Author Topic: CAR CARD OPERATIONS  (Read 5559 times)

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seusscaboose

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #30 on: May 02, 2020, 05:44:17 PM »
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I'm currently bringing my second iteration of OP's to life on the newly formed Virgina City, Wobegon and Glen Alden (aka The Mighty ViCWoGA), ...  and as I develop the new car cards I have opted for the Micro Mark solution since I am only anticipating 80 cars on the layout...  so it will be easy enough to manage...

I suppose it is time to start a thread.
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shark_jj

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #31 on: May 06, 2020, 02:57:21 PM »
+2
For those of us in N Scale, as opposed to Dave with his HOn3, I'd like to offer a 3rd option besides Car Cards, and Switch Lists.  That 3rd Option is Car Tabs.  The reason I exclude Dave is because of size.  The smaller size of N Scale brings with it some potential limitations.  I have been involved in operations since I first joined a large HO Club in 1968.  I think I can say I have tried it all from Car Card, to Computerized Switch Lists, TT&TO, fast clock, no fast clock.  Each has benefits, each has drawbacks.  You end up having to decide what works for you.  Within our group I have designed operations for large N Scale layouts, small HO Layouts and my own medium sized Grand Trunk Southern layout.  I also contacted Mark Dance of the Columbia and Western, and Allen H. of the Little Rock Line.  They were both helpful in providing their experiences and insights with different types of N Scale Operation.  Both are members of this Forum.  Allen has a blog and has explained how he evolved to using Car Tabs.  Mark made a Clinic out of his experiences and gladly sent it to me and I suspect any of you could also get it from him.  He goes into each system in detail with regards to its usefulness to N Scale and he too ended up using Car Tabs. 

On my own layout, train size varies from 18 to 25 cars for mainline freights.  I started using Micro Mark car cards and found that carrying 25 cards per train and then sorting them as you came to each town was troublesome for my operators.  I did put the Micro Mark boxes at each town but the operators didn't like using them since they couldn't see the cards once they were in the box.  They tended to place the card up against the appropriate car.  You'd be surprised how often the weight of the card would just tip the car over.  For me, I wasn't thrilled that now that I had scenery in many locations it was now having car cards placed on top of it.  The main yard with its 70+ cars, and turnover of 90+ cars in a session, was an entire other problem.  The yardmen spent more time trying to sort cards then they did actually switching.  Their ability to locate specific cars in the yard was also limited.  The end result was that the yard was constantly behind the timetable when it came to operations. 

I migrated to using Switchlists.  I had used Ship It extensively on my friend Justins large 4 level N Scale layout.  I spent two years automating his operations.  To give you a sense of size, he staged 72 trains.  A single train traversing the layout at scale speed took 45 minutes.  Here is a photo of the string diagram I created to give you a sense of size. 





Anyone who has used Ship It knows that there are issues getting it to use staging yards effectively.  As a result, I decided this time I would use JMRI which I had some experience with on another HO home layout and it seemed to work extremely well.  It had the added benefit of being free.  Before committing the time to building the JMRI database I decided to try the system.  I created some switchlists manually, got my operators together and we ran an operating session.  To appreciate the initial problem we encountered, you need to imagine an operator standing there, with his Digitrax throttle in one hand, the switchlist in the other hand, the pen to check items off the switchlist, and the pick to switch the cars with, both still sitting on the dispatchers desk.  Each operator needed four hands.  The HO layout that uses switchlists has an engineer and conductor for each train so the engineer has the throttle, while the conductor has the pick and the switchlist.  We got through the session but it was clear that it offered no advantage over car cards.

I had seen Mark Dance's layout photos with the Car Tabs, and his articles on Operations in Model Railroad Craftsmen came out about the same time.  I contacted him and he shared some information with me, sent me copies of his clinic and pointed me towards some videos that he had made.  I also saw that Allen of the Little Rock Lines had gone in the same directions and made contact with him and he also shared some of his experience. 

I quickly created some Car Tabs and set up an operating session.  My usual 7 operators arrived and we began running trains.  Now the only thing in their hands was a throttle and a pick.  They weren't trying to read micro car numbers, they were looking at the top of the car where the tab was clearly visible.  For the first time, the yard ran on time since they could now see the destination of each car clearly and their only task was switching, there was no clerical activity involved. 

When it was over I emailed a survey to my operators and asked them to grade each operating method and which one they would like to continue with.  The vote was 7-0 for continuing with Car Tabs and the principle reason was that it made operating fun again.  For me, the setup for each method is roughly the same in amount of time spent before each session. 

For me, the bottom line here is that Operations isn't a one system fits all.  There are things however you do have to take into account.  First: How much time are you willing to spend on setting up Operations each time.  If the system you choose takes more of your time than you are willing to give, you will soon give up on Operations as being more trouble than it is worth. Second: Are you the only Operator or do you have a group.  If you have a group, you have to take their views into account or pretty soon they won't show up if it isn't fun and you will be on your own.  If you are the only Operator, it boils down to whats fun for you.   Third, does your scale offer up limitations.  Personally, I'm 72 with glasses, and within my group most are past their 50th birthday and about half wear glasses, so reading car numbers on unweathered N Scale cars is a challenge, on weathered cars its almost impossible.  This doesn't even raise the issue of reading numbers on the 4th yard track back.  Personally, I think this is a major issue in N Scale and a good reason for using Car Tabs. 

Anyway, those are my thoughts. 

PS:  Dave, when it comes to HOn3, I would seriously consider using the JMRI program, it is impressive.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2020, 10:07:50 AM by shark_jj »

LIRR

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #32 on: May 07, 2020, 06:38:57 AM »
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any problems with tabs falling off the cars?

shark_jj

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #33 on: May 07, 2020, 09:27:47 AM »
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I model 1970 so the majority of my cars have roofwalks.  So I use styrene channel for the tabs which sits over the roofwalk.  You could have a good point about modern era cars without roofwalks.

Rossford Yard

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #34 on: May 08, 2020, 09:14:34 PM »
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I will second Shark JJ opinion on tab on car. 

I had always heard of the idea, and actually opped on an HO layout in Tulsa where the mainline was traditional car cards, but the yardmaster used tabs while breaking up trains, which was also a great idea.

Dean (Coaldriver) uses tabs on his large layout (removing them for the many pictures he posts here) and that convinced me that they work great on a big layout op session.  The biggest objection would be the visuals, but like a lot of other things in MRR the eye fills in or avoids details to make the scene look right in the minds eye while in an op session.

So, when I started my new layout a few years ago, a switching layout in N, I opted to at least start with tabs.  Almost everyone who comes over easily picks up the system and enjoys it.  As someone has noted, we can run a one man crew and they switch, with no paperwork, although I have a switchlist if they want to check off when a car is picked up or delivered, although not technically needed.

I enclose an earlier photo of me actually setting up the system, using dots obtained from any office store. I haven't had any problems yet of them falling off, but the coal hopper in the foreground might be the biggest challenge to stay put. A few dots get tiny ink written numbers or letters to indicate individual spots within a siding with multiple doors or what have you.  A bit easier to read than N scale road numbers.  Also, the same color dots suggest which tracks to use in the yard for various switching zones, and you can see the white square under the NB A/D track so operators can keep the tracks straight.  Dean (Coaldriver) also taught me to "mark every track!"

On my layout, you enter the room "right after" two major roads have delivered the cuts of cars, one from the north end (under the bridge shown in the distance) and one from the south end.In my world, the round ones show the set outs.  The layout has six switch zones, each designated by a color, so when making up trains, the yard man just has to get all the reds on one track, blues on another, etc. Then two operators take out switch jobs, usually in an order that allows each some space in the 4' aisle.

On the return trip, the job is to put out bounds on either the north or south A/D track, and I use square ones on the other end for out bounds.  None for southbound, white square for northbound.  That has actually been confusing, so I plan to use a marker to color the NB square tabs. 

If you look close, I ran out of colors for inbounds, and some are yellow, while others are yellow and black (by using marker with a straight edge on half)  I got the 2 color idea from Coaldriver as well.  Anyway, pretty easy peasy and I have fun with it.  May not be your cup of tea, but I enjoy the simplicity.  And, I try to constantly add new wrinkles here and there to make switching more interesting.

The SD 40-2 in the foreground is returning up the hill from the switch run on the other side of the layout, loosely modeled after the Kingsbury Branch and shown in the upper photo.

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« Last Edit: May 09, 2020, 08:34:35 AM by Rossford Yard »

Cajonpassfan

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #35 on: May 19, 2020, 08:12:16 PM »
+1
@shark_jj, thank you for a well thought out writeup. I too have run on a number of layouts in both N and HO, using a variety of systems, and find car cards work okay or quite well on smaller layouts with short trains of say 10-12 cars. Once the layouts get more complex and trains long, I personally find carcards clumsy, inflexible and difficult to manage. I was once handed a 34 car “local” to switch along with a stack of cards and found the experience less than satisfying...

At first I rejected the idea of placing tabs on my cars, and I’m still on the fence, but I have to admit I love the freedom of not carrying bunch of stuff around the layout. Just my train orders (to fit in my shirt pocket) and the cab, with my hands free to uncouple cars and whatever else needs doing. In my experience, in complex yards, people end up leaning car cards against the cars all over the yard to try to make sense of it all. Tabs are certainly way less intrusive than that, and they tell you exactly where every car needs or go.

So on my large-ish layout, and this may not work for everyone, I’m thinking of using tabs, but not actually placing them on the cars until needed. On my layout, westward freight trains come off the high desert from all over the country, and enter my major yard (San Bernardino) to be broken up and reclassified for multiple destinations throughout SoCal and for local industries. Virtually every freight coming down gets stopped at “the gates” before the tower operator lines the switches and allows the train to enter the yard. That seems like a perfect opportunity for someone (me, the great Poobah?) to place the tabs on the stopped train to let the Yardmaster and his switchers know each car’s destination, either a local industry, or trains for multiple SoCal destinations. And maybe the cars with no tags just go on to LA staging. Same process for eastbounds: the staging operator places tags on cars arriving to San Bernardino for local destinations, everything else, with no tags gets sent up the hill and back east, or north or Texas...when switching is done and eastbound trains assembled, the tags get removed before the trip up the hill.

I do like the low “initial investment” in this approach, and at least on my layout, the fact that the tabs don’t clutter the cars until actually needed. Again, my experience tells me that once I focus on switching cars and making up trains, the tabs become virtually invisible.
Well, that’s my two cents...
Otto K.

LIRR

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #36 on: May 20, 2020, 06:55:42 AM »
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do the tabs basically take the place of the car-cards?

Cajonpassfan

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #37 on: May 20, 2020, 06:33:48 PM »
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That’s the idea, and surprising amount of information can be put on them using colors, letters, and/or numerals. Of course car cards can carry a lot more detailed info, like contents and shipper etc., but one may or may not care about that. To each his own, it’s all fun. ..
I only care about whether the car is loaded or MTY, where it’s supposed to go, and what to do with it after it gets there (flip the tab).
Otto K.

John

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #38 on: May 20, 2020, 06:50:36 PM »
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I only care about whether the car is loaded or MTY, where it’s supposed to go, and what to do with it after it gets there (flip the tab).


When I first started playing with JMRI Ops I thought about specifying loads .. such as sand, oil, etc .. it works ok . .but as I'm reworking the plan, I'm going to simplify it for now .. empty or loaded .. and maybe add a hazmat designation to force the program to put cars in certain locations on the manifest ..

later on, I may revisit specific loads improve how cars are routed ..

LIRR

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #39 on: May 20, 2020, 08:50:29 PM »
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I keep it simple also, ...I figure if I’m the guy on the ground i just need to know where to send the car, not where it came from or what’s in it

seusscaboose

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #40 on: May 20, 2020, 09:15:48 PM »
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i think the "from" and the "load" make it interesting... helps tell the story... allows for detail research on RR traffic...  (Potatoes from Maine, Caterpillar equipment from Illinois... etc.) 

i understand on large layouts it might not be plausible... 

on my small interation..  with only 20 cars in a 4x move... it's not so bad.

gives me more backgroud for the "story"

the thing is...  i think the story is as important as the session... and doing a small layout with those details helps.

my vision is you show up... read the background story... and then immerse yourself in the layout so you pick up the fine details... 

small and intimate...

i suppose i was influenced (this time) by Dave's Juanita (N Scale detail in a small space) as well as Warner Wolf in Indianapolis (great story and detail in small O Scale layout)...

that's just where i am currently at in my evolution...

so each car has a story.

Rule #1.

EP
"I have a train full of basements"

NKPH&TS #3589

Inspiration at:
http://nkphts.org/modelersnotebook

Regulators Mount Up at:
https://www.executiverail.com/

Rossford Yard

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #41 on: May 22, 2020, 09:44:11 AM »
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I'm not trying to change anyone's mind, and I do enjoy a difficult, more prototype op session once in a while.  But, like Shark JJ, when I ask my operators, especially those for the first time, the reaction to the tabs is overwhelmingly positive.  One of the operators during the Lone Star LSR Convention said he was taking the system back to his club in Oklahoma.  Club politics being what they typically are, they couldn't decide what to do, etc.

Not only are there different strokes for different folks, but there are different possibilities for any layout.  Like I said, I usually add switch lists for those who like some easy paperwork.  But, I saw some ops survey (can't recall pre-coffee) and the biggest misconceptions most hosts had included the length of session (1-2 hours much better than 4-6 for most of us) and complexity levels, with low being more popular than high among those of us who like ops.  I will say at least part of my decision to go tabs was based on that, and statistically pandering to my guests likely preferences.  And those include both serious ops guys, but just as much model railroaders not into ops but who want to run trains on my switching layout,  grandkids, friends who are interested enough to run trains for half an hour, etc., not to mention an annual foray into ops for locals or the NMRA.

Human nature is to gravitate toward the more convenient.  Once used, most people like the system.

And, as mentioned, I do like some more sophistication that some.  But, I find using sound (bells and horn), the "op like you are on the ground" trend, including leaving time for brakeman to walk ahead or moving so he can jump back on, etc., to satisfy me more than knowing what is theoretically is in the box or tank car.  For hoppers, center beams and flats, some of my industries have the cars sitting with no loads, indicating they get raw materials to unload, others with loads indicating ship out finished product.  Closed cars are just a mystery, but again, I don't believe even real railroaders worry about contents as much as pushing them down the track to the next and proper location.  Yes, there may be some special handling instructions they need on some cars, and I haven't figured out how to mark those with tabs, although I guess I could add some kind of hazardous or special handling instructions on the middle of the cars that need it.

Or, thought of another way, the ease of tabs lets you factor in other more sophisticated ops items, but only when needed.  If a friend blows through a road crossing without the appropriate horn blast, I don't blast them, or don't want a loco with momentum, etc., I let them op at their own desired level of difficulty.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2020, 09:47:38 AM by Rossford Yard »

johnb

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #42 on: May 23, 2020, 04:42:23 PM »
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I realize that this is not prototypical paperwork for the Pacific Electric, but this is for a model railroad, and I am using artwork from an era correct notepad

This is in Excel, so it can be edited as needed. I also plan to draw up a SPINS (Southern Pacific Industrial Numbing System, a map of all tracks) sheet for the branch, that is why there is a SPINS column, to match up with the track number.

John

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #43 on: May 25, 2020, 07:11:00 AM »
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LIRR

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Re: CAR CARD OPERATIONS
« Reply #44 on: May 25, 2020, 09:33:35 AM »
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i don’t disagree the "from" and the "load" make it more interesting...

My plan is to add this info once I get the moves themselves all squared away. I’m on the third repetition of my 12-cycle process. Each time I’m adding info to the car card - empty/load/contents/via, etc. eventually I’ll replace the scrap paper car-cards with permanent ones.