Operating Authority on the Pacific & Eastern
(Or -- "What do you mean I can't go, the signal is green!")

Our goal is to operate the Pacific & Eastern in a prototypical manner and one of the major concerns on the full sized railroads is keeping trains a safe distance apart.  We've all seen graphic evidence of the results of two trains trying to occupy the same space at the same time and it's not pretty.  Over the years railroads have developed a system of Operating Authority to allow trains to move safely over the line and keep them separated. 

A Brief History of the Evolution of Operating Authority

Timetable and Trainorder (TT&TO):  Back in the glory days of steam, trains ran on a published schedule with strict rules regarding where they could be at particular times.  The telegraph was the main means of communication between stations.  Station agents would "OS" (on sheet) by telegraph when a train passed through their station so that Dispatch and other stations down the line could keep track of trains.  If a train got behind or there was an extra, Train Orders were hooped up to passing trains giving them instructions to do things at times and places outside of Timetable direction.  The Timetable gave a train the authority to move down the line and the Trainorder modified that authority as conditions changed.  With many trains moving over a single track line, this could become cumbersome.  Misreading a trainorder, and it was easy to do, could lead to disaster.  So, railroads implemented a signal system to provide an additional layer of protection.  The most basic signal system is Automatic Block Signals (ABS) such as we use on the P&E.  So, if you had a authority from the timetable or a trainorder and the signal was green you went.  But, it didn't matter what the signal indication was if the timetable held you at a station until a particular time and there was no trainorder directing you to do otherwise.  The TT & TO continued to be the authority, not just the signal system.  Today, it's rare to see TT&TO in operation except on tourist operations. 

Interlockings:  Where tracks crossed or lines merged, there was often more complex trackwork and a tower was built with an operator who manually controlled both turnouts and signals.  We've all seen pictures of towers with a bank of large levers to throw switches and signals.  The switches and signals were interlocked so that only one route could be aligned through the plant at a time.  Authority through Interlockings was granted by signals set by the towerman.  He controlled all movements through his plant.  There are no Interlockings on the P&E, existant or planned.. 

Centralized Traffic Control (CTC):  As communications improved, it became possible for a dispatcher to actually control the position of switches and the aspects of signals along the line from a central location, typically a Division Headquarters.  When the Dispatcher was ready for your train to proceed, he gave you the signal and away you went.  In CTC territory the signal indication becomes your Authority to proceed.  Signals in CTC are also used to direct trains into sidings, overtake other trains and protect MOW crews working out on the main line.  In CTC, ABS is overlaid so that a Dispatcher cannot inadvertently line trains into each other.  The SP main on either side of Klamath Falls is CTC, but not in the yards.  On the P&E there is no CTC, with the closest CTC signal being at the west end of the SP main, below Texum (where the track disappears into Mt. Helix).

Basic Authority in the Modern Era

As radio communications improved two newer forms of authority emerged, DTC and TWC.  Both systems rely on the use of radios and more recently cell phones, to grant operating authority over a sections of track.  Both systems involve a communications between the Dispatcher and the Conductor/Engineer where a form is completed and read back for accuracy. 

Direct Traffic Control (DTC):  A fixed section of track, often between sidings, is marked with signs denoting the beginning and end of that particular "Block".  A block may include all or part of the main through a station with a siding.  Authority is then given, usually by radio, to operate through a given block or series of blocks.  Sometimes, joint authority may be granted with other trains or maintenance of way.  Joint Authority implies reduced speed and keeping an eye out for other trains and MOW crews.  DTC was the operating authority of choice on Southern Pacific's branch lines.  But, as with TT&TO signal aspect alone did not convey authority. 

Track Warrant Control (TWC):  TWC relies on mile posts and/or station names/and or speficic points (e. g. East Switch Derby) to grant authority  It's otherwise similar to DTC.  Both systems can direct traffic into sidings and allow for various contingencies with assorted lines on the forms.  TWC is more flexible than DTC, in that a train may be given many miles of line with just "from MP ABC to MP DEF" or segments of track much shorter than typical DTC blocks may be authorized as conditions require.  GN, SP&S and BN all use(d) TWC for their non-CTC equipped lines.  And, once again, on signaled lines, TWC grants authority, not the signal aspect. 

Yard Limits:  Being within Yard Limits constitues a form of operating authority in and of itself.  Yard limits are not controlled by Dispatch, but rather by the Yard Master, when on duty.  All moves are to be made at restricted speed with each train watching out for other trains and personnel.  

On the P&E, there are several sections with Yard Limits.  Each are or will be noted with a large yellow "Y" sign, although for now, yellow posts suffice for yard boards.  

From West to East: 
Once the P&E crosses Lake Ewauna, it ends with both wye tracks switching onto the Southern Pacific main line.  The SP main is in Yard Limits also, so authority to enter the main must be grated by the SP Yard Master.  The SP main at this point is ABS territory so all rules as pertaining to signals apply.  There will likely be one addition to ABS rules.  Some signals, especially when crossing over the SP main to enter the SP or BN yards, may display a flashing red aspect.  Flashing red is Proceed at Restricted Speed as opposed to a hard red dictating Stop and Proceed at Restricted Speed.  This is to facilitate movement across the SP main without unnecessary stopping. 

To access the BN trackage in Klamath Falls, one must first get authority from the SP Yard Master to enter the SP main and cross over to the switching lead (middle track).  Then the BN Klamath Falls Yard Master must be contacted for authority to enter BN trackage.