One hundred cars and fifteen hours

I’m still riding the idea of developing a layout concept based on unloading rail cars during an operating session on a model railroad. What I lack in my research is a more clear understanding of how the customer relates to this operating scenario – where is his voice? To bridge that void, I’ve been working through some of the great information provided by the various grain cooperatives across America. One terrific example is found in this video, produced by West Bend, Iowa’s MaxYield Cooperative:

In about eight minutes, our host introduces us to and walks us through the work they do to load a one hundred car train. He’s obviously proud of their ability to do this in fifteen hours. If you have a few minutes, the video is professionally produced and I found it quite enjoyable to watch.

Several modellers are incorporating into their typical operating sessions the work of setting and releasing the brakes on individual freight cars or at least, adding in time during each switching move, to provide an equivalent break to punctuate the session for these actions. Early into the MaxYield video the host adds more steps to this process:

  • Check the doors on each rail car to make sure they are in good condition – the car can’t be loaded otherwise;
  • Open the doors on the top of the car when it is time to load the car.

These are two more things that we really can’t actually do on our tiny models but in terms of setting the pace of operations I think it could be worthwhile to provide time representing when this happens.

When I first read the video’s title, I pictured one hundred cars being threaded through the elevator as one complete train. Instead, this particular elevator can only handle cars one at a time. This plays directly into my initial idea. Moving cars one at a time, at the elevator, is performed using a pair of Trackmobile car movers. Despite what could seem like a potentially simplistic operating sequence, I think there could be potential for something really engaging:

  • The operating session starts with a clear goal: “We have to load this many cars tonight”. We don’t actually have to load a hundred cars in one operating session. No matter how many we actually complete, we get a sense of accomplishment as each respective set changes in number – we can see the work getting done.;
  • “We can only move them one at a time. You grab the first and head to the mill. While you’re preparing and loading that car, I’ll go grab the next. By the time you’re done, I’ll be ready and we can swap positions”;
  • While the switching moves are simple, in this simplicity we find time to enjoy watching their execution; time to listen to the sound of those Trackmobiles at work; and time to appreciate each model grain hopper.

I enjoyed watching MaxYield’s video. I doubt I’m the intended audience but in their work I learned quite a lot that I couldn’t otherwise since I don’t work in the grain or railroad industry. I learned “why” things happen. That sense of why is important to me and I’m grateful that I stumbled across MaxYield’s video and sat there and watched it.

Categories: How I think

10 replies

  1. That’s a very cool video, Chris! There are a lot of details there, from the grading of the corn to the sequence of loading. I noted the strips they were attaching to the bottom of the cars as well as the wheel chocks in place to prevent the car from moving while being loaded.

    They didn’t show the trackmobile running around but it must do so after it pushes the loaded car forward and spots the unloaded car, as it is on the wrong side to get the next empty car. Maybe they take turns… trackmobile 1 is off rails, trackmobile 2 pushes the load out and pulls the empty in, spots it, then pushes the loaded car into the right place in the yard; meanwhile 1 gets on the rails near the empties and pulls an empty up to repeat the process.

    Lots of things to think about.

    • I didn’t notice them chocking the car wheels but that makes perfect sense.

      I’d love to see a video showing this “dance of the Trackmobiles” and it must be along the lines you propose. I didn’t check out the rest of their feed and should do that.



  2. That was neat. I had no idea all those things were involved in loading a car. It proves how little we know about the actual work and coordination between the railroad and customers. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Thanks Mike,

      I always enjoy learning more about why we do things. If we’re staging a play on the layout, this is why the actors are doing what they are.

      Further, I like the pride in the narrator’s voice. It would be easy to remember than during an operating session based on the same.


  3. Chris;
    It’s a great video and fantastic that the company decided to share the video with us all. There is so much learning in there for us modellers. While I’ve seen this one before I do come back to it every now and then to see what I am missing when I think of an operating session. We see and therefore model so little of what really goes on in the real world of railways. We cannot model it all, but there are physical aspects to the process that as you’ve pointed out that we really can model. And each of these eats up time and space that we might otherwise rush through.

    Great post and thanks for sharing this video with the wider modelling fraternity.-

    • Thanks Andrew,

      Modeling could go beyond just making a miniature of something to representing the balance of its attributes, including how it works. We have already broken terrific ground in expanding the definition of model the train by including sound as a part of modeling. Modeling how things work could be just as important.

      The folks at MaxYield were kind enough to share a video that helped explain how their operation works; what their day is like. In doing so they also exposed their pride and its hard not to be touched by that.



  4. He’s rightly proud to be able to load 100 cars in 15 hours, one at a time! The usual process is to load a track of 20 to 35 cars at a time. As each car is loaded, the track is rolled forward by gravity or by a winch. That process usually takes 12 to 15 hours, so to be able to do the same while moving one car at a time is very impressive.

    • I agree.

      That is one incredible amount of work to be completed in such a short period of time. The video is thorough in describing what they do but it’s easy to overlook the time required by each process step.




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