Delivery To Dead-End Sidings. How do railroads handle this?


Well-known member
In a session a locomotive pulls a string of cars to a customer's location where there is an unloading process, or one or more cars remain there while more deliveries are made. It seems that many Trainz routes are constructed with "dead-end" customer sidings. If a locomotive pull cars into such a siding they are stuck there until the needed activity is concluded. That means that there is a delay while a car(wagon), or cars are unloaded so the train can back out onto the mainline and continue delivers or pickups.

Therefore, how do railroads handle deliveries to dead end sidings? Do they back the train the entire way so they can drop some cars and move on? Do they accept the delay and simply await for unloading or loading to conclude? I really do not know if this occurs in the real world, but does seem to be possible on Trainz routes.
At the business I worked at we would call the rail co. when we had completed the unloading of a car so that it could be picked up. They would not deliver a new load until they were called on the empty car.

To awnser your other question about how it would work in Trainz you would have to pretend that the rail co. had been called since you have a new load for them.
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I don't think Trainz and the way most people play the game is anywhere close to the real thing. You answered your own question by asking the second question. Train crews drops off cars and move on. About the only example where the power stays on would be a coal loading or unloading facility and even that can take hours depending on how fast it can be loaded/unloaded (usually 1-2 mph).
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if it is a single ended(dead end) siding do they back in so they can drop and pull out. If so, does that mean they back the whole way to the destination(dropoff)?
Yes, a train will have to back up to reach single ended spurs. A train will try to run forward as much as possible. Sometimes, long back ups are unavoidable so they **may** have a shoving platform/caboose. There's no set rule and it's best to follow your favorite prototype as every carrier will do it differently.
If a branchline had alot of dead end sidings facing both directions, logically it'd be most efficient to have locomotives on either end of the consist.
Here's something that might help from the book "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" from Model Railroader books:

View attachment 674[click to enlarge]

Book by John Armstrong, image from page 6, 3rd edition.
I don't know how the first of these can be implemented in Trainz, but on light railways in the UK there were two methods of delivering to dead-end sidings, tow-roping and gravity. I've managed the second, accidentally, in my earliest episodes with TRS2004.

In tow-roping, assuming the dead-end siding had a parallel track, the locomotive would move slowly past the points to the siding with a tow-rope attached to the wagon, and the points would then be changed. The locomotive would move ahead, the wagon would be drawn by the tow-rope along the diverging line.

Gravity shunting relied upon there being a falling gradient to a fan of dead-ends. The locomotive would halt, pin the brakes on the train, then uncouple and run ahead past a set of points. These would then be changed and the wagon allowed to run down into the sidings. The locomotive could then run back up to pick up any remaining wagons and continue.

I managed to gravity shunt an entire train across the turntable in the Highland Valley when I uncoupled the loco from the train and didn't put any brakes on, conditioned from my MSTS experiences into thinking wagons would not move unless attached to a locomotive. I was wrong, and I still hadn't learned enough Trainz controls to put on the handbrakes before they shot across the turntable and the game kicked me out.
In real railroading in most of North America, a crew setting out (or dropping of cars) to industries will typically depart the origin point with the cars in a particular order designed to facilitate their work. The cars will typically be in reverse order in the train of the order they are to be delivered to the various customers along the way. At the first customer, they stop, uncouple the engine and cars for that customer from the front of the train, pick up any cars to be moved, switch them back to the train, and set out the car(s) for that customer. Of course, sometimes they will have a car to pick up from a customer where they do not have a car to set out, and other times they will have a car to set out at a location where there is no car to pick up. They move on to the next location, and repeat the process. Of course, not all customers have trailing point sidings, where the engine can back car in. about half of the time, the customer will be located on a facing point siding, that is, where the dead end part of the dead end spur is ahead of the locomotive. These are handled in which ever way is most expedient. If there is a nearby passing siding, the engine will cut off of the train at a point where it can run around the car, so that the car is ahead of the engine. The engine will then shove into the siding to pick up or drop of cars. If there is no passing siding nearby, and the train is a turn (that is a term used by some US railroads for a train that starts at point A, goes to point B, reverses the position of the locomotives and caboose, and returns back to point A), it might often be that the train will have the car for that location at the rear of the train so that they can service the customer on the return trip. Or sometimes, depending upon traffic, the car might be left on the next passing siding down the line while the train continues the work to the turn around point, and then picked up on the way back and delivered to the customer.

One thing that is rare in North American railroading is to shove a car for a lengthy distance ahead of the locomotive. Note that the definition of "a lengthy distance" depends upon a number of factors, but generally it is measured in hundreds, not thousands of feet. And it is exceptionally rare for a locomotive to travel with cars at both ends.

There are other techniques for getting a car into a siding, many of which are now against the operating rules of most carriers. Kicking a car, dropping a car, and poling are three of these. Poling is similar to the answer about UK railroading involving a tow rope. A car is set into a siding, while the engine remains on the main track, and a pole is placed by a trainman so that it engages fittings on the locomotive and the car and then the pole is used to push the car along a parallel track to get it into the proper position. This practice was dangerous particularly to the trainman, because of the risk of the pole shattering, and has been outlawed for about 75 years (plus or minus; I don't have the exact date at hand, but it was about the time of the change over from steam to diesel power.

If someone does not beat me to it, I'll add information about kicking and dropping cars in another post.

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Kicking cars and poling is no longer legal in the US, though I'm sure some railroads may still do this...

@mjolnir explained part of this as I've seen this in operation myself.

The crew will put the cars in the opposite order of the industries along the line so that the first industry's freight cars is at the end of the train, if viewed from left to right. The leftmost car most likely has a caboose or pushing platform on it so the engine can run behind the train.

The pushing platform or caboose is pushed down the line past the siding switch, and uncoupled. The remaining train is then pulled back and pushed into the siding to pull out the empty. This now longer train is then switched to the branch, from the siding and pushed passed the switch, and coupled to the platform. The car to be switched, that is closest to the engine, is uncouple from the train then pushed into the siding. The engine then uncouples from that car, backs down the siding, switches to the branch line again, and couples to rest of the train and continues down the branch.

This rather complex move, for something very simple is one of the reasons why railroads don't like facing point sidings.
Don't forget that facing point sidings are only "facing" from one way. The logical answer is that you work your way out with the switches that you can back your cars in to and pick up from, run around the train/turn the train on the other end if possible, and work your way back working the other sidings. Otherwise, you have a WHOLE LOT of shoving.
Dick --

If you look at any of the routes and layouts that I have uploaded (including the more recent layouts for T:ANE), there is always a run round somewhere close by so that the locomotive can push the consist into the dead end spur. Pre-planning and setting up the consist in the correct order is the one critical factor in switching operations.
Kicking and dropping cars are names for switching maneuvers where railroad cars are cut off from the train while in motion to make spotting cars more efficient for the crew. There were significant safety concerns about both practices, though to be honest more concern about dropping than kicking) back in the days when switch crews consisted of four or five men, most of whom had year of prior on the job training, and they are (in my opinion) entirely unsafe with a two or three man crew, though they might still be used in certain yard switching operations.

Kicking cars occurs when a locomotive has several cars to switch into several tracks; the cars being switched have neither air- nor handbrakes applied. A member of the crew out near the switch is ready to throw the switch, another member of the crew will pull the pin. Upon the signal from the foreman, the engineer will accelerate to about 4 or 5 miles per hour, pushing towards the desired siding. The member of the crew that is to pull the pin, uncoupling the cars as they go by, and the engineer immediately applies the brakes. This allows the uncoupled cars to roll on along into the siding, coming to a stop at some point, perhaps near any cars already in the siding. If there are no cars in the siding, nor a skate to stop the movement, sometimes a crew member will ride the cars, and apply the handbrakes as they roll bringing the car to a stop. The engineer then reverses, pulling back and the process is repeated to put the next car or cars into a different track. There are safety concerns with this maneuver; a crewmember riding a car can fall off; the brakes may not be working properly so the cars roll out the other end, the man throwing the switch may not get it at quite the right time, and the man pulling the pin may miss, or slip and fall.

This is a much more hazardous maneuver out in the field, where if cars are kicked into a siding too hard, they may roll off the end of the track and derail, or even roll into the street and cause a major traffic hazard. And if the car does not stop at the right place in a spur, the locomotive has to go into the siding to respot it. Finally, the maneuver is impossible to execute without three crew members plus the engineer.

Dropping cars, like kicking them, is also a maneuver where a car is cut off on the fly, except in this case the car is to be spotted into a facing point spur. Again, the car is coupled to the locomotive, there is a member on the ground to throw the switch, another to pull the pin (usually riding on the locomotive, and a member to ride the car. The locomotive pulling the car starts from down the track a distance pulling the car to be dropped, and accelerates. At the desired point, the member pulling the pin will uncouple the locomotive from the car, at which point the locomotive will accelerate away from the car. After the locomotive crosses the switch, the member making the switch will throw it to divert the care into the siding, while the member on the car sets the handbrakes. hopefully stopping the car at the desired location for unloading. Dropping a car is a potentially much more dangerous maneuver than kicking, and has long been officially against the operating rules of every railroad whose operating rules or special instructions I have examined. In practice, though, it was tolerated if the crew managed to get the car to the right spot without incident. Again, due to the number of crew members required to perform the maneuver, it has been years since I have seen a railroad with enough people on a switch crew to execute the maneuver. Another thing to keep in mind about dropping and kicking cars: these maneuvers were standard (if discouraged) practice in years when the average weight of a loaded car was significantly less than it is today. It's easier for a crew member to apply brakes effectively on a loaded car that weighs 80,000 pounds (in total), than one which weighs 283,000 pounds.

I did one too, at about 3:05 here. It's more difficult than it should be due to the sim's "locking junctions as trains approach" feature, requiring higher speed and longer distances than prototypical.

If I'm right the OP was asking about how dead-end sidings were worked if the loco would be trapped in whilst wagons/cars were unloaded or loaded.
The simple answer, for UK practice at least, is that they weren't. Sidings like this were always worked with the loco at the outer end, the whole train passing over the trailing points and reversing into the siding. As others have said, careful marshalling of the train, with wagons in reverse order was needed before the train left the yard.
This often led to (and still does) trains running far more mileage than might seem necessary.
But the most peculiar result of this was where an industry was on the right hand side of a double track route.
A trailing connection would be made from the left track, crossing the other track with a diamond, but no other connection. At first sight this seems unnecessarily complex, until you realise that working it the other way would mean the loco is trapped in.
I might have to spend some of the "railroad's" money and add some parallel sidings. It seems reasonable that not every time a car arrives at an industry it is immediately unloaded, or loaded. There simply must be ways to get the engine on the proper end of the consist so it, and its cars, can get on to the next customer. A poorlyl maintained (cheap) siding will cost something but pay for itself in customer satisfaction from shorter schedule times..