Timothy J. Horton


This page will describe the various crew positions available to guest operators, including skill level and work to be performed during a typical operating session for each position. The aim is to provide a high level of enjoyment whilst maintaining fidelity to the prototype.


The Dispatcher is seated in the layout room, and is provided with a train sheet and a block clearance book. This position consists of issuing and cancelling block clearances, and recording train movements on the train sheet.

The workload for this position proceeds at a relaxed pace and offers an opportunity to interact with the train crews. Guest dispatchers are welcome.

All train movements in Manual Block Territory require a Block Clearance. The Dispatcher writes these down in the Block Clearance book and dictates them to the train crews, who write them down and repeat them back to the Dispatcher. The Dispatcher and train crew then record the Block Clearance as completed.

Upon completion of the train movement, the crew notifies the Dispatcher who then cancels the Block Clearance, striking it out with a red pencil.

Chetwynd Yard

The operation of the yard at Chetwynd includes receiving and breaking up the V-P Freight, assembling the consists for the Dawson Switcher and Septimus Turn, switching the industries in Chetwynd, and assembling the southbound P-V Freight.

The workload for this position is fairly busy and is central to the entire operating session. The work can be done from a standing or seated position.

One of the primary tasks of the Chetwynd Yard operator is to prepare the Dawson Switcher and Septimus Turn for departure. This involves consulting the switch lists for these trains, assembling the consists, and assisting the crew with departures.

It was common practice for train crews to collect their assigned motive power from the shop tracks and couple onto their train, and the Chetwynd yard operator can also assist train crews with this procedure.

Septimus Turn

The Septimus Turn ran daily except Monday from Chetwynd to Septimus and back. It conveyed northbound tonnage to Septimus and brought southbound tonnage back to Chetwynd. On my layout this train typically comprises two locomotives and 9-11 freight cars.

This job is of fairly short duration and is used usually paired with operation of a work train later in the session.

The Septimus Turn usually met the southbound Fort St. John Yard Job at Septimus and the two trains exchanged tonnage before returning home. On my layout the southbound tonnage from Fort St. John and Taylor is staged ahead of time at Septimus.

Upon arrival at Septimus, the train crew sets out the northbound tonnage, runs around with the caboose, obtains a new Block Clearance, and then departs with the southbound tonnage.

Dawson Switcher

The Dawson Creek Switcher ran from Chetwynd to Dawson Creek and back on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. It conveyed trailers and empty cars to Dawson Creek and returned with trailers and loads from the industries there.

This job is of longer duration and offers a run over the Dawson Creek Subdivision as well as a considerable amount of switching upon arrival at Dawson Creek.

The yard at Dawson Creek is located on the upper deck above Chetwynd Yard, requiring the operator of the Dawson Creek Switcher to work around the operator at Chetwynd. This is made easier with the dispersion of control panels and the provision of wireless throttles.

The industries to be switched at Dawson Creek include the trailer ramp and freight shed, four grain elevators, a food warehouse, and a lumber mill. On my layout the consist typically includes 2-3 engines and 10-15 cars.

Work Trains

In 1977 the British Columbia Railway was operating work trains on a frequent basis to upgrade the Fort St. John and Dawson Creek Subdivisions. These work trains provide additional opportunities for train crews and I have built a fair amount of prototypical work equipment for this purpose.

Work train assignments can vary in length and scope. They are often paired with operation of the Septimus Turn earlier in the session.

Work trains were issued with a block clearance authorizing them to work within specified limits. Block clearances for work trains required frequent adjustment so there is a higher level of interaction with the dispatcher.

Work trains would also have to clear other train movements through their limits, which involves communication with other train crews.

This position offers an opportunity for some creativity during operation within the work limits.