Friday, May 30, 2014

Refining the Operating Script

Owning a large operating model railroad comes with a unique set of “management” challenges. The first of these is creating the operating scheme itself. Creating the schedule for a model railroad operating session is not unlike writing a play (hey, that’s an original thought, isn’t it?). Another issue is crew size. Too many people and inevitably an operating session will devolve into a gab fest. Too few and it seems like everyone is scrambling to keep up since trains are ready before bodies to man them.
With each session I’ve made tweaks to the operating scheme to refine the “script.” At this point I’ve done the following:
1.       Assign two-person crews to the local trains.
2.       Assigned a crew member as the “Southern Division” crew. He works the B&M transfers to and from WRJ and runs the CV trains in and out of staging.  
3.       Added an Essex Junction turn to the operating scheme.
But even with these changes there’s still a need to flesh out the operating schedule with a few more trains. At the time I’m modeling the CV ran a grand total of 12 trains (6 freight/6 passenger) a day on the Roxbury subdivision. Each operating session is one 12-hour trick (with a 3:1 fast clock, that’s about 4 hours). Here’s the rub – I have a group of good friends who’ve given up their spare time to help me bring the railroad to life. Running a total of six trains in four actual hours doesn’t really cut it.
We could add second-sections, extras and the like. But this is Vermont, not the Northeast Corridor, so simply piling on more trains isn’t really the answer. The tightrope is to keep my operators sufficiently entertained and engaged but not end up with so many trains that a headlight is appearing over the horizon every 10 seconds.
A more extreme possibility involves resurrecting my freelanced railroad, the Southern New England (see MRP 2000). There is still plenty of SNE lettered equipment floating around the layout. And frankly, I kind of like those engines and cars. While this change may seem extreme it really isn't. Best of all, it requires no changes to the layout itself!
The real Southern New England was a proposed extension from Palmer, Mass. on the CV mainline to Providence RI.  In the real world it was graded but never finished. My previous layouts were based on the fiction that the line was completed. The layout modeled the theoretical SNE mainline from Providence to Palmer. 

But what if, although I’m not modeling the SNE itself, I presume the SNE was finished? White River Junction could serve as a logical division point for SNE trains heading to/from Providence or New London. An additional freight train or two could be added to the schedule between Montreal and Providence. There’s even the potential to split the Washingtonian/Montrealer in WRJ into “Providence” and “New York/DC” sections.
Part of the whole point of a blog is a chance for the reader to work through such things with the blogger. I'll conclude this post by saying the addition of the SNE trains is something I'm pondering - there are some negatives to simply throwing more trains on the schedule in the effort to simply entertain one or two additional operators. Since it doesn't require any real changes to the physical layout it will be a simple matter to try it out. But I'm not sure I'm going to like it.


5 comments:

  1. I have also experienced first hand with my Grimstad Line layout that the prototype practices doesn't really provide me with enough trains to keep my operators happy. The Grimstad Line had one freight train per day - not much to keep a group of guys entertained for an evening. What I did, was to divide each operating night into two "days". So we actually run two days worth of trains in one evening.

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    1. What you're describing would essentially mean speeding up the fast clock to get a full 24-hour day in one average length session. I'm not sure that's the answer, but it's something to consider.

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  2. Would these SNE trains make power and caboose swaps or setout/pickup work events at WRJ? These type of events could help space out the main but the million dollar question would be if the terminal has the ability to absorb the additional work. I ran into a similar dilemma with CN overhead traffic on my layout moving from Port Huron to Superior via railroad car ferry at Mackinaw City. Adding the though freight that ran from staging to staging with CN power brought some nice changes:
    1. Engine Variety- foreign run through power. The run through train utilizes CN ES44 engines which is a nice change from my all EMD fleet.
    2. Fluidity - can be maintained as this train for example runs from end to end with no work events except a 15 min crew change at Bay City.
    3. Engine Pool - Additional train each direction but not the expense of home road power.
    4. Crew Work - Provides one crew member work for entire session moving one train timetable west to staging and then vice versa in other direction. Or two crew members if these train were setup to meet and pass online.
    5. Flexibility - if need be the train can be annulled account crew or time shortage without affecting other traffic timetable traffic.

    I hope these thoughts help you with your decision.

    Greg McComas
    http://michiganinterstatemodelrr.blogspot.com

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    1. Greg,
      Thanks for the thoughts.
      I expect the SNE trains would change power/cabooses in WRJ.
      I believe there's enough yard capacity to handle the additional work, but we'd have to actually try it out before we could confirm that.
      I like the idea of having one or to crew members assigned as the "SNE" crew - basically he runs the SNE trains over the layout as indicated. I've been doing the same thing with the passenger train operations (luckily I have a few people who prefer passenger runs over freight).
      Are you including these additional trains on you timetable or are they strictly run as extras?

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  3. I operate under DTC Authority using signs and block cards so our timetable only provides subdivision information and all trains operate as extras. Along with DTC I do have a transportation plan that identifies train departure times as the layout is operated sequentially with 1, 2, or 3 operators. The through CN train discussed takes up a slot at each staging yard as it is one of the largest trains so depending on how many operators will be there it can operate or holdover to next session. My goal is if one operates its sister train will operate so power and staging yard slots stay balanced. It also allows to run scenarios such as CN had a derailment or crew issues so the train was not handed off to or from MCIS for movement per prototype.

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