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Northern Transpennine Heavy Freight Timetable

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Trim, Feb 12, 2020.

  1. Trim

    Trim Active Member

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    Before I discovered @Wonterail’s excellent service mode timetables, I compiled my own timetable in spreadsheet format for Northern Transpennine, and wrote a long post about some of its more noteworthy aspects here: https://forums.dovetailgames.com/threads/northern-transpennine-timetable.20298/

    I have now completed the timetable to include the BR Heavy Freight expansion. Both timetables can be found here (they are on separate sheets - check the tabs at the bottom): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1znq_5OIEs9gBk0TZGDVWLZNdolICQ6LyDUgN4MIzw_Y/edit?usp=sharing

    All the general comments I made in the other thread still apply, so if you are new to playing in service timetable mode, then I suggest you read that first (or at least the first part). The significant change with BR Heavy Freight is that trains marked Loco in the timetable might now spawn with a class 40, as well as the previous possibilities of a class 45 or a class 47. I am now convinced that each train has its own probability for each class of locomotive, with class 40s far more likely on the oil trains, and peaks still most likely on most of the passengers (but a couple of them seem to be mostly 47s). The two heavy oil trains are only ever 2x class 40, and the Sheffield – Leeds is never a class 40.

    When I started playing with BR Heavy Freight, having previously immersed myself in the basic Northern Transpennine game, my first thought was disappointment. Sure, the locomotives are nice, and I had not been expecting to get two versions of class 40, but Heavy Freight seemed designed to highlight faults with the route, and deficiencies in the game, which the ordinary NTP timetable had kept hidden. Then there was the timetable itself, which seemed in part to have been designed by a child playing let’s pretend with a train set, rather than having any semblance of what real life operation might have been.

    I have warmed a little more to Heavy Freight since then, but I still think it is more a case of opportunities missed than anything else, and I keep on wishing that instead of the ventilated van that is barely made use (and has a very annoying flat), that DTG had given us a vacuum-braked GUV to use on the newspaper trains for which Red Bank sidings were so well known (the game's BG is dual-braked, so that is fine – and incidentally, you can drive the various trains of BGs in vacuum brake mode if you wish). This photo is from 1979, so a little before the route’s setting, but just look at all those GUVs in amongst the BGs. There are also a good number of what appear to be both wooden and steel-bodies CCTs/PMVs.
    upload_2020-2-12_20-14-8.png

    So what of the timetable? Well, I happened to start off with the first of the shunter duties, NH01, which serves well to illustrate several of the problems of Heavy Freight. The AI takes 11 minutes to complete this turn (the timetable selection screen says 10 minutes!), but I reckon it is close to half an hour if you walk to change all the points (walk, mind you, not run), because the shunter appears to have gone AWOL – and it’s dark, too, so you have to walk right up to everything, rather than being able to check how points are set from afar. Yes, I know you can change points on the map, but why cheat? Stopping positions are mostly well beyond where you actually need to stop to change the points, but you cannot simply ignore them or you won't complete the step. It seems particularly daft needing to stop within three or four yards of some arbitrary position in a yard with some empty vans, when the game happily allows you to stop half a train-length short with a passenger train and half the coaches off the platform. You also need to turn on the Star Trek transporter beam to see stopping positions when propelling (I utterly hate these graphics so I have all of them turned off at other times), and the first time I drove this turn, what with having to fight with the 08’s braking system and trying to work out how to recover from a misguided use of the arrow keys to see outside the cab (WARNING: Don’t use the arrow keys when sat in an 08 at night), I was just about uncoupling the first five vans when another 08 came up behind me, boxing me in.

    WTF??? The AI in Heavy Freight sometimes seems very much lacking in I, but why had the other shunter come up at all? The instructions say that I had to move the vans near the depot to get them loaded “for the supply run later”. Fair enough, but when’s later? It transpires that even with the AI driving the 08 at breakneck speed, whoever has to load the vans only gets twenty minutes to do so. Twenty minutes to load ten 12-ton vans at five o’clock in the morning, and from rail level too? Newton Heath must employ a small army of night-time labourers. However, all that racing around is just so the vans can be dumped in a siding at Cheetham Hill and never get moved again. In a similarly pointless move, there’s a rake of BGs that goes from Newton Heath to Manchester Victoria and then gets immediately taken back to Red Bank – if they needed to go to Red Bank, why take them to Victoria? In fact the only van moves that make any sense to me are the vans from Cheetham Hill via Newton Heath to Huddersfield and Leeds, picking up other vans from Hillhouse Sidings at Huddersfield. If only DTG could work out how a player can drive both main line legs (NH09 and NH10) and remain seated in the cab while the Huddersfield pilot attaches the Hillhouse vans, it would be almost perfect. As it is, the driver has to stand up before the Hillhouse vans are coupled on and not sit down again until the pilot’s uncoupled at the other end (there are other ways of doing the same thing, but I think this is the best), otherwise the game seems to think you’ve suddenly become the 08 driver, and won’t uncouple. Incidentally, why is NH09, a main line run from Newton Heath to Huddersfield, called "Newton Heath Depot Move" in the timetable?

    If shunting movements are wanted (and I’ve certainly nothing against them), then Manchester Victoria had about ten newspaper trains each night, which needed sorting out at Red Bank and taken into the station (although only three of them, so far as I am aware, went along the NTP route). There’s also that huge Newton Heath CCE depot that has been modelled, with nothing in it at all. Admittedly, we don’t really have the vehicles for a CCE depot, but it looks a very interesting yard to shunt, with almost nothing of a headshunt.

    Manchester workers being supermen seems something of a theme in Heavy Freight. Later on, the 14-coach newspaper train gets loaded in a mere 15 minutes. I know newspaper train workers were fast, but they’d usually have at least an hour for a train of that length, more likely an hour and a half. Incidentally, the newspaper train does show a rare bit of intelligence on the part of the AI, for it won’t allow the train engine to depart Newton Heath fuel road until the shunter bringing the vans into the station has uncoupled. Unfortunately, while this might be an intelligent move for an AI driver, it is utterly baffling to a human driver who receives the instruction (NH03) to “Fuel up and then run Light Engine to Manchester Victoria to pick up the Leeds-bound Newspaper Train”. Unfortunately, neither the 40 nor the 47 can actually be fuelled (I have not checked the 45), so the hapless player stops as instructed in the fuel road and then spends ages wandering round the engine looking for how to fuel it up. Even the intelligent AI driver waiting till the BGs are safely in Manchester Victoria before setting off is let down by the rather dim-witted AI signalman. The first time I played RB03 (the 08 turn that brings the empty newspaper vans into the station), I misread an instruction and shunted the wrong way at Red Bank. By the time I had sorted myself out, I was very later. Still, I got the train to Manchester, then walked back down the platform, wondering what would happen next. In the event, nothing. My late arrival had allowed 6M48 loaded oil from Healey Mills to get down to the station throat, and it was waiting to get into platform 11 where I had just dumped the vans. Unfortunately the signalman had decided that, out of all the possible routes between Newton Heath and Manchester Victoria, the newspaper train locomotive should be sent down the same one used by the oil train, and was trapped behind it.

    While Manchester has supermen, Leeds clearly has layabouts. Red Bank, Manchester Victoria and the Northern Transpennine route were well-known for newspaper trains, as I have said, particularly the returning empties from Heaton (Newcastle), double-headed with over twenty vehicles, which came through at a civilised hour in the middle of the day, just right to be seen by trainspotters. The loaded trains from Manchester Victoria left at the dead of night, of course (from what I can tell, the last newspaper train left at 02:15, for Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Leeds and York). So what’s the Heavy Freight newspaper train doing leaving at 07:50? Don’t Yorkshire folk get up till 9? Incidentally, the newspaper train has what is probably the silliest instruction of them all, where you are told to “Go via location”. However, the location in question is just outside Manchester Victoria station, and if the signalman doesn’t send you there (which he does), there isn’t much you can do about it.

    I expect most people’s focus with Heavy Freight will be on the oil runs, and these are rather nice, but the loaded trains being so slow up the banks, there’s never any prospect of catching anything up, which makes most of the run a little dull. The main interest seems to be in controlling the speed on the way in to Manchester. However, these trains have their own share of irritations.

    Firstly, their routing. Almost all non-passenger workings to and from Leeds are routed on the fast lines between Ravensthorpe and Heaton Lodge Junction. While this is clearly a possible route, the 20 mph crossover at Ravensthorpe appears to be signalled incorrectly – drivers of up trains get no warning they will be taking it till they see the feathers at Ravensthorpe, a mere 200 yards before the crossover, not really long enough to drop the speed by 25 mph (if you don’t take the crossover, the speed limit is 45 mph). Also, down non-passengers almost all get routed through the loop outside platform 8 at Huddersfield, which is not signalled for through trains. While there is nothing wrong with through trains being sent this way, I can’t help thinking it is unlikely this was a regular route, and that either platform 4 or platform 8 would have been used instead. [As an aside, although I had thought the game was correct for 1983, with the layout of Springwood Junction preventing down Manchester trains from accessing the down main through line between platforms 1 and 4, I have just read an account of a train being routed this way in April 1983: https://www.flickr.com/photos/phill_dvsn/4368206775/]. At any rate, the stopping of freights in the loop beyond signal HU115 to allow passenger trains to overtake is quite simply wrong, as I pointed out here: https://forums.dovetailgames.com/threads/ntp-huddersfield-signalling-using-br-heavy-freight.20400.

    Why, in any case, do so many down freights stop in Huddersfield? I realise some players might appreciate the shorter durations these journeys offer, so if that’s the reason then fair enough, but I can’t see any other reason for these trains stopping or being overtaken at Huddersfield at all. In the closest example, the 14:44 Manchester – Healey Mills empty oil train (which, incidentally, has the same reporting number as the 16:10 Manchester – Healey Mills heavy oil train) being followed by the 14:48 Manchester – Leeds express, an AI driver of the oil train will always beat the express, and if a player is driving the oil train and is late, it would be better to loop it at Diggle, before the very long Standedge Tunnel section, rather than at Huddersfield where the passenger train will lose time relative to the freight by stopping. It is a shame the game does not appear to have dynamic routing to allow looping at Diggle and Marsden for late-running freights, but I haven’t yet played a train game that has dynamic routing (I understand OpenTTD has it, but I cannot abide the graphics, and of course it isn’t a simulator).

    While TSW might not have dynamic routing, it does have dynamic pathing, but it bears no relation to reality. The most obvious example is the 11:31 loaded oil from Stalybridge to Healey Mills, which blithely overtakes the 11:48 Marsden – Leeds DMU at Marsden, even if it doesn’t get to Marsden till long after 11:48 – and then bizarrely it sits in Huddersfield waiting for the DMU to catch up and overtake.

    What happens here is that the pathing decision at Marsden is made far too early. The Marsden starter clears for down trains before the approaching train has reached the signalbox before Diggle (Saddleworth?). This is two signalboxes away, and Marsden should not even be aware the train is approaching, let alone clear any signals for it. This part of the line still had traditional signalboxes, so it is only as a train passes Saddleworth and Saddleworth sends Train Entering Section to Diggle, that Diggle would ask for Line Clear from Marsden. Marsden will accept the train, but won’t clear any signals or offer it to Huddersfield until he has received Train Entering Section from Diggle, which should not be until the train has passed beyond the far end of Diggle loop. Only when Huddersfield has accepted the train can Marsden clear the down starter. However, the Marsden signalman, knowing that the oil train has no chance of getting to Marsden before the DMU to Leeds is due to depart, won’t offer the oil train to Huddersfield at all, but will offer the DMU instead. The DMU keeps to time and there’s no need for any silly overtaking at Huddersfield.

    There is a different problem with the 20:32 loaded oil from Stalybridge – Healey Mills, which is clearly intended to run behind the 20:55 Huddersfield – Leeds DMU. However, because Huddersfield doesn’t clear starters for passenger trains that originate at the station till the “start” time, but it clears signals for down through trains as soon as soon as they reach the first Huddersfield-controlled signal, HU709, between Marsden and Slaithwaite stations, the oil train can be a long way behind the DMU yet Huddersfield decides to give it the road first. Since AI-driven oil trains travel at express passenger speeds when no-one is looking, if you spawn in at 20:50 or later, including if you spawn directly into the DMU at 20:55, then the oil train has already reached signal HU709 and is given the road through the station, even though the DMU is ready to leave and the oil train won’t actually get to Huddersfield till 21:00 at the earliest. Spawn in before 20:50 and the oil train, losing its rocket engines as soon as a player is on the scene (even if they’re the other side of Standedge Tunnel), won’t get to HU709 before 20:55 so the DMU gets to go first.

    You’re probably all fed up with my ramblings by now, so I’ll just add a couple of other gripes that were always there in NTP but now seem worse in Heavy Freight. I didn’t much mind in NTP when DMUs had passengers on them in depots and spent all night with the engines running, because I rarely visited depots, when I did it was often dark, and trains with engines running all night was not particularly unusual at the time. However, now we have those two TSOs sat all day in the siding at Huddersfield right opposite platform 8, with all those passengers trapped inside, it looks very wrong indeed. As does that 08 with its engine running all the time. The tutorials omit many things (especially with the 08), but they do teach players how to start up and shut down engines, so why don’t depot turns start and finish with engines shut down?

    Not timetable related, but there are two other glaring faults, to me at any rate. The Sheffield – Leeds train does not have a brake van, which is an absolute no-no. It’s a shame we don’t have a BSK in Northern Transpennine, but a BG would do. And finally, how are AI drivers able to use air brakes on vacuum-only stock? If you pick up NH10 at Huddersfield, either by selecting it from the timetable screen or spawning in on foot, the first thing you’ll need to do is change the brakes over from air to vacuum, even though the engine with its vacuum-braked train has just come all the way from Newton Heath.

    So, what would I like to see? Proper newspaper trains, for a start; that should be easy enough to do, and the returning empties which seem to have got forgotten about. The two real-life TPOs could be correctly modelled as well (York – Shrewsbury and Whitehaven – Huddersfield). The two carriages taken off the Sheffield – Leeds should get put on the back of a York – Llandudno, and the reverse move made in the opposite direction (they should be mark 1s of course, and 1983 is probably too late for Sheffield – Llandudno through carriages, but hey!). Starting up and shutting down engines should be specific steps in a turn, and engines in depots and sidings should normally be shut down. All (or at least most) Leeds trains should take the slow lines between Heaton Lodge Junction and Thornhill LNW Junction. Through down freights at Huddersfield should be routed through one of the platforms, and long freights that need to be stopped should take the shunting line, as the down TPO and VAN trains do now. Pathing decision-making positions should be reviewed, particularly for Marsden and Huddersfield in the down direction, and moved a lot closer to their respective stations. I’d love to see some limited routing decision-making, particularly at Diggle and Marsden – this is probably the change that would most transform the game, with slow-running player-driven trains closely followed by a fast AI-driven train getting looped.

    More locos. More stock (GUVs, CCTs, Mk 1 BSK, TSO and FK or CK come immediately to mind, but POSs/POTs for the TPO trains would be nice as well). Oh, and give us Healey Mills. I know only four trains each way go there, but it’s only two miles off-map and it would remove those horribly unrealistic Mirfield crew changes.

    Thank you for reading. I'll think I'll now give NTP a bit of a break and take a look at MSB. At least I won't be able to go picking holes in it like I've done here, since I know nothing about prototypical German railway operation.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2020
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  2. Anthony Pecoraro

    Anthony Pecoraro Well-Known Member

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  3. DominusEdwardius

    DominusEdwardius Active Member

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    You really do not need to tag me in literally everything you know Anthony...

    While I won't comment on the NH stuff, there is some reasoning behind the Newspaper service. When the timetable was under development Matt was fully aware of the time it ran with of night which the News trains ran, however shunting with the current lighting on NTP at night proved basically impossible, as such it was moved to the early morning where you can actually see anything. Only one trip was done due to time limitations getting what was included done, a large number of issues were had getting the service mode full stop and also the altered time of day.

    The Sheffield train move possibly is a bit anachronistic for 1983 although it was included to add a little variety, unfortunately the 2nd part of attaching it to another service couldn't be made to work in time and so got cut.

    With regards to AI and incorrect brake settings its because AI are vastly simplified for performance reasons and don't really care for all that. The mismatch I don't think was intended though! Similarly AI can't turn engines on and off which is why this action never occurs in service mode.

    There are numerous issues with the timetable which hopefully one day will be resolved, but I must thank you for your long and detailed posts.

    Just as a small side note, I've never actually been able to find any pictures of Newton Heath CCE, I know its there but finding actual pictures... I honestly haven't managed that yet!
     
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  4. Manclion

    Manclion Well-Known Member

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    Well written and informative post which sums up the faults on NTP and the freight pack in particular well.
     
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  5. Trim

    Trim Active Member

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    DominusEdwardius. Thank you for your very informative reply.
    Me neither! It's in my contemporary rail atlas, which is how I knew what it was. There is a good map showing the old carriage and wagon works here: https://maps.nls.uk/view/126522788, which is effectively what became the CCE yard (and appears to have much the same track plan as the game), but I haven't found any pictures from anything like the game period.
     
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  6. Manclion

    Manclion Well-Known Member

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    unfortunately the 2nd part of attaching it to another service couldn't be made to work in time and so got cut.
    It's a real shame about things getting cut due to time constraints (presumably from the powers that be?) which would drastically improve the experience of the player.
    I presume that's why the loop at the entrance to Standage tunnel isn't used too?
     
  7. DominusEdwardius

    DominusEdwardius Active Member

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    A mixture of time constraints, difficulty in actually doing it (layers cannot interact with each other directly in the service mode which makes it quite hard!) and to an extent not actually needing to do it, generally most of the issues which could be argued require it can be resolved by better timing the freight so it isn't being chased down by something. Looking at the working timetables for the line in the period only 3 trains were timetabled to be looped at Marsden; 2 MGRs and one unfitted train and nothing booked at Diggle.
     
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  8. Trim

    Trim Active Member

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    Yes, I had noticed that. Even with what at first glance appeared to be the most poorly-timed trains, it is extraordinarily difficult as a player to catch up with anything in front, and in any case Diggle and Marsden are at the top of the hill so, trains having got that far, it seems rather pointless then looping them, unless they couldn't go downhill at line speed.
     
  9. Rudolf

    Rudolf Well-Known Member

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    The problem is in general that I am not very impressed by the quality of the serves created by DTG. Too much copying and a fair number of smaller and larger bugs. Sometimes it is realistic you cannot make it for a timetable, that's how it works, but the action points system does not take that into account. I cannot wait till we may get hands on the content editor (if it ever will come) to do a better job...
     
  10. Trenomarcus

    Trenomarcus Well-Known Member

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