Operations Question: Hours Of Service

ModelRailroadForums.com is a free Model Railroad Discussion Forum and photo gallery. We cover all scales and sizes of model railroads. Whether you're a master model railroader or just getting started, you'll find something of interest here.


The Railroad Shutterbug
Over on the Railroadforums side, a great idea was suggested for enhansing model operating sessions.

He suggested that when crews "Die on Hours of Service" they have to wait for a Dog-Catch Crew to relieve them.

Does anyone here that uses a fast clock follow the 12 hour hog-law?

That would make for very interesting ops. If a train goes "dead" it just sits on the main line or in a siding waiting for a fresh crew. It would also add for a crew change feature that could be worked in. Perhaps do regular crew changes if you have trains that go over more than one "division".

Just wanted to get ideas on this. Anyone? Anyone?


Fleeing from Al
Out club used to use a fast clock that allowed three hour operating sessions to cover 24 hours and we had trains "Die on the law" to throw a monkey wrench in the works. As long as you have a big enough layout and enough operators, it makes for an interesting addition to an operating session. If the layout is too small to have sidings big enough to handle dead trains and have too many that die on the main, it can really be an exercise in frustration. Real railroads will do anything possible to not have a train die on the main unless they have a new crew out there in the van waiting for them.


Well-Known Member
RR & Jim,
To better understand you, as I have never been exposed, NPI RR, to a large layout operating session, when you talk about a train dieing on the main or elsewhere it would seem that could be from one of sevral reasons, such as Mechanical Failure & or Electronic in our case, Crews Having Reached their Alloted work Limit, Waiting on Crew change etc. am I correct?


Fleeing from Al
David, the term "die on the law" specifically means the crew has run out of federally mandated work hours and can't move the train another inch. The dispatcher normally knows when a crew is about to go on the law and will get the train in a siding and have a new crew waiting in the "wagon", usually a van. Occasionally, something goes haywire, like a slow train ahead or having to take a siding for a late train, and the train will die on the the law when the dispatcher thought he would have time to get the train to a siding or terminal. The dispatcher is going to get chewed out for that so he'll try to get a new crew out there ASAP. A failure for any of other reason would usualljust be called blocking the main. This isn't good either but, in the case of power dying, it's unexpected and it may take the dispatcher an hour or so to round up some rescue engines and get the train moving again.


New Member
Does that happen in the real world?

Do trains ever really just "die" on the main like that? Sounds more dangerous than having a crew somwehat overtime getting to a siding.


Fleeing from Al
Indeed they do. It's rare on a shortline or regional because they almost never have crews scheduled to work more then the 12 hour limit. Class 1 railroads have this all the time. They are governed both by FRA and union rules and there's no such thing as overtime for crews past 12 hours of work. As I wrote, dispatchers will do everything in their power not to have this happen but, especially on run-through trains, the schedule gets held up for some reason and the crew goes over 12 hours before relief arrives. If the train can't get to a siding, it will sit on the main until the new crew shows up. The train is protected either by the signal system or train orders but you can see how one instance of this can cause a cascade of trains going on the law. This usually leads to a trip to the division superintendent's office and the need for asbestos underwear. :)
Last edited by a moderator:


The Railroad Shutterbug
I think things like this can really add to a model operation. Another idea that has already been used before is the wayside "Hotbox" detector. There was an article in MR a few years back that talked about how each train draws a card from a box as it passes the "detector" beside the track. Most cards say "no defects" while a few report problems and the crews then must re-act accordingly.

Another idea that I have seen used for the "Crew Changes" - A friend has a layout that has a hidden staging yard below the main switch yard at one end of the run. When trains arrive at the visible yard, they "change crews" and a hostler crew shuttles the train down the helix and into staging. This eliminates the need for the road crew to travel "off stage" with their train. There is simply one designated hostler to do that job. He brings the trains on and off of the sceniced portion of the layout.

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)

ModelRailroadForums.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

RailroadBookstore.com - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section.

ModelRailroadBookstore.com - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.