• Home Yard?

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by richardspitzer
Hello, I would like to know if each freight car has something like "home yard". I know if a railroad has a "foreign" cars on their line (for example UP has some BNSF cars), they need to return them to origin ASAP, otherwise they have to pay money for this.

I'm just curious because I have a small shortline layout in train simulator and I would like to do all operations as real as possible. Let's assume I have a train with 5 loaded freight cars which goes from station A to station B. When train arrived to destination (B), engine is uncoupled and switcher sets out cars according to Switch List.

But what after unloading? In real life "foreign cars" should be returned. Let's assume first three cars from head end should be returned to origin, station A. How yard crew in station B will know it? Few years ago I have found "Car Cards & Waybill System" Access app (which is for model railroaders) and there is a car roster with field "Home Yard". This home yard is also printed on each car card, so in this case yard crew in B gets car cards from inbound train and will know which cars should be returned to A.

But I know car cards & waybill system is more for model railroaders. So I would like to know if something like this exists in real life. How yardmaster or switch crew in destination know which car should be returned and where? Is it only about computers?
  by ExCon90
In 1:1 scale railroading today, most cars can be routed anywhere a load needs to go. In areas with a lot of inbound traffic and not much outbound, empty cars will be returned to (or towards) the owning road. In areas that primarily originate traffic, any empty car can be loaded anywhere unless there is a specific agreement in effect between or among participating railroads (auto-racks are a common example) to keep cars captive to a particular movement. In the days of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), prior to 1980, the regulations were much more stringent and often counterproductive; although their purpose was ostensibly to improve car utilization they often had the opposite effect. In general today, a shipper orders a car from the serving railroad (often by computer without actually having to phone anybody), and the computer scans the area for car availability and issues appropriate instructions to the yard where a suitable car is found, indicating the station and shipper who ordered the car. A few decades ago all this was done by individuals over the phone after manually checking yard records. On a model railroad the operator gets to decide which shipper might order a car and where it might need to go.
  by ExCon90
I should add that the above applies to railroad-owned cars; i.e., having reporting marks ending in other than X. Cars designated TTX, TT-X, and -TTX are intermodal cars owned by the Trailer Train Co.; those designated RBOX (if they're still around) are boxcars painted yellow and stenciled RAILBOX and are also owned by Trailer Train. Those cars are free runners which have no "home" and can be loaded wherever needed. Other ---X cars are owned by individual shippers and when empty are moved at the direction of the owner.
  by richardspitzer
ExCon90, thank you. That makes sense in real railroad, but didn't help me with my layout. I have a model of a shortline which has two big stations with yard and industry tracks. Both stations are owned by private (fictional) railroad with fictional reporting marks. Except this I also use cars from other railorads (BN, MP, UTLX etc.).

In this case each of both stations should have its own railroad owner. For example station A should be owned by my fictional PVRX and station B by BN. This would allow me to return empty cars to railroad owners. Am I right?
  by ExCon90
I'm not sure what you mean by "private railroad." Railroads are common carriers regulated by the FRA in operational and safety matters and by the Surface Transportation Board (successor to the Interstate Commerce Commission) in matters regarding rates and routes; even railroads owned by U. S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel (Union RR, Johnstown & Stoney Creek) back in the day were common carriers operating under the same regulations as the Class I's. A railroad cannot have reporting marks ending in X.
  by Wayside
Hey, it's your layout. You can do whatever you want. Right?
  by ExCon90
True, but if you want it to be authentic you want to know what was actually done on the ground. As far as equipment assignment and utilization are concerned, if you're modeling a particular time period there's a lot of difference between pre- and post-1980 because of the Staggers Act.
  by richardspitzer
ExCon90 wrote:True, but if you want it to be authentic you want to know what was actually done on the ground. As far as equipment assignment and utilization are concerned, if you're modeling a particular time period there's a lot of difference between pre- and post-1980 because of the Staggers Act.
Sorry, my mistake. I mean "shortline", "private" is a bad term. Time period is today, so sure after 1980. And I agree, it's a model layout, but I want to be authentic. Of cource I can do what I want, but it's not too much interesting.
  by Engineer Spike
Your short line, even if owned by the industry, such as the example of US Steel roads had to get materials from the outside, and also ship out finished product. One example is a paper mill that I sometimes switch in. They get inbound chemicals in tank cars and covered hoppers. These naturally leave empty. On the other hand, some boxcars bring in pulp. Sometimes they get respotted for outbound finished paper. Even the pulp cars sometimes go empty. This could be because the loads require high cubes, or even plug doors. Other times the inbound pulp cars are part of a pool that run between the pulp mill, and the finished paper mill.
  by John_Perkowski
Long story short, for any non-railroad owned car (such as RBOX, TTX, GATX, FURX)

At product shippers
You can assign any car in your fleet that meets the shippers requirements

Between trips
What do you mean, between trips? The idea is to keep the car moving. Cars sitting n storage somewhere are an expense, not a revenue generator.

I would set an interchange siding or yard between your short line and the Class I servicing you.
  by BAR
Most privately owned cars are owned by leasing companies such as UTLX, GATX, GE Capital Rail Services, and CIT Group and their cars are leased to shippers. There are also some shipper owned fleets, the larger ones being Exxon, Cargill, Dow Du Pont, and Georgia Power. According to Progressive Railroading in 2013 the freight car fleet included 420,115 railroad owned cars and 1,006,180 privately owned cars
  by BR&P
Well, I'm only 6 or 7 months late for getting into this but I see people digging up 16 year old threads in other parts of these forums. So...

You actually raise a complex question and there are many variables which affect how things were done. Let's take a couple examples.

Wonder Widget Works is located on the SP in California. When they order a car for outbound loading it's probably (but not certainly) going to be an SP car. Say SP delivers a plain-vanilla 50' boxcar. They load it with widgets and ship it to Massachusetts to Acme Anvils, located on a shortline. Acme unloads the car and with nothing to ship out, the shortline will hustle that car back to their Class I. Why? Because they are paying SP a given amount for every hour the SP car is on their line. SO that car costs them money - anywhere from maybe 15 cents an hour to over a dollar an hour.

(TIME OUT - car hire rules changed over the years. It used to be a daily amount. Then an hourly amount. More recently deprescription has allowed railroads to make deals among themselves on car hire. I'm speaking of maybe 40 years ago in the example)

The Class I will either send the SP car back west empty, or perhaps find someone who is loading something TO the west coast, and will apply the car there.

OK, now let's say that California company expands and wants to avoid having to hope the SP has cars for them. They prevail upon SP to set up a "pool" of maybe 10 or 15 cars, nice cushion underframe plug door cars, to be used for their widgets. SP may designate these 15 cars as "Assigned cars". Under Car Service Directive 145 ("CSD145"), these cars must be returned empty to Wonder Widget Works for the next load - the shortline in MA, and their Class I connection, are prohibited from using the cars for other customers. Those cars will have a stencil on the side saying "ASSIGNED CAR CSD145 - RETURN EMPTY TO SP AGENT AT PODUNK CA".

Many cars - most often the plain, generic boxcars - were considered "free runners". They could be loaded to any destination. Thus that MA shortline could load an unassigned SP car to Florida if they needed to. This concept was behind the creation of RBOX, whose slogan was (is?) "Next load - any road".

From time to time there would be a demand for a certain type of car on a Class I, and their Car Distributor or whatever title they had would issue an order "Send any surplus 40' box to Springfield, and all surplus 50' gons to Buffalo". (Of course soon those places would be swamped and half the empty cars sent there would then be diverted somewhere else, but that's another story :wink: )

So if OP still cares over a year later, there's a little insight. I will repeat, there were many variables, and it took a fair amount of experience and knowledge to grasp the various factors. If OP has specific questions on something, I'll *TRY* to check back before another year and a half goes by but no guarantee! :P
  by richardspitzer
Thank you BR&P for clear explaining ;-)
  by BR&P
You're welcome, Richard, and I hope that my examples were understandable.
  by richardspitzer
BR&P, yes they did.