Friday, September 19, 2014

Preparing for the first operating session

 After my summer vacation I decided to prepare for a first operating session on the layout. In fact I did not run that many trains on it and I want to be sure everything works fine before I continue with ballasting track and adding more scenery. I also want to know if the operating scheme that I figured out would actually work, and that can best be checked out during an ops session.

It's hard to believe how much clutter is gathering on the unfinished parts of the layout. Kit boxes with structures and rolling stock. Locomotives and cars scattered around on most of the tracks. Tools and scenery materials, glue jars and paints, plans, sketches, drawings and certainly know what I mean. It took me a weeks' evenings to get rid of the junk and to store the other items away, so that my tabletop looked like a model railroad again on which I could finally run some trains.

The photo above shows San Juan Capistrano (partly finished) on the left and my staging yard with Vista and Escondido on the small shelf above it.

I've tried a number of waybill and car card systems over the years but finally settled with the system we use at the FREMO (Friends Circle of European Modelers). The late Wolfgang Dudler (MMR 452) created an Excel based database to print waybills. A downloadable version is available HERE.

The system consists in entering the towns and industries of the layout on one side and the off-line shippers and consignees with the appropriate ladings.

 Above is a screenshot of the input screen. I derived a bit from the original program with the center portion for the consignees and lading whether on-line or off-line. To the left are the off-line shippers and to the right of the center portion are the on-line shippers. This makes it easier to assign the different shipments.

On the waybill page I redesigned the waybills for my purpose. The waybill page draws the information from the input page for 12 waybills. On the input page you may select the on- or off-line shipper by its number, which is entered into the orange box on top left. With this you may choose specific shippers or simply replace lost waybills without printing the whole set.

There is another particularity if I choose from the on-line shippers (right side of input page), There is another set of waybills that may be generated, Empty Car requests. In my system the empty cars are not just there when I need them, but I probably have to order them at the nearest yard, and that's what these waybill are for. How my system work will be described later. First I want to try it out and make adjustments if needed.

I then generate PDF files from the excel sheets and print them out on heavier (120 gr.) printer paper. The normal white paper I use has 80 gr. Don't know what this will be in ounces, but I am sure there are similar paper sizes in the US. I use these waybills until they are used and print new ones from the files. To save on inkjet color, I used also 120 gr yellow printer paper for the MTY car requests.

Then I cut the waybills out with a large paper cutter. This makes long, neat cuts and saves time over a pair of scissors.

For my first stock of waybills I came up with about 400 !!! waybills. I doubt that it will be a tad more, because some industries didn't get any assignments yet. But I don't want to over crowd it and will add waybills as needed.

I placed waybill boxes on the fascia around the layout, adjacent to the industries and sorted the waybills to their respective slots. The boxes are a variety of models we use at the FREMO.In the above photo is one from Micro Mark.

In the next installment I will explain my operating system, so stay tuned.


  1. Good to see you back after summer and can't wait to read more on your operations.

    Do you have a track plan? Or only the schematic at ?

  2. Hi Colin,

    No I don't have a "nice" trackplan yet, except for the scetch in "concept"

  3. the Card cars work great thank you