Author Topic: Looking for Advice on Unusual Switching Operations Plan: Dice & Waybills?  (Read 421 times)

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TiogaTracks

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I’m working on a way to generate historically plausible switch lists for my layout, and I’m at a point where I’d like advice, critiques, and suggestions.  To start with, here are the conditions the operations plan needs to work under:

  • The focus is road switching the 12 industries on the line, using a fleet of around 20-30 freight cars.
  • Most staging is via an interchange with another modeled railroad, which has only a storage yard, no industries.  There will be a small storage yard for home-road cars.
  • Local freight service only, mostly with just one switching crew, with the potential for up to 3 crews.
  • All traffic levels will vary a lot, as the prototype was a struggling rural economy.  Even the steadiest shippers have days of no inbound or outbound carloads.
The main Layout Engineering thread is here.


I have the most fun running trains when working a randomized switching puzzle, preferably with some distance running mixed in.  I’ve done just that in the past, and know it works for me.  But this time, I want to cut out the computer.  I previously used a spreadsheet to generate random orders, but my experiment now involves many-sided dice, usually associated with tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons.  I also have some original waybills and paperwork from my prototype, and I’d really get a kick out of printing [possibly simplified] copies of these to use in operations.  Carrying a clipboard of waybills and a remote throttle around, or having an engineer and conductor on each crew, should work well on my layout.

So here’s how my initial plan works, then I’ll ask about some issues.


Dice & Waybills Operations Version 1

Each regular interchange car is assigned a letter.  Each car will have multiple waybills, so the waybills will be numbered A-1, B-12, S-6, and so on.  I’d probably put a colorful sticker with the number on each reproduction waybill, for easy recognition.  Oh, and also ease of paging through the stack of potentially over a hundred, to grab today’s orders.

To start making an ops session’s switch list, I’d first pick a train length, either by choice based on how much time I have to run trains, or by rolling a D12 (12-sided die).  Then, I would roll that train length of alphabet dice, and roll a D12 to go with each alphabet die.  I would then pick the waybills shown on the dice, and that would be my switch list.

There are also 4-in-30 chances of rolling a “wild” value on the alphabet dice, (they are D30 dice,) so I also set up a list of unplanned events.  One says set a timer and when it goes off, you develop a hot bearing and have to set out car [roll to randomly select one].  Others tell you to move a local-service-only boxcar to a given siding, or add multiple extra cars to your train for special road supplies deliveries.  I’d love to get more ideas for random events that could come up for a diesel switching crew on a rural woodland mountains railroad.  Weather or mechanical issues come to mind, but would have to add some interest, challenge, and/or fun to operations.


Problems with Version 1

The main issues I see with this is that there is no way to tailor this to where each car is on the railroad.  Most often, all cars will start in the two yards, either on the mainline railroad or the switching shortline.  I could roll an outbound load from the main tannery business to be moved in the ATSF boxcar, when I already have the IC boxcar spotted at that very siding.  I presume some cars would be on a repeated loop of eastbound and westbound loads, for example, and I can’t model that under this system.

Also, unless I planned to run ops sessions simulating 2 days instead of 1, outbound loads would not actually move anywhere.  And I’d much rather not have to wander around the layout making a list of what car is where before coming up with today’s switch list, it would waste time just like waiting for a computer to boot up.

One possible solution I could see would be for some waybills to somehow connect to a follow-up waybill.  Maybe it says “when complete, add waybill M-11 to next day’s jobs,” or maybe the follow-up is stapled or paperclipped to the first waybill.  I also like the idea that these follow-ups mean that most of the time, each ops session will end with the next session’s list partly decided.  So if I want to squeeze in one more run before a crew member has to go home, we could skip dice rolling to have a day of no new carloads (very plausible!) and just have to go deal with these follow-up outbound cars.  And returning any lingering empty foreign-road cars to the interchange.
 
Another problem is that with the dice, each car is equally likely to appear in each train.  The only way to have more or less common movements is to hide some of them as WILD dice random events.

I’m not sure how to fix that, but I’m considering leaving a few letters of the alphabet free to make some common loads appear more.  For instance, write a rule that if I roll an x, y, or z, I have to pick a common load (probably cattle hides, tanning chemicals, or wood products) and add any one of those to the switch list, instead of having those letters correspond to another single freight car.  But I’d really like some better ideas on keeping common loads more common, without needing a computer.


I think that’s all for my initial idea.  I like parts of it, and would love more ideas on the problems.  So far when I test this by rolling some example switch lists, I’m getting lists that do resemble the actual daily carloadings of the shortline, but with less common loads a bit over-represented.  So I think I’m on to something so will enjoy, with some adjustments.

Thanks for reading all this, and hope to have an interesting discussion here!

-Steven
Wellsville Addison & Galeton RR in 1:29
Still dabbling in N scale
Restoring a full size 1951 Brill bus

packers#1

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I’m planning to (eventually) put my VBA skills to my own use and make a system somewhat like this, except based on the system modeling class I had in school (hated that, but the basic concepts are interesting enough). I think you’re slightly over complicating your dice rolls in your head for return. Just roll a die for however many days the car will sit at the industry for the waybill, and then have the outbound waybill. So say you’ve rolled an empty boxcar coming in to ship leather goods, and no matter what, the car will be loaded within three days. Roll a D6 with 1&4 for one day, 2&5 for 2 days, and 3&6 for 3 days. Some of your wild events could be moving up or down days at different industries as well.

So you rolled 6, you then come in, spot the boxcar, and put the waybill in a box that is marked move in three sessions. Then each session that box gets changed to two sessions, then one session, then move. If you got another boxcar with a 2 when that box was labeled move in two sessions, you’d grab both the 6 boxcar and 2 boxcar to pick up. But then, if your wild event was tannery workers go out for lunch and are too drunk to come back, delay all loading by one day, you’d leave that box alone for the session. That way you’re still randomizing the cars, but have a defined time to pick them up in that simulates loading/unloading at customers.
Sawyer Berry
Clemson University graduate, c/o 2018

TiogaTracks

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Thanks Sawyer, I really like where you’re going with the “roll for dwell time at the siding” idea.  I’m glad I started this chat before building that part of the railroad, because now I remember I need to leave room for multiple cars on each siding!  I hadn’t been planning for that before, but I suspect I can make it work.

After going through my list of cars, I’m thinking some will only have a single waybill.  Cattle hide service cars were considered too filthy for any other use, so they’ll only have one use.  Same for some specialized tanning chemical cars.

I also noticed in testing my idea that even on shorter train lengths, it was very possible to roll the same car twice (from a 30-sided die, no less!).  At first I just rerolled those, but then I had another idea:  If I roll a duplicate, instead stick the nearest alphabet letter’s cattle hide car on the switch list.  That makes the most common cars on the prototype slightly more common than all the rest on my railroad.  I may also want to do something where duplicate inbounds become a hide boxcar instead, while duplicate outbounds become tanned leather loads, since I also want those those to be slightly more common than average.

So far the dice system is proving to be quick to do, and it’s providing fairly realistic mixes of loads.  I’m encouraged, but would still love to hear more ideas or criticism.

-Steven
Wellsville Addison & Galeton RR in 1:29
Still dabbling in N scale
Restoring a full size 1951 Brill bus

packers#1

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You know, instead of doing that for a refill, why not roll each industry for service or not based on a D30 and percentage of time you want them to have service. The tannery might have, say, 1-22 for service and 23-30 for no service, while a smaller industry might only have 1-7 for service and 8-30 for no service. Then for each industry, roll a die to determine how many cars they get. Say tannery can get up to 6 cars coming in, but another industry can only get 4. You could either say a 2 or 5 means two cars and a 4 or 6 means 4 cars, or if you roll the unused numbers they no longer get service. Then just pull waybills for inbound loads and empties as needed and roll for dwell time for each.

Of course, typing that out it sounds just as convoluted. Like I said, this is kinda like my idea to build a VBA workbook using percentages for each possible number of inbound cars possible. But with what I do for work, my brain doesn’t always want to build that because I use it in my job as well  :facepalm:
Sawyer Berry
Clemson University graduate, c/o 2018

TiogaTracks

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I certainly know what you mean about not wanting to do more of what I do for a living, least of all in my hobbies!  And yeah, simulating an economy to generate realistic levels of inbound and outbound carloads would be the most realistic answer.  At this stage of planning, though, simplicity ranks higher than straight up realism, so i think I’ll stick to the alphabet dice to select a car and the D12s to give each use of a car some variety.  I’ll certainly keep your idea of deciding loads by industry, not by car, in mind though, and may shift to that once I get the railroad built and operating.

I went back through and rewrote my list of planned waybills for each car, and filled out the entire freight car fleet.  I removed one duplicate car (a second AT&SF 40’ boxcar) and added five cars I don’t have yet (another variation of WAG wooden boxcar, a Penn Central boxcar, a MILW 40’ rib-side car, and two junk gondola cars).  I added the gons after learning the disgusting story of “fleshing” loads… liquidy, almost paste-like loads of rotting cow guts shipped from leather tanneries to a glue factory in Gowanda, NY.  Only the filthiest old cars were used for this, provided they didn’t have any holes to let their vile contents seep out.  I gave these cars a slim chance to be used for scrap loads too, but that would be unlikely in real life.  Even scrappers have standards, and fleshing gons don’t meet ANYONE’s standards!

But overall, I think this will capture a good cross section of WAG trains in the 1970s, and give me a pretty much infinite selection of switch lists to operate with.  [Edit: the ✔️ check marks mean this car is fully ready to go, all others need paint and/or modifications.]

Destinations:
1. Galeton Yard (for Wellsville Branch or local delivery)
2. Galeton Shed (for railroad use or repairs)
3. Patterson Lumber Log Unloading
4. Patterson Lumber product shipping/receiving
5. Larimer & Norton baseball bat blank shipping (no receiving)
6. Galeton Freight Station (for local deliveries)
7. Gaines Junction Siding (for log loading and local transloading)
8. Eberle Tanning Co. Chemical Unloading
9. Eberle Tanning Co. Hides/Supplies Unloading
10. Eberle Tanning Co. Shipping
11. Westfield Team Track
12. MacKnight’s Agway liquid/aggregates unloading
13. MacKnight’s Agway Shipping/Receiving (former NYC station building)
14. Ansonia Junction outbound siding, for road supplies deliveries

Random Events:
1. Move the LCL boxcar to Galeton
2. Move the LCL boxcar to Gaines Jct.
3. Move the LCL boxcar to Westfield
4. Your intended locomotive needs maintenance, choose another.
5. Your intended caboose needs maintenance, choose another.
6. Set a timer for D12 x 5.  Car D12 will develop a hotbox and need to be limped to the nearest siding and set out when the timer goes off.  Don’t intentionally check the timer.  If you accidentally notice how much time is left on the timer, the hotbox happens right then.
7. Deliver D12 / 4 open hopper cars of asphalt and D12 / 6 tank cars of tar to Galeton yard.  Reroll the event die for any other road supplies event you roll today.
8. Deliver D12 / 4 open hopper cars of asphalt and D12 / 6 tank cars of tar to  Gaines Jct. Reroll the event die for any other road supplies event you roll today.
9. Deliver D12 / 4 open hopper cars of asphalt and D12 / 6 tank cars of tar to  Westfield Team. Reroll the event die for any other road supplies event you roll today.
10. Deliver D12 / 4 open hopper cars of asphalt and D12 / 6 tank cars of tar to  Ansonia Jct WAG outbound track. Reroll the event die for any other road supplies event you roll today.
11. Inattentive motorists are out and about.  If you forget to signal for any road crossing, you must set your locomotive out on the nearest siding and send out a new one.
12. Bad weather:
    1. In winter, either run a plow first, or stop for a minute the first time you come to each road crossing, to clear ice from the flangeways.
    2. In spring, cross all bridges at a crawl.  Pine Creek is flooding!
    3. In summer, you must stop for a minute anytime your locomotive revs to Run 7 or 8.  There’s a heatwave and you’re prone to overheating.
    4. In Fall, either turn up momentum or accelerate/brake more slowly.  Leaves are reducing adhesion.

A: ✔️WAG 8009 PS-1 steel boxcar
1. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
2. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
3. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
4. OB Baseball bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
5. OB Baseball bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
6. Misc to/from Westfield Team
7. Misc to/from Gaines Jct
8. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
9. IB Supplies, Larimer & Norton
10. IB Supplies, Galeton Shed
11. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s
12. IB empty for repair, Galeton Shed

B: ✔️WAG 4141 steel (rebuilt wood) boxcar
1. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
2. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
3. OB Baseball bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
4. OB Baseball bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
5. OB Baseball bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
6. OB Baseball bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
7. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
8. IB Supplies, Larimer & Norton
9. IB Supplies, Larimer & Norton
10. IB Supplies, Galeton Shed
11. IB Supplies, MacKnight’s
12. IB empty for repair, Galeton Shed

C: WAG 5000 Outside Braced wood boxcar
1. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
2. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
3. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
4. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
5. OB Baseball bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
6. Misc to/from Westfield Team
7. Misc to/from Gaines Jct
8. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
9. IB Supplies, Larimer & Norton
10. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s
11. IB Bagged Feed, MacKnight’s
12. IB empty for repair, Galeton Shed

D: WAG 6000 Outside Braced wood boxcar
1. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
2. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
3. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
4. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
5. OB Baseball bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
6. Misc to/from Westfield Team
7. Misc to/from Gaines Jct
8. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
9. IB Supplies, MacKnight’s
10. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s
11. IB Bagged Feed, MacKnight’s
12. IB empty for repair, Galeton Shed

E: WAG 5000 Outside Braced wood hide service boxcar
1-9. IB Cattle Hides, Eberle
10-11 IB Hides & OB Waste Leather, Eberle
12. IB empty for repair, Galeton Shed

F: ✔️Illinois Central steel boxcar
1-9. IB Cattle Hides, Eberle
10-12 IB Hides & OB Waste Leather, Eberle

G: ✔️AT&SF steel boxcar (Grand Canyon)
1-9. IB Cattle Hides, Eberle
10-12 IB Hides & OB Waste Leather, Eberle

H: MILW 40297 rib-side steel boxcar
1-9. IB Cattle Hides, Eberle
10-12 IB Hides & OB Waste Leather, Eberle

I: ✔️MILW 50’ boxcar
1. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
2. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
3. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
4. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
5. Misc to/from Westfield Team
6. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
7. IB Supplies, Eberle
8. IB Supplies, Eberle
9. IB Supplies, Eberle
10. IB Bagged Feed, MacKnight’s
11. IB Supplies, MacKnight’s
12. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s

J: ✔️C&NW 50’ boxcar
1. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
2. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
3. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
4. OB Baseball Bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
5. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
6. IB Supplies, Larimer & Norton
7. IB Supplies, Eberle
8. IB Supplies, Eberle
9. IB Supplies, Eberle
10. IB Bagged Feed, MacKnight’s
11. IB Supplies, MacKnight’s
12. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s

K: PC 50’ boxcar
1. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
2. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
3. OB Tanned Leather, Eberle
4. OB Baseball Bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
5. OB Baseball Bat blanks, Larimer & Norton
6. Misc to/from Westfield Team
7. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
8. IB Supplies, Larimer & Norton
9. IB Supplies, Eberle
10. IB Bagged Feed, MacKnight’s
11. IB Supplies, MacKnight’s
12. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s

L: ✔️LV gondola
1. OB Scrap, Galeton Yard
2. OB Scrap, Galeton Freight
3. OB Scrap, Galeton Shed
4. OB Logs, Galeton Yard
5. OB Logs, Gaines Jct
6. OB Logs, Westfield Team
7. IB Logs, Patterson
8. IB Logs, Patterson
9. IB pipe, Westfield Team
10. IB pipe, Westfield Team
11. IB Equipment, Galeton Yard
12. Misc to/from Galeton Frt

M: ✔️WAG 3005 gondola
1. OB Scrap, Galeton Yard
2. OB Scrap, Galeton Freight
3. OB Logs, Galeton Yard
4. OB Logs, Gaines Jct
5. OB Logs, Gaines Jct
6. OB Logs, Westfield Team
7. IB Logs, Patterson
8. IB Logs, Patterson
9. IB pipe, Westfield Team
10. IB pipe, Westfield Team
11. IB Equipment, Galeton Yard
12. IB empty for repair, Galeton Shed

N: WAG 161 gondola
1-9: OB fleshing, Eberle
10-11: OB scrap, Galeton yard
12: IB empty for repair, Galeton yard

O: Erie gondola
1-9: OB fleshing, Eberle
10-11: OB scrap, Galeton yard
12: OB scrap, Westfield Team

P: ✔️Penn Salt tank car
Chemicals, Eberle

Q: ✔️NJZX tank car
Chemicals, Eberle

R: ✔️Wyandotte tank car
1-6: IB Chemicals, Eberle
7-8: IB Chemicals, MacKnight’s
9-10: IB Chemicals, Patterson
11-12: IB Chemicals, Galeton Yard

S: ✔️PPG tank car
1-6: IB Chemicals, Eberle
7-8: IB Chemicals, MacKnight’s
9-12: IB Chemicals, Patterson

T: ✔️Jack Frost tank car
1-6: IB Chemicals, Eberle
7-9: IB Chemicals, MacKnight’s
10-12: IB Chemicals, Galeton Yard

U: LNE 12275 Covered Hopper
1-4: IB Supplies, MacKnight’s
5-8: IB Supplies, Galeton Frt
9-11: IB Supplies, Galeton Yard
12: IB Supplies, Westfield Team

V: ✔️CNJ 520 Covered Hopper
1-4: IB Supplies, MacKnight’s
5-8: IB Supplies, Galeton Frt
9-11: IB Supplies, Galeton Yard
12: IB Supplies, Westfield Team

W: CB&Q Centerflow covered hopper
1-6: IB Supplies, MacKnight’s
7-9: IB Supplies, Galeton Frt
10-12: IB Supplies, Galeton Yard

X: ✔️AT&SF Centerflow covered hopper
1-8: IB Supplies, MacKnight’s
9-12: IB Supplies, Galeton Yard

Y: ✔️PRR steel flatcar
1. Misc to/from Westfield Team
2. Misc to/from Gaines Jct
3. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
4. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
5. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
6. IB Supplies, Galeton Shed
7. IB Supplies, Galeton Shed
8. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s
9. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s
10. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s
11. IB Lumber, Patterson
12. IB Lumber, Patterson

Z: ✔️Bethlehem Steel flatcar
1. Misc to/from Westfield Team
2. Misc to/from Gaines Jct
3. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
4. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
5. Misc to/from Galeton Frt
6. IB Supplies, Galeton Shed
7. IB Supplies, Galeton Shed
8. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s
9. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s
10. IB Equipment, MacKnight’s
11. IB Lumber, Patterson
12. IB Lumber, Patterson



-Steven
« Last Edit: August 31, 2022, 04:06:21 PM by TiogaTracks »
Wellsville Addison & Galeton RR in 1:29
Still dabbling in N scale
Restoring a full size 1951 Brill bus

wm3798

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Re: Looking for Advice on Unusual Switching Operations Plan: Dice & Waybills?
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2022, 08:13:38 AM »
+1
An important element that's missing is the industries' "need" for cars.
Not all inbound cars are loaded, and the 1:1 world had (has?) a request for car order form.  Somewhere in the stacks of stuff I've got the WM's paperwork for this. [found it!]

My concept was to have a 3x5 file of car requests for industries on line, which would be drawn from the deck at the beginning of the session.  The requests would be matched to empty cars available on the layout, or in their absence, lead to the staging of said cars at one of the interchange points for pick up.  I had a track in my yard that accumulated home road empties returning from the wider world, and several interchanges on the layout, so this worked well, and added business for both the yard crew and the interchange turn crew.
You could add the roll of the dice to determine how many car requests are drawn for the night's work.

At times, it could take several sessions to fill the request, the local having to go out and retrieve the car from the B&O, then shuffle it into the appropriate train in the yard, then forward it to the shipper.  Other times it was simply pulling a car from Track 7 and adding it to the train heading to town.

The car request then becomes the basis for the waybill, since it was going to be loaded at the industry.  Hang time on the siding could be determined by the urgency of the load, the complexity of loading it, or just another roll of the dice.

It also adds the angle of dealing with foreign road cars that had to head back to their home roads, but could be spotted for a load headed that way.  Of course, if you start factoring in things like per diem charges and the need to minimize demurrage charges, that would have to be something loaded quickly and moved along, not something that has the car lingering running up a bill for several days.

There's so much to overthink in this hobby!  Isn't it wonderful? :facepalm:

Lee

« Last Edit: September 01, 2022, 08:40:28 AM by wm3798 »
Rockin' It Old School

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

TiogaTracks

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Re: Looking for Advice on Unusual Switching Operations Plan: Dice & Waybills?
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2022, 07:13:28 PM »
0
That’s neat, both the idea and doubly so for the original WM paper!  That could be a good variation of Sawyer’s idea of starting with the industry, not the individual cars.  Which is looking like it could well be the best way to go.  Some of my dry runs have produced a few lopsided switch lists lately.  If I can’t get that straightened out, I suspect I’ll go to industry-first rather than car-first.

I guess the car request form would work especially well if I learned more about how empty cars are routed back to their home road, and if I could represent that on the layout.  But with my prototype, even in better days, something like 2/3 of their traffic was inbounds.  By the time of the era I’m modeling, it was even worse, so any system like this would only apply to a minority of the cars where the home road is actually modeled.

-Steven
Wellsville Addison & Galeton RR in 1:29
Still dabbling in N scale
Restoring a full size 1951 Brill bus