The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 3 (July 24, 1926)
The Railway Timetable — General Survey
The reorganisation of the Railway timetables during the past year has undoubtedly developed great interest in this phase of Railway operations. It is probable that more consideration has been given to the timetables during recent months than in any other similar period in the history of our railways, and, though practically the whole train service has come under review, it is realised, by those who have given special thought to this matter, that the work has by no means been concluded, but that there is continual necessity to watch for opportunities to introduce improvements and economies in the service. The general reorganisation that has been in progress has given an impetus towards change and opened the way for the expression of new lines of thought. It has emphasised the necessity for considering the requirements of our customers, and for finding economies in working and improvements that will facilitate the flow of traffic.
The preparation of a Railway timetable is an intricate operation. It has to be viewed from every angle in order to reach a conclusion that will meet general requirements. A timetable that suits ordinary passengers may not meet the needs of school children; a time that suits at the starting point may not be conveniont for intermediate or destination stations, and an arrangement very suitable to the travelling public may be too costly to result in satisfactory business for the Department.
The proposed timetable should be one that will attract business, and, so, must be generally suitable to those who may be induced to travel. Convenient starting and finishing times are essential; as are sufficient intermediate stopping places. It has to be remembered that the more stopping places the longer the journey time, and judgment has to be exercised to provide for actual needs without unduly extending the time on the journey. Generally speaking, the public requires quick transit for passengers and goods. The demands of the public determine, to a great extent, the nature of the timetable, as it is useless to run trains which travellers will not use. In business the main effort is to supply what the public wants, and, to a lesser extent, to make the public want what the dealer has for sale. So with this great trading Department, it must be our aim to supply the services that are desired, and also to create the travelling habit, and induce the public in their own interests as well as those of the Railways to make full use of the services provided.
In order to suit the requirements of travellers, consideration has to be given to the various interests concerned. If the trains carry workers they must arrive in time for work, and must leave as soon after work ceases as will give the workers time to arrive at the Railway station. School children should arrive in time for school and leave soon after closing time. Commercial travellers usually leave their home station early in the week and return towards its close. Residents in country districts require a service into town and out again the same day, to enable business and shopping to be done without the cost of a night in town, and farmers attending stock sales usually require to travel to the sale and return on the same day. Whenever any alteration to a timetable is contemplated the requirements of the regular users of the trains must have due consideration. The starting time of a train is often governed by a steamer or motor connection that has to be made or by a connection with an incoming train. The making of close connections at starting and terminal stations, and also at sub-terminal stations en route is a matter of prime importance. Another most important point is the arranging of suitable meal hours. It is advisable whenever possible for passengers to be allowed time to obtain a meal before starting, and, on long journeys, meals should be obtainable at convenient hours.
Passenger trains arriving in the chief centres, if possible, should arrive at a time when tram cars are available to distribute the travellers throughout the town and suburbs.
It is necessary not only for our timetable to be attractive, but also for it to be economical in operation. And having considered a few of those matters which arise in making a timetable convenient, it is advisable to consider the subject from another aspect; the necessity for economy in working. In this connection any unnecessary running of trains or engines should be avoided, also the lengthening of the hours of the staff, and the payment of overtime rates of pay. Every effort should be made to reduce to a minimum the standing time of men and engines. It is economical to obtain full loads for the engines, and in this connection trains arriving from sections where there are steep, adverse gradients, and where schedule loads are consequently light, may in some cases be joined together into one train when the adverse gradients are passed, and the schedule load increased. Another matter requiring attention is the effective working of passenger carriages. It may be possible to effect economy in rolling stock by a suitable timetable arrangement which results in increased use of the existing stock. Similarly a timetable that gives quick despatch to goods traffic results in economy of wagons. When night passenger trains are under consideration the cost of page 19 providing sleeping cars and the probable revenue to be derived therefrom have to be borne in mind.
The combining of passenger and goods services by means of mixed trains, is justified only as a means of economy when there is no prospect of payable business separately, and, in such instances, the shunting work should be limited in order to give quick despatch.
Other matters to be considered in preparing timetables are the classes, power, and speed of engines available, the work to be done, the maximum speed permitted to be run over the portions of the line concerned, speed restrictions, gradients, the schedule and probable loads of the trains, signalling systems, the length of sections, crossing sidings, watering, coaling, and refreshment stations.
In some places trains are usually run in daylight over certain portions of the track on account of the danger from slips. In other parts daylight running may be advisable to enable passengers to view the scenery.
Goods trains require suitable starting times which should be as soon as possible after the goods consigned can be loaded for despatch; the work on route has to be considered and regulated; suitable connections have to be made and the hours for arrival at destinations must be convenient. It is important that goods trains should run through sub-terminal stations or make suitable connections there with other trains to facilitate the flow of traffic so that the goods conveyed shall stand as short a time as possible at sub-terminal stations. The avoidance of delay to wagons at such stations gives quicker transit for the goods conveyed, reduces shunting operations, avoids congestion, makes for economy in siding accommodation, and assists in the prompt despatch and timekeeping of trains. Stationmasters and others desirous of reducing the cost of shunting services at their stations may be able to suggest some timetable alteration that will effect the desired result.
Although the work of preparing suitable timetables belongs chiefly to the train control officers, the information upon which the timetables are based, to a great extent, comes from the staffs at stations. Information is continually sought from stationmasters as to the suitability of various timetable alterations that are under consideration, and the rank and file of the service should be able to give useful information as to alterations that would facilitate the work and induce additional traffic. Stationmasters, foremen, and the staff generally could assist greatly by watching for means of improving the train service in the directions indicated. The Department encourages the submission of suggestions for timetable improvement from all ranks of employees through their superior officers.
Suggestions made may not be capable of immediate adoption. An arrangement desirable at one station may be found to be quite unsuitable further along the line. The requirements of the public in one district frequently conflict with those in another. But the needs of the public, and the needs of the service should be made known to the timetable staff whose duty it is to reconcile conflicting interests as far as possible, and produce a timetable that will give general, if not entire, satisfaction.
It is only by the complete co-operation of all grades of the service in the common interest of the Railway Department, that the best timetable will be evolved.