Roundhouse Ramblings

Non-NERR News - 28 Nov.
Other Downloads - 28 Nov.

Fun Page - 28 Nov.

17 Nov. - Rick's Rantz
7 Nov. - Claude's Corner
12 Nov. -
Taz's Tales

Send your news, articles and other material to the Editors.
All contributions used with gratitude!!


30 November
  • It's the end of the month again - our 4th for this year's editions! I hope that you have enjoyed reading your News page again this month. Don't forget to tell us what you would like to see in these pages - we'll do our best to provide what you want (although sometimes we'll also tell you what we think that you need to hear). A couple of new contributors this month, with one new column - Taz's Tales.

  • We'll have another new column for you early next month, called Old Heading (a railroad slang expression, so I'm reliably informed). This one will be written by a long-serving railroad engineer. His first column will have you wide-eyed and wondering what you would do if you were in the same situation as he found himself in!

  • Next month is the month in which lots of people celebrate Christmas. We'll have a few things to keep you reading through the holiday period. So when your family ask, "Are you playing trains again?" you can honestly say, "No!" But you will still be involved with the NERR and railroads.

  • We'll send you the email version of this month's Roundhouse Ramblings in a few days - so you can re-read it without even needing to be with your computer. Take it with you on holidays! Print out all the previous months' editions - they will keep you reading for a few days! (I've just added a couple of the past month's PDF files to the Archives page.)

  • And one final piece of trivia for the month - the Fastest Railroad: The highest speed recorded on any national railroad is 515.3 km/h (320.2 mph) by the French SNCF high-speed train, TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) Atlantique, between Courtalain and Tours, France, on May 18, 1990. The Train à Grande Vitesse, which means high-speed train, first entered commercial use in 1981, between Paris and Lyon in France. At the time it was the world's fastest train, with a top speed of 370 km/h (236 mph). It has since been superseded by newer generation TGVs.


28 November
  • Other Downloads page: version 6.1.56 of Route-Riter is now available.

  • Week 4 of the Diesel Certification Course:

Only 1 activity for this week of the course, and it is a beauty! These guys should write more activities for general use in the NERR! (Is that a good enough bit of sucking-up for a bonus point?)

The activity is a switching exercise with no set sequence of moves - you plan your own, as long as you follow the instructions in the briefing. There are also time limitations on when you have clearance into the various sections of the Swik mainline and yards - just to add a little bit of pressure on your planning and driving. And there is a popup or two that gives a bit more pressure.

But it was an excellent activity.

The second part of the week was the completion of the first of the two certification tests. I'll leave that for my next report - early in December.

You will have noticed by now that I'm a couple of weeks ahead of the schedule for the course. That's OK with the course managers. Some of the participants have completed the total course already. The maximum time for the course is 8 weeks; there is no minimum time. But all of the successful graduates will receive their certification at the same time around the end of January. The self-paced nature of the course is excellent. In my case, I'll be away for a few days in about a week's time and for a full week in mid-December - probably without internet access (withdrawal symptoms!!). That does not affect my participation in the course.

  • Oldest Steam Locomotive Still In Use (from the Guinness Book of Records): The "Fairy Queen" was built in 1855 by Kitson, Thompson & Hewitson, of England. Used on regular services until 1909, it was restored in 1966. Between October 1997 and February 1998, it made several trips along the 89kilometre line between New Delhi and Alwar, India.


26 November
  • There will not be any new major articles until the start of December - just news items and the occasional something else.

  • I've started a poll in the Human Resources forum to get people's opinion on whether to keep the columns attached to this news page (Rick's Rantz, Claude's Corner, Taz's Tales, Fun Page, Non-NERR News) as separate pages or to incorporate them into the text of this main news page. Think about it and then go and vote for your  preferred option.

  • We will have another new correspondent from next month. One of our newer members, a man of long RW railroad experience, has just submitted the first part of his first article about his experiences. It will be published early in December. There will also be an interview with a VIP in the VR world.

  • Two BNSF freight trains collided east of Columbia Falls, Montana, Thursday morning, blocking the main rail line and forcing Amtrak to bus Empire Builder passengers 250 miles from Whitefish to Havre.

  • There are lots of railroad webcam sites where you can see trains passing in real time. Try the RailroadPix links page for some good sites, including this one: "Lacey (Olympia), WA Centennial Station is the Amtrak stop for Olympia and Lacey Washington. The station is located on the active Cascades corridor between Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon and is serviced by 8 Amtrak trains daily. The double track line is owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and can host up to 20 freight trains per day. In addition, Union Pacific (UP) has trackage rights on the line and runs an additional 10 to 20 freight trains per day. The totals from the 3 railroads can be as many as 40-50 trains per day.

With a very active double track mainline and Railcam shots for the last 4 trains to pass in each direction, this camera gives an excellent view of BNSF and UP in the Pacific Northwest."

  • If you want a site that has plenty of reading material about trains and railroads, try RailroadInfo - forums, webcams, photo galleries, news headlines, links, a bookstore, and feature articles.

  • Week 3 of the Diesel Certification Course:

So I've made it to week 3 - relatively painless so far, except for the slippery rails, which can make quite a difference to your braking distances. It's still fun - but I guess that taz and Jim are sitting watching us students and chuckling quietly to themselves about what is coming later in the course!

The map of the area is very handy - saves lots of key strokes and panning around! 3 work orders for this week's part of the course - mainly switching exercises, with the additional pressure of time limitations. So I had to plan my moves and waiting periods a bit more carefully for this week's work. But that just adds to the challenge. I have noticed that my pulse goes up in some parts of the activities - just like real life, I guess. It's just as well the NERR has a good medical plan - doesn't it? And I'm getting to know the switchbacks really well.

Only 1 work order next week + THE TEST at the end of the week! Study, study, study.

  • Since the start of November, there have been the following files made available for download from the file library:

    • 2 routes, plus several upgrade files for older routes.

    • 11 activity files.

    • 24 miscellaneous utilities.

    • 25 locomotive files, some of which contain multiple locos.

    • 28 objects for route builders.

    • 95 rolling stock files, some of which contain multiple items.


24 November
  • Added the first 5 issues of Ramblings to the Archives page - October to December 2002 and January and April 2003. In these issues, you can read the early history of the NERR - how we have changed!!


23 November
  • Other Downloads page: Route-Riter v6.1.52 (exe file only) - needs v6.1.35 or higher already installed. This is a fix for a bug that caused route-checking to hang sometimes.

  • Question: How many people does it take to run a VR?

Answer (from Bob, ID# 1): "Yes, running a VR is a lot of work and a lot of fun. But people still seem to misunderstand. I do not run vNERR; I am more like the tie-breaking vote, the final say in any crucial decision. I have a Staff of people just like me, 8 of them. Then I have a Team doing testing, 10 I think, and I have about 14 people writing the work orders that these guys test. I have a Staff at the WCN training department for new engineers, 6-7 people. There is a staff of people in the NE Training Academy (5-6 people). I have a man pruning good questions and answers from the forum and entering them into the FAQ. I have 2 others monitoring the forums and deleting old stuff after a time so the forums don't overflow. I have had several people come and go who painted some of the trains. A working relationship with several route and utility authors has been made, and these guys are here helping out all the time - Robert Reedy, Joe Smith, Kip Crawford, Craig Hatlestad, and Jim Formoso to name a few. That's like more than 40 people!"

  • We have added a new colour code to the ID# cell in the Crew Callboard - Blue - as shown in the table below:

ID# Cell Colour Meaning
ID# Active - has submitted an NERR time slip in the past 30 days.
ID# Warning - has not submitted an NERR time slip for about 30 days.
ID# Inactive - has not submitted an NERR time slip for about 90 days - will soon not be able to access the downloads section in NETS.
ID# Training - is currently undertaking one of the NE Training Academy courses.
ID# On Leave - this will last for up to about 90 days, and then will become Inactive.
ID# Special - for other VR owners, contractors, guest developers, ...
ID# Retired ID number.


22 November
  • If you have the Cascades Crossing route from Maple Leaf Tracks, a useful website to get further information about that Southern Pacific route is Joel's Southern Pacific in the Cascades. He has collected a large amount of material, including  stories, photos, and track charts, about the route, its history and construction, the people, the derailments and floods, and the locos and rolling stock. It appears to be well worth a visit!

  • I know that it's only November, but the Christmas season is starting already in lots of ways, including some Christmas trains! Anyone in the New Mexico area can book now for the 1st annual Cumbres & Toltec's unique "Christmas Train" excursion on December 4 - a 2-hour ride a narrow gauge steam train. And it sounds like it will be more than just a train ride: "This 'fantasy vintage steam train holiday ride' will feature special character appearances, refreshments, and storytelling with the debut of the C&TS RR's very own Christmas story. As The Polar Express movie hits the theatres, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad proudly rolls out its own holiday tale that takes place in New Mexico and on board the C&TS Train. The story incorporates the train's mascot, Cinder Bear, along with special appearance by Santa Claus. The story, written by a local Chama, NM resident, presents the train in a whole new light to a new audience - the family audience." This route has been modelled in MSTS - it was on in January 2004.

  • And, for something different:

The Trainman's Lament

Author unknown

I'm not allowed to run the train,
the whistle I can't blow.
I'm not allowed to say how far
the railroad cars can go.
I'm not allowed to shoot off steam
or even ring the bell.
But let it jump the stupid tracks,
and see who catches hell.


21 November
  • Other Downloads page: Route-Riter (6.1.50 - exe file  and update files only). Mike has been busy with updating his program lately!

  • 44 tonnerBison Rail has a GE 44 ton locomotive in their herd. They have added a page about the history of this type of locomotive to their divisional web pages.

A few other pieces of information about these locomotives, an example of which is shown to the right, were provided in the NERR forums by taz and grpabear: "44 tonners were generally considered to be an "industrial" switcher (for use within the confines of a specific industrial plant). A few Class 1 railroads ordered them for use on specific branch lines usually where the tracks could not sustain the weight of a heavier switcher (...Southern Pacific being notable in this regard...SP once rostered one of the largest fleets, 14, of 44 tonners of any Class 1 railroad). There were a lot of variations over the years on the same basic design - most of them were slight external differences (such as headlight casings, door placement, etc.).

"Internally, the 44 tonner has two diesel engines and two generators...One at each end of the locomotive. Horsepower was originally rated at 350 HP (2 Hercules engines rated at 176 HP each) but was increased in later production models to 380 HP (2 Caterpillar D-17000 engines rated at 190 HP each). This in turn was used to drive 4 traction motors...One on each axle. Top speed is/was 35mph (60kph). The engines can also be used in tandem or singularly based on specific needs.

"44 tonners were a very popular model since their weight allowed for one man operation of the locomotive which skirted a 1937 rule requiring that 'locomotives of 45 tons (90000 lbs.) or more required a crew of two on common carrier railroads.' They are fairly underpowered and not very good for moving a long or heavy train, but they are good for a couple of cars or as a shop switcher.

"More information on 44 tonners can be found scattered throughout the web. One of the better references is the page that has links to the actual operator's manuals. This is George Elwood's Railroad Fallen - Flags: Operator's Manuals."

  • A few more railroad nicknames, sent in by Bill Prieger (ID# 269):

    • SPSF - Shouldn't Paint So Fast ( relating to the Kodachrome units of the failed SPSF merger)

    • BNSF - Bigger Now, Still F@#$&*

    • UP - Utterly Pathetic

    • SP - Suffer n' Pathetic

    • Erie Lackawanna - Erie Lacka' money.


20 November
  • Other Downloads page: Route-Riter (6.1.49 - exe file updated only).

  • Announcement over at in their forums that will make lots of people very happy: "I am here to announce that Maple Leaf Tracks has returned to the internet for sales of MSTS add-on products. A formal announcement will be made in a few days of the new arrangements at MLT via our website. I will also try very hard to make right all of the problems with ordering our customers have had recently. Thank you for your patience. Andy Hockin, Maple Leaf Tracks." In fact, their website seems to be back in action now.

  • Fun Page You will find a new page has been added to the menu above to the right. If you have a few spare minutes, and you want a bit of a lift, try this page. Jokes, stories, photos, cartoons - all will find a home here. The material will be taken from the forums, from other websites, and from emails that are received from members and from "outsiders". 

  • Time Zones & the Railroads: Until the spread of railroads demanded uniformity, communities worked out their own time zone by judging noon as the time when the sun was directly overhead. However, that meant a difference of a minute between communities that were 18 kilometres apart along the east-west axis. Britain was the first country to adopt one standard time for a region, with Abraham Osler, the caretaker of the clock at the Philosophical Institute in Birmingham, popularising the idea. To avoid upsetting the locals who used his clock to set their own timepieces, Osler made the seven-minute adjustment to his clock early one Sunday morning without notice, leaving the population of Birmingham to assume that their own clocks were running slow.

New Zealand claims to have led the world as the first country to officially adopt a standard time, switching on to New Zealand Mean Time on 2 November 1868.

Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming is considered the father of international standard time for his role in convening the International Prime Meridian Conference in Washington DC in 1884. Fleming, a Scottish-born railroad surveyor (mainly for the Grand trunk Western Railroad), reportedly became an advocate for uniform time zones after being stuck in a railroad station for a night in 1878 because of the confusion caused by irregular time zones. He conceived a system of dividing the world into 24 time zones (24 hours in a day, the time taken for one rotation of the Earth), with each hour equal to 15 degrees of longitude. Click here to view a page with more information about the world's time zones, including a map. This information is also significant in the operation of the NERR, as our members are spread all around the world.

Fleming was labelled a communist by some people for his ideas of a unified world. Others warned that the system was interfering with nature and contrary to the will of God.

He also developed what appears to have been the first in-line roller skate!

  • Watch for developments at Bison Rail. My sources tell me that things are mo0-ving! (terrible joke, I know).

  • Week 2 of the Diesel Certification Course:

Made it through Week 1! I read the emails from the Testing Centre, so I know that my reports were received OK. Now for Week 2.

Two activities this week. Both of them involve picking up cars and dropping them at various locations around the Swik area. The first takes less than 30 minutes, and the second takes about half as long again. I had printed out a map of the area - from the documentation provided with the route - and this made my tasks much easier. I usually press the F7 key before I start an activity - so that I can tell exactly where I am on the route - but the map makes that step unnecessary (as long as you can read a map!).

The driving is not difficult, but you do need to keep alert. Don't forget about sounding the horn before the road crossings, and don't forget to keep an eye on the positioning of the switches - you don't want to end up on the wrong siding - how embarrassing!

As I said at the end of the Week 1 part of the course, I kept wondering what the catch was going to be. Only 2 activities! By the time I had finished them, I knew!! And that's all I'm going to say about that - you'll have to do the course to find out for yourself. And it's not too bad - I'm still here! I've submitted my reports for Week 2. I'm ahead of time, I know, but I have a few busy days and weeks coming up at the end of the work year, and I don't want to slip behind. I know that the Course Manager is watching, and I want to stay in his good books (grovel, grovel). And I have to put more time into studying those rule books for the test in a couple of weeks - more late nights with the guttering candles!


19 November
  • Other Downloads page: XTracks Version 3.12 (contains Build 27 of the standardised tsection.dat). Most of the major utilities have been updated this week - Route-Riter (6.1.46) and now ConBuilder (2.2.9).

  • Our second interview for the month is with CraiH (Craig Hatlestad, ID# 191). You have seen him active in the forums, but you probably know him best as the developer of one of our newest network routes - the Clinton Subdivision - a former Chicago & North Western route now operated by UPRR. It consists of 115 miles of dual track mainline, located in eastern Iowa. This version covers the eastern half of the subdivision.

1. Where do you live? Tell us three things about where you live that would make us want to live there too.
First of all, let me say that it's quite an honor to be selected for interview by such an auspicious group. I'm in awe of all that NERR has accomplished!

OK, here goes.

I live in Fort Dodge, Iowa - population 26,000. It's a nice rural community in the north central part of the state. We're located on the hills above the Des Moines River, so it's quite a scenic little town. Most of the commerce here involves retail sales, but gypsum mining is big industry. The UP and CN both have routes through town, so there's plenty of train activity. Power on the UP is strictly UP but almost anything goes on the CN. It's common to see CN, BNSF, SF, and IC in the yards. I've also seen CSX, Wisconsin Central, and others down there.

2. Do you have any connection with railroads in the RW - either now in in your past?
I've never worked for a railroad, but, in my youth, I used to unload boxcars of lumber for the local lumber yard in my home town of Bancroft. I suppose that doesn't count, huh? I still have slivers come to the surface of my hands and arms, 40 years after doing that. Souvenirs of days gone by.

3. What do you do in the RW? - job, hobbies, vacations, spare time?
In the RW, I'm a registered nurse working for the Iowa Department of Corrections. The facility I work in is the largest in the state. Most of the inmates are young, with the average age being 26. We've had people as young as 14 and as old as 70. Most of them act like they're 13, so it makes for a challenging job. It's frightening to see the effects of drug use on people's health.

Before I started with the DOC, I spent 20 years at the local hospital as an RN/EMT in the ambulance service. Dug a couple of people out from under trains that they tried to drive under. I suppose that doesn't qualify as working for the railroad either. I also spent a few years in the ICU.

As for hobbies, I've always enjoyed fishing, photography, and gardening. I never caught the "big one" that I've always wanted and my gardens usually produce a wonderful crop of weeds, but I did get pretty good with a camera. Then, of course, there's MSTS. I've played with computers since the days of the Ataris with 16kb of memory and never enjoyed it as much as I do now.

My favorite place to vacation is Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Made many a trip there. Vacationed in New Orleans once during Mardi Gras. I think I had a good time there, just can't remember for sure.

Spare time? What's that?

4. How did you start with MSTS? - good and bad experiences?
A few years ago, I took my daughter to Boone for a ride on the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad. That brought back fond memories of my youth, standing in our backyard watching the CNW at work. The railroad ran right behind our house. That was before diesels made their debut. I can still remember how the house would shake when they'd crank up those engines. And the sound! To hear that again would be music to my ears.

Anyway, that ride re-ignited my interest in railroads and, one day, while shopping in the local Wal-Mart, I stumbled across a copy of MSTS. I was captivated by the thought that I might be able to reproduce that route through my home town so I bought the program, took it home, and have been hooked ever since.

MSTS took on a whole new meaning when I joined the NERR. Gave me a sense of actually working for a railroad. I think my favorite experience has been the Diesel Certification Course. I really enjoyed that challenge.

As for bad experiences, I can't say there have been any. There have been some bumps in the road with the Route Editor, but there are so many helpful people out there and such a wealth of information available, that I was able to overcome those problems without much difficulty.

5. Are you, or were you ever, a model railroader? If so, what scale, and do you still have a layout?
I played with model railroading years ago. Built a 2'x3' "N" gauge oval layout on a piece of plywood. It was quite a sight. I still have it. The layout is in my garage under a thick layer of dust and the train set, a Santa Fe F7 with 3 freight cars and a caboose is in a closet. The last time I looked at it the wheel sets fell off the engine.

6. How did you find the NERR? And what made you decide to join?
I found out about the NERR on Train-Sim. I'd tried the Midwest Rail VR when they first opened, thinking it would concentrate on my part of the country. I was totally disappointed with that experience but it gave me enough exposure to VRs to make me think I'd enjoy being involved in one - so I tried NERR. I've never looked back. The people here are really what make this VR a great place to be.

7. What is your favourite route - in the MSTS world and the RW (other than the Clinton Sub)? Why?
I love Kip's and Robert's routes, but my favorite has to be the Full Bucket. It's such a beautiful route and so frame rate friendly.

As for the Real World, I'm not sure I have a favorite. Used to ride the IC's Corn Belt to and from college, but that train pulled out at midnight so there wasn't much to see. It hauled a combination of freight and passenger and stopped at every little town along the way to pick up and drop off freight. If I were to pick one route, it'd be the UP's Boone Subdivision. It's basically the same route as the Clinton Sub, but it runs through the western half of the state - the Clinton Sub runs through the eastern half of the state. Highway 30 runs right along the track for most of the distance from Boone to Missouri Valley on the Nebraska border, and I used to drive that route frequently. It was quite a sight to watch all those trains running up and down that route. There were times when, if I wasn't in a hurry, I'd hang out in Carroll until a westbound came through and "race" it to Missouri Valley. If traffic wasn't heavy, the train would usually win!

8. What is your favourite loco? Why?
My favorite loco is the AC6000 simply because it's big and powerful. Nothing better than hauling a mile long train down the track at speed.

9. What made you decide to build your own route? Where did the idea to model the Clinton Sub come from? Why did you choose that particular route/location?
My first attempt at route building was that line through my home town. When I look at that first attempt now, I have to laugh at myself. I ran track all the way from Bancroft to Fort Dodge and then just quit working on it. The track I laid was so poorly done that it resembled a roller coaster running over flat land. Couldn't see myself enjoying a route with a speed limit of 10 MPH anyway.

10. Tell us about the process that you went through to build the route - who influenced you, advised you, helped you? What frustrated you? What kept you going? Where did you get the information to help you with the route details? Will you develop a version 2 of the route?
When I started the Clinton Sub, my real intention was to do the Boone Sub. When I started to work on the route, I discovered that it and the Clinton Sub were part of the same system here in Iowa, so I thought, why not combine them both into one big route. I started building in Clinton and then realized just how much work was going to be involved. I pared back my plans to just doing the Clinton Sub since I'd already started that. After spending about 3 months on it, I cut back to what you see today. Even that took me a year and a half to do.

As for influence and advice, most of that initially came from the Route Builders forum at Train-Sim. Once I got involved with NERR, I tended to look more to Robert and Kip for advice.

The thing that kept me going, more than anything else, was the encouragement that I got from Mike Martin and later, Ron Real, who used to live in the Cedar Rapids area. Those two gents are great people to know. Ron is not involved in VRs - says he got a bad taste in his mouth from a couple of VAs he played around in and was no longer interested in committing his time to something like that. Too bad he hasn't come by NERR.

I built the route almost entirely from what I could see in USA Photomaps. Every farm and town along the way actually exists along the route. Can't vouch for the appearance of those places, but they're there. Didn't have track charts until late in the game.

Probably the most frustrating thing was seeing how inaccurate some of my work was once I got those track charts. I backtracked through the route and rebuilt a couple of the yards to match the yard schematics. I had to be as accurate as I could make them. It wasn't 'till after the route was released that someone sent me a book that included schematics of the Clinton yards, and other people who had worked for CNW on the route started offering information about how things worked.

Based on what I have now, I've stripped all of the interactive stuff out of the route and am going to rebuild Clinton, rework the crossovers to a prototypical state, and extend to Boone. That'll all take place in version 2. The next version is probably a long way off. Right now, I'm reworking the signals for the P&A's and NERR's use. The track won't change until the next version.

11. Will you build another route? If not, why not? If yes, what might it be based on?
I've dabbled with a fictional route similar to Full Bucket, being mountain and desert scenery, based on terrain from around Salt Lake City, but don't know if I'll ever get serious with that.

I do want to build the Boone Sub but won't start that until the Clinton Sub is finished.

12. If you could improve one thing in MSTS, what would it be?
There are lots of things about MSTS that could be improved, and I'm hesitant to pick one thing that's more significant than others.

I do feel that, for all it's faults, MSTS is an amazing program when one considers all that it can do, especially since it's only had one version. In my opinion, most first version programs are far less functional than MSTS.

13. What 3 pieces of advice would you give to someone about to start building a route for the first time?
First, get Michael Vone's book and read it from end to end.
Second, Take the time to gather the resources you need to do an accurate job building your route.
Third, Backup, backup, backup!

14. Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time with MSTS / NERR?
It's hard to say where the train sim world will be in five years, especially given the recent changes taking place (MLT for example). Perhaps a better simulator will arrive and replace MSTS, but I'll always have an affinity for this program.

As for NERR, I can't imagine any group of people that I'd rather be associated with now or five years from now. I'm planning on sticking around and , hopefully continue to contribute in my own way.

15. Is there anything else that we should know about you - family, likes / dislikes, dreams, ...?
I have a wonderful 7 year old daughter who, to her credit, doesn't seem to mind too much that I spend my free time on MSTS. I have raised her by myself almost from the day she was born, and she is my pride and joy. Now if I could just teach her how to lay track.....


18 November
  • Handy Hint from Bill Prieger (ID# 269): "Here's a little known RW running tip that also works in MSTS. If your train is stalling, or you can't get it moving, even with the sand, some units will wheel slip (Especially the steamers). Apply some "jam" (loco independent brake) and the wheel slip will stop and the locomotive will start pulling the train. I'm presently testing a w/o I'm writing (using steam), and I had hit an impasse where the locomotive could not shove back to the train after picking up a number of cars due to a small uphill grade. Just as the Locomotive would get the train
    bunched up, bam, wheel slip, stalled train and this is with the sanders on. So I applied about 50% loco brake and voila, the train started to back up. I then adjusted my application down as speed built up and was able to make the hook. I'm amazed every time I find a RW trick that works in MSTS. Those are far and few between. So now you have no excuse for stalling that train!

"Also this method of power braking is used when spotting cars also. As you get within a couple car lengths of the spot, start adding jam then throttle up as needed to keep creeping along. The trick here is not to let the unit stop as you'll have to reduce to close to no jam and start again. I used to use as much as 80% loco brake when spotting that way when the car hits the spot all you have to do is throttle off and everything squats and plants itself. Also apply some train brakes to keep the slack from dragging you thru the spot. With this method you should be able to spot a car within inches of where it needs to be.

  • Some of the current and past US railroads have had some interesting nicknames:

Alberta & Great Waterways Arrive God Willing
Algoma Central & Hudson Bay All Curves & High Bridges
Arcata & Mad River Awfully Muddy
Arkansas, Oklahoma & Western All Of & Walk
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe All Tramps Sent Free
Atlanta & West Point Old Reliable
Atlantic Coast Line Always Cries Loudly
Atlantic Coast Line The Old Mullet Road
Baltimore & Ohio Backward & Obsolete
Baltimore & Ohio Busted & Old
Baltimore, Chesapeake & Atlantic Black Cinders & Ashes
Bartlett Western Route Of The Apostles
Bay View & Crooked Lake Broken Valise & Clothes Line
Beaver, Mead & Englewood Butter, Milk & Eggs
Bellaire, Zanesville & Cincinnati Bent, Zig Zag & Crooked
Birmingham & North Western Beer & No Whisky
Black Mesa & Lake Powell Big Mess & Lots Of Problems
Boston & Maine Bankrupt & Moribund
Boston & Maine Broken & Maimed
Boston & Maine Busted & Mangled



17 November
  • Added to the Other Downloads Page: Version 3.2 of New Roads with shadows. Route-Riter version 6.1.46.

  • From the Guinness Book of Records: Heaviest Freight Train - The heaviest-ever train weighed 99,732.1 tonnes (220 million lb) and was 7.353 km (4.568 miles) long. Assembled by Australia's BHP Iron Ore, the train travelled 275 km (171 miles) from the company's Newman and Yandi mines to Port Hedland, Western Australia, on June 21, 2001. The train had 5,648 wheels and was assembled to test out a new train control system. This system allows the driver in the front locomotive to control the other seven engines simultaneously, even though they are spaced at intervals of nearly a kilometre along the length of the train.

  • Follow-up to the train derailment story from yesterday: There has been evidence found to indicate that the train was travelling at 112kph when it entered the bend; the speed limit at that bend is 60kph. Investigations are continuing.



16 November
  • Take a look at what happened in railroad history on this day:

    • November 16 1952 - North Coast Limited begins interchange of coach and sleeper with SP&S Nos. 1 & 2 at Pasco, WA (SP&S Ry.)

    • November 16 1963 - Last run of mixed train on Norfolk & western Abingdon Branch.

    • November 16 1967 - Canadian Pacific begins testing Canada's first remote-controlled mid-train diesel locomotives in regular freight service, using new Robot radio-command system.

    • November 16 1972 - GE introduces E60C electric locomotive.

    You can see a list like this  of historical happenings each day of the year at This is a payware site that has some very interesting material on offer, some of which is free - railroad maps (interactive), train art galleries (including hundreds of free photos from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration), software (e.g. for recording railroad marks), and ebooks (including a free one called "1942 Quiz Book on Railroads and Railroading" - great fun to read and compare with 2004!).

  • At 12.06am local time today, a Queensland Rail tilt train was derailed, the first serious accident with this type of train in Queensland since they were introduced. The tilt trains are diesel-powered and can travel up to 16okm per hour (about 100 mph) on the 3ft 6inch gauge track.  More below ...

Story 1: The passenger train that crashed near Bundaberg was left a "twisted wreck", a Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) spokesman said today.

More than 100 people were injured when the high-speed Tilt Train travelling from Brisbane to Cairns derailed and overturned at 12.06am about 400km (250 miles) north of Brisbane.

The QAS spokesman said he was greeted with a scene that reminded him of something out of a TV show or a movie. "The train is just a twisted wreck, it's an absolute bloody mess," he said. "There are carriages on their side, bent and twisted, and there are bogies (wheels) all over the place."

He said the train had gone so far off the tracks that it almost reached the Bruce Highway, which runs parallel to the rail line.

"The train has ploughed through the dirt like a bulldozer," the spokesman said. "It's taken out trees, anything that was in its path has gone." The spokesman said altogether, 161 people had been treated for various injuries ranging from severe to minor.

Nine of the more seriously injured people had been flown out to Bundaberg hospital by helicopter and 25 had been taken away in road ambulances. He said 127 people had been taken from the scene by bus. Thirty-six were taken to a triage centre at the Bundaberg Railway Station, 48 were taken to Bundaberg Hospital and 43 to the Gladstone hospital.
Story 2: MORE than 100 people were injured, five seriously, when seven carriages of a high-speed passenger train derailed in southern Queensland today. Police said the Tilt Train came off the tracks near the Queensland coastal city of Bundaberg.

Police said all 157 passengers and seven crew had been freed from the train, and 128 people had been injured "to some degree". Five were flown to hospital in Bundaberg in serious condition. Queensland Rail said among those seriously injured were the two train drivers and a crew member who suffered burns. Those with less serious injuries were treated at the scene or taken by bus to hospitals in Bundaberg, Gladstone and Gin Gin.

"We've got a variety of injuries, mostly rib injuries, spinal injuries, abrasions. We've got one fractured limb and some abdominal injuries," Dr John Scott, the chief of operations with Queensland Health, told ABC radio. He said later that passengers were lucky to have escaped more serious injuries. Most injuries had resulted from passengers being thrown around.

Police said seven of the train's nine carriages derailed about 60km north of Bundaberg, near Rosedale. The train was travelling from Brisbane to Cairns. The cause of the accident was not known, police said.

The Tilt Train has been in service since 1998 and can travel at speeds of up to 160km/h. Queensland Rail chief executive Bob Scheuber said it was not known if the train was travelling at full speed when it derailed. "We don't know what speed, yet, the train was doing, but there is a black box recorder on the train and of course that will be one of the key pieces of information that the ATSB will want to look at in determining the cause," he told ABC radio. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will lead investigations into the cause of the accident.

Mr Scheuber said the train was on a good quality section of track when it derailed. "It was on a 150km/h section (of track). It's good quality track ... it's heavy duty rail," he said.

He said emergency services had difficulty reaching victims in the fourth carriage of the train. "Initially we had difficulty getting into ... the fourth car to get everyone out," he said. "But that was the only issue in terms of trying to get people off the train."

Three Tilt Train services run between Brisbane and Cairns each week. The train can cover the 620km trip between Brisbane and Rockhampton, about a third of the way to Cairns, in about seven hours. Trains that tilt can go up to 40 per cent faster around curves than conventional trains.


Monday, 15 November
  • Yesterday, I started the saga of my journey through the Diesel Certification Course. Today, it continues ...

This afternoon, I had a couple of spare hours after work before Judy, my wife, came home. So after I played with our new puppy, mowed the lawn, took the dry laundry off the outside clothes line, etc. etc. (true story!!), I decide that I should run one or two of the first week's 5 work orders.

So I fired up the computer, started MSTS, grabbed my printed work order sheet, put on the headphones, and with a little apprehension and nervousness, I selected NETA_TA01. In this work order, I drove the GE 23 ton Box Cab Diesel Switcher - what a little beauty! It sounds a bit like a Volkswagen, with a horn to match! This is a very gentle introduction to the training program, as all I had to do was to drive around the Swik area and look at the layout - good instructions and a relaxed time frame. At the finish, I breathed a sigh of relief - a clean run, and the evaluation report looks good - I saved it just in case anyone asks for it.

OK, that went well. Still time before Judy arrives, so why not do another run?

A hour and a half later, I finished NETA_TA05 just as Judy walked through the door, breathing fire about "%$&^%&*%&* buses that break down!!" Her work day had not ended so well, whereas my virtual work day at the training centre had just been great. All five work orders went well - only a couple of brief speed excesses, but all pick ups and drop offs completed satisfactorily, and the dispatcher was smiling. I suspect that the people driving those vehicles near the two grade crossings near the Swik station are going to be very upset by the 15 of us on the training program going backwards and forwards through their town area this week. 15 engineers times 5 work orders times at least 2 or 3 traffic holdups = a lot of disruption to the normal traffic flows. I wonder if the program managers have thought of that.

So you don't have to worry about the first week's training work. You get to drive three different locos - the 23 tonner, an F7 (so smooth - one of my favourites!) passenger loco, and a C30-7 freight loco. You get to see a lot of the Swik yards areas. You get to do lots of brief switching exercises. I printed a map of the Swik area from the documentation that comes with the route - very helpful.

Conclusion - a good start - quite painless, really; nervousness has decreased a little - except for wondering what the examiners have in store for next week's work - with the requirement to complete just two work orders.



Sunday, 14 November
  • I have signed up to undertake the Diesel Certification Course, which starts today. To give you a flavour of what is involved, I'm going to write a number of reports on my progress. If all goes well, it might help you to decide to register for a future course and thus take advantage of yet another aspect of what the NERR has offer all engineers. So here goes with the first report - which I wrote over a few days.

I work in a business that is overloaded with courses and tests and exams, yet I have been very nervous about joining up to take one of our NERR certification courses! What if I fail? What would that say about the past 200 activities that I have completed? How would it look? As one of our Aussie comedians would say: "How embarrassment!" So there is no pressure on me at all!

But I've dived in and done it, so I'm committed now - no calling in sick or pleading sore mouse button fingers! And you are going to follow me through it - for better or for worse.

Registering was easy - just sign into NETS, go to the Training Index, then click on the Diesel Certification Course link, and fill in a form. Done that.

Now to read the rest of the page. It's an 8 week course, managed by Noel Herbert (Taffh, ID#65) - he's a very nice man, usually! There is the Testing Centre - have to register there separately from everything else - done that. The Activity Completion Report link - when I complete one of the 20 required activities, I have to submit a time slip for it here, not at the usual NETS time slip submission screen. Must remember that - don't want to look stupid! The NORAC Operating Rules - have to download them. OK, done that - in both formats. And the 20 activities and work orders, with lists of the locos and rolling stock needed. OK, downloaded the activities and run them through Activity Analysis (or Route-Riter) to make sure that I have all the right equipment. And lurking in there are two tests - to be taken online after weeks 4 and 8.

But I can't start the course yet - does not open until Sunday 14 November (US time). So what do I do now?


So what did I do? Well, I spent hours and hours, while you guys were sleeping, working long hours into the night by the light of a flickering candle (Mental note: ask Judy, my wife, to pay the electricity account this week.) preparing for the course. Reading the NORACOR. Reading the work orders for the 5 activities to be completed in week 1. Re-checking that the activities are installed with the right equipment. Hope the course manager is impressed with my diligence - assuming that he reads this report.

Read the email sent from the NETA telling me that I've been accepted into the course - just as well, now that I've done all this preparation.

The next step - complete the activities for the week. I'll let you know how I go with them.

So far, so good!

  • OK, so no one has guessed the location of the "Where Is It?" screenshot. So here's the answer for you. It is the Hamilton Norfolk route, and it shows the western entrance to the Parkersburg yard. This yard is the central - in location and in importance - feature of the route.

The rest of the route is a combination of riverside and forest running, with a number of industrial sidings. It is an attractive route, its shortness allowing for good activities that provide a combination of switching and mainline running. Very satisfying activities can be developed using these two elements, or the large yard can be used for some complex switching activities. Even though the mainline is rather short, the varied scenery gives the impression of a much larger route - there are no long stretches of scenery that look the same for long periods of time. I have run a number of activities on this route in recent weeks and have enjoyed them (thanks, Dandy1 and MrScotti). Yes, there is a Great White Void, but it was an inconvenience rather than a major annoyance, now that I use Train Store to minimise MSTS loading time.

  • Just a little something to keep you going until later today. Did you know that:

    • it is impossible to lick your own elbow?

    • the "sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick" is said to be the toughest tongue twister in the English language?

    • wearing headphones for just one hour will increase the number of bacteria in your ear by 700 times? (I want to know who counted those hordes of little guys!!)

    • in every episode of Seinfeld, there is a Superman somewhere? (Who on earth watched every episode of that show? Sorry if you're a fan.)

    • Coca-Cola was originally green?


Saturday, 13 November
  • The first line of railroad constructed in northern Alaska was built in the winter of 1900 by Charles D. Lane and his California associates to enable them to deliver mining supplies to their mining properties at Anvil Creek and other points. The narrow gauge railroad was extended to Shelton, some 75 miles from Nome, in hopes of opening up the Kougarok mining district. When the output from the mines decreased, the railroad was abandoned. However, the line continued in use as long as the rails remained on the ties, due to a unique form of train. 8-10 sled-dogs were hitched to a line attached to a small flat car, the wheels fitting over the tracks. The driver and his passengers sat on a bench or on the freight packages. Leonhard Seppala’s famous Siberian Huskies were used for power. This railroad became known as the “Siberian Express”. Another dog-powered express was “The Alaska Unlimited”. Both were sometimes called the “Pup-Mobile Express.”

  • The first 10 countries with railroads were:

    •  United Kingdom

    • France

    • United States of America

    • Ireland

    • Belgium

    • Germany

    • Canada

    • Russia

    • Austria

    • The Netherlands.

  • BTW, you don't have to wait to be asked to be a contributor to the Roundhouse Ramblings! We welcome any and all contributions from anyone and everyone - just use the link to the Editors at the top of the page, or you can use the PM facility in the NERR forums, or you can even post your message or article in the forums. We can provide you with help and an editing service if you don't feel comfortable with your ability to write material! You have memories and knowledge that we would like to share - so here's your chance to get into print with a minimum of fuss. As we say in Australia: Have a go!

Friday, 12 November

  • Today, we welcome our third columnist to Roundhouse Ramblings! Jeremy Levish (taz, ID# 9) has an enormous knowledge about railroads, locos, routes, and the people who work on them and with them. If you do a search of our forms, you will find his writing in many of them, especially the "Ask a Real Engineer" forum. We have asked him to contribute a monthly column with no limit on what he writes about, but we hope that he draw on his technical and historical knowledge and sources to help us understand more about the RW version of MSTS! He has written an introduction to his column, which I promised him that I would publish unchanged.

Click on the new link in the menu above to the right to read his first column.

taz, welcome to the Roundhouse Ramblings! Thank you for agreeing to write a column for us.

  • And we have also received this from taz: "I noticed that you posted a "Railroad Food" article on the News page.  One of the restored railcars that we have in the museum is called the "Cochiti" and is the very first lightweight diner built for the Santa Fe for service on the Super Chief. Here's a link to the museum's web page that describes the car. There is also an interesting article in the US magazine "Classic Trains" called "All Aboard! Dinner in the Diner: Is It a Lost Art? - conversations with a cook who worked the Super Chief sixty years ago shed light on the institution today". There are also numerous article on the web about Fred Harvey and his "Harvey Houses". At least one of the articles that I read (can't remember where) was a story about the girls that Fred used to hire to work the Harvey Houses and some interesting stories about what the work was like.


Wednesday, 10 November
  • "Where is it?" screenshot clues: It is a real place, not a fictional one. I've just looked at a USGS aerial photo of the place, and it is a very good reproduction, especially the large railroad yard in the distance in the screenshot. It is an east coast route. It is a shortish route - about 60 miles long. There is a river junction just behind the "photographer". The yard and town are in the centre of the route. There are two GWVs on this Class 1 route - one on the main line and one on a branch line. The route was produced in 2003.

  • Where Did The U.P. Get Wood For The Railroad Across Nebraska? "When building the Transcontinental Railroad across the barren Nebraska plains, the Union Pacific Railroad had endless aggravation obtaining railroad ties. The only timber available was the pulpy cottonwood tree, which grew along the edges of Nebraska's rivers and streams. The U.P. made due with this poor choice by preserving the cottonwood tie with a solution of zinc chloride. These treated ties were interspersed with freighted-in oak and cedar ties on a ratio of four 'junk' cottonwood ties to one good cedar or oak tie. Getting lumber for the trestles was an even bigger problem. There was no room for junk lumber in a railroad trestle! Therefore, trees were felled in Minnesota, floated down the Mississippi to the confluence with the Missouri, then barged to Omaha, where they were milled cut to specific size for the specific trestle, then transported as far as possible by rail, then by horse-drawn wagons to the location of the trestle, which was usually many miles ahead of the track laying crew. One historian claims that the wood for one specific trestle was cut and milled to fit in Michigan, then shipped to Omaha. Good wood just wasn't available in Nebraska!" (from a Nebraska Railroad website)


Tuesday, 9 November
  • No one has correctly answered the "Where is it?" question from yesterday! I am surprised that it has been un-guessed for so long. I suppose that it is a sign that we have a lot of routes in our NERR network. I'll start giving clues in a day or so, if no one posts the correct answer in the HR forum thread. It might give you an incentive to run a few work orders on this route - it's not a very long route.

  • There is a demonstration version of TrackViewer, a neat route viewing program at Trainsimfiles (a UK-based MSTS website). After a quick trial, it looks like a useful utility. Tim Booth, the developer, states in a thread in the forums at UKTrainSim: "Basically, it creates traditional looking track diagrams from MSTS routes - using the track database. It's really a tool I'm developing to help me spot track laying issues that AE/RE don't indicate ( or are inconsistent with). I also wanted a way of producing track diagrams without having to resort to manual tracing from books. It's a tad slow on a very large route, but I'm working on ways to improve that - though for most routes it's actually about the same speed as AE for scrolling/panning.

    Initially it will be just a viewing tool, but I do want to look into the possibility of editing track paths (or even track layouts), and editing of object/interactive parameters. It would be nice to be able to join two slightly mismatched track ends, for example. I also want to add a scratch area for testing shapes or track layouts in safety - i.e. work out the exact layout precisely, without even launching RE.

    Plus, I want the signals to be configurable, so that each signal type can display a more appropriate image - e.g. ground disc, or bracket signals. It would make the diagram more realistic, and help drivers to learn the signals.

    Although its been designed with UKFineScale in mind, its not going to have anything specific to UKFS - so it will be possible to integrate other track systems, for things like colour coding."

To use the demo program (and you must have the Microsoft .NET Framework files installed on your computer, Tim has provided some basic instructions: "Holding down the right mouse key and dragging will pan (note: it deliberately reduces the quality when dragging to make it faster). The mouse scrollwheel zooms in/out.

Colour-coded track colours are as follows: Black - straights, Green - curves ,Red - turnouts, Orange - crossings (any shape with crossing point(s)), Dark Blue - dynamic track (straight), Mid green - dynamic track (curved), cyan - skew straights (though not actually tested). These are automatically detected from the installed tsection.dat, so apply to any track system.

Tunnel shapes are represented by dashed lines, naturally, which is in addition to colour coding - e.g. tunnelled curves are dashed green. Gradients are taken into account, but currently not banking - though that's probably rare for most routes. The Segmented Paths option shows how the paths are made of track sections, though not by track shape (which I later hope to add).

Notes: For some reason the dynamic track curves don't appear correctly. Also, error handling is limited. You may also find some curves look distorted, which is probably because I need to add extra coordinate points so the curve path can be properly drawn - or use a bezier function instead."

  • Railroad Food: The golden age of railroad travel lasted for about 75 years, starting in 1868 with the introduction of the first dining car (named "Delmonico" in honour of the New York restaurant). Railroad competition was so great that the best food possible was served, regardless of cost - terrapin stew, scrod and Cotuit oysters, broiled sage hen, aged Kansas City beef. Fred Harvey was in charge of food on the Santa Fe line and supposedly fired a dining car manager who was only losing $500 per month on food. He replaced him with a man who was able to lose $1,500 a month! Compare that attitude with the food situation you find on today’s airlines!


Monday, 8 November
  • The Pacific & American RR VR is open for business. The VR now has 19 members, plus a number of people in the Headquarters division. So now the NERR network consists of:
    • the NERR itself;
    • the Bison Rail and the Blue Ridge & Tidewater Divisions of the NERR; and
    • the Great Lakes & Allegheny and Pacific & American subsidiaries.

So what will happen next to the NERR network - a number of possibilities occur to us. Watch and see!

  • The October edition of Roundhouse Ramblings was emailed to members today. If you did not receive your copy, please let us know. Click here to send us an email message.

  • Where is it? The photo below was taken on one of the runs that I did some time ago. If you know where the photo was taken, go to the NERR Human Resources forum and tell us in the "Where is it?" thread. If you can also tell us the activity that I was doing at the time, that would be even better. There is no prize for the correct answer, just the honour and glory of knowing so much about the NERR!

Where is it?

Sunday, 7 November

  • MSTS getting boring today? Spend a few minutes (or hours) at the following website: Train Spotting Simulator.

  • The Pacific & American RR VR will open its doors to new members from today. But before you rush and join, you need to be aware of the way that  the new VR will be set up and operate - it will be different from here at the NERR. Apart from being based on a number of payware routes, it will have an ethos based on the following statement from its CEO, Bob Artim:

"On 7 November I will be opening the doors and we will start taking applications.

I know a lot of you are anxious to join, but be advised this is not going to be like NERR or OVS; it might not be like GL&A either.

NERR and OVS are VRs for the engineers. Engineers have a say and have essentially made those VRs what they are by suggestions and actually helping out in the progress of the VR.

P&A is a place for me and my friends to play with the payware stuff. There are some really nice items for sale, and we are using them here in our work orders. So right off the bat you have a financial commitment that you do not have at NERR or OVS. If you purchased everything P&A is using your looking at over $300. That's a lot of money.

So to me, if you can commit to the financial end of P&A, it would seem to me you want to come here and play, seriously, so you get your money's worth out of your toys. And not be bothered by people who can't install anything, can't make work orders that have been tested work, and people coming around instigating change or their idea of good change and then getting mad when we don't like their idea, or not being able to install a commercial product or make their email work.

P&A is not about these things. It is about running work orders with expensive toys by people who know what they are doing. Serious people.

Over the years, I have answered sooo many questions, over and over again, I know the answers off by heart. I know complete paths to files on my system pertaining to MSTS and other items, because I have typed them sooo many times in assisting people.

I have made FAQS, and NERR forums always has answers to everything. But the same questions keep coming as people find it easier to just ask again than to help themselves and find the answer from the data available.

I am tired of helping people. It takes my time. I figure I helped enough, and it is time for me to enjoy MSTS too. So I made P&A for me and people like me to have fun and not have to help everyone all the time.

You can find help at NERR and OVS, that's guaranteed. At P&A, you are going to help yourself first, because you know about all the quirks with MSTS, and you know the folder structures and where things go, and what the add-ons did, and how the utilities work and how to search the forums for answers.

If you do find an actual problem, then I am sure that everyone here will also have it.

P&A is about trains. Our trains. P&A is about running work orders. Our work orders, to include the ones coming with the routes and add-ons and ones we make in house.

At NERR & OVS I rarely see any discussion about the work orders that are run. 1,000s of work orders have been entered into a time slip system, but no one ever talks about running them. No oohs and aaahs about such and such run, not even a 'that one sucked big time'.

At P&A, I'd like to talk about the runs. What made it worth the time? How was the route area. Was it hard? Was it easy? Was it too easy? What could be different? Was it real? What would make it 'realer'? (Is that a word?)

I don't want to solve your problems with MSTS, Windows XP, the latest utility or other problems of the world. I want to have fun and talk about it. If you don't, then P&A is not going to be the place for you.

Jim at GL&A is restricting engineers to 50. I do not know yet what I am going to do at P&A. For now I am going to open up on Sunday and see how it goes. If it does not go like I plan for it to go, P&A may be invitation only.

P&A is to be your escape from NERR & OVS and, huge forums with so much stuff that doesn't interest you, people bitching and whining and arguing with each other. Huge amounts of downloads to acquire and attempt to make work. The same old people with the same old problems. The same new people trying to change the whole structure for the few days they will be around, then leave.

That is what I want P&A to be. If this is your idea of a VR, then join up tomorrow when you see the announcement on the home page that we are open."

  • Greatest Train Spotter: Bill Curtis of Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, England, is acknowledged as the world champion train spotter. He has clocked up some 85,000 locomotives, 11,200 electric units, and 8,300 diesel units, over a period of 40 years, in 31 different countries. (from the website of the Guinness Book of Records)

  • For those people new to American railroading, and for those who are not exactly sure, here is the text of an 'article' in the NERR forums about the types of diesel locomotives that are around the NERR and the rest of the VW and RW. The question about the different types of diesel locomotives was posed by Hiemdal (James, ID# 123). The response came from our resident technical expert on most things to do with locos in the RW, taz (Jeremy, ID# 9). (please note: tThe hyperlinks below were added later by your Editor - don't blame taz for their quality!)

Definitions of Engine Types and Other Mystical Incantations

There isn't really a clear distinction between some of these model names. A "Road Switcher" (of any description) could be used as a switcher or "transfer" locomotive, as these are more of a function than a "type". In general, you can apply the following rules to help classify locomotives:

Switchers - Usually (but not always) this is considered to be a locomotive with the cab located at, or near, the end of the locomotive frame. These are also referred to as "End Cab Switchers". There were also a few earlier "switcher" models with the cab located in the middle of the frame (like the ALCo C415s and the "Center Cab" Baldwins)...As far as I know, all models of this type of switcher on Class 1 railroads are out of service. There are the exceptions of some of the lighter weight GE and other manufacturers' industrial locomotives (like the 44 tonner) that are in use as "plant switchers" at various industries and/or special purposes (I believe that UP uses a 44 tonner in one of its tie plants). The last of the EMD "End Cab" switchers manufactured for Class 1 railroad service was the MP15 series. GE has never produced an "End Cab" switcher specifically for Class 1 service, although many Class 1 railroads had GE's 70 ton switchers, and GE cataloged an "End Cab" switcher, called a U18BT, which it never produced.

Cow/Calf Units - This is more of a "railfan" term used to refer to a switcher-type locomotive that has a "Cabless" booster unit, usually of the same design and horsepower, semi-permanently attached to it. In some cases, this semi-permanently attached booster was attached via a solid drawbar instead of the standard knuckle couplers. EMD produced a series of locomotives called the TR series which featured a "calf" unit as a part of the basic model. An example of this is the TR6 model which was a pair of SW8 switchers, one with a cab and one without. It should also be noted that the "calf" units have a "control station" where the cab would normally be placed. This "control station" contained the engine/locomotive startup and shutdown control, in addition to various gauges for monitoring the engine (i.e., oil pressure, coolant
temperature, etc.).

Cab Units - This term is generally used for locomotives that are built with a car body that contains a place for the crew to operate the locomotive from, and a control stand for that operation. This term is usually used to refer to locomotives of a similar design to EMD's "F" and "E" unit series locomotives (including the ALCo "FA"s, Baldwin "DL"s, Fairbanks-Morse "C-Liners", etc.). Note that in the construction of these locomotives, the construction of the "Car Body" was an integral part of the frame of the locomotive. This is in contrast to locomotives like the F40, F45s, and the Canadian "Draper Taper" units, where the "Car Body" is basically a non-structural cowl that is lowered onto the basic locomotive frame to cover the engine and other inner components.

Booster Units - Generally used to refer to the "Cabless" units associated with the "Cab Units" above. These locomotives are also referred to as "B" units. Like the "calf" units above, there is a "control station" for monitoring the engine/locomotive AND there is what is referred to as a "Hostler's Station". This "Hostler's Station" has both a throttle and an independent brake and is used to move the "Booster Unit" or "B" unit using its own power. This throttle is only capable of moving the engine/locomotive at slow speeds (generally only the equivalent of "Run 1") and has to be "Cut In" and "Cut Out" by the operator. This would also include the various "B" units manufactured by EMD, Baldwin, etc. such as the GP9B, GP30B, SD24B, etc.

Cabless Units - As the name implies, these units do not have a control cab. What is interesting is that the term came into "regular" (read: railfan) usage when the Santa Fe and Burlington Northern started rebuilding some of their SD40s (including SD45-2 in the case of the Santa Fe) and removed the cab. At about the same time, a couple of other railroads (notably the Southern Pacific) had either rebuilt damaged locomotives without a cab or were running units that were awaiting new cabs from the builders. As far as I know, only GE actually produced
brand new locomotives without cabs, and all of these were for the Burlington Northern.

Before we go any further, let me say that the term "Cabless" and "Booster" have been used interchangeably throughout the years and have even been combined as in "Cabless Booster". It's one of those things that you'll get a different answer to, based on either who you talk to or whose book you're reading. The "definitions" that I listed above are what I've used over the years.

So why are there different terms for the same basic locomotive type (like "Cabless" versus "Booster"), and why there isn't a "standard terminology" across the board? The only answer that I can provide you is that it is based when the locomotive first appeared (time line) and what it originally started out life as. "Booster Units" were manufactured that way by the various builders. "Cabless Units" were generally rebuilt by the railroads (or a contractor). In the case of some of the very first "Booster Units" (such as EMD's "FT"s), there wasn't any method provided for starting the "Booster Units" engine unless it was coupled to a "Cab Unit". In fact, all of the "FT Booster Units" came from the factory semi-permanently coupled (using a drawbar) to a "Cab Unit", and only the "Cab Units" contained batteries (used for starting the engines, in addition to other things).

Road Switcher - Basically, this is any locomotive that isn't an "End Cab" switcher or a "Cab Unit". They are identified by having "running boards" along the outside of the locomotive. It should be noted that this encompasses everything from the GP7s and U25s to the SD90MACs and AC6000s (and everything in between).

Slugs or TEBUs - "TEBU" stands for "Tractive Effort Booster Unit". Slugs and TEBUs are un-powered units (i.e. they do not have an engine) that have traction motors and additional weight added to them, which when coupled to a properly-equipped locomotive (sometimes referred to as a "Mother Unit"), draw their "power" from the engine/main generator of the attached locomotive. Their purpose is to increase the tractive effort of the locomotive consists at slower speeds without adding another locomotive. It also, generally, lowers the "minimum Continuous Speed" rating of the "Mother" locomotive to a level acceptable for the service since the "Mother" unit is supplying power for both itself and the slug. In general, they are used in slow speed service and/or yard assignments, generally not exceeding 20 mph. It should also be noted that not all slugs are created equal. Some are meant for yard service only (referred to as "yard slugs"), while others are meant for slow speed "drag" service on the mainline or branchlines (referred to as "road slugs"). In addition to the slugs that have been built by the various railroads, both GE and Morrison-Knudsen built them. GE called them "Mates", while Morrison-Knudsen called them "TEBU"s. Some slugs can also act as fuel tenders for the controlling locomotive. Almost all slugs are equipped with a blower motor to provide a source of cooling for the traction motors. Slugs can be of either 6 or 4 axle design.

Transfer Units - This is really more a function of the "service" that the locomotive may be involved in rather than a specific locomotive type. In the early days of dieselization, there were a few specific models that were "Transfer Units". At least, that is how they were marketed. The TR6 model mentioned above was one such unit, as was the ALCo T6 model. In general, these specialized transfer locomotives were basically switchers that featured items such as road switcher trucks (instead of switcher trucks), standardized locomotive control stands, MU capability, etc. Their primary use/service was to transfer cars from one rail yard to another.

Brake Sleds - These are locomotives that have been stripped of just about everything (cab, engine, traction motors, etc.) and weighted down, usually with concrete. Their braking capabilities (i.e., the brake shoes and associated brake rigging) have been left intact and are designed to work when the controlling locomotive's independent brakes are applied, thereby providing additional braking capability. The controlling locomotives are modified to provide a separate connection for this purpose.

Now, before you take this too far, just know that a lot of this is subject to change by the various railroads and/or manufacturers. Union Pacific (and the Southern Pacific before them), for example, uses what would "normally" be classified as a "road switcher" as a "switcher". These are SD38-2s (2000 horsepower, 6 axle locomotives) which have been modified for hump yard service by changing both the traction motor gearing and eliminating the locomotive's ability to "transition" (i.e., change the electrical system for the traction motors from serial to parallel). Some of the earlier diesel production, especially from Baldwin and Fairbanks-Morse, really confused things by offering the option of different trucks underneath the same basic machinery - The Baldwin AS615 (C-C, 6 powered axles), DRS-6-4-1500 (A-1-A/A-1-A, 4 powered axles with an
un-powered axle in between the powered axles), and the DRS-4-4-1500 (B-B, 4 powered axles) are basically the same model but with different wheel/truck arrangements.

Now, if you like that, you'll love this! Kansas City Southern (KCS) used to operate a road slug that had been converted from an old F7 car body. This slug retained its cab and operating controls for movements when the slug was the lead unit and appeared to be an F7 from every angle ... except the front, which had a larger than normal "buffer zone" around the front door of the locomotive! CSX has done similar things with a few older GP35s (if I remember correctly). They are identified by CSX as RDMTs.

Whoops...I neglected something in my original post. I stated the following, which was incorrect: "As far as I know, only GE actually produced brand new locomotives without cabs and all of these were for the Burlington Northern."

Turns out that both EMD and MLW (Montreal Locomotive Works) build "Cabless" locomotives fairly recently. In the case of EMD, this would be the GP60B (only the Santa Fe ordered these, as far as I know). The MLW built the M420B (BC Rail only?). GE's "Cabless" model was a version of the B30-7 and was referred to as a B30-7A. These were originally built for the Burlington Northern only, as far as I know (although I know of a few that are currently "running around" on other railroads and shortlines).

An interesting anomaly on the recent "Cabless/Booster" front. All of the recently, "as built" units (i.e. those built by the manufacturer) are of a B-B (4 axle, all powered) design while the railroads, or their contractors, have favored rebuilding their own C-C (6 axle, all powered) units.

An "historical" note ... Both ALCo and EMD built a couple of "Double Diesel" "Booster Units". The EMD entry was the DD35B (also referred to as a DD35) which was basically a pair of GP35s on a common under-frame that rode on a pair of 4 axle, D-D, trucks (8 axles, all powered). Only the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific had these, and only the UP had the similar "A" unit (cab and controls) model the DD35A (also referred to as a DDA35). This truck design later showed up under Union Pacific's DD40AX (note: The DD40 model is referred to by several different names including "The Centennial", DD40A, DD40-X, DDA40, DDA40-X, and the DD40AX. A "B" unit was cataloged by EMD, the DD40B, but never built). The ALCo entry was one of their Century series, the C855. This locomotive appeared as both a "Booster" unit and a "Control Unit" and rode on 4 standard B trucks, two under each end in a B+B-B+B configuration (8 axles, 4 trucks, all powered). Only the UP bought this locomotive.


Friday, 5 November
  • The Pacific & American RR, the second of the payware-based VRs that are part of the NERR network, will open on Sunday 7 November. Their welcoming statement is on their website at

"Welcome to the virtual Pacific & American Railroad (P&A) where members utilize Microsoft Train Simulator on the Whitefish 5, Cascade Crossing, vNERR's Hoodoo Pass, Clinton Sub, Tehachapi Pass II and the Cajon Pass routes. The routes are virtually connected together as realistically as possible by actual locations they were created from. Equipment used comes from the routes and a few outside sources as well as 'In House' liveries. P&A is free to join and any downloads are also free, however you need to be a member. Your only purchase requirements are the commercial routes & trains and MSTS to be a member and run the Work Orders (activities)."

  • Our first interview for this month is with Rick (silvermeteor, ID # 42), one of our monthly columnists, our NERR cartographer, and now also the HR Director of the Pacific & American RR. And near the end of his story, you'll find out where his alias comes from.

1. Where do you live?
I live on 5.5 acres of wooded land in Jamestown, South Carolina, USA. It is a small crossroads located in the Francis Marion National Forest.

Can you tell us your three favourite things about the area where you live?
I love the freedom of seldom hearing or seeing my neighbors and being able to see deer, foxes, squirrels, birds, raccoons, wild turkeys, etc. in my yard.

The best thing we did when we cleared a spot for our home was to have the 'dozer operator dig us a small pond. Over the years, our pond has been visited by an otter, barred owls, hawks, a wood stork, merganser and wood ducks, egrets, herons, etc. We regularly have deer visit to partake of the corn we put out each evening. Most nights from early fall until early spring, one or two foxes come to the house for dog food. They come to the same place each night and stare at the house until my wife or I go out and feed them. I regularly sit within 10 feet and talk with them while they eat. If I do not, the raccoon will chase them off and eat their food. I guess that's more than three things but it is hard to pick one thing.
Editor: Your home sounds idyllic!!

How long have you lived there?
We have lived here for about 25 years.

Have you moved around much during your life?
A bit. I was born in Miami, Florida and lived there until I graduated from high school. I attended a few years of college, but I really did not know what I wanted to do with my life. At that time the USA still maintained an involuntary draft. Rather than pound the pavement in the Army, I decided that I would prefer to fly whereever I was going and joined the Air Force. I spent the first nine months of my enlistment receiving electronics training at Lowrey Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado. Of course I was fortunate enough to be able to sample the famous Coors Beer in Golden, Colorado before it was available everywhere and lost its cachet. Then I was sent to Nellis AFB in  Las Vegas, Nevada to work on the F-105d fighter/bomber. It was at Nellis that new pilots were trained to use this aircraft. After that, I returned to Florida and lived in the Florida Keys, Key West and other areas south of Miami until we moved to South Carolina. My biggest regret is that I have not been able to visit other countries, but when I was younger I did not want to, and now it looks like I may never.

2(a). Do you have any connection with railroads in the real world? If so, tell us something about those connections?
The only connection I have is relatively recent. The husband and son of my business partner are now engineers for the Norfolk Southern Railroad in South and North Carolina respectively. I have modeled in HO and N scale for many years, but space limitations have negated that as a viable possibility.

2(b). What experience did you have with mapping before you joined the NERR?
Absolutely none! For several years I have owned a small and dwindling business as a graphic designer. During that time we created many logos for local businesses, brochures, etc. We also created telephone book advertisements for BellSouth. Our work has appeared in phone books in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and one of the advertisements that we created remains on the back cover of the Charleston telephone book ten years later. Mapping just sorta fit into my graphics design experience, so I went to work on it. I have not been able to do much lately because of other commitments, so I am very glad to see that others have been making their excellent work available.

3. How did you start with MSTS? What were your early experiences - good and bad?
I watched it on the shelves for $49.00 for months and just waited. At the time I could not consider paying that much for a game. Then one day it was just sitting there in Best Buy for $24.95, and I bought it. I loaded it up and looked at some of the original activities and said 'hmmmn'. Then I found and went on a downloading binge. I have a large variety of landscape objects, structures, bridges, etc. that I will probably never use. I have not been strongly into the running of trains. Much as I am fascinated by trains, I do not run them that much - as my callboard statistics will show. My experiences were mostly good, since I did not run that many trains.

4. Did you have any experience with other VRs?
No not until the NERR. I am currently doing a few things to assist Bob Artim to get his Pacific & American up and running, but that is the sum total of my experience with VRs.

5. How did you find the NERR? Why did you join it?
I don't actually remember how I found the NERR, but I would bet that I heard about it on Train-Sim. I liked what I saw, especially the training. When I entered WCN, it must have seemed to Dandy1 that my goal in life was to drive him crazy, since I had all kinds of problems. He dealt with them all and kept telling me that I was not bothering him. That was what he was there for. I don't know how he puts up with us idiots, but I am grateful, because without his help I would not be here today. I have taken the Diesel Engineers course and will probably take others when they become available again.

6. What started you doing the maps? Can you tell us about the process that you use? Which programs do you use?
I did not set out to make a map. I decided that I wanted to create an activity for Wisconsin Central. While working on that activity, I began to sketch out the track layout so that I could plot my moves. Then I decided that I would create a map of that portion of the Wisconsin Central covered in my activity. I did that and then decided to make a series of activities that ran from one end of the Wisconsin Central to the other, and as I went I would make a map of the area until I had completed them all and then I would have a map of the route. Well, I have created that map and several others, but the activities never passed the first two.

The process that I use is a simple one. The first step is to use Activity Editor and Screen Grab Pro. First I remove all of the clutter from the map as displayed in Activity Editor. Then I enlarge the map and take a series of screen shots using Screen Grab Pro. Next I take the screen shots into CorelDRAW and piece them back together into one large map. I use this map as a guide to lay out my map using the graphics power of CorelDRAW. I try to orient everything on a left/right basis across a page in the landscape format. I also try to include as much track on one page and provide as much information as I can to assist an engineer in keeping track of his/her location on the route and the work in an activity. Finally I package the whole thing as an Adobe pdf format. That's all there is to it.

7(a). Where do you think / hope MSTS will be in 5 years' time?
I really hope that one of the commercial add-on companies will provide us with another alternative, so that we can still utilize all of the fabulous routes, activities and equipment that has been created by so many talented individuals - while bringing the graphics engine up to date. So much more can be done. It just takes time and commitment. Hopefully, someone will find a way to meet this need and still be able to profit from that effort.

7(b). Where do you think / hope the NERR will be in 5 years' time?
I know where it will be if it can stay responsive to the needs of the community. It will be going strong and growing. The biggest risk that I see is the same risk a company incurs when it gets the bulk of its business from one source. Lose the source, and the business can go broke. We all owe Bob Artim a debt of gratitude for what he has done. There are many talented individuals that contribute to NERR, but let's face it. The motive power is Bob. Where he goes, so will go NERR.

7(c). Where do you think / hope that you will be in the VR world in 5 years' time?
I have absolutely no idea.

8. Where did you get the idea for the name for the SE Division? And the colour?
Well, if you are familiar with popular name passenger trains of the south eastern US in the 40's, you should be familiar with the Silver Meteor and the Orange Blossom Special, which are both favorites of mine. The Silver Meteor and other streamlined trains in the series were part of the Seaboard Air Line railroad. The colors of the "F" units used to pull these trains was purple, silver and yellow. Those are the colors that I suggested to Mike Martin, the then DD of the SE Division, and he liked the idea. The rest is history.

The name Blue Ridge and Tidewater was the result of brainstorming among Mike Martin, Voodude, Stumbl and myself. Years ago I had decided that if I would ever build a railroad, it would be in the section of track that connects Richmond, Virginia with Charleston, West Virginia. This line runs through the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi. It was part of the C&O, which made it a big coal carrier. It also runs through White Sulfur Springs, which was a famous resort for presidents and other famous and wealthy people, so there was a well-established passenger option along with a great tourist and scenic option.

My fictitious railroad was to be named the Blue Ridge and Allegheny, which is what I originally suggested to Mike. Our deliberations finally took us to the Blue Ridge and Tidewater, which seemed appropriate for a railroad that ran from the "Mountain to the Sea" as our slogan suggests.

13. Is there anything else that we should know about you?! - dreams, hopes, family, job, hobbies (apart from MSTS and the NERR).
My lovely wife of 25 years has never had the chance to see very much of this great country in which we are so fortunate to live. I would dearly love to be able to take her out west and show her the sights that I was able to see as a young man - the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the Rocky Mountains, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake Sity and so much more. The US is only a small portion of our world, but it is our portion, and I would love the opportunity to share it with her. Maybe I will yet.

Thanks for asking me to participate. I think that NERR is as good as it gets, and I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to share my love of trains with some of the nicest people from all over the world that I have ever met.
  • Busiest Railway: The railway carrying the largest number of passengers is the East Japan Railway Company. Since 1999 the railway has carried around 16.2 million passengers per day. There are an average of 2,220 daily train runs over a network of 7,538 km (4,684 miles). In April 1999, the company employed 78,330 people, had 1,707 stations and 13,757 items of rolling stock. (From the website of the Guinness Book of Records)

  • Handy Hint:  How Can I Disable Error Reporting?

    Problem: Whenever a program crashes or I have to stop an application that's not responding, Windows XP wants to send an error report to Microsoft - the dreaded "Send / Don't Send dialogue box. I'd rather not "call home" with this information. I always click not to send the report, but is there a way I can make it quit asking me to do this?

    Answer: Just do this:

    • Right-click My Computer on the desktop or in the Start menu.

    • Click Properties.

    • Click the Advanced tab.

    • Click the Error Reporting button at the bottom.

    • Click Disable Error Reporting. You can select the checkbox under it if you still want to be notified when errors occur.

    • Click OK.

    • Note that you can disable error reporting for the operating system only, or for programs only, by unchecking the appropriate box under the Enable Error Reporting option. You can also configure error reporting only for specific programs by clicking the Choose Programs button.

  • Here is Part 3 of the glossary of rail lingo. Brian will put the whole thing on a separate web page at the end of the month, so you can refer to it easily if you come across a term that you don't remember.
Part 3: General slang:
  • anglebar, joint bar - 2 pieces of steel used to hold rail joint together.

  • bleedin' air, train's a leaker - Excessive air leak.

  • bleed rod - The lever that, when pulled or pushed, allows all the air in a cars air tanks to vent off, thus releasing all brakes except handbrakes.

  • bleed the air - To remove all the air from a car's brake system by pulling the bleed rod.

  • boomer - Employee on a division for a short time, an employee who moves around a lot either within a specific railroad or from railroad to railroad (MSTS: NERR has a lot of Boomers.)

  • bull, dick - Special agent, patrolman or police officer.

  • charged - Railcar or cut of cars whose air reservoirs have not been bled off.

  • crow's nest - Cupola on a caboose.

  • drag 'em - Pull hard on while your train brakes are applied.

  • dry - A car or cut of cars whose air reservoirs have not been charged, i.e. contain no air.

  • elephant style - All motive power units facing the same direction.

  • fired - Suspended.

  • full head of steam - Even in the modern age of diesels, this term still means to pull with everything the locomotives got, i.e. your locomotive's making good power and pulling well.

  • fully charged - Means all the cars in your train have all reservoirs charged to the full pressure of the automatic brake valve. (Usually, freight = 90 psi, Amtrak/passenger = 110 psi)

  • fusee - Flare. A device used to flag protect trains at night.

  • gag my hopper - I leave this one up to you. I have no idea what it means. My guess is a statement of surprise.

  • go pound salt - Go to hell. Get outta here.

  • go to beans - Eat lunch.

  • high iron - Mainline or high speed track.

  • hook, big hook - A crane used for re-railing derailed equipment.

  • hotshot - High speed priority train.

  • lay down some grit - Apply sand to rail.

  • on the ground, grounded - Derailed.

  • on the rail - Car wheels are positioned properly on railhead.

  • pullin' the pin - To retire.

  • Queen Mary - Light engine move.

  • railhead - Top of rail.

  • sticks - (MOW Term) Rails or ties depending upon how it is used.

  • split switch - To trail through an improperly lined switch and then reverse through it causing the train to go down 2 separate tracks (translated: Derailment)

  • tie 'er up - To secure the locomotive at the end of your work day.

  • torpedo - A device, placed on top of the rail, that explodes when run over, providing an audible noise, used prior to unforeseen speed restrictions.

  • Track 7 - To get screwed as in "The agreement between the union and management has got us stuck out on Track 7".

  • work it - Pull hard on your train.

Steam Jargon:

Due to the extensive list of steam lingo, I have included below the website for this area. The list is several pages long, and you can print the glossary from the website. Since the NERR does have steam power, I encourage everyone to check out the website.


  • Jeremy Levish (aka Taz) - Thanks for the lists, they helped a lot. Didn't realize how much I forgot in 3 years.

  • Brian Element (aka elementb) - Thank you for allowing me to share this with the rest of the brethren, and for putting it where they can find it. Also for your patience concerning the multiple emails containing updated versions.

  • All the people associated with the NERR for giving me a hell of place to play. You can't hide. I know who you are.

Bill Prieger, NERR #269


Wednesday, 3 November
  • Negotiations are taking place with another member to start another regular column. This one will be very different from Rick's and Claude's. So watch the menu above for further developments.

  • Don't forget! You can check the cumulative NETS statistics on the NETS main page - click on the "NETS Main" menu item on the main page of the website.

  • Longest Railroad Straight: The Australian National Railways Trans-Australian line over the Nullarbor Plain, is 478 km. (297 miles) dead straight, from Mile 496, between Nurina and Loongana, Western Australia, to Mile 793, between Ooldea and Watson, South Australia.

  • Here is Part 2 of the glossary of railroad terms put together by Bill Prieger (ID# 269) and others:

Part 2: Slang related to Train Movements:
  • A-head, Back - These two commands are governed by the direction of the controlling locomotive. So if the cars are coupled to the front of the controlling locomotive, "A-Head" would mean to shove on the cars, and "Back" would mean to pull on the cars. If the cars are coupled to the rear of the controlling locomotive, "A-Head" would mean to pull on the cars, and "Back" would mean to shove on the cars. Dang, I think I just gave myself a headache.

  • ballface, ballface move - This is the term given for a long reverse or shove movement. Also refers to having to run the locomotive backwards or long hood forward or steam engine backwards (tender forward) for a prolonged distance or period of time. Now I really have a headache.

  • bend iron - To throw a switch into its other than normal position.

  • bend the rail, bending iron - Lining a switch for other than normal position.

  • bottle the air - To close the anglecocks on both ends of a charged cut of cars, thus not allowing them to not have an emergency brake application when separated.

  • buff force - The action of a train shoving on a locomotive(s), i.e. dynamic brake mode of controlling or reducing train speed.

  • bunch 'em up - To cause the railcars to run in.

  • comin' in - Close to coupling to a railcar.

  • cut 'em off - To separate from.

  • cut - A car or group of cars in any train.

  • cut behind # - Means to separate the train X number of cars behind the locomotive(s), i.e. "We're going to cut behind the head 2 cars and go into the siding."

  • down a notch - To move the throttle lever down one quadrant.

  • Dutch drop, drop - To pull a car up to speed, then pin off, pull power ahead into clear, then line switch allowing the car to roll into the clear on its own momentum. (MSTS: I have successfully completed this move, but it takes a lot of practice!)

  • Eastman, Westman, Northman, Southman - refers to a train travelling in a specified direction. i.e.: I'm putting you into the hole for one Eastman. Translation: "I'm putting you into the siding for one Eastbound train."

  • easy, ease 'er down - Slow down.

  • floating - Act of allowing a train to move along under its own momentum with no regard to stretching or bunching.

  • flying cut - To pin off rear helpers or rear cars with out stopping the train. (Common move in helper districts)

  • foul - Any equipment that is not clear of an adjacent track.

  • gather em' up - To couple together 2 or more cars at a slow rate of speed until all the cars are coupled, i.e. "OK, let's gather up all the rip cars and take 'em out."

  • hang, hang 1, hang2, etc. - Hold on to X number of cars and take them with the locomotive.,i.e. "We're going to hang the head three cars and go into the siding."

  • head - Front.

  • highball, yard on it, pull 'er back - Maximum allowable speed. Also, a "highball" is a signal given the conductor when the train is ready to depart.

  • hold the main - To occupy the main track at a train meet.

  • hole, the hole - Siding.

  • hook, joint, pin - To couple to a railcar.

  • jack, jack'n the throttle - To move the throttle excessively causing unwanted slack action. (MSTS: This action will usually get you a damage freight notation on your evaluation report, or worse yet a broken knuckle on your train.)

  • kick, kick 'em - To throttle up rapidly and the pin off the car, allowing it to proceed under its own momentum.

  • lace, lace 'em up, air, makin' air, air time, bendin' weenies, in between - To connect the main air hoses between 2 railcars.

  • make a hook - Engineer makes the hook with no direction from conductor; a light engine move; or the act of coupling cars together.

  • node, node point - The point in a train where the cars are neither bunched or stretched.

  • pick-up, P/U - To retrieve a car or number of cars from a general location, i.e. pick up all the cars at Burkes siding.

  • pin - To bunch the train enough to release the coupler locking feature. (MSTS: This movement is required on front coupler hooks and coupler releases.)

  • pin one off, pin two off, etc. - To release a car or cut of cars and allow them to continue on their own momentum.

  • pinch 'em off, poke 'em off - To shove a car off the outside of a curve from excessive buff forces.

  • plug it! - Put the train into emergency brake application quickly.

  • pull - To pick up a car or cut of cars from a specified location, i.e. "We're going to pull 2 cars from under the gantry crane at Bill's Lumber spur."

  • re-spot - To return a car or cut of cars to a specified location at the end of a switching move. (adding or removing cars at the location of the spot)

  • release - To remove the brakes, or undo a brake application.

  • rip spot - To spot a car or cars to the repair track. If more than one car, all cars are to be separated by at least 3 feet.

  • roll by - An inspection done on a moving train either from the ground (MOW, yard crew, or "other" railroad employee) or from a train traveling in the opposite direction.

  • set - To apply brakes to a car or train.

  • set out, S/O - To leave a car or cut of cars in a general location, i.e. "We'll S/O the head 10 cars at Burkes siding."

  • slack action - Excessive unwanted run in and run out in your train.

  • sliding meet - Where two trains pass each other with out either train having to come to a complete stop. This is cool when it happens, a sign of perfect timing.

  • spot - To position a car or cut of cars at a specified location, i.e. "We're going to spot these cars under the gantry crane at Bill's Lumber spur."

  • stretch, stretch 'em - To pull on the train to remove all slack.

  • stringline - To pull a car or cut of cars off the track on a curve.

  • tail - Rear.

  • take the scenic route - To run through the siding in a meet or when the main track is out of service or occupied.

  • that'll do - Stop.

  • tie-down, tie your train down, tie 'er down - To secure your train or locomotives for a prolonged period of time. This move consists of applying the locomotive brakes, minimum train brake application of 20 psi, center and remove the reverser, open the generator field switch, dim or extinguish the headlights, lock the controlling locomotive's doors, and apply a sufficient number of handbrakes to prevent unwanted movement of the train.

  • tie-up point - The place where you are going to secure your locomotive at the end of your work day.

  • tie handbrakes - Apply the handbrakes on any car or engine.

  • tie up - To secure your locomotive at the end of your work day.

  • up a notch - To move the throttle lever up one quadrant.

  • weld 'em - To make a hook at an excessive speed usually considered above 4 mph on railcars, 2 mph on motive power, passenger equipment and hazardous cars or cars carrying delicate inventory.

  • wing 'er, grab some air, pinch it down - Set brakes on a moving train.
  • If you have been "playing" the stock market at VASM, you will have noticed that it has been closed for a few days. On their website now, you will find the notice in the box below.

Market Closed Until Further Notice
01 November 2004 @ 23:44 EST

After consultation with VASM senior staff members, we have come to the consensus that VASM should remain closed for the time being. The amount of time and energy being diverted from other VASM projects can no longer be justified, as the current VASM system is too inflexible to make the changes needed to produce a viable market. Recently, the situation that VASM has found itself in has given our reputation a "black eye" and has caused a great deal of uncertainty - However, the one certainty that remains is that VASM will reopen, better than ever, in the not-so-distant future.

Over the next few days and weeks, Brian, Mike and I will examine what has been learned over the course of the last 11 months, to study the results of nearly a year of stock trading, and then decide on the next course of action.

After nearly 6 months of meetings, discussions and debates we think that we have a rock-solid strategy to transform VASM into the viable, stable and enjoyable virtual stock market that we all want it to be. Implementing these new ideas will take time, and lots of patience. So, we hope that you can bare with us during this revamping process.

As with all previous incarnations of VASM, this was a learning experience. Each VASM version we produce moves us closer and closer to our goal of a stable, viable and (most important of all) enjoyable virtual stock market. VASM2 has been running for exactly 11 months, probably the longest ever for any version of VASM, and nearly 4 times as long as the previous VASM. Clearly, we are making progress towards our goals, and hope that in future VASM will be able to surpass its own record once again.

Thank you for your patronage,
-Adam Lundrigan
 Cheif Software Architect
 Virtual Airline Stock Market


Tuesday, 2 November
  • Dana (downeaster, ID# 121) told the following story in the forums a few days ago: " The Clinchfield RR was primarily a coal carrying line from the coalfields of Kentucky and the midwest to Spartanburg, SC and points east and south. (It still is, under the CSX banner).

    A pusher/helper was required to get the load to the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Back in the "old days" the caboose was wood framed and, as such, had to be removed from the rear and towed up behind the helper. (Any attempt to push it would crush it).

    The drill went like this. Upon reaching the foot of the grade, the loaded train would back the caboose onto a siding, uncouple and pull ahead. The helper would back up the siding, pick up the caboose and pull ahead to push. The train would then start the long hard trip up the mountain.

    At the summit, the train would stop, the helper would uncouple from the train and back the caboose up a siding, uncouple the caboose, pull ahead then reverse back down to help another load. The train would then back up the siding and pick up the caboose and then head down the eastern side.

    It didn't take long for someone to figure out there was a lot of wasted time at the summit. So, once the helper was uncoupled the train would start down, sans caboose. Meanwhile, the helper backed the caboose onto the siding, uncoupled and as soon as the helper was clear the caboose (the siding was favorably graded) released the brakes and started coasting down the mountain.

    This involved some pretty tricky curves and grades including the famous Loops and required some deft handling of the caboose hand brakes.

    The object was to catch the train and couple on the roll.

    This practice went on for some time. In fact, it became a source of entertainment for the locals. However, all good things come to an end. Evidently there were enough accidents to bring the practice to the attention of the 'suits', and they put an immediate halt to this activity. On the other hand, maybe they started using steel-framed cabooses.

BTW, in the days before two way radios and GPS, etc., it could be to the engineer’s, and crew's, advantage to gain some time, thereby keeping clear the blocks ahead of him. If you are interested in how this works, you might like to read "Set Up Running, The Life Of A Pennsylvania Engineman". For instance, it could make the difference between getting to his destination in time to connect with a ride back home or laying over and spending the night in a boarding house."

  • Fastest Steam Locomotive: "The highest speed ever credited to a steam locomotive is 201 km/h (125 mph) over 402 m (440 yd) by the London North Eastern Railway Class A4 (4-6-2) No. 4468 Mallard (later numbered 60022), which hauled seven coaches weighing 243 tonnes gross down Stoke Bank, near Essendine, between Grantham, Lincolnshire, and Peterborough, on July 3, 1938." (From the website of the Guinness Book of Records) Editor: the above locomotive is currently in the National Rail Museum in York, England. There is a page on that site with brief information about the fastest Mallard ever built.

  • The time slip statistics for the past 3 months are:
  August September October
No. of active engineers 124 109 112
No. of time slips submitted 795 772 716
No. of NERR time slips 652 606 643
Total hours 1,443 1,264 1,234
Average hours per time slip 1.8 1.6 1.7
Total Revenue $43,290 $37,296 $37,014
Average revenue per time slip $54 $48 $52
  • The table below shows the Top 26 Work Orders - measured by the number of time slips that have been submitted for them since the NETS started in January 2004. The right hand column shows the rank at the end of October and its approximate rank at the end of September (in the brackets). Not many of the work orders have changed rankings very much at all, which indicates that our engineers continue to run the wide range of work orders that is on offer. Most of the work orders in the table have been run 2-4 times each month in the past few months. And there are now only 7 work orders that have zero time slips this year, down from 12 two months ago.
383 NEWC-1-Grainmove Diesel Freight 1:00 Bob Artim 50 1 (1)
595 NECV-007-03a Diesel Freight 0:45 elementb 48 2 (2)
81 NENE-KA-001 Diesel Freight 2:45 Kevin Arceneaux 46 3 (3)
411 NEWH-100-01 Diesel Freight 1:18 GaryH 40 4 (5)
106 NEER-110-01 Diesel Freight 1:00 Antonio Miranda 38 5 (4)
414 NEFB-100-05A Diesel Freight 0:50 GaryH 38 5 (8)
371 NEWH-150-01a Diesel Freight 0:30 buttercup 36 7 (7)
483 NEFB-045-01 Diesel Freight 1:30 Mont Denver Gold 36 7 (6)
596 NECV-007-03b Diesel Freight 1:30 elementb 36 7 (9)
372 NEWH-150-01b Diesel Freight 1:35 buttercup 34 10 (10)
373 NEWH-150-01c Diesel Freight 1:20 buttercup 33 11 (14)
380 NELV-260-01 Diesel Freight 1:00 Intelvet - Jim 33 11 (12)
412 NEWH-100-01a Diesel Freight 2:15 GaryH 33 11 (11)
124 NEDF-109-X01 Diesel Freight 1:50 Robert Reedy 32 14 (13)
434 NEMM-110-01 Diesel Freight 1:40 Antonio Miranda 31 15 (15)
240 NENE-018-1a Electric Passenger 0:30 Gary Gardner 30 16 (17)
358 NENE-105-03a Diesel Freight 1:30 Manuel Pinochet 30 16 (16)
415 NEFB-100-05B Diesel Freight 0:50 GaryH 30 16 (20)
447 NEFB-123-01a Diesel Freight 1:45 Hiemdal 30 16 (19)
90 NEOW-260-02 Diesel Freight 0:50 Intelvet - Jim 29 20 (18)
374 NEWH-150-01d Diesel Freight 3:20 buttercup 29 20 (24)
531 NEFB-045-02 Diesel Freight 1:50 Mont Denver Gold 29 20 (-)
125 NEDF-109-X01a Diesel Freight 1:20 Robert Reedy 28 23 (21)
299 NENE-061-01 Electric Passenger 0:35 Firsty 28 23 (23)
413 NEWH-100-01b Diesel Freight 1:00 GaryH 28 23 (-)
552 NENE-163-01a Diesel MOW 1:10 Stumbl 28 23 (22)


Monday, 1 November

  • And here we are at the start of another new month! This month, we'll bring you:
    • at least 2 interviews with members, so that you can find out more about some of the people with whom you share this virtual world!
    • at least one new column (we hope), in addition to new editions of Claude's Corner and Rick's Rantz;
    • news items from the RW and the VRW; and
    • some articles and photos from around the NERR and beyond.

  • Have you ever read a posting in the forums and understood only half the railroad terms that were used? Do you know what a pig train is, or a goat, or a black snake? No? Not sure? Maybe? Well, help is at hand! Bill Prieger (ID# 269) has compiled, with the help of a few others, a list of Rail Lingo from his experience as a railroad engineer for many years. It will be published here in several parts - can't give you too much of a good thing all at once! This glossary will be published on a separate page of the NERR website later.
Rail Lingo Glossary:
Below you will find a list of commonly used rail slang. While some may not sound like slang, they are in the sense that the rail version of the word carries a different connotation from the everyday meaning. Also, this is by no means a complete glossary; just a compilation of slang that is still used to some extent today. So, if you're ready, here we go.

This document in no way, written or implied, reflects the management's view or endorsement, nor does it imply a policy change in NERR operations or work order development. This document is just information and intended for the fun of the NERR brethren. No copyright is enforced either. You can read it, copy it, bend it, fold it, mutilate it, blow your nose in it, or wipe your butt with it. But only if you have fun with it.

The slang term is given first, with a translation to the right of it. I've include notes where these terms can be used to help explain some of the things MSTS does that are beyond our control, or how to use the slang in an MSTS situation.

General Terms:

  • angle cock - Lever that is turned to open or close off air from one car to another.

  • augment - Temporary reassignment to another division that may be short on hoggers (see below for the meaning of that term) or conductors. (a low seniority move).

  • B/O car, bad order car - Railcar requiring repair.

  • bare table - An empty TOFC, COFC or double stack train.

  • Big "O", the brains, skipper, pin puller - Conductor.

  • bighole, bighole it, dump the air - Emergency brake application.

  • black snake - Loaded coal train.

  • blocked train - A train whose cars are assembled in a particular order.

  • Brethren - Fellow operating department workers.

  • bridge - A rail bridge where some supports are above rail grade.

  • business train - Passenger train hauling company officials.

  • car knocker, carman - Person who inspects and repair railcars.

  • carmen - Plural for the above. (Note: not associated in any way with the supermodel of the '90s.)

  • chipper - Wood chip car.

  • clerk, customer service rep - Converts a customer's needs to traffic. Kinda like our work order writers.

  • consist - Any train, no matter what the make up or configuration.

  • cow cage, pig palace - Livestock car.

  • crewhaul, carryall - Same as "deadhead" but with a cab or company crew vehicle.

  • crummy, hack, cab, head shed, brain shack - Caboose.

  • Crystal Palace - Company headquarters.

  • deadhead - To move from home terminal to away terminals or trains on the division. Usually done by riding a train going toward your desired on-duty point.

  • dragger - Railcar with something dragging on the ground; also refers to a dragging equipment detector.

  • drawbar - The bar portion of a coupler that houses the knuckle.

  • dual control switch - A switch that can be thrown from a remote location, or manually by moving a handle. (generally found in CTC territory)

  • dyanamiter - A railcar with a malfunctioning triple valve. This defect causes a train to go into emergency any time an automatic brake reduction is made. Requires all train speed reductions to be made with the dynamic brakes.

  • dynamos - Dynamic brake mode of a diesel locomotive.

  • Extra Board - A group of stand-by engineers, conductors and brakeman that fill jobs when the "pool" is used up. (Low seniority)

  • eyeballs - Locomotive headlights, i.e.: dim your eyeballs when you're entering a yard.

  • F.R.E.D., tellies - F#^*$%@ Rear End Device, Federal Rear End Device. A flashing marker attached to the end of a train that is coupled into the train's brake pipe. Signals from the FRED (such as the brake pipe pressure on the rear of the train) are then transmitted to the leading locomotive via radio. Newer FREDs can also transmit telemetry data.

  • facing point move - To proceed through a switch from the point on in the connecting track.
    FB7, FB8 - 70 ft and 80 ft bulkhead flatcars. Note: Most Class 1 railroads enforce a 40 mph speed restriction on most FB's.

  • flatspot - A flat area created on a wheel face by dragging the wheel.

  • flatspot detector - A detector, usually located on long downhill grades, which warns of cars with severe flatspot. (MSTS: can be a way of adding work on long boring run thru's).

  • foamer, GERF (Glassy Eyed RailFan), rail paparazzi - A railfan (no disrespect implied).

  • FOO - (F*@# old Orville) - Screw what the RFE or Trainmaster says. A meaning of disrespect to a management decision regarding a train movement.

  • FRA, Federalies - Federal Railroad Administration, branch of government that enforces, implements and dictates safe train practices.

  • gas can - Tank car carrying petroleum.

  • get the air back - Resetting a penalty application or emergency brake application. Refers to an automatic brake release.

  • goat, switcher - Switch engine.

  • gon - Gondola.

  • greaser, flange oiler - Device that automatically adds lubricant to the flange portion of a wheel. Usually positioned at the entrance to sharp curves. (A real headache when trying to get a heavy train up a grade especially in rain).

  • heat kink, sun kink - A condition that happens in long welded rail sections. If there is not enough rail gap to allow for rail expansion the track will literally develop a large kink. Usually why speed restrictions are enforced on really hot days. One of these can derail a train.

  • helpers - Locomotives added to a train en route to assist in climbing or descending grades.

  • herder - High seniority switchman's job. His job is to line switches into a railyard all the way to the receiving track or line out departing trains. (MSTS: may be a way to explain how the switches are magically lined all the way to a receiving track even in large yards. Maybe NERR can adopt this position for its vast array of railyards.)

  • herder, hostler - Hogger who removes power from inbound trains and/or adds power to outbound trains from the roundhouse or service area.

  • hogger, hoghead - engineer.

  • hopper - An open or enclosed car that drops its contents through a door or set of doors on the bottom of the car. Generally, covered hoppers are used for grain or granular loads that must be protected from the elements. Open hoppers are used for aggregate (rock, sand, ore, etc.) or loads that can be exposed to the elements.

  • hotbox - Overheated or overheating wheel bearing journal. A "hotbox detector" will scan a train's journals for similar problem.

  • hump yard - A yard where railcars are rearranged by rolling down a hill into a series of tracks.

  • knuckle - Hinged coupling portion on a coupler.

  • ladder - A section of track with three or more tracks branching of in close succession.

  • lash up - Two or locomotives coupled together.

  • lay-off - To take time off from work.

  • mark-up - To return to work i.e.: extra board, freight pool, passenger pool.

  • Mary, Wilma - Head end (locomotive) telemetry receiver. Black box with air pressure gauge and various lights and buttons located on top of engine stand.

  • midtrain helpers - Helpers positioned in the middle portion of a train.

  • oil can - Tank car carrying oil.

  • pig, pigtrain, TOFC - Trailers on flatcar.

  • pocket - A small siding that holds only a few railcars.

  • pool - A group of engineers or conductors that usually work mainline higher priority trains. (High seniority)

  • pool agreement - An agreement made between two or more railroads to allow utilization of each others locomotives. Can also be an agreement between management and the union for the "pool" crews mentioned above.

  • power, hog, pig, battleship, unit - Locomotive.

  • rear end helper - Locomotive positioned on rear of train.

  • rip track - railcar repair track...Repair In Place.

  • Road Foreman of Engineers, RFE - Person in charge of engineers.

  • roundhouse - Building either circular in shape or square (modern version) where motive power equipment is repaired or altered.

  • scab-train - Train owned by a non-union affiliated railroad. (about the lowest priority train in union crews eyes to run)

  • scab - Non-union railroad employee.

  • sectioned train - A train that is transported in two or more parts due to excessive length or weight.

  • short time rating - The red zone on a diesel locomotives amp gauge (measures electric current in amperes). Running your train for too long in this zone can damage or shorten the life of a traction motor.

  • shotgunned train - A train whose railcars are in no particular order.

  • snake, reptile, railbender - Switchman.

  • spring switch - A switch, when trailed through, that returns automatically to its original position.

  • stacker, double stack, COFC - Containers on flatcars.

  • stinger, shack, roughneck, groundhog, pin puller, pin man, field man - Brakeman.

  • student - new engineer.

  • tallowpot, diamond hustler, fireboy, bake head, coal heaver, bell ringer - Fireman.

  • tower - Where the yardmaster is located. A building that allows full view of a rail yard.

  • TPAD, Tons per axle dynamic - Amount of total train tonnage divided by the amount of functioning locomotive axles in dynamic brake mode. Note: TPOB & TBAD are 2 figures that should be provided the engineer any time the train configuration is change or prior to any departure.

  • TPOB, tons per operative brake - A term relating to how many tons your train has per operating brakes on the railcars. (Formula: Amount of total train tonnage divided by amount of railcars in your train; does not include power) The higher the TPOB number is the harder it will be to stop the train.

  • traction motor - An electrical device (motor) that turns the wheels of a diesel or electric locomotive.

  • trailing point move - To proceed through a switch from the rear toward the point of the switch.

  • Trainmaster - A person in charge of conductors. Also may make decisions on train movements that require management's direction.

  • trestle - A rail bridge in which all of the supports a below track grade.

  • V-switch, variable switch - A switch that can be trailed through without lining first; will stay in position that was trailed through.

  • varnish - Passenger train.

  • wagon, buggy, car - Any railcar.

  • wye - A track that is connected to another in a triangle shape that is used to turn rail equipment or allows a track to be entered from either direction.

  • yard - Two or more tracks where trains are made up or rearranged.

... to be continued in a few days' time.

Another of our members, Alan (Hogger6060, ID# 53), photographed the RW loco on which the above one was modeled. Take a look at this - it was headed east from Calgary, Canada.

The views expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of the NERR Administration. They are the views of the author of the particular news item.

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