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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
While I've operated on other layouts such as Fred Mills' IPP&W, Dave Goodson's Colorado Consolidated, Richard Smith's Port Orford Coast, Jim Strong's Woodland Railway, and others I can't remember at the moment, those are all quite different from my own Jackson & Burke.

The key word here is operated. I've run trains on lots of other layouts and enjoyed every minute of those runs, so this is not a thread against running trains. ;)

But operations is different than just running. It's the organized movement of cars from one place to another. It's the feeling of having a task to accomplish. I have to figure out how to get a car onto a siding.

But, I've operated on other layouts where someone else set up and designed everything. They decided what trains would be run and where each car would go.

In a couple of other threads, I've detailed some of my operations experience on the J&B. Doug asked me to detail how I went about developing the freight car movements.

I'm hoping that I can open up a discussion here that may encourage others to have a go at operations. Mine is not necessarily the right way or even the best way. I'm sure everyone has their own ideas about operations - and this could be the place to discuss them.

First of all, I decided that I liked the idea of a switch list. Basically, this is a set of instructions that tell you what cars you need to pick up and what cars to drop off. There's other ways to do this, but, for me, a switch list has a lot of advantages when you're outside. I really want the minimum amount of paper work, so car cards were out.

Second, I decided how many trains I wanted to run. To me, this was the hardest step. It seemed like I was filling out my income tax form where line 14 asks me to enter the amount from line 35. How would I know that - I hadn't got to line 35 yet! :D

So, how did the real narrow gauge lines do it? Well, they incorporated, and got some money from folks, and then went bankrupt...no, wait! :D I suspect they started with a need. Some businesses were there and they decided they could serve them. But, they didn't start with 29 trains, they started with one.

I had already build a number of industries and had a bunch of sidings to put cars. I had a small yard available to build my westbound train. I had a staging area that I could use to start my eastbound train.

So, I decided I'd start with one train eastbound, and one train westbound. I would limit my trains to a maximum of five cars. (This was really a limit of the length of my passing sidings.) I figured that if I had too many cars left behind, I could always add more trains later.

So, now I've got to decide what cars go where.

Each industry is unique. My Miracle Chair Company makes furniture. I will need boxcars to ship the furniture. There's waste create, so I'll need a gondola every so often to ship that out. Maybe a hopper of coal for fuel. A tank car full of glue? My fuel deal will just get hoppers and tank cars. Pretty soon, you have an idea of the type of cars that you'll need to service an industry.

So, I first set up a train that would start with four or five cars. I decided I'd start with train #2 in the yard. It will take 4 cars, but I put 6 or 7 cars in the yard. That way, I have to maybe move some cars out of the way as I'm building the train.

Of the cars selected in the train, I decide where they will go. This is based upon the types of car that an industry might utilize.

When I'm setting up my list, I position cars at my industries. Some of these cars will NOT be picked up. They may have to be moved out of the way as I deliver a car to an industry. Others may have to be picked up and added to the train.

It's important to set up some basic rules. These can be simple, such as put all the switches back to the main route after you're done. Or, do not block the road crossings when switching.

Anyway, nothing earth shattering here. Just trying to get some more ideas! :D :D
 

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Real railroads normally think in terms of trains - schedules are planned, locos and crews assigned, trackage laid out etc all to accomodate train movements. And as Bruce has suggested, this is a difficult area for larger model railroads ...

But the Jackson and Burke is a modest sized railroad as Bruce, like almost all of us, has limited space to work with. So, establishing two wayfreights - one in each direction - that essentially do all the switching is a sensible scheme. I was interested in knowing how well the schedule balanced these trains for thei meet at Occoquan. One train started in staging and was already made up - it could commence its switching at Jackson almost immediately. Train 2 had to be made up in the yard before it could leave and would need to complete its switching at Occoquan before the meet ... If Train 1 is early, then it would have to be held at Jackson - if it is always very early, perhaps the scheduling needs to be changed by introducing a short passenger train to be run after Number 1 has completed its work at Jackson ...

In terms of freight car movements ... the devil is in the details. Complexity of switching goes up exponentially with
1) number of individual cars to be switched
2) number of facing point spurs to be worked
3) the degree to which the trackage is crowded with cars or cramped in terms of being able to make runaround moves

Since Bruce prepares the switchlists for each train manually, he can in fact control (or more likely instigate) the degree of difficulty each crew will have in completing their work. I can well imagine the devilish glee he has as he sets out the moves as he knows from experience what makes a certain move difficult or complicated.

On larger railroads, doing the switchlists manually is an impossible task. Bruce still grins when he talks about his first visit to the IPP&W and watched as Gord Bellamy and myself worked through the movement of 150 cars manually. Let's just say that in those days we operated less frequently than weekly! We now use computer software (RailOp) for this task and generating manifests for our 15-20 trains run each week in our ops sessions is a breeze. Ric Golding also uses RailOp software for the ops sessions on his Kaskaskia Valley Railway.

Regards ... Doug
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yep, it was back on '04, and I could not figure out how you guys created all those switch lists by hand.


I only do 2 and it's difficult to keep track of all the cars and destinations. I've had errors every time I've run. ;)

Add to that difficulty list - a 4% grade at each of my passing sidings. Definitely not the best design. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/sad.gif I borrowed a trick from Dave Goodson - I use a railroad spike as my brake to hold the rolling stock in place.

Doug introduced a couple of tricks on his own when he was here. I especially like the local move from a trailing point to a facing point siding.

I was originally going to have each train just do trailing points, but decided that with only two trains a day, they may not have that luxury. Having to possibly switch those facing points has made operations much more interesting.

I've seen RailOp in operation and I think it's overkill for most garden railroads. Though, I'll have to admit, I haven't got anything to replace it with. While I'm dreaming, I would like a program that tells me which containers to pack everything in and which ones to use for setup.

When operating by myself, I can use about 60-90 minutes for one train. Setup and put away is probably another 30 minutes or so. This is quite acceptable and quite entertaining.

When Mike and I ran last time, we each took a train. Between setup, operations, put away, socializing, and having some unexpected guests drop by, we used up about 3 hours. Quite fun. :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This is a sample switch list from one of my operating sessions. Green Springs is the name of my yard.

Train #2 Switch list

Green Springs

Pull engine and get water.

Pick Up:
• Gramps Tank 11050
• J&B Flat 300
• IPP&W Box 19
• J&B Box 110
• J&B Box 120
• J&B Caboose 502

Leave Green Springs with 5 cars

Occoquan
Drop Off:
• J&B Box 120 at McCown Freight
• IPP&W Box 19 at Interchange track

Pick Up:
• Northland Box 103 at Interchange Track

Wait for Train #1 at Occoquan before proceeding to Jackson

Leave Occoquan with 4 cars

Jackson

Drop Off:
• Gramps Tank 11050 at Mills Fuels
• Northland Box 103 at Miracle Chair Company

Pick Up:
• EBT Hopper 898 at Matheson Textiles
• POC Reefer 55 at Produce Shed
• Shell Tank A10 at Mills Fuels

Local Moves:
• EBT Hopper 809 to Miracle Chair Company

Leave Jackson with 5 cars.
 

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My ops are still nebulous and will remain so until the last terminal (Port Orford) is built but a few basics are already obvious to accomplish what I want in ops.

1) All runs will be round trips as appropriate for a 52 mile shortline.
2) There will be a mail train (no. 1 southbound and no. 2 northbound) leaving Coos Bay each A.M. (only run when enough operators are present or at whim).
3) A log train will depart Coquille Jct., adjacent to Bandon, to deliver logs to the mill at Port Orford and return with empties.
4) The most important train (for owner of the POC, the Old Mill Lbr. Co.) will be the lumber train between Port Orford and Coos Bay. Loads one way and empties return. This train will often be overlength requiring other shorter trains to take the hole to allow its passage. Also more than one engine may be required. This is "hotshot" freight for the POC.
5) General freight will be handled by the "Daily Mixed". This train will switch Bandon enroute in both directions as needed in addition to providing rudimentary passenger service to all points.
......These will be the scheduled trains

All other trains will be extras according to need.

Random generation of car loadings is a must to provide variety and maybe a few unforseen problems for added interest. The number of extra trains will be decided totally by the number of loads created rather than providing cars to originate a set number of trains. If everything can be handled by the scheduled trains there will be no extras. If there is just one car too many for the scheduled runs to handle then a one car extra will be dispatched, etc.

Once the entire RR is built (trackwise) I'll attempt to ascertain the optimum number of cars for the RR to handle in an operating session and then add a randomizing factor to it that will allow for a fairly large, albeit logical, swing in the optimum number of cars. I will plan on a maximum of three operators at one time although I would want easy expansion for the unlikely event that I'd ever have more. I don't really think I want to use a computer program for my relatively small and simple operating plan but I won't rule it out until I'm sure that manual generation will work well.

I'm still considering whether to use a switchlist for each train or a modified card or colored tack system. I do know that I don't want to use the "drop a car pick up a car" system. When Bruce was here the switchlist seemed to work pretty well (aside from the fact it should have been waterproof ;)) and I could see that it would have been possible, although challenging, to have a second engine working the Coos Bay yard at the same time. I wish Bruce could have stayed a bit longer so we could try it.

My RR being strictly point to point adds additional operational requirements such as servicing and turning locomotives at each end of the line. Otherwise the ops I envision aren't really that much different than what Bruce seems to be developing. One advantage I'll have is that I will have car storage shelters at all three towns making for easy staging of cars at each location with minimum setup time needed.

All comments are welcome especially at this early date before the RR is completed and a system chosen. And Bruce, since you are one of the few that have actually operated on the POC, do you have any comments, complaints or suggestions?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Richard,
I think I'd have to operate a couple more times on your layout before I could offer any suggestions. I'm finding that I get some ideas after I get comfortable with it.

I like your idea of another train, but I've also found that I really like two-person teams. Mike and I each had a train the other day, but I think it's more fun when you're on the same team. You get more of a chance to socialize and also talk through how you're going to handle a particular situation.

One thing I really liked was your rules. Especially the one about not blocking the road crossing when switching. Now, I would have appreciated knowing that BEFORE I blocked the crossing, ;) but it was a neat rule that made lots of sense. I've made water stops an item on the switch list.

You have such nice long sidings and nice level track - I'm envious - especially when I'm trying to run around the train on the 4% grade.

I do like the switch list; I guess most of the places I've run on had something similar. Maybe that's why I like it. ;)

How are you planning on handling the loads and empties for your log trains? I need to work on something for my hoppers and gondolas. It just helps in the immersion. I'll probably carve up the Styrofoam, but I need to get it by some internal bracing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Earlier, Doug asked about my freight car movement, and I thought I'd attempt to clarify it a bit.

When I create my switch list, I also create a "Final" list. This tells me where everything ended up for that operating session. It really doesn't matter if they actually made it there or not, as this will become my setup list for the next session.

It looks something like this:
Green Springs
• J&B Gondola 50
• J&B Hopper 10
• J&B Box 105
Not Used:
• J&B Box 101
• J&B Box 111
• J&B Box 121
Occoquan
• J&B Box 112 at Old Mill
• J&B Box 123 at McCown Freight
• J&B Box 120 at McCown Freight
• IPP&W Box 19 at Interchange track
Jackson
• J&B Box 106 at Matheson Textiles
• J&B Box 104 at Team Track
• J&B Box 113 at Miracle Chair Company
• POC Reefer 55 at Produce Shed
• EBT Hopper 809 at Miracle Chair Company

Staging
• J&B Flat 300
• EBT Hopper 898
• POC Reefer 55
• Shell Tank A10
• J&B Box 110
• J&B Caboose 502

So, with this as my starting point, I go through the list, car by car.

I'll look at cars not used in the yard, and then put them into train #2. I'll assign them to destinations on my layout, or maybe I'll just keep one of them as a through car to some destination on the non-modeled part of my railroad. After all, I'm assuming that there is more to my railroad than just what I have in my backyard. ;) I may pick out some other cars that weren't set out last time and place them in the yard.

If a car was left on the interchange track, I'll not use it for this session; I'll assume it's going back to the home road and will return at a future date.

In Jackson, I'll look to see if I have any local moves to make. I can justify something from the fuel dealer to one of my industries there, on the theory that they may need a partial car full of coal or gas to power their plant.

Most of my cars require a "one day" stay, so I typically only handle a car once each session. However, I may have train #1 drop off a reefer at the produce shed; this will be picked up by train #2 later in the session - the same day, if you will.

Cars that ended up on my staging track may come back, or may be replaced with other stock not used, just for some variety. The caboose always starts from where it was left.

When operating, a car that is to be dropped off on a siding should be spotted at the loading dock. If a car is in the way, it must be moved and then put back after the new car is dropped.
 

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Bruce,

Many logging roads didn't chain their loads. I don't either. I'll simply remove the logs and return them to the point of origin for loading thus allowing the cars to be returned empty. For chained loads you can simply fasten or glue an entire load of logs together and wrap a chain around the load independently. True the logs won't actually be chained down to the car but this is a compromise I would gladly make for easier operations. Your main goal here should be for ops and not for showing a string of contest quality models, a hard thing to do initially perhaps. Ultimately it's all about priorities.

As for the "blocking road crossing rule".....It was a lot more fun informing you about it after you had violated it. ;)" border=0> :D" border=0> :)" border=0>
John Allen had an explosive box car that had warnings on it in Spanish. No warning to the operator. If it was nudged too heavily it blew apart with a bang! Not nearly as much fun if the operator was forewarned. hehe!

If you ever make it out here again I'll try the two man crew idea with you. It never dawned on me since with the raised layout and the ability of the engineer to be with his train all the way I didn't think it would be all that needed. I didn't think of the conversation and joint problem solving. I rather wish we'd done it that way now.
 

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A couple of thoughts on two man crews ...

First, some trains, especially through trains or passenger trains with very limited switching do not need two man crews and in fact are probably best operated with a single person in my experience. However, this depends to some extent on how trains are dispatched. On smaller "branchline" type railroads, there is no dispatcher so the one man crew is fine. On larger railroads like the IPP&W and Ric Goldings KVR, dispatching is by track warrant (or by manual blocks its 19th century equivalent) - in this approach the dispatcher controls the movement of every train by permitting track usage. Again a one person crew works best. But if the dispatching is by timetable and train order (as on Tom Hood's HO scale Canadian Northern where I also operate) then authority is conveyed by the timetable and the dispatcher only supplements it with train orders. Now two heads are wayyyy better than one in deciding if it is safe to move the train or not.

Wayfreights and trains with heavy switching work benefit from a two man crew. It saves lots of walking and figuring out the inevitable switching brain teasers always goes better with two.

On the subject of longer trains ... Bruce commented that his trains were kept to 5 cars or so because that was the length of the passing sidings. In fact one of the two trains could be longer leading to a sawby at the meeting point (double sawbys where both were too long would have been avoided as much too complex). the sawby is a good way to introduce novices to some of the challenges of running a railroad.

Introducing a longer train into the mix gives an opportunity to do some other things. Bruce has some 4% grades which are a test of a loco's power - now a doubleheader can have real work and (this is steam so no MUs!) it gives another reason for a two man crew. Another challenge for a doubleheader is switching a facing point spur where there is no runaround track ... and it should also be noted that doubleheading allows switching on a grade without setting up all the car retainers (that big ole spike Bruce uses!).

regards ... Doug
 

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Bruce,

Replicating (or simulating) prototype operations is indeed one of the interesting facets of the hobby. One thing that probably needs to be pointed out is that successful operations really has a couple of key dependencies. Good track work is a must. Backing cars through facing point switches on a grade requires correct alignment and operation of the switchgear. For the same reasons, body mounted operating couplers are necessary. Truck mounted couplers will tend to cause derailments due to forces placed on the trucks by the couplers during back up moves. Some method of remote control of engines is also a factor.

I agree with your statement that working as an engineer/conductor crew was more rewarding than working independently, but one of the attractions of the J&B is that you can conduct an operating session by yourself if additional crew is not available.

In prototype practice the yard crew would try to block cars by destination towns. I’m not sure that would be true with narrow gauge operations. While in route, the conductor of a local tasked with switching towns along the route would be reviewing the pick ups and setouts required for the town and planning for the least amount of moves, while considering things like fouling road crossings, clearing the main for a though train, and disrupting customer loading and unloading activities. Planning the switching on the J&B provides a challenge without it becoming a real puzzle. Lots of fun.

Mike
 

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Bruce, Doug, and all,

I have traditionally been a round and round type. However, reading these kinds of posts has given me a reason to consider my operations when I add trackage. My own railroad goals are generally to watch my trains run. The attraction of rail ops is the puzzle they present. That's where the fun of operations comes in to play, in my opinion. The planning stage has to start way back when land is being prepared and the routes are laid out.

My railroad has gone through significant changes as my interests have changed over time. My railroad is generally a standard gauge branch line set in the transition period. I am currently rebuilding my railroad to allow the storage of an 11 car streamliner and two E8s. However, while redesigning the yard, I effectivley eliminated my 'two' station railroad. I am left with a long passing siding, and three stubs, all in the same general area. However, my operations will come in the form of switching blocks of cars to build my desired mainline train. This will be the first time I will have a really long passing siding. I am excited about that! Also, one of the stub tracks crosses the mainline on a diamond, and enters the passing siding. The reason for this siding is for the loading and unloading of my equipment from storage. It is essential because it reduces the dirt and debris dragged through the house to the basement. The lower the dirt level inside the house, the happier my wife. That's a key operational consideration!!

Previous configurations of the railroad served the Beverage Service siding that went from the upper station to the nearby hammock. I have removed that siding from this configuration (I needed the switch track). For that operation, moving an actual beer or glass of water, etc. I would have had to follow the train all the way to that switch, throw it, and then move 5 more feet to where the beverage would be delivered. This actual delivery system proved to be ineffective and cumbersome (why not just carry the beverage to the hammock? I already walked all the way there!).

I am not giving up on this screwball idea. I am simply too stubborn. What I plan to do now is to have a completely isolated, dedicated "Beverage Service Railroad", or BS RR for short. I think a simple back and forth (with a soft start and stop) will do the trick there. Makes my life easier, and gets drinks to thirsty, relaxing hammock dwellers, and moves empties back to near the house and recylcling bin. I realize that the rail ops you guys are generally talking about are simulations of real, narrow gauge operations. However, why does the discussion of rail ops necessarily have to deal with those simulations? In my "operation", I have a railway with that is dedicated and purpose built. Making it somewhat automated (I still have to move said beverage from the refridgerator to the transport car, and on the other end, it has to be manually unloaded) shouldn't preclude it being an actual operation, right?

I am glad you "Ops" guys post your thoughts here. It helps me plan my expansions and rebuilds to make my overall railroad more interesting!

Mark
 

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Tomorrow I will finally have my 1st"formal" (more than just me) operating session as a couple of other fellow railroaders will be coming over. I think I have worked out mostl (if that is ever possible) "bugs" so that the railroad is ready both physically and also from an operating type scheme. The railroad is a "shortline" point to point (A,B,C, D,E, F). The northend local starts at A and turns back at C. Town B is switched on the reurn trip acc't no runaround track. This local will leave all cars for D,E, F at town C. The southend local starts out at F and works his way to C working at D & E on the way. It will leave any cars for A & B at town C for the other train to get. Town A has 4 industries plus a working interchange with the UP (ex SP) while Town B has only 3 industries. Town C has 6 industries while D has only a very small coal loading sidetrack. Town E is really only a passing track and an intrechange track to my friends L&STC RR (6 car max). Town F also has 6 industries. Some of the industries located on line supply other on line industries various goods so that not all cars on the railroad have to be interchanged & moved "off line" I still use the color-coded card system used on my old HO layout - it works for me. Train length varies between 5 to 9 cars so carrying the "bills" isn't a major problem Each station has a "bill box" to keep them from blowing away (I take the whole box in when op session finished). When my 2 friends come over I thought I'd them take turns being conductor & engineer (I use RCS battery). One can be the conductor on the northbound local, the other the engineer and they can swap jobs when they operate the southbound local. When I ran the rr myself, the op session took between two and two and a half hours to complete. If when done and it's still not PIZZA TIME, then we can operate the psgr train on my shortline while the other guy runs the UP local to pickup cars left by the northbound local on the interchange track and to setout new cars for the local to get at the next session. Weather is supppose to be sunny and temps in the mid 70's - should be a good day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Mark,
I think you have the right idea.

In my original post, I defined operations as "... the organized movement of cars from one place to another. It's the feeling of having a task to accomplish."

What could be more important than providing cold beverage (refrigerator car) service to the most important industry in the railroad? Not only that, but you are truly modeling loads in and empties out!

I'll be interested in how this turns out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Fred,
It sounds like you're ready! Not only that, you have some nice long sidings.

You mentioned point to point - do you turn your engines at either end? Or at "C"? "C" must be a busy place. How many operators can you support? Could you possibly run both trains at the same time?

Can you provide any more details on your color coded card system?

I find that "tuning" for operations is the hard part. I've just spent most of today going over sections of track where I had derailments as well as fixing some problems with some of my switches. It's pretty monotonous running cars back and forth until you get everything just right. But, it has to be done; and, I sure did have fun doing it! :D
 

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This is how we do/did it on the T&LB. Everyone is given a sheet and there are no cards or anything carried on the cars to deal with. The sheet tells you everything you need to know.

 

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Bruce,
If one was to draw my layout in a line it would look like a Y. Towns A (Lone Pine) and F (Montgomery) form the top of the Y while town C (Lewiston) would be the bottom of the Y. Lone Pine has no turning facility but both Montgomery & Lewiston have reversing loops. A train can leave Lone Pine go to Lewiston, around the reversing loop and then either proceed back to Lone Pine or take the switch & proceed to Montgomery where it could turn itself around again and return to Lewiston & then Lone Pine. The reversing loop at "C" (Lewiston) is big enough to hold 2 trains so both the locals can actually operate at the same time although one would have to hold back until the 1st one completed its work at Lewiston ("C"). The southbound local (if I wanted to) could run from "F" (Montgomery) to "C" (Lewiston") continously acc't reversing loops at both locations and I use battery. I don't use steam so the RS-3 stationed at "A" (Lone Pine) doesn't need to turned. I found LGB wide radiius switches to be more derailment & maintaince free than the Aristocrafts. The 3x5 index cards are different colors: yellow for Lone Pine (UP), orange, white, blue, green, and pink for the other "towns". When doing any switching the color of the card indicate what town the car goes to. A separate 2"x3" "waybill" i(also color coded) is attached to the 3x5 card with a paperclip. This "waybill' will address the industry name & location car is suppose to go to, type of car, contents or empty, and where car oringinated at. When the car is placed at that industry the next op session I just flip the waybill over and the waybill will then indicate where the car is to go next. Example would be a boxcar with a load of lumber comes off one of the interchanges (A or E) for the furnture factory at Lewiston (C) (white waybill). Next session flip the waybill and the pink would indicate the load of furniture goes to the warehouse at Montgomery (F). Next session you remove the waybill all together and now the 3x5 colored card will either be yellow for the UP at Lone Pine or green for the L&STCC (NYC) at E (Interchange Pointe). That means that the 1 waybill served me 3 sessions without having to change or replace it. On my former HO layout where trains were 25-30 cars in length guys found these type waybills a problem sometimes with the paper clips comiong off or attaching themselves to another card, but on my outdoor rr only hanging on to up to 9. I haven't had any problems -i just stick them in my pocket when switching or going from town to town. On my old HO layout the guys really liked the color coded cards because the YM at the main yard found it easier when switching out a train to just glance at the card, see the color, and know what track it was to go in. He didn't need be concerned what industry the car was for, just what train the car was to go out on. When "out on the road" the conductor can just look at his bills and by the colors know how many cars he has for each town without having to take the time to read each one. It's not the perfect system, but it has worked for me & my friends for over 30 years.
 

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Fred,

I had a similar system except you went me one better with the color coded cards.

One of the options I'm thinking about is the color coded tack method where like your cards the color on the tack would tell which town the car went to. A number or letter on the tack which industry. A loaded car would get a new tack for delivery thus a car sitting on a siding in "blue" town with a yellow tack on it would be ready for pickup or any colored tack in a yard to an industry in town or placement in the appropriate train. Empty cars would have a blank white tack and be returned to the proper "designated location" for that type of empty where the white tack would be removed. I think the tack can probably be placed on the roof walk of most cars and would relieve the operator from carrying cards or a waybill as well as being waterproof in case it rains. No one would have to put on their specks to read a car number either.

I'm also looking to find out how others use the waybill system to see if I'd like that better and have not ruled out a card system.
 

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Early in my pursuit of trying to find more fun in the hobby than watching a train go round and round, I attended a Bruce Chubb seminar at an NMRA Convention. Not Bruce, but one of the other people in the room, made the greatest, simple, operations statement - "Just exchange, like cars for like cars on one or more sidings." To this day, this is what we do with the KVRwy "Timesaver" switching puzzle at train shows. No switchlists or any other paperwork, simply straight forward operations.
Yes, we use RailOps for the KVRwy OPs Sessions and even car cards on an HO layout most Friday nights, everything since that seminar is history, and as we have developed more realistic fun, we can always refer back to that simple statement.
 

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Richard

I have had lots of experience with car cards and waybills as this, in one variant or another, is the de facto long time "standard" of small scale operations.

If you run short trains (say 5 cars or less most of the time), then the car cards are a pain to carry around but otherwise no problem. But once the trains are a little longer, then the first thing an operator does is spread out his cards and put them in order essentially preparing a switchlist. Colour coding the cards just makes the switchlist preparation easier. But if a switchlist is what is desired, why not give the operator one? Ask any operator of a 20 car train who has just dropped his pack of car cards and waybills (after he has quit cursing of course!).

Car cards and waybills by their nature are paper. And paper is awkward outside in wind and damp. I know a switchlist is also paper BUT it is tossed at the end of one operation, the car card and waybill live on forever (theoretically). Various schemes of plasticizing or using sleeves have not totally solved the problem.

A big problem with car cards is their movement with cars between sessions. We do not leave the equipment outside between sessions so ... the car cards must be put away with the cars to keep everything psynched AND the locations of everything must be kept controlled so that the next session startup is easy. Again a small railroad of 20 or 30 cars may be able to restart each operating session from scratch matching each car to its car card as it is staged on the railroad.

Most of the operators in the OVGRS have had experience with car cards ... believe me no one is interested in any way shape or form in trying them again. We have used a computerized system (RailOp) for 3 full seasons and have run more than 100 ops with it. The system has been so successful that two of the largest small scale railroads in the Ottawa area have also switched over to it.

I think in summary the bottom line ... ops are fun and challenging - moving trains and cars with a purpose - but paperwork is not fun. As an aside, I have heard lots of folks say they wanted to be an engineer or a conductor or a dispatcher but I have yet to hear anyone ask to be a billing clerk! Paperwork is a task for computers.

Regards ... Doug
 

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Richard,
Years ago my HO layout was just a double track loop with a big yard that included a mini hump yard (cars uncoupled at top of hump using under the track KD uncoupler) and rolled into the stub-ended class yard that had a soft firm type bumper. I used the color-coded thumb tacks at that time because it made switching easier on the hump because you didn't need to look at any switchlist or waybill, just the top of the frt car to see the color of the tack. Although the tack's color indicated the town the car was to go to, and the letter/number on top of the tack showed what industry I didn't care for that method as it didn't convey if the car was a load/empty, where it had come from or the name of industy invovled whereas the card system does.
Doug,
Having less than 40 cars on my railroad I bring the cars into the garage after a session if I know weather will be bad in near future or if I know i won't be operating in the near future. My "billboxes" are also brought into the garage so the next session I put the boxes back out and put the frt cars back at the matching location. I use a hole puncher to put a hole in the cards and use the ring off a looseleaf binder to put the cards on so they don't drop off or get out of order. Like i said before, I operate a 2 train local shortline so I handle a minimum amount of waybills at any one time.
 
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