Making it Work - A Primer for NEB&W Model Railroad Operators

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by Mike Goblet (Updated by Tom Amrine)
Train Operation Table Of Contents

Operating a train, whether during an Open House, an Operating Session, or just for fun, is neither difficult nor complicated. Only three items are needed — track power, a throttle, and an engine.

Track and Control Power

Commonly, the track and control power supply will be on when you arrive for an Open House or Operating Session. If the power is not on, you must find and turn on three timers. Track power is controlled by a timer mounted on the wall to the left of the work bench located behind Red Rocks. This timer turns on four power supplies, three are for the three DCC power boosters and the fourth is for all the layout switch motors. These power supplies are on the first shelf above the workbench, you should check that they are turned on. There are two other timers that must be turned on, one is mounted at the doorway on the wall under Vergennes and one is at the doorway on the wall under Lake George. These two timers control power to the command (cab) bus, throttles may not work if these timers are not turned on.

The Throttle

There are three types of throttles (also called controllers) in use, The NCE ProCab throttle, the NCE Cab-04 throttle and the new NCE Cab-06p throttle.



NCE ProCab Throttle manual


NCE Cab-04 Throttle manual




The Throttles are stored behind Red Rocks on the shelf above the workbench. You will also need a throttle cord and these are hanging on the pegboard just inside the entrance to the work area behind Red Rocks.

Remove a throttle from it's storage location and take a cord from the pegboard. Find a plug-in jack (called a UTP)nearest the locomotive you're going to use. The plug-in jacks are mounted every few feet along the fascia. Plug one end of the cord into the bottom of the throttle and the other end of the cord into the jack (UTP).

Selecting an Engine

Find a idle engine and read the engine number marked on the side of the cab.

On the throttle, press the "SELECT LOCO" button.

  • On the Cab-04 throttle, a red LED will light steadily.
  • On the ProCab throttle, "ENTER LOCO" will be displayed on the second line of the LCD display.

Note: Make sure the knob on the Cab-04 is turned fully counterclockwise, or the display on the second line of the ProCab LCD panel indicates "000," before taking the next step.

Using the keypad on the throttle, enter the engine number.

  • On the Cab-04, the red LED will blink once as you press each button (it may blink too fast to observe) but remain lit. When you have completed entering the engine number, press the ENTER button. The LED will go out.
  • On the ProCab, the engine number will be displayed as you enter it. If the number is correct, press the ENTER button; if it is not correct, press additional number buttons until only "ENTER LOCO" is displayed on the second line of the LCD display. Reenter the engine number. When correct, press the ENTER button.

Choose direction of travel

  • On the Cab-04, press FWD or REV as appropriate. The red LED will flash once.
  • On the ProCab, press the DIRECTION button; FWD or REV will be displayed on the first line of the LCD display.

Note: On both steam engines and diesels, the long end is the front/forward end.

Let’s Get Moving!

  • On the Cab-04, slowly turn the knob clockwise. If the engine does not move, attempt to move it slightly by hand. If it still does not move, return to step 2 and reselect the engine. If the engine still does not move, ask for help.
  • On the ProCab, rotate the thumbwheel toward the top or press the "INC" (Increase) or "FAST INC" (Fast Increase) buttons. A numerical indication of the speed step you have selected will be displayed on the second line of the LCD display. If the engine does not move, attempt to move it slightly by hand. If the engine still does not move, ask for help.

Note: Engines should be operated prototypically — let speed build up slowly and stopping should take time. Be patient!

Selecting Multiple Engines

Multiple locomotives joined together and run as one unit with only one engineer are called a "consist"
Note: Multiple steam engines may be operated together, but not consisted, each engine must have an individual operator. Only diesel locomotives are consisted.

Find an idle consist and read the engine numbers on the side of the cabs.

On the throttle, press the "SELECT LOCO" button.

  • On the Cab-04, a red LED will light.
  • On the ProCab, "ENTER LOCO" will be displayed on the second line of the LCD display.



Note: Make sure the Cab-04 knob is turned fully counterclockwise, or the display on the second line of the ProCab LCD panel indicates "000," before the next step.

Using the keypad on the controller/throttle, enter the engine number.

  • On the Cab-04, the red LED will blink once as you press each button (it may blink too fast to observe). When you have completed entering the engine number, press the ENTER button. The LED will go out.
  • On the ProCab, the engine number will be displayed as you enter it. If the number is correct, press the ENTER button; if it is not correct, press additional number buttons until only "ENTER LOCO" is displayed on the second line of the LCD display. Reenter the engine number. When correct, press the ENTER button.



Note: The long end of the engine whose engine number is used to provide a consist number is the front/forward end.

Choose Direction of Travel.

  • On the Cab-04, press FWD or REV as appropriate. The red LED will flash once.

  • On the ProCab, press the DIRECTION button; FWD or REV will be displayed on the first line of the LCD display.



Let’s Get Moving!

  • On the Cab-04, slowly turn the knob clockwise. If the engine does not move, attempt to move it slightly by hand. If it still does not move, return to step 2 and reselect the engine. If the engine still does not move, ask for help.



  • On the ProCab, rotate the thumb wheel toward the top or press the "INC" or "FAST INC" buttons. A numerical indication of the speed step you have selected will be displayed on the second line of the LCD display. If the engine does not move, attempt to move it slightly by hand. If the engine still does not move, ask for help.



Operations

Now that you can power up the layout, operate the throttle, and select an engine, it’s time to begin operating.

Choosing your train

You will likely select your engine or consist from those parked in Rutland, Bennington or Chateaugay yards. You are also likely to find trains set up, ready to move North (travelling right towards Chateaugay) or South (travelling left towards Troy or Rutland Yard. You now need to move your engine or consist to that track.

Note: The long end of the engine whose engine number is used to provide the consist number is the front/forward end.

Note: During an Operating Session ask the Yardmaster, if one is present, which train to take.

Yard Layout

In any of the yards, you will need to learn how to select tracks. This process is different in each yard, and the track diagrams on the fascia can help.

In Rutland Yard, the nearest track to the operators is the Boston and Maine Mainline, and is not counted. Beginning with the second track, start counting from yard track 1 to yard track 10, noting that yard track 7 appears halfway into the yard where it separates from track 6. Tracks are selected by rotating the knob on the fascia to the number corresponding to the track you wish to enter or leave, pressing and holding the adjacent button until you hear no more switching noises.

Note: Switching should only take two to three seconds. If the switching noises continue after that time, release the button. Warning: There are turnouts at both ends of each yard track. Be sure both turnouts are set to the proper track before starting. Backing into a closed turnout will cause a short circuit and may shut down the entire layout.

In Bennington Yard, the nearest track to the operators is the NEB&W Mainline, and the second is the passing siding. Beginning with the third track, start counting from yard track 1 to yard track 7. At the North (right) end of the yard is a caboose track, which is not counted as a yard track. Tracks are selected by rotating the knob on the fascia to the number corresponding to the track you wish to enter or leave.

Warning: There are turnouts at both ends of each yard track. Be sure both turnouts are set to the proper track before starting. Backing into a closed turnout will cause a short circuit and may shut down the entire layout.

In Chateaugay Yard, the nearest track to the operators is yard track 6, the next is yard track 5, and so on. Beyond yard track 1 is the NEB&W Mainline; beyond it is the station track. Yard tracks are selected by pressing the button on the track diagram on the fascia corresponding to the track you wish to enter or leave. Warning: There are turnouts at both ends of each yard track. Be sure both turnouts are set to the proper track before starting. Backing into a closed turnout will cause a short circuit and may shut down the entire layout.

Note: During an Open House or Operating Session, the Yardmaster will normally set the turnouts.

Leaving the Yard

Following the track diagram on the fascia, press the button(s) that will set the turnouts to allow your train to enter the main line. Note: During an Open House or Operating Session, clearance to enter the mainline from the Yardmaster or Dispatcher is required. Note: All freight trains, except local freights pulling a combine (a car carrying passengers and train crew), must have a caboose. No exceptions.

Operating on the Main Line

Colored tape designates the status of each track. The mainline is designated with yellow tape, passing sidings with white tape, industrial and yard tracks with red tape. To properly set the turnouts, you must press the buttons found along the tape diagram on the fascia corresponding to the track your train is to travel on and press them as you come to them. Prototypically, turnouts are set to the main line (and not passing, yard or industrial tracks) where it was multi-tracked; one direction is given priority where multi-tracked main lines reduced to single track main line.

Note: On the NEB&W, turnouts are set for Southbound priority and always to the main line

When transitioning from dual mainline tracks to a single mainline track, passenger trains and through freights will find main line turnouts set properly when Southbound. When transitioning from dual mainline to single mainline at Johnsonville, the turnout must be set to allow Northbound trains to enter the single mainline, then reset to allow Southbound travel.

Note: Prototypically, trains must stop to allow trainmen to set turnouts.

Helper Service

When operating in the Berkshire Subdivision Northbound from Rutland Yard to North Bennington or Southbound from North Bennington to Rutland Yard, helper service is sometimes needed. A helper engine would be coupled to the front end of the train to assist in the climbs Northbound from Reynolds to Summit or Southbound from North Bennington to Summit. The helper engine will be removed after reaching North Bennington or Rutland Yard. Helpers must always be on the front of the train.
Yardmasters will determine proper power assignments based upon the total weight of the train.

Arriving at Your Destination

The final destination of your train will most likely be one of the three yards or either North or South Fiddle. If Yardmasters are present they will assign a track for you to park your train. If your destination is one of the fiddle yards, or if there are no Yardmasters, park your train on an open track without blocking any other tracks. DO NOT leave your train on any main line or siding!

Note: During an Open House or Operating Session, arrival tracks will be assigned by the Yardmaster. When present, the Yardmaster will take over your engine(s) as soon as you park your train.

Important: During an Operating Session, when you park a train and are finished operating please return your throttle and cord for someone else to use.

Completing Your Operating Session

Return your throttle to the storage area beyond Red Rocks, hanging the cord on the pegboard and placing your throttle with the others. If you are operating alone, turn off all power by turning off the three timers mentioned under "Track and Control Power" at the top of the page. ONLY the three timers should be turned off.