't be necessary, as everyone would know what to do.
As the beginning, this liberal, gullible, and trusting faction of the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Management Team held sway as the railroad was able to operate trains over the entire system with some degree of realism. The addition of a North Coast Engineering DCC control system and, eventually, sound equipped locomotives added to the fun. During this time, the Lackawanna Terminal Railway was run by the mutual consent of the operating crews, in that the operators would communicate to each other their location, where they were going, and anyone in the way would obligingly, though sometimes reluctantly, clear up. As long as there weren't too many trains running, and the crews were in the spirit of cooperation, this system worked well.

One operating session, as one might imagine, all the elements and events that could bring any railroad to a halt materialized. One train wound up being fifty cars long, and wouldn't fit on any of the passing sidings, someone decided to run guest engines without telling anyone where he was going or what he was going to do, someone else had over forty cars blocking the main track while switching a local industry, and another operator left his train on the main and went for a soda break. The railroad came to a crashing halt and in the resultant confusion no one was having any fun and, worst of all, no profit was being converted into cash to fill the corporate money bin to its expected flood stage level.

After tempers cooled and heads cleared, it was suggested (by one of the most vigorous instigators of the meltdown) that we get a dispatcher. This solution was presented to the company board of directors at  a gathering of the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Management Team's weekly conference call. A vote was taken and it was agreed that the proper punishment for the chief instigator of the plugging of the normally fluid railroad would be designated Dispatcher. He was equipped with a magnetic white board with some magnetic train symbol tags that represented all the trains that were on the layout. The dispatchers office was a stool by the basement steps, and the model board was hung on the wall. Some two way radios were purchased to maintain contact between the operating crews and the Dispatcher. Some of the regulars brought their own radios to add to the mix. The result was a modicum of order. One of the drawbacks to this system was that if some of the dispatchers instructions were unclear, the dispatcher would walk over to the operator and explain the move plus the dispatchers office became a gathering place for those not running trains, making it hard to communicate with the operators.

A solution was to move the dispatchers office upstairs away from the layout room (preferably somewhere out of state and west of the Delaware River). This worked out well, except when the dispatcher forgot who was where doing what. There had to be a foolproof solution. It was found it in Train Dispatcher by Softrail, formerly Signal Computer Consultants.

The simulation game was purchased and loaded it into the dispatcher's personal laptop. Creating the Lackawanna Terminal Railway on a virtual model board was fairly easy. A train list was created from the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's master list. A problem developed where it was necessary to simulate time and distances on the model railroad in the simulation. This was done by adjusting the block lengths and train speeds on the computer, not on the layout..

We had a trial run in advance of our regular operating session. One problem that became a serious problem were crew times. In a fast time mode, the crew time expired before our operating session is over. This will be fixed by setting the simulation to run at 1. Then, the operating session should be over before the crew times halt the trains.

Another problem that surfaced was that on the master train sheet, there were four eastbound trains, and five westbound. On the model railroad, the opposite was true. At the beginning of the operating session, I gave the first two trains permission to move in the direction as per the master list, when in reality, they were going in the opposite direction. The solution is to list the trains as they are physically on the layout.

Aside from these little problems, all in attendance were pleased with having a dispatcher in a remote office (although not out of state or west of the Delaware River, as proposed). Operationally, since there are presently no signals or detection devices on the railroad, all operators will have to report clear of all control points. This will allow the dispatcher to closely follow the trains progress on the layout. Before an operator begins moving his train, he will have to "Offer up" to the dispatcher, indicating where he is, what his lead unit, where he wants to go, and what work is to be done when he/she gets there.

The Train Dispatcher simulation with added radios allows us to closely simulate a prototype railroad without the wiring of detection devices and signals (something which may be contemplated for the future).

There will be updates to our progress as we learn how to optimize this new found technology.

Each engineer acts as a entire crew unless manpower allows additional help. Local, yard, and plant crews are normally allowed to work at their own pace dependent on workload. The mainline crews normally have a sequence of trains to operate. All workloads are subject to changes brought about by "Acts of God".
"Acts of God" include but are not limited to:
1: Derailments for any reason
2: Power failure
3: Lack of manpower
4: Refreshment breaks
5: Delicate domestic situations
6: Real life work requirements
7: Weather (outside the basement)
8: Floods (inside the basement)
9: Boredom

In all unresolved disputes, the owner of the railroad is right.
The railroad's owner is a benevolent Dictator and at all times is your friend.

Local and plant extra crews work under the following general considerations:All freight cars leaving any yard or interchange point for local or plant distribution, whether loaded or empty, must be spotted at a door or loading or unloading facility appropriate for that type of car before being returned to the yard or interchange point (i.e., no coal hoppers or refrigerated cars at spots normally used by tank cars or covered hoppers). Cars which are spotted for loading or unloading may then be re-spotted as many times as necessary to complete the process (i.e., a car that is unloaded at one door may be spotted at another for loading or a partially loaded car may be re-spotted to complete the loading process). Variations in this scenario are allowed if there is valid (read justifiable) reason for carrying the car to the distant yard. Such justifications as: a through car crippled, fixed then dispatched, a misrouted car, crew out of time, or no room at the consignee's siding at time of delivery. Other excuses as the creative mind conjures up.   

Check out the trains we run during typical operating session in:
The trains we run

*For a more detailed explanation of each train crew's duties and how they are expected to fulfill them see the article: Car Forwarding, A carload of Grist for the Mill.

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