Monday, January 25, 2021

Designing Operations for Paul's Layout Part IV - The Movement of Cars and Paperwork

Here's Part I, Part II, and Part III.

A lot of people like to start at this point (or at least think they are starting here). But I think that by starting where we did, the movement of the cars themselves is largely self-evident.

  • Cars come onto the New Haven via Interchange Tracks.
  • They are classified based on their destinations into trains.
  • The trains move the cars to their destinations.
  • The cars eventually get moved to an Interchange Track to leave the New Haven.

This is basically what we are attempting to design, but much of it has already been addressed:

  • Cars will enter the layout via Track No. 5.
  • Eastbound cars are bound for destinations in/beyond Boston.
  • Westbound cars are bound for destinations in/beyond New Haven.
  • Any car at an industry is bound for destinations beyond Boston/New Haven.

Movement of Trains Continued...

To start, cars move on trains (duh), so we have to define the trains. Lucky for me, Paul is modeling the New Haven, so I don't have to define anything.

From the October 28, 1962 Arranged Freight Service Symbol Book No. 14:

Boston to Cedar Hill (and points beyond)

Times are departure and arrival times for Boston/Cedar Hill

  • BG-1 (Boston to Bay Ridge) - 11.15 PM/5.05 AM
  • BH-5 (Boston to Harlem River) - 8.15 PM/12.25 AM - Trailers
  • BH-7 (Boston to Harlem River) - 10.15 PM/2.00 AM - Trailers
  • BN-1 (Boston to Cedar Hill) - 3.00 AM/11.40 AM
  • A/BO-1 (Boston to Maybrook) - 5.30 PM/8.35 PM
  • BO-1 (Boston to Maybrook) - 7.00 PM/11.40 PM

Cedar Hill (and points west) to Boston

    Times are departure and arrival times for Cedar Hill/Boston

    • FGB-2 (Bay Ridge to Boston) - 3.05 PM/9.35 PM
    • GB-8 (Bay Ridge to Boston) - 8.55 PM/2.00 AM
    • HB-6 (Harlem River to Boston) - 11.09 PM/3.05 AM - Trailers
    • HB-8 (Harlem River to Boston) - 1.50 AM/5.46 AM - Trailers
    • OB-2 (Maybrook to Boston) - 7.40 PM/12.40 AM
    • OB-4 (Maybrook to Boston) - 1.00 AM/7.05 AM
    • OB-8 (Maybrook to Boston) - .10 AM/8.45 AM

    So we can name a given inbound/outbound train and schedule them sequentially for now, and can work to adhere to the schedule in the future. This will make it easier to define what we're talking about. For this session starting in Boston, I'll say it's 2:00 AM and GB-8 has just arrived on schedule, and we are building BN-1.

    You'll note that the BH/HB trains are noted as trailer trains. That would be easy enough to add by using the Interchange Track as a fiddle yard and adding/removing the trailer cars at the appropriate time in a session. Many of the trains have specific consists, for example FGB-2 is the Florida-Greenville-Boston job and typically had a lot of FGEX produce reefers. Once again, even though the scenery is the same, we'll see different consists and start to recognize the action that's taking place.


    Let's look at the two industries. There are a few ways we can handle them.

    Option 1: Each industry is worked by a train that can switch it (i.e. is a trailing point move).

    Option 2: As option one, but westbound trains can take the reversing loop and service both industries on their run.

    Option 3: Neither train services the industries, and they are in yard limits, and served by the switching crew in the yard. They could service one or both industries during each yard scene.

    I prefer option 3, simply because through freights didn't service industries. I would also spot the cars on Track No. 2 first, then switch jobs (and even locomotive) from the yard crew classifying cars to a switching crew servicing the local industries.


    Any waybill system will work. Full size waybills to the 4-part car card/waybill approach. Since that's what Paul is planning on using, that's what we'll go with.

    Because this is a one-operator layout and the yard is serving double duty, we will see some of the same cars move multiple times. We can set rules for the sequence of cars to minimize that if it is something that bothers you.

    For example:

    The Interchange Track will be a fiddle yard. A car coming onto Track No. 5 must traverse the layout before being delivered to an industry, or going back to Track No. 5 to be removed from the layout.

    The session starts at Boston. NYC 12345 is on Track No. 5 and is eastbound to a destination in Maine. That will be moved to Track No. 4 (eastbound cars), but we're building a westbound train (since we're in Boston). So that will stay on Track No. 4.

    After building BN-1, it will run the layout until it arrives at Cedar Hill. After the yard is worked, FGB-2 will be heading out from Cedar Hill, and will include NYC 12345. Once FGB-2 arrives at Boston Yard, it will be switched off the train to Track No. 5, and off the layout (and the New Haven).

    An example using a 4 part waybill:

    1. Industry eastbound
    2. Interchange westbound
    3. Off-layout industry westbound
    4. Interchange eastbound

    In this example, we won't fiddle cars on/off the layout. The Waybill is flipped to the next destination when it reaches its current destination.

    The car is on Track No. 5 and we are in Boston. When pulled the waybill indicates it needs to go to Boston Siding eastbound. So it is placed on Track No. 4. A train will run, and once we are switching Cedar Hill it will be placed on an eastbound freight.

    It will arrive in Boston, and be pulled for a switching crew to deliver to the Industry. Now that it has reached its destination, the card will be flipped. The next time the industry is switched, we will see that it is going to an interchange on a westbound train.

    Once it takes a westbound train, it will be switched out to Track No. 5. That's its destination, so the card will be flipped to 3, which indicates an off-layout industry westbound. Once again a train will run the layout before Track No. 5 is pulled again, and the car is placed on the westbound track. After it returns to the yard, it will go back to Track No. 5, since that's the Interchange Track covering any location not on the layout.

    Each waybill for this layout needs a destination and a direction. Since there are only two industries, most of the cars will be destined for someplace off layout. You can enhance this with more specific destinations, such as specific industries in and around Boston, or even an industry in another town that would be serviced by a local freight originating in that yard.

    As time goes on, the more layers of prototypical information and action that you add, the more prototypical the layout will feel.

    Operational Considerations

    There will be a lot of car movements, and most of the work is classifying the inbound freights. To do this, the first step is going to be to pull Track No. 5, and classify those cars. This will empty the track, so the cars coming off of the inbound train and being spotted on Track No. 5 will not be reclassified until a train has run the entire layout again.

    I would switch out the industries after classifying the cars on Track No. 5 and the inbound train, because some of the cars from the industries could be destined for the next outbound train.

    After all of the cars, including ones pulled from industries, are classified, then the outbound train will be moved to the departure track, a caboose added to the correct end, and the road power will come from the engine house for the next run.


    The fourth aspect to operations for me is paperwork. In this case, there is little I can think of in this regard that will enhance things. A time table and a more prototypical looking waybill will help immerse you in the operation of the railroad.

    Operations Make the Layout

    As should be clear, I really enjoy digging into the operations of the railroad as much as I like building and detailing a model. It's all part of the model to me. But far more modelers are still building 4' x 8' layouts and then want to add operations later on. While I think you can design a layout better suited to operations, and particularly for ops sessions, the reality is that a lot of us will remain lone wolves hiding in our basements and running our trains.

    But I also think that an operating layout is also more likely to be a long-lived layout. Or at least a life-long hobbyist. There are a lot of aspect of the hobby that can keep you busy for decades. If you like building/weathering freight cars you'll never run out of things to do. But model railroading is different than just model building in that we can run the models we build, and we can run them with a purpose. This seemingly simple layout will take an hour or longer to run a full cycle of breaking down, classifying, and building a train to run to the next terminal yard. Especially if you consider all of the aspects of actually working a railroad. Your ground crew throwing the iron, and hooking up the air, and testing the brakes, or running the locomotive at appropriate speeds and accounting for momentum, etc. DC, DCC, it doesn't matter.

    I think that's even more true for a "simple" layout like a 4' x 8' that's a loop with a yard and/or a few industries to switch. There's a lot more to a little layout like this when you consider how to operate it prototypically.

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