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Bells and Whistles (also Lights)

This web page was last updated on May 24th, 2008.

Operations – Some Suggestions

Clinic for HO Trak May 2008

1. Introduction.  HO Trak in general and DCC in particular offers a wide variety of operating possibilities (e.g. lights, sound, bell and whistle etc.).  This clinic will help you use these in a prototypical way.  We will also make a safety inspection of part of the layout.

2.  We operate using a wide variety of equipment, (North American, European etc.) and assuming a wide variety of time periods.  There is no one set of rules that will apply to every situation and, in any case, you are free to change your scenarios as you wish. I will present here some pointers to the way the Canadian railways were operated about15 years ago. I have made some simplifications – see Canadian Rail Operating Rules (http://www.tc.gc.ca/Railway/cror.htm).

3. Bell.  At one time there was a requirement for a 50 lb brass bell (1201 is probably in contravention because the bell was nickel alloy).  Now bells are still used but the railways are moving towards electronic bells (e.g. O-Train) which are just as effective, more reliable and cheaper to maintain. The bells on DCC locomotives sound pretty good.

CROR rule 13.  Bell should be rung when:

- engine is about to move;
- passing a train or engine standing on an adjacent track;

- approaching, passing or moving about station facilities;
- quarter of a mile from a public crossing until the crossing is occupied (not used today).

Turn off the bell when the movement has come to a stop.

4. Whistle.  Steam locomotives had a steam whistle while diesels are air operated.  The early diesel whistles mimicked the mating call of the moose and the Board of Transport Commissioners carried out some trials and decided upon the five chime whistle which should be standard on all Canadian diesels.  Give a demonstration. 

There is a choice of three on many decoders.  CV 115 (0 - single chime; 1 - three chime; 2 – five chime this is the closest to Canada).  The whistle should be loud. 

CROR rule 14 – most common uses:

(f) succession of short sounds - alarm;
(l) two long, short, long – quarter of a mile from a public crossing or at a whistle post (W).

(just changed to 20 seconds with new CROR).

See the following two videos for demonstration of rule 14(l)


5. Headlight.

CROR rule 17. Headlight should be displayed at all times except when standing clear of the main track or when on a yard track.

Where the headlight can be dimmed, it should be dimmed when:

- approaching or being approached by another train;
- approaching a station where a stop is to be made to discharge or receive passengers.

6. Ditchlights.

CROR rule 17.2.  In Canada ditchlights should be on continuously and are used in the same way as headlights.  They should be extinguished when switching.

7. Classification Signals.

These have disappeared with the elimination of timetable and train order operations in the late 1980s.  Some diesels had two white and two green lights at the front. A white light indicated an extra train while a green light indicated a second section of a timetable train was following.

8. Marker lights.

Red light or reflectorized marker to indicate the rear of a train.  Some diesels have a red light on the front to be lit when operating in push mode.

Safety Inspection

Will concentrate on crossings.

Types of crossing

1. Public – may be used by all vehicle owners.
2. Private – established by agreement between the owner and the railway (owner pays)
3. Farm - established when line was built where the railway severed a property (railway pays)

14(l) applies at all public and some other crossings.

In urban areas, where authorized, the whistle is not blown but the bell is still rung - the "W" sign has a line through it.

Guideline G4A regarding sightlines applies at all crossings.