A recent discussion in a Yahoo email group centered on using prototype elements to slow down the pace of model railroad operations. I had a Wheeling Freight Terminal operating session on the calendar and wanted to add a twist for operating crews to work around. I recalled the above Jack Delano image that featured blue flag protection on several freight house tracks. A few of these markers were constructed and installed on the layout for the operating session.
Blue flags were used to keep people safe who were working on, in, or under freight cars. These flags were used to restrict access to freight cars or tracks. A simple Google search found this OSHA regulation: The blue flag policy shall be used to mark stationary cars day and night. This policy shall include marking the track in advance of the spotted cars (flag for daytime, light for darkness).
Blue flag protection is a common element used to protect repair in place tracks (RIP) but these were also used to protect freight cars being loaded at freight houses or team yards, or where cars are being loaded or unloaded in industrial sidings.
I made three blue flag markers to use on the Wheeling Freight Terminal. Styrene channel stock was cut a little longer than a railroad tie, with notches cut into the channel side to fit over the rails. A piece of 0.020-inch styrene rod was used to support the blue flag. A hole was drilled into the center of the channel with a #75 drill bit, just to the outside of one rail. The rod was glued into place and carefully bent to hang over the center of the track. A rectangle was cut from a piece of scrap styrene and glued to the end of the rod. When the glue was dry, the face of the rectangle was painted blue with a Sharpie marker.
These three blue flag markers assembled easily in about twenty minutes. They are probably a little larger than what was used on the prototype, but I did want my crews to notice these during an operating session. Here’s a look at the back side.
On the prototype, the blue flags can only be removed by the crew member who placed them. I plan to remove the blue flags after a crew has spotted an initial batch of cars. Crews will not be able to use the tracks with blue flag protection, so they will have to think through their moves and possibly make an extra run to complete the work.
The operating session ran smoothly. The blue flags did cause some extra work for crews due to unavailable tracks but the freight cars were all spotted and pulled in the usual amount of time. I think these added a twist to the session and I’m certain the blue flags will be seen again.
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