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Operational Aspects

The Mainline

When you enter the building on your immediate left is the Dispatch Office. This is the control point for operation of the mainline. All train routing is done using Centralized Traffic Control (CTC). Normal operation utilizes two dispatchers; Mountain and Valley.

  • Mountain: The Mountain dispatcher handles all mainline trains operating on the mountain elevations (blocks 5-41)
  • Valley: The Valley dispatcher handles all mainline trains operating on the base level of the layout (blocks 1-4, 42-63)

The dispatchers view the mainline in a linear formation. Lamps and LEDs are used to indicate switch position, train detection and direction of travel. 7-Segment LEDs show which Engineer Cab has a block plugged as well as train type: (F)reight, (P)assenger or (E)xtra. Switches are thrown using the control box by punching in the switch ID. 

By positioning the track switches, or turnouts, the dispatchers set the routing for the engineers to follow. These routes are displayed on a 8x32 foot, ping pong table green, Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) board. The CTC board is visible high on the rear wall of the building. The CTC, known affectionately as "The Big Board", is used solely by the Engineers. The mainline is laid out in a loop formation although this is not an actual representation of the physical trackplan. The Big Board, just like the Dispatch Panels, utilize LEDs to show switch position, train detection and direction of travel.

Diablo Valley Lines accommodates up to ten Engineers to simultaneously operate mainline trains. The Engineers run their Cabs from a mezzanine opposite the Big Board. Even from this high vantage point, an Engineer can physically see his or her train roughly 25 percent of the time. The Engineer must therefore depend on the CTC board for orders. Under average traffic conditions, the time required for a train to travel the entire mainline is about 35 minutes.


Outside of the mainline there are more elements to the Diablo Valley Lines. 

  • Freight Yards: DVL boasts several yards, the largest of which being Diablo Yard. Each yard is operated by independent yard engineers. Some yards, like Diablo, can utilize up to five operators: Arrival, Departure, Engine Facility, Traction and seated outside the yard is the Diablo Hump Yard operator. Arrivals and Departures are ordered by the Dispatchers and the Engineers then contact the appropriate Yard Operator to make the request. Other freight yards include Olympia and Ogden
  • Passenger Yards: Olympia Station, our passenger yard, operates like Diablo.
  • Setup Yard: Setup is where trains are placed onto and removed from the railroad. It is located under the central mountain range and is the only yard not readily visible to show visitors.

Mainlines and Yards, while vital to a railroad, do not make it complete. There are other areas that are needed to make the layout whole.

  • Narrow Gauge: Nestled on the corner between Olympia and Nevins lies Thompson Flat Yard. the lower terminus of the Narrow Gauge. The Narrow Gauge operates upward on steep grades to the upper terminus high above the West end of the Diablo Yard. These trains, although appearing smaller than standard gauge trains, are built to the same scale. Due to the steep grades these narrow gauge trains are much shorter in length than the mainline trains.
  • Wayside Industries: Nevins, Potterstown, Icehouse and Cinder Hill are industrial areas serviced by mainline trains.
  • Olympia Street Railway: Paralleling the Olympia passenger yard is our streetcar trolley system. Our trolleys work just like the prototype - pulling power from a live overhead cable. The streetcar system supports up to 10 streetcars running at one time in a large figure-8 setup. The system is controlled by a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) that applies power to the individual blocks and intersection of the figure-8.
  • Olympia Electric Interurban: Just like the streetcars, the interurban receives power via overhead cable. The Interurban connects Mallard interurban ferry terminal and Diablo Yard via Olympia and the Diablo Canyon. *This operation is currently under rennovation.
  • Branchline: Our branchline weaves it way above the Olympia Yard up to the Pottertown industrial area atop the mountain.
  • Diablo Industrial District: Paralleling the Diablo yard you will find the Diablo Industrial District, a large industrial complex operated by a local engineer. This industrial area interfaces with the mainline and Olympia Electric Interurban.
  • Mallard: In the Club Room you'll find the Mallard interurban ferry terminal. Located here is a replica of the Ramon, a train ferry operated by the Sacramento Northern Railroad from 1915 to 1954 across the Carquinez Straits.

Diablo Valley Lines requires seventeen or more members to operate a public show, not including members working in the Bay Window, memorabilia sales or our lovely ladies in the snack bar serving fresh hot dogs, cookies, soda and more.

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