Operations Training

CRM&HA: Educating Operators
revised April 2013

Overview
The CRM&HA Operator training program consists of  the following “certifications”, which can be obtained by demonstrating specific operational abilities and/or skill sets.  Any club member who has already attained a specific certification can train/mentor/supervise another member in acquiring the skills/abilities required, then watch as the trainee performs the entire job (accompany the trainee while he/she does the complete job), then certify that the trainee now has the required skills/abilities. The Operations Committee will maintain a spreadsheet that shows the current certifications attained by each club member.    

Step 1 – Apprentice Engineer.  In order to run a train on the layout, you must first become certified as an Apprentice Engineer.  This requires that you be able to demonstrate 2 specific skill sets – Digitraxx Mastery and Docent Operation.   An Apprentice Engineer can come to the CRM&HA museum at any time, turn on the layout, and run trains alone or with guests.  All locomotives and cars on the layout must be returned to wherever they were located before running trains, and any locomotives and/or cars brought from home with the Apprentice Engineer must be removed from the layout at the end of the session.   
(1A) Digitraxx Master:  You must be able to use both a series 400 Digitraxx Dual throttle (DT 400) and a series 300 Digitraxx Utility throttle (UT-4) to (1) acquire a locomotive or an established consist of 2 or more locomotives, (2) dispatch a locomotive or a consist, (3) turn track power on or off (series 400 throttle only), (3) accelerate and decelerate slowly and smoothly, and reverse directions after bringing a train to a complete stop, (4) use the basic sound functions on your Digitraxx throttle (turn the engine sound and headlight on/off, blow the horn/whistle, and ring the bell.)   
(1B) Docent Operator: You must be able to (1) turn master layout power, and track power, on or off, (2) align all turnouts required for continuous running on all three of the longest continuous running loops built into the track plan [the lower level front peninsula loop (also called the “inner loop”), the lower level two peninsulas loop (also called the “outer loop”), and the upper level loop] using the push button turnout controls, (3) uncouple a locomotive from a string of cars using a bamboo skewer without derailing anything (no hands allowed), and (4) couple a locomotive to a string of cars at slow speed (no hands allowed.)  There are 3 other continuous running loops built into the CRM&HA track plan (the Liberty Paper Mill loop, the Little River narrow gauge loop, and the Pendleton loop), but we will presume that you can set them up for continuous running once you are shown where they are and have mastered operating the 3 longer loops.     

Step 2 – Junior Engineer.  In order to be put in charge of running a train during a regular CRM&HA operating session, you must first be certified as a Junior Engineer.  To attain this certification, you must be able to handle at least 2 of the following 4 pretty basic operating jobs (run 3 Easy Turns, run a Southern Passenger train, run a Central Passenger train, and run a Southern Through Freight.)  You can be trained/mentored for one of these jobs by anyone who is already certified for that job.  Your trainer will then accompany you while you perform the job by yourself, and will certify that you can handle it.  Thereafter, you can be assigned to be in charge of that job, and you can train/certify someone else while he/she learns to do it.  After  you have attained 2 of these 4 certifications (and are thus a certified Junior Engineer), you can either get yourself certified in the other 2  jobs or learn a more difficult Step 3 job.    
(2A)  3 Easy Turns Engineer: You must be able to run (1) a Piedmont & Southern freight train from one of the 2 P&S staging tracks located behind Seneca Yard to Peachtree Yard and return to P&S staging – exchanging outbound for inbound cars as required at Peachtree Yard, (2) a Central freight train from the Cashiers staging track located outside of the upper level Asheville staging loop to Brevard and return – exchanging outbound for inbound cars as required at Brevard, and (3) a Central freight train from Augusta staging located inside the helix, through Pendleton, to Seneca, and return to Augusta staging – exchanging outbound for inbound cars as required at Seneca.  All 3 of these jobs require that you be able to throw turnouts as required in order to stay on your assigned track and that you use the horn/whistle and bell sound functions on your throttle appropriately.  These jobs also requires handling basic switch list paperwork, which will tell you which cars to pick up at the train's destination yard for the return trip.  The Augusta job also requires handling local switching at Pendleton on your way back to Augusta.  To be certified at this level, you must perform one of these 3 jobs adequately and have your trainer show you where the other two jobs originate and terminate. 
(2B) Southern Passenger Engineer: You must be able to run a passenger train from a designated lower level staging track in either direction around the lower level continuous run loop and return to staging.  This requires  throwing electrical push button turnouts as required in order to stay on a designated track, knowing the sequence of towns along the route, making smooth stops at all designated passenger station platforms, exchanging one or more head end cars at Peachtree Station, and using the horn/whistle and bell sound functions on your throttle appropriately. 
(2C) Central Passenger Engineer: You must be able to run a train from a designated upper level staging track to Seneca Yard and return to upper level staging. This includes throwing electrical push button turnouts as required to stay on a designated track, knowing the sequence of towns along the route, making smooth stops at all designated passenger station platforms, navigating the helix, and using the horn/whistle and bell sound functions on your throttle appropriately.
(2D) Southern Through Freight Engineer: You must be able to run a Southern Railway through freight train in either direction from lower level staging back to staging.  This includes picking up and/or dropping off specified strings of cars in Seneca and/or at Peachtree Yard, and using the horn/whistle and bell sound functions on your throttle appropriately.  This job also requires handling slightly more complex switch list paperwork, which tells the engineer which specific cars to pick up or drop off at which specific locations.

Step 3 – Road Engineer.  You must attain at least two Step 2 certifications as described above before tackling any of these four somewhat more complicated Step 3 jobs, all of which require running a local freight train (prepared for you by a yardmaster) from one location to another, while setting out and/or picking up freight cars at specified industry locations along the way.  Once you perform a given job adequately under the supervision of someone already certified for that job, you will be certified for that job yourself, and may then be assigned to be in change of that job during a regular operating session yourself, or to supervise someone else while he/she attempts to become certified for it.  After you have attained 2 of these 4 certifications (and are thus a certified Road Engineer), you can either get yourself certified in the other 2 Step 3 jobs or learn an even more difficult Step 4 job.
(3A) Walhalla Turn Engineer: You must be able to run a local freight train from Peachtree Yard to Walhalla and return, making setouts and pickups at various local industries and interchange tracks in Wesminister, Seneca, and Walhalla.  This job requires being able to handle uncoupling picks reliably, being able to identify the locations of the various industries served by the Southern along this route, throwing both electrical push button and manual turnouts as required to deliver or pick up specified cars to/from specified locations, using the using the basic sound functions on your throttle appropriately, and handling more complex switch lists.
(3B) Central Freight Engineer: You must be able to run a local freight train from either Seneca Yard or Asheville Yard to any location served by the Central Railroad, making setouts and pickups as required at local industries and interchange tracks.  Some Central freight trains run as “turns”, which depart from and return to the originating yard, and which cover only part of the full route between the two Central railroad yards, while others run from one yard all the way to the other. This job requires being able to handle uncoupling picks reliably, being able to identify the locations of the various industries served by the Central along your route, throwing both electrical push button and manual turnouts as required to deliver or pick up specified cars to/from specified locations, using the using the basic sound functions on your throttle appropriately, and handling more complex switch lists.
(3C) B&RF Road Engineer: You must be able to run any freight, mixed, or passenger train anywhere on B&RF trackage, making smooth stops at passenger stations (if you have a passenger car in your train), and setting out and picking up cars at Brevard, and/or Little River, and/or Rocky Flats as specified.  This job requires being able to handle uncoupling picks reliably, being able to identify the locations of the various industries served by the B&RF along your route, throwing both electrical push button and manual turnouts as required to deliver or pick up specified cars to/from specified locations, using the using the basic sound functions on your throttle appropriately, and handling more complex switch lists. 
(3D) Little River Road Engineer:  You must be able to operate the entire Little River narrow gauge line, working the interchange yard and the sawmill, and running cuts of cars to/from Little River to Elkmont.  This job requires being able to handle uncoupling picks reliably, being able to identify the locations served by the Little River RR, throwing both electrical push button and manual turnouts as required to deliver or pick up specified cars to/from specified locations, using the using the basic sound functions on your throttle appropriately, and handling more complex switch lists.    

Step 4 -  Yard Engineer.  You must attain at least two Step 3 certifications as described above before tackling any of these four somewhat more complicated Step 4 jobs, all of which require running a very local switching job, prepared for you by a yardmaster or by you under the direction of a yardmaster, to/from a nearby industrial area, setting out and/or picking up freight cars at specified industry locations there, and returning to the originating yard.  What makes these jobs more difficult is that the industrial areas that they serve all have complex trackage with limited clearances and turnouts running in both directions.  Thus, each of these 4 jobs is something of a “switching puzzle”, which may require considerable ingenuity and many back and forth movements with your locomotive to get cars to/from their specified destinations.  You must be accompanied by someone already certified for that job while you perform any of these jobs for the first time.  Once you finish the job under supervision, you will be certified as a qualified Yard Engineer for that job, and then will be allowed to handle it by yourself, or to supervise someone else while he/she attempts to become certified for it.
(4A) Liberty Paper Mill Yard Engineer.  You must be able to switch the entire Liberty Paper Mill complex, exchanging inbound and outbound cars at the dedicated Liberty Paper Mill Yard with the Central Railroad.  Since this yard has a very limited capacity, you may have to work in tandem with a Central Freight Engineer (certification 2B) to figure out how to exchange longer strings of inbound and outbound cars.  Of course, this job also requires all of the specific skills listed above for Step 2 certifications.  This yard engineer stays inside the Liberty Paper Mill Access hatch at all times. 
(4B) Peachtree Yard Engineer.  You must be able to handle both the Peachtree Industrial and Decatur Industrial jobs that operate out of Peachtree Yard.  These are both complex “switching puzzle” operations that may require considerable pre-planning and ingenuity in order to get cars into or out of designated spots without blocking grade crossings and/or clogging up the main line.  You must perform both of these jobs under supervision in order to be certified as a Peachtree Yard Engineer yourself. The Peachtree Industrial job is the most complicated switching puzzle on the entire layout, but because it takes place in a very confined area, the yard engineer assigned to this job can remain seated  90% of the time.  These two jobs also require all of the specific skills listed above for Step 2 certifications.   
(4C) Seneca Yard Engineer. You must be able to switch all local industries served by the Central railroad in and around Seneca Yard.  There are only a couple of industries involved, but switching the Seneca Abattoir is a deceptively difficult switching puzzle that will slaughter the naive operator.  This job also requires all of the specific skills listed above for Step 2 certifications. 
(4D) Asheville Yard Engineer.  You must be able to switch all local industry spots served by the Central Railroad from Asheville Yard.  This is yet another switching puzzle operation that may require considerable pre-planning in order to get cars into or out of designated spots,  particularly since several industries are located along one long track, requiring you to pull and re-spot some cars, while setting our or picking up others.  This job also requires all of the specific skills listed above for Step 2 certifications.    

Step 5 – Yardmaster.  You must attain at least two “step 4” certifications before tackling any of these very complicated jobs, and you must have attained certification in all the engineer jobs in Step 2, Step 3, or Step 4 that originate, terminate, or exchange cars at your yard.  Three of the Yardmaster jobs require managing one of the three main yards on the railroad, while the fourth requires you to manage the Biltmore Engine Terminal.  All of these jobs require fast and efficient movement of individual cars and strings of cars in order to keep the railroad running and operators busy during an operating session.  Thus, there's usually more pressure on Yardmasters than on the people serving in any Step 2, Step 3, or Step 4 capacity.  The three Yardmaster jobs all require you to make up outgoing trains and break down incoming trains, to verify that switch list paperwork is accurate, to call for a road crew or a yard engineer when a train is ready to depart, to call for a road-ready locomotive when you need one, and to supervise any yard engineers assigned to your yard – either assigning them to Step 4 yard jobs, or getting them to help you within the yard itself to keep things moving when your yard is busy.  Once you have performed a yardmaster job under the supervision of the Dispatcher or someone already certified for that job, you will be certified as a qualified Yardmaster for that job yourself, and may then be assigned to handle it by yourself without direct supervision, or to supervise someone else while he/she attempts to become certified for it.
(5A) Peachtree Yardmaster.  You must be able to break down and make up trains destined for all locations served by the Peachtree Yard, calling for road and yard engineers as needed, and preparing/distributing needed paperwork to the crews. 
(5B) Seneca Yardmaster.  You must be able to break down and make up trains destined for all locations served by Seneca Yard, calling for road and yard engineers as needed, and preparing/distributing needed paperwork to the crews.
(5C) Asheville Yardmaster.  You must be able to break down and make up trains destined for all locations served by Biltmore Yard, calling for road ready locomotives, road engineers, and yard engineers as needed, and preparing/distributing needed paperwork to the crews.  If you're under about 5'10” tall, it will be a bit more difficult for you to couple and uncouple cars in this yard, so you should prefer to qualify for the 2 yardmaster jobs on the lower level before tackling this one.     Note: The official name of the Central Railroad's yard in Asheville is “Biltmore Yard”, not “Asheville Yard.”  But in order to avoid confusion with the Biltmore Engine Terminal area, also located on the upper level in the CRM&HA meeting room, this yardmaster job is called “Asheville Yardmaster.
(5D) Biltmore Terminal Chief Hostler.  You must be able to service, store, and/or deliver road-ready Central locomotives and cabooses going into and coming out of the Biltmore Yard.  This includes refueling locomotives at the coaling tower or diesel fuel stands, dumping ashes at the ash pit, topping off their sand supply at the sand house, running them through the wash rack, and taking them into or out of storage in the diesel house or the roundhouse.  You'll also need to ensure that when called on to deliver head-end power for a departing train, that you provide sufficient horsepower to pull that train, including a consist of two or more locomotives if required.  You must also clean and re-stock cabooses at the designated locations prior to their next runs.  Because this all occurs in a confined area, there's almost no walking involved in this job, but because it's on the upper level, you'll need to remain standing for most of the time.

Step 6  – Dispatcher.  You must be a certified Yardmaster before tackling this job.  A Dispatcher must be able to serve as the host/leader of a complete operating session.  He/she must be able to schedule all trains, including regularly scheduled trains and “extras” needed to handle special needs, supervise/prioritize work for the yardmasters, provide accurate switch lists to yardmasters and engineers, verify engineer qualifications and assign road crews when it's time for a run originating in staging to depart (or when advised by a yardmaster that a newly assembled train is ready to depart a yard), arrange meets between trains going in opposite directions and communicate that to the engineers involved, resolve any operating problems that arise, determine how/when to begin and end each session, and generally keep the railroad operating as smoothly as possible. 

 

Special Notes:

  1. Experienced Operators: Any CRM&HA member who believes that he or she already has the requisite skills for a given level of certification can ask the Operations Committee (currently Howard Garner, Bob Folsom, Sandy Eustis, and Dan Marrett) to award the requested certification without having to demonstrate the specific skills required.
  2. Guests:  Non-CRM&HA members who attend an operating session may be assigned any job that the dispatcher for the evening decides they are capable of handling, without having to attain the appropriate certification first.  At present, only Howard Garner and Bob Folsom are certified dispatchers.