New Train Registers

For a crews operating on a railroad dispatched with Time-Table and Train Order (TT&TO), reading and signing the train register was critical to train safety.  Crews use the information on the register to determine if it is safe or not to depart the register location.  If the information is not accurate a trains could collide.  If trains crew fails to sign the register than another crew may wait indefinitely to depart.

During the 2005 NMRA convention I hosted TT&TO operations on my Sn2 SR&RL layout.  During the session, one experienced operator was assigned an extra train.  When he checked the register, he found that none of the crews for the scheduled trains had signed the register.  At which point he blurted out “None the Scheduled Trains have signed the register, I cannot depart!”  He did so in a bold voice that matched the boldness of his Hawaiian shirt.  Upon hearing this 3 crews scurried to sign the registers.  Yes, they had embarrassed looks on their faces, but I’m sure they all now remember to sign the registers.  One of those operators is regular on the BORRCS and is diligent about signing the registers some 12 years later!  That minor embarrassment has made all of us there that night better operators and given us all a story to talk about again and again.  Ain’t that right Jim!

During the most recent BORRCS session Rick confessed to me a TT&TO ops mistake he had been part of at the Tehachapi layout at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum.  If my memory is correct, he failed to write the signals of his train into the registry entry.  As a result an opposing train had a head on with the following section.  Rick had not realized he was not the last section and failed to write in the signals (which on the BORRCS would have been green).  When the unexpected meet occurred a discussion ensued and Rick got trained.  His experience is going to make him a better member of the BORRCS crew.

Not too long ago, Steve King wrote an article about registers in the Dispatchers Office (DO is the publication of the Op Sig).  In that article he showed examples of prototype registers.  I observed that all the registers separated the Eastward and Westward (or North and South) trains into separate tables.  This is a change from the current BORRCS registers which were a single table of trains.

After contemplating the difference, I’ve decided that the BORRCS registers would better serve the operators if they two had WESTWARD and EASTWARD tables so I’ve designed a new train registers.

Advantages of the new registers

  1. Easier to abide by RULE 83 – A train must ascertain if all trains due have arrived before passing a train register location – as one table will only contain the opposing trains.
  2. Easier to abide by RULE 70 –  First Class trains are superior to Second Class trains and extra trains – as one table will only contain the trains traveling in the same direction.

For the more complete listing BORRCS’s TT&TO operating rules review the TT&TO – Rules.


The new register has two tables.  One for registering Westward trains and one for registering Eastward trains.  Filling in the form is as followings:

  1. Train – Enter Train Identification which must be some form of train identification  for a scheduled train such as “NO 1”, “NO 98”, “1-95”, “3-95”.  On the BORRCS, extras do NOT sign the register.
  2. Signals – This is the same as flag color on locomotive is properly assigned.
    1. Blank – Train is not carrying signals because it is the last or only section of the train.
    2. Green – Not the last section of the train.
  3. Conductor – Initials of the conductor for the train.  If only one crew member, on the train, that person represents the conductor of the train so signs the register.
  4. Arrive – Arrival time.  Only required if terminating at the register location or switching at the register location.
  5. Depart – Departing time.  Not required if terminating at the register location.

Proper railroad technique for entering times

  • Do not use colon.  They could be confused as a “1” making someone think 1:01 is 1101.
  • Always put “a” or “p” at end of time to indicate “am” or “pm”
  • Do not use military time.
  • Do not put 1200, put 1201 or 1159, to ensure there is no confusion between noon and midnight as am and pm do not apply to 1200.
  • Sample times:
    • 1159p
    • 1239p
    • 1239a
    • 1001a
    • 101a
Posted in Conductor & Engineer, Registers | Leave a comment

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





Posted in Dispatcher, Orders, TT&TO | 2 Comments

New Clearnace Stamp for use by dispatchers

Dispatchers, I’ve modified the clearance stamp to align better with the Micro Mark clearance forms in use on the BORRCS.

Here is a sample micro mark Clearance From A. Note, is not filled out properly as the time/date is not correct and the train is just the engine number, it should be something like EXTRA 9267 EAST

Here is a sample of the new stamp in use.  The text is aligns better to the form.  I have updated the How to Prepare a Clearance page.  Review that page before the using the stamp.  Feel free to add comments to this page if you have questions.

Three samples of using the stamp. The first is the stamp without dispatcher entered text. The second if for a scheduled train and the third is for an extra. Not that messages do not have numbers so cannot be listed.

Hopefully now that the stamp is similar to the Micro Mark clearance form, communication between operator and dispatcher will be more natural.

David Keith

Chief Dispatcher B&O Chillicothe Sub


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2018 Cincinnati Express Convention

 The Cincinnati Express 2018 MCR– Mid Central Region Annual Conventions is coming May 17 through 20, 2018. This web site will help operators to have early information about the railroad.  The Rules pages are the most interest.  The orientation pages will updated with images as we delve into TT&TO operations.  Get information on the types of jobs available for an Op session. Check our video tour, about 1/3 of the mainline, and other basic information so you can mark up for the railroad as if you’d already been there.  At right, sign up for the RSS feeds or email notification to get all of the latest information on the B&O Chillicothe Sub. 

We look forward to hosting  guest operators at the 2018 Mid Central Region Annual Convention. There are limited openings for our Thursday night Convention Op session on the B&O Chillicothe sub, so mark up early!

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TT&TO: What to do when your train can’t go forward and your being over taken by a higher class train?


Last session the second section of No 98 had reason to pass the first section when the First 98 had problems in Midland City.  See the previous post.  This session, the saga of No 98 continues with the third section.

During the Sept 2017 operating session Rick encountered a challenging situation while operating the Third 98 through Midland City.  Here is what he emailed me after the session:

Last Tuesday I think I screwed up.  I was on a scheduled EB freight (3rd 98) which was about 3 hours late.  The mail train was scheduled to leave behind me by about 1½ hours.  I got a “right over” order leaving Cincinnati to yield to a local freight between Midland City and Leesburg.  What I didn’t anticipate was that there would be a long delay at Midland City before the local showed up.  While I was waiting on the EB Main the mail train (No 12) showed up behind me and had no way to pass me.  Once the local showed up I proceeded and pulled into the siding at Leesburg to allow the mail train to pass. 
So the question is, what should I have done?

Before we get into “what should I have done?”, I’ like to first focus on what to focus first on the #1 thing he should not have done: “I proceeded and pulled into the siding at Leesburg to allow the mail train to pass”

So why is it so bad?  Let me paraphrase what Rick wrote in another way to that make it clear why his actions were poor.  “I proceeded with Second Class Train Third 98 ahead of First Class Train No 12”  Does this make it more clear?  Rick proceeded ahead of a higher class train without orders to do so.  Only the Dispatcher make change the authority of the Time-Table and that must be done by Train Orders.  A dispatcher, I know that Rick did not have such orders.  On the prototype, I’d guess that Rick would have been reprimanded as would the crew of the No 12 because both crews were in the wrong by proceeding without orders.

Given the situation, I think a better choice would have been for No 12 to backup flagging on to the single track main east of town and then flag it’s way down the WB main and proceed on east from Midland City to Chillicothe and beyond.  No 12 needn’t have waited for the Extra WB local.  No 12 did not have orders to wait for the WB local, instead the WB local should have been waiting in the hole for No 12.  The Extra WB crew should also be reprimanded for not waiting for No 12.  The failure to wait could have resulted in the death of N-scale crews…Jim you got lucky!

Now we know what third 98 should have done once No 12 arrived at Midland City, but Rick is really asking “What should I have done to avoid the situation?”.

RULE 99:  When train is moving in manner that another train might unexpectedly encounter it, than the train must dispatch red flags. 

The above is our simplified version that appears in the Operating Rules.  The full version has much more too it, but I’ll leave that to a future post.


Dispatching the flagger when risk of being overtaken

Clearly Third 98 was moving in a manner that No 12 might unexpectedly encounter it.  So Third 98 should have dispatched red flags to the west to intercept No 12.  At a minimum, the flags should have gone back to the west switch where the main splits from single track to double track.  But better yet, they should have gone back sufficient distance so that No 12 could have stopped before the switch.  That way No 12, could have flagged it’s way down the WB main rather than entering the EB main behind Third 98No 12 is the highest priority train on the line at this hour in the day, so need not acquiesce to any other train.  Flagging down the WB main would not be required as Midland City is within Yard Limits.  Depending on how hard the yard limits go back to the West, flagging to the west might not have been required either.

Rick considered a two other options in his email.

“Hold on the siding at Blanchester until the Mail train showed up?  (I think this is the correct answer). Thereafter stay clear of the mail train’s time.  Problem is I couldn’t anticipate the local would have taken so long to show up at Midland City.”

If he could not anticipate the delay in the Extra WB local arriving, there is no way he could have made this choice.  As a Dispatcher, I’m glad he did not choose this, as Blanchester does not have a station agent.

“Pull into one of the yard tracks at Midland City?  This would have involved wrong-way operation on double track, plus I would have needed to double into the yard due to the train length and move some cars out of the way in the yard.  (BTW, where are the yard limits in this area?)”

Rick goes not to acknowledge that that this is not practical and I agree.  In comparison to flagging this is much more trouble and might result in more problems for the railroad.


As the dispatcher I must admit that I did not issue the best order.  I gave an order giving the Extra WB local right over Third 98 from Leesburg to Midland City.  Basically, I gave an order for Third 98 to wait an indeterminate amount of time.

Instead have I given a RUN LATE order to Third 98 it would have been much better.  I could have issued THIRD 98 RUN THREE HOURS LATE.  With the RUN LATE order in hand, both Third 98 and the Extra WB local could have negotiated the delayed schedule, THIRD 98 would still have kept it’s priority over the Extra WB local and THIRD 98 could have stayed ahead of No 12 for the remainder of it’s trip across the division to Chillicothe.

It is the Dispatcher’s responsibility to provide clear concise orders and the RUN LATE order would have been best.  All dispatchers on the B&O Chillicothe Sub should make the RUN LATE a go-to order, specially when sections are involved.

There were other problems with the RIGHT OVER order as I gave it, I’ll address them in a future post

Dave Keith



Posted in Conductor & Engineer, Dispatcher, Rule 99 - Flagging, TT&TO | 1 Comment

TT&TO: Can one section pass another?

I was not able to attend the August 2017 ops session, but I began hearing about it first thing the next morning.  Emails were flying.

First 98 and Second 98 waiting orders in Midland City

Keith sent the clarifying email:

  1. Andre was running 98-1 but one of the Geeps “sucked a valve”, so the Super instructed him to set off half a dozen cars at Midland City to reduce the load.
  2. I was running 98-2.  The yard got the drag 98 out first ahead of the express 98 (Reefer Madness), so the following train was feeling the pinch of melting ice.  Which I realize doesn’t matter to TT&TO, buuut – there was a lot of enjoyable discussion around 98-2 potentially passing 98-1 due to the mechanical trouble.
  3. I did sign the register in Loveland, and the register said 98-1 was still well ahead of me (>10 mins) so at that moment it was proper to continue on, after I waited for the National to pass westbound, because it was due.
  4. So I did, and in the absence of signals, ran up on 98-1 at Midland City.
  5. Dispatcher and operator issued new orders for 98-2 to run ahead of 98-1.
  6. So we backed 98-1 down the double track once he was back together, and pulled him in behind 98-2 on the eastbound main.  Both of us then had to wait for the Diplomat, because by that time he was due before we could get to the next siding.
  7. One of us could have made Leesburg before the Diplomat was due, however Jim had the Midland Turn in the hole there waiting for all the trains in the world run.  Not sure how 98-2 would have known that Leesburg siding was occupied?
  8. The Diplomat left, and then time ran out, so everything is parked as described.

For those not familiar with the B&O, No 98 is a eastbound second class hot shot freight train.  Mostly perishables and key customer shipments.  The National Limited is a westbound first class passenger train.  The Diplomat is a westbound first class passenger train, that runs about 2 hours after the National Limited.  The Midland Turn is an extra that serves the local industries on the between Chillicothe and Midland City.

I’m not going to address how First or Second 98 would know about the extra in Leesburg, other than to say that it’s up to the Dispatcher to help the local be safe.  The focus of this post is to address:  “Can a section pass another section”?

The answer is “Yes”.  Peter Josserand on page 47 of RIGHT OF TRAINS he captured the following order:  Engs 99 and 25 reverse positions and Second and Third 1 H to Z.

So the proper order for this situation would be:  Engs 6607 and 9162 reverse positions and First and Second 98 Midland City to Chillicothe

Josserand goes on to write that conductors and enginemen of the trains addressed will exchange orders and signals.  Following sections, if any need not be addressed.  It turns out that there was a Third 98 following, so the First and Second 98 were both displaying the same signals (green flags), so no signals had to be replaced.

I’m not sure how to properly handle multi-unit lash ups.  Do all engines in a consist need to be included in the order.  For our model railroads addressing the lead units is probably sufficient, but it would be interesting to know.  If any readers of the blog know, please post a comment.

The dispatcher during the session wrote a run ahead order.  I doubt that is acceptable, as it results in ambiguity as to what train is First or Second section.  Does the crew of the first section going down the track consider it’s train to be First 98 or Second 98?  An operator down the line at Leesburg or Greenfield might would figure the first train seen is First 98, not Second 98 running ahead of First 98.  This could lead to confusion, if a meet order were addressed to Second 98.  The reverse positions order removes all ambiguity.

The passing of sections is simple for the dispatcher.  The reverse positions order is delivered to those two trains only.  No other trains are effected.  I could see where railroads may have planned for sections to pass.  A section with work on the division would depart first, to be passed by a faster section.  This could be helpful as the “whole train” would pass through the railroad in less time.

On pages 46 and 47 Josserand details Form F and various situations with sections, including Withdrawing a section.

The Reverse positions order is documented in the Condensed Code of Operating Rules too (page 49 documentation about Form F).  The smaller book is targeted to the model railroader and provided at our dispatchers desk.




Posted in Dispatcher, Sections, TT&TO | 1 Comment

Video trip from St. Bernard to Blanchester

Erik, one of the regular operators on the B&O Chillicothe Sub shot this video during an operating session in 2015.  The camera road ahead of the train from St. Bernard to the approach of Midland City.  Just over 1 time around the basement.  Sit back and take it easy.  This is railroading, where it takes time to get from one place to another.

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