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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 2 (June, 1926)

Railway Operating

page 18

Railway Operating

The Railway Department is a huge trading concern, and, from time to time, requires re-organisation and delegation of authority to meet the varying conditions of operation. The control of the system is therefore divided amongst different branches, the Maintenance Branch being responsible for the upkeep of the track and buildings, the Locomotive Branch for the repair and manufacture of rolling stock, and the Operating Branch for the general working of the machine. The Operating Branch carries on the business of transportation for which the Railway exists, aided thereto by the work of the other Branches engaged in keeping the running track, buildings and rolling stock in good condition.

Railway operating includes the making of suitable timetables, the running of trains, the control and distribution of rolling stock, the work of engines and train crews, the allocation to the various trains of the work to be performed, the shunting and marshalling of vehicles, working of goods sheds, and the general conditions of carriage; in short, all such matters as pertain to the transportation of passengers and goods.

Scientific Operation.

Railway operating during recent years has become more and more a scientific business, requiring specialised knowledge. For many years definite rules have been laid down for the guidance of the staff in carrying on the work; but it is only during recent years that the more scientific operation has developed.

Statistics are obtained to guide those in charge of operations in controlling the activities of the business. Wagon user statistics show the extent to which the wagon rolling stock is made use of, and thus enable a proper judgment to be exercised as to the necessity for a greater outlay of capital in the provision of additional rolling stock. They also enable an equitable allocation of the stock to be made. Marshalling yard statistics show the cost of working such yards, and any weakness in organisation or equipment is thereby disclosed. Similarly the returns from Goods Shed working indicate whether the work in sheds is running smoothly and economically.

Late train returns show which trains are unable to maintain schedule time and disclose whether there is weakness in the schedules, in the allocation of the work or loading, or in the handling of the trains.

Train loading returns indicate whether more trains are being run than the traffic offering warrants.

High Capacity Wagons.

A source of economy on some railway lines is the use of high capacity wagons; but it will be readily understood that this is not applicable in the smaller countries like New Zealand where there are not regular large consignments in full truck loads to be moved. High capacity wagons are not economical unless they can be kept in use regularly.


Economy in signalling practice has been a fruitful study by the members of our Signalling Branch and the latest systems are being installed on our railways. The automatic signalling system, which is the latest to be instituted, is one of the most up-to-date systems in use. It not only reduces working costs, but it gives greater capacity to our tracks and, in some instances, saves duplication of railway lines.

Long Distance Runs And Reduction Of Standing Time.

In many countries endeavour is being made to arrange longer runs for the engines in order to obtain the maximum use of locomotive power, engine crews being changed en route. There are certain objections to this method of working, but it is obvious that if more mileage can be obtained from the engines in use, a lesser number of engines will be required to cope with the traffic, thus reducing (1) the capital cost; (2) the costs of preparing, putting away, and cleaning engines; (3) the cost of fuel, and, most probably (4) the cost of repairs. On the South African railways experiments have been made in this respect and in some instances one engine is now running where two or three were formerly employed. Fewer locomotives are required per train mile and this is resulting in a saving in depot expenses. Every effort is also being made to reduce, by rearrangement of the time-table, the “standing time” of engines and men. Standing time is wasteful, as the men while so engaged are producing nothing in the way of transportation. Yet such time counts as part of a day's work. The engine also, page 19 on which a large capital outlay has been expended—is producing nothing, although consuming a certain amount of coal.

Removal Of Congestion In Marshalling Yards By Timetable Adjustment.

Applications are often received from all parts of the system for increased siding accommodation. Now, while it is recognised that timetable alteration is not a panacea for all congestion in sidings, it is most important to note that the business of transportation, as the word implies, requires the wagons to be moved forward. Too much accommodation is liable to cause wagons to “stand” for unnecessarily lengthy periods instead of being worked forward. When considering siding room at stations it is therefore, most important that full consideration should be first given to the matter of train facility to clear the present sidings before making application for additional siding accommodation. In this connection the running of through trains is also worthy of consideration where sub-terminal stations are concerned.

Mobility Of Freight And Rolling Stock.

There is much necessity for scientific organisation in the control of wagon stock. Many railway work under a system of control from one central office which enables the central control officer to visualise the whole transport system. The advantage of this is that the wagon supply is common to the whole service instead of being to a greater or less extent allocated to particular portions thereof. The returns rendered enable the central control officer to know where all the stock is and how it is being used and moved. He is thereby in a position to divert stock quickly from an area where business is slack to another where it is brisk. In this country there is only a modified system of central control. The wagon stock is allocated to the various traffic districts which work together and help each other as far as the rolling stock allows; but the whole equipment is under the control of the Divisional Superintendent for the Island, who has authority to divert the rolling-stock as required.

In this country the traffic is usually heavy during the busy season in all districts at about the same time. The trend of traffic generally enables standing orders to be issued to work empties that are spare to places where loads are obtainable and in this way the necessity for the issue of daily directions is avoided. It is sometimes found possible to assist one district by advancing rolling stock from another; but it is not often found to be expedient to do this with large numbers of wagons unless the position is exceptional or back loading is offering. The want of a thoroughly up to date system of communication makes the full central control system impossible at present. The matter of installing the necessary telephone system is now, however, under thorough investigation by qualified officers of the Railway and Telegraph Departments.

Branch Lines.

One of the most difficult problems to be dealt with is that of working branch lines. These are losing heavily in both Islands, but chiefly in the South, owing to the large number of such lines in that part of the Dominion. These lines were built to develop the country before the advent of good public roads and have in many cases served a good purpose. The provision of good roads and the use of motor vehicles in opposition to the railways has made quite hopeless the proposition of paying the expenditure involved and interest on construction of the lines.

Various methods are being tried to increase the revenue and decrease the expenditure on the branches. Rail motors which are proving successful in other countries are now being given a trial. What is required is a self-contained vehicle that will be more economical of fuel than the ordinary train engine and that can be worked with less than the usual crew of three men.

Reports from other parts of the world do not indicate that the want has been filled by rail motors with entire satisfaction; but the need is not peculiar to New Zealand, and there is no doubt that some development will be found to suit the need. For the sake of economy in working the passenger and goods traffic on branch lines where the volume of traffic is insufficient to warrant the running of steam trains a one man unit capable of hauling a few trucks or a couple of cars at a reasonably fast rate of speed seems to be the kind of power unit most likely to give satisfactory results.

Tests Of Riveted Joints.

Tests of 168 riveted joints (says “The Engineer”), carried out at the University of Winconsin during the last three years indicate that countersunk rivets are just as strong in shearing and bearing resistance as bottom head rivets. There is a difference between the two in the deformation of the joint under load, especially in the slip, but no recognisable difference in ultimate strength.