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Getting Started in Operations
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Getting Started in Operations Presented by Bob Weinheimer and Greg McCartney National Model Railroad Association Mid Central Region Coal Division March 8, 2008. What Do I Mean by Operations?. This is MY view, others may see things differently!

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Getting started in operations presented by bob weinheimer and greg mccartney national model railroad association mi

Getting Started in OperationsPresented byBob WeinheimerandGreg McCartneyNational Model Railroad Association Mid Central Region Coal DivisionMarch 8, 2008

What do i mean by operations

What Do I Mean by Operations?

  • This is MY view, others may see things differently!

  • Operations means running the trains using rules, adapted as needed for model purposes, in much the same way done on the prototype

  • Specific trains run at a specific time based on a logical reason

What do i mean by operations1

What Do I Mean by Operations?

  • Cars, both freight and passenger, are moved between shipper and consignee with some sort of logical system

  • A credible fleet of cars is used reflecting the needs of shippers and logical connecting railroads

  • All this can happen on a freelanced or prototype based layout

Topics for discussion

Topics for Discussion

  • Layout setting

  • Era

  • Rolling stock

  • Train schedules

  • Car forwarding

  • Train dispatching

  • Staffing

The global picture

The Global Picture

  • Few railroads operate without connections to other railroads

  • Where does you layout fit on a map of prototype railroads in the part of the world you are modeling?

  • Which railroads connect to your railroad?

The global picture1

The Global Picture

  • Connections allow places for cars to go, something like a large industry

  • Connections allow the possibility of jointly operated trains that feature connecting line power

  • Connections allow logical places for foreign line cars to come from or go to

  • On a freelance layout, do not be afraid to rewrite railroad history as needed to make operations work better

The global picture2

The GlobalPicture

The global picture3

The Global Picture

  • Grafton and Greenbrier

    • Grafton, WV to Greenbrier County, WV

    • Modeled portion Beverly to Slaty Fork

    • On layout, connects with CV and WVGN

    • Beyond layout, connects with B&O, C&O, CV, SO, PS, WVC&P, WVP, MGS, WVGN

The global picture4

The GlobalPicture

The global picture5

The Global Picture

  • Pennsylvania Southern

    • Pittsburgh to Chattanooga

    • Modeled portion Pittsburgh to PA/WV state line

    • On layout, connects with CR, N&W, P&LE, B&O, and Montour

    • Beyond layout, connects with C&O, N&W, B&O, G&G, CRR, L&N, SOU, possibly others



  • What will your layout look like?

  • Depends on layout location and concept

    • PS runs from urban Pittsburgh to rural area with heavy industry on the north end fading to mines and much less industry to the south

    • G&G is in rural West Virginia with lots of coal mines and modest manufacturing presence

Getting started in operations presented by bob weinheimer and greg mccartney national model railroad association mi


  • What year is it on your layout?

  • Era can dictate of rolling stock choices

  • Era can dictate scenic elements such as track arrangement and structure selection

  • Era can help determine what dispatching system is used

    • Track warrants did not appear until mid 1980s

Rolling stock

Rolling Stock

  • Once an era is established, try to avoid anachronisms such as truss rod boxcars running with double stack cars

  • 1980 as an example

    • Lots of Incentive Per Diem, Railbox cars

    • Conrail cars in paint transition

    • GP-50s have arrived, no SD-50s

    • No SBD, CSX, NS

Rolling stock1

Rolling Stock

  • Fleet composition

    • Many home road cars

    • Fewer cars from direct connections

    • Even fewer cars from secondary connections

    • Possible exceptions for unit trains

    • Appropriate car types to meet industry needs

Rolling stock car types

Rolling Stock – Car Types

Identify your car types.

Most car forwarding systems use some method for describing car types.

AAR Mechanical Designations

Convenient two to four letter codes for describing cars.

Easily adapted to model railroads since most model cars already have the code on it.

Common aar mechanical designations

Common AAR Mechanical Designations

XM – General boxcar

XL – Boxcar equipped with special loading devices

XP – Boxcar designated to haul a certain commodity

HM – Two bay hoppers

HT – Hoppers with three or more bays

GB – Gondola with fixed sides and ends

GT – High side gondola

RP – Reefer

RB and RBL – Insulated boxcars

LO – Covered hoppers

LP – Pulpwood cars

FM – General flatcars

FC – Flatcars equipped to handle containers or trailers

FA – Auto-racks

FB – Bulk head flatcars

Train schedules

Train Schedules

  • Highly dependent on era and location

  • Prototype passenger train schedules can be used as a guide

  • Freight trains can be scheduled or run as needed

  • PS schedule was developed using mathematical models for car flow

  • G&G runs as needed

Train schedules1

Train Schedules

Train procedure manual

Train Procedure Manual

Descriptive list of each train and its functions.

Helps in developing the operating scheme.

Helps others who visit your railroad know which trains perform which tasks.

Train procedure manual1

Train Procedure Manual

Train procedure manual2

Train Procedure Manual

Car forwarding

Car Forwarding

  • Many systems, all with their adherents

    • Car card and waybill

    • Car tabs

    • Printed or handwritten switchlist

    • Commercial software

      • Ship It

      • Pro Trak

Car forwarding car cards and waybills

Car Forwarding – Car Cards and Waybills

  • Well documented in the MR press.

  • Most common method used is Don McFall’s 4 cycle waybill system.

  • Easy to set up as it does not require any special equipment.

Car forwarding switchlists

Car Forwarding – Switchlists

Car forwarding switchlists1

Car Forwarding – Switchlists

Car forwarding ship it

Car Forwarding – Ship It!

Produced by Albion Software.

Just released version 7.

Multiple support programs that work with the main software package such as Ship It! Car Cards and Scheduler.

Car movements are based on consignees and shippers instead of random selection of destinations.

Car forwarding ship it1

Car Forwarding – Ship It!

Creates the illusion that industries are actually requesting the cars.

Has the ability to control the length of time cars load and unload.

Has the ability to control how often an industry requests or receives a car.

Able to handle staging.

Able to convert one train to the next in staging.

Car forwarding ship it2

Car Forwarding – Ship It!

  • Very difficult to set up

  • Uses railroad terms with different meanings. Interchange for example

  • Expensive

  • Updates are also expensive

  • Print outs are not user friendly.

  • Micromanages car movements

Car forwarding ship it3

Car Forwarding – Ship It!

Car forwarding ship it4

Car Forwarding – Ship It!

Car forwarding waybill

Car Forwarding – Waybill

Produced by Shenware Software.

Utilizes the Op-Sig’s industry database for shippers and receivers of commodities.

Benefits are it’s cheap and easy to use.

Pitfalls are the industry databases. There are thousands of commodities that do not have both a shipper and receiver making it difficult to create matches.

Car forwarding waybills

Car Forwarding – Waybills

Dispatching systems

Dispatching Systems

  • Mother, may I?

    • Very informal, limited paperwork, simple

  • Timetable and Train Order

    • Prototypical

    • May be intimidating to new operators,

    • Steep learning curve for some

  • Track Warrants/Direct Train Control

    • Prototypical, easier than TTTO

Dispatching systems1

Dispatching Systems

  • Centralized Traffic Control

    • Requires signals, can be expensive to implement

    • Allows high traffic levels

  • Combinations of all the above

Dispatching systems2

Dispatching Systems

  • PS and G&G use combined TTTO and Track Warrant system



  • Dispatcher

    • Authorizes train movements by writing orders, or warrants or by setting CTC signals

  • Yardmaster

    • Classifies inbound cars, builds trains

  • Train Crew

    • Operate road trains, switch industries as needed



  • Fit your layout into the real world

  • Define the layout era

  • Develop a credible setting

  • Write a train schedule

  • Choose a dispatching system

  • Develop a car forwarding system

  • Do all of this then operate and you will earn the Chief Dispatcher certificate

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