Hoop it Up: A RIGHT OVER order that caused a mess

This post is the first in a series of posts called “Hoop it Up”.  Hoop it Up is about train orders written during operations on the B&O Chillicothe Sub (BORRCS).

For the TT&TO dispatcher, the train order is the tool he uses to make the railroad run smoothly.  Write a good order and trains traverse the line safely and efficiently, write bad orders and trains bog down, crew time expires, and worse.  Poor orders equals loss of money for the railroad.  While no one dies and the railroad does not loose money when a model railroad dispatcher writes poor orders, friends can waist their time and find good reason to give the dispatcher a ribbing.

BORRCS TT&TO operations (including dispatching) are based on the “Condensed Code of Operating Rules”, “Right of Trains” by Peter Josserand, and “19 East, Copy Three” by David Sprau and Steven King.  Each of these books defines rules and forms for running a railroad and King provides many model railroad specific suggestions.  But those books are not a cookbook.  There is no single set of steps to follow to make the BORRCS run smoothly every time.  Instead the Dispatchers try to comprehend the literature, then put it in to practice on the BORRCS.  It is a practice and we make mistakes and take knocks from each other and the crews when there are errors or problems.  Through late night post session discussion or email the next day we work through the problems by discussion and hunting for answers in the books.  Its a joyful process we like striving to be better (FYI:  There are 4 signed up to build a practice of TT&TO dispatching on the BORRCS).

“Hoop it Up” is an attempt to capture some of our hardest and best learning on the BORRCS.  It will share the mistakes and the success.  Most of the time it will discuss the orders that did not work out so well as those are some of the best learning….In  discussion of poor orders, I’ll propose what we think are better alternatives that would have made the BORRCS run safer or more efficiently.

Let me again confess, I was not a professional TT&TO dispatcher nor are any of the regular dispatchers on the BORRCS.  We are hacks trying to learn the craft of Model Railroad TT&TO Dispatcher.  “Hoop it Up” is to share the crafting experience with each other and anyone else that wants to read these posts.  Please feel free to comment on these posts.

“Onward…” with the first “Hoop it Up”

It seems only fair for this first “Bad Order” post that I discuss is an order I issued.  I alluded to this order and that it was deficient in the post TT&TO: What to do when your train can’t go forward and your being over taken by a higher class train?  So use this episode of “Hoop it Up” to explain why that order was bad.


Refer to the schedule for times, and order of railroad locations discussed in this post.



At the time I issued the order EXTRA 6414 WEST was in the hole in Leesburg waiting on THIRD 98 (3rd section of scheduled train eastbound No 98) with FIRST AND SECOND 98 having already passed.  THIRD 98 was three hours behind schedule so I wanted x6414 WEST to have the opportunity to proceed to Midland City where it would turn before returning to Chillicothe.  At the time it seemed like a nobble objective to help x6414, but the order resulted in significant delays to THIRD 98 that caused THIRD 98 to be overtaken by NO 12 the first class mail train.  If that had not happened, there could have been other problems.  Let me explain what ensued and detail why this was a poor order.

MAJOR PROBLEM: THIRD 98 arrived in Midland city first what I had not expected.  It turns out that EXTRA 6414 WEST had not yet completed it’s work in Leesburg and even worse had work to do in New Vienna too.  So it took more than two hours for EXTRA 6414 to arrive in Midland City.  By that time NO 12 had already arrive in Midland City, causing the mess described in the post: TT&TO: What to do when your train can’t go forward and your being over taken by a higher class train?

As mentioned in the above post, a better order to be issued to EXTRA 6414 WEST and THIRD 98 would have been:


The RUN LATE order would not impact THIRD 98 and would have enabled EXTRA 6414 WEST to work against THIRD 98’s three hour delayed schedule as it could.  THIRD 98 would not have stopped at Midland city and could have remained more than 1 hour ahead of No 12.   EXTRA 6414 could have completed it’s work in Leesburg and possibly ventured to New Vienna before going back into the hole for No 12.

My conclusion is that for Model Railroad TT&TO, it much better not to hold the through (or non-working) trains for working trains (a working train).  The right over order held THIRD 98 a non-working train for x6414 WEST a working train.  The time required to do work is unknown, so best not hold up the non-working trains indefinitely to wait for a working train.  The RUN LATE is a simple order to issue against a scheduled train.


The RIGHT OVER order has an additional subtle problem.  Midland City is terminating point for EXTRA 6414 WEST, as the terminating point, ENGINE 6414 might not be obvious to No 12 when it arrived, so No 12 would not know that EXTRA 6414 had arrived and could wait indefinitely.  6414 could be behind other cars, could be turning on the wye, or been called to go up the Ohio division toward Columbus.  You say “Hey Midland City is a register location, can’t No 12 check the register?”… No, on the B&O Chillicothe Subdivision extras do not sign registers.  We did this because crews are not reliable in signing registers, and all the extra’s make it hard for crews to analyze the registers and most trains need not care about he extras.  So when I heard that some railroads do not allow the register to validate extras, we stopped requiring extras to sign registers.  I know that none of the operators would have recognized this subtle problem and that crews would have found 6414 in the yard, it still bothered me.  The RUN LATE order avoids this problem too, as puts the onus on the extra to recognize the schedule train which does not terminate, stop, and signs registers.

Ribbing Level – Low:  No because the order was not bad, but because the train crews made mistakes that were worthy of High Ribbing.  As a self initiated fine, (sort of like when an NCAA basketball or football team sets it’s own sanctions) I did bring veggies to the next BORRCS operating session.

David Keith

Chief Dispatcher B&O Chillicothe Sub





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2 Responses to Hoop it Up: A RIGHT OVER order that caused a mess

  1. Tom Patterson says:

    Several comments/questions:
    1) The order is addressed to Extra 6414 East but the train is called Extra 6414 West in the next paragraph. Did Extra 6414 have orders to go east to Leesburg and then return to Midland City and therefore became Extra 6414 West after working Leesburg?
    2) Assuming that Extra 6414 West is now finished at Leesburg and ready to return to Midland City, a meet order at Midland City would have presented the same problem as the right over order- Third 98 could arrive at Midland City long after Extra 6414 would have arrived and terminated and there would have been no way for Third 98 to know this- correct?

    Tom Patterson


    • narrowtracks says:

      Tom, thanks for the comments.
      1) EAST in the order was a typo, it should have been WEST. So the EXTRA 6414 was going West from Chillicothe to Midland City (this was the turn out of Chillicothe that does the local switching between those two points). I have correct the text in the order for future readers.
      2) Your correct, a meet at Midland City would have the same problems as it is the terminating point for x6414 WEST. Everything I’ve read indicates “do not write a meet order at a point where a train terminates”. In that sense a right over is better, had x6414 been a scheduled train and would sign the register.


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