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Home > Train Layouts > Operations
Operations
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waybillsThe purpose of building a layout is so we can see our trains run. Adding operations to your layout can give you more to do with your trains even if you finished building your layout.

 

 



Introduction to Operations

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waybillsThe purpose of building a layout is so we can see our trains run. Adding operations to your layout can give you more to do with your trains in addition to running in circles.

What is Operations?

Operations is when you move cars around your layout in a manner similar to a real railroad. Your layout has industries where you can drop off and pick up freight cars. How do we know which cars need to be dropped off at the various industries? We can have fun by putting cars where we feel like but operations add more of a purpose to your railroad and layout.


 Download Files
Car-Card Template (PDF)
Car-Card Template (MS-Word)
Car-Card Template (Visio)
Waybill Template (PDF)
Waybill Template (Visio)
Yard Card Waybill (Visio)
4-Cycle Waybill Template (Visio)

Do I need a large layout?

No, operations can be fun even on very small shelf layouts. In fact, operations can make a small layout seem much larger. The concepts of operations can be applied to layouts of all sizes and scale. A 4' x 8' HO scale layout can be enough space for a two person operating session lasting several hours.

But I can't load my cars with real cargo!

You don't have to load your models with the real items your industries need. We can use a small card with a pocket to represent if your freight car is loaded or empty. This small card is called a Car Card and you will want a card for each model freight car you want to operate with. That can be a lot of cards! Don't worry, you can make cards in small batches and expand your operations as you want to have more fun. A car card template is linked on this page so you can start having fun immediately.

Car cards tell us basic information about our freight car. All of the information below can be found by looking at your model car.

  • Reporting Marks - Are a series of alphabetic characters that indicate who owns the car. Every owner has a unique reporting mark that is placed on all of the cars they own.
  • Car Number - Is the number on the left side of the car just below the reporting mark. This number makes the car unique to the owners.
  • Car Type - Describes the car and it can indicate what kind of goods it can carry. We will know if it is a box car or tank car, covered hopper or flat car.

There is a shorthand list of abbreviations set by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) that we can use on our car cards. I have included a short list of AAR codes on the car card template that you can download off this web page.

AAR Codes
XM   Box Car
T   Tank Car
SA   Stock Car
LO   Covered Hopper
RA   Refrigerated Car
N   Caboose Car
FM   Flat Car
FA   Intermodal Flat Car
GB   Gondola Car
HK   Hopper Car Open Top
  • Car Length - This is the approximate length of the freight car. This can be useful if you want to get into greater detail, some industries could request specific car sizes for materials. Car size can also be helpful when you are hunting for a car in a large train yard. Car size can also be used when you have short tracks for industries, you don't want to send a car that is too long for the industry track. If you don't know the length of your model you can use a scale rule to actually measure the car. The measurement will be the length of your car that you will put on the car card.

Manually Create a Car Card using the PDF file Above

  • Click the "Car Card Template Adobe PDF" link above.
  • Save the file on your computer.
  • Print out one of the sheets on your printer.
  • Cut out each car card.
  • Use a pen or pencil to fill out the card.
  • Fold the bottom of the card up to the line to make a pocket.
  • Use two pieces of tape (one on each side) to hold the pocket.

Use Microsoft Word to create a Car Card

  • Click the "Car Card Template MS-Word" link above.
  • Save the file on your computer.
  • Double click the file to edit the document.
  • Fill out the freight car information and save the document with a new name.
  • Print out one of the sheets on your printer.
  • Cut out each car card.
  • Fold the bottom of the card up to the line to make a pocket.
  • Use two pieces of tape (one on each side) to hold the pocket.

Car Cards are ready, how do I load them with goods?

Loads inside freight cars are represented by small slips of paper called waybills. Real railroads use waybills to track freight, our version of a waybill will be very simple. If we put a waybill into the pocket of a car card that car now has a 'load' and needs to be delivered to a industry.

To fill out a waybill we will need a few pieces of information from your layout.

  • Industry Name - Is the name of an industry on your railroad that needs a freight car or is a destination of goods.
  • Town Name - Is the name of the town that the industry is located.
  • Goods / Lading - Tells us the actual materials in the freight car that need delivery or if the freight car is empty.
  • Car Type - Is the type of freight car needed at the business. When selecting a freight car you want to be mindful of the goods shipped in the car. A tank car can hold liquid so you probably would not ship sand in a tank car.

Manually Create a waybill using the PDF above;

  • Click the "Waybill Template Adobe PDF" link.
  • Save the file on your computer.
  • Print out one of the sheets on your printer.
  • Cut out each waybill.
  • Use a pen or pencil to fill out the #1 section of the waybill. Since we are just starting out with operations, we only need section 1 of the waybill.

The waybills on the template actually have 4 sections so you can use them 4 times before repeating. This saves paper and to use the next section all you need to do is pull out the waybill, flip it and then you have the next movement ready. Generally, waybills are flipped at the end of an operating system so a fresh set of moves are ready for next time. Having four sections is also useful if you wanted to send a car to four different locations instead of just between two industries on your layout.

By slipping a waybill into the pocket of a car card we have a freight car with a destination.

Operations 1 - 2 - 3 !

Now that we have our car cards and waybills we are ready to run trains. This is a very basic setup that can easily grow as your layout and desires expand.

Make up a train - The setup can be very simple, select a handful of cars you wish to have in your train. You can select your cars in a train yard or if you layout is small they can be setup on a siding.

Place waybills - In the cars you just selected find or make one waybill for each card. Keep in mind waybills can be reused over and over. Place one waybill into the pocket of each car card. Your train now has a destination and work to do.

Run your train - Look at the car cards and waybills and begin switching the cars to the appropriate industries indicated on each waybill. If you have cars already in the industries replace them with the new cars you have in your train. When you are done you can take all of the cars you collected, make waybills for each of them, and run another train.

This operating scheme can be used on a very small layout. You do not need a complex setup to have fun switching cars. As you use the system you will find that it can get repetitive however with additional concepts you can expand your operations without necessarily expanding your layout.

Many railroads send cars to other railroads, you can simulate that by creating waybills that point to a destination off your layout. For an example let's say that your railroad has a lumber company. The lumber company on your railroad wants to ship wood to a furniture company that is not on your railroad. You can do this by sending the car to a designated "interchange track" (that you pick) where you will pass off the car to another railroad. This allows you to take the cars off the railroad and bring in different cars that could arrive empty to the lumber company.

The fun you can have with operations can be endless with a little imagination. This page serves as a very basic introduction to operations on model railroads. As time permits we will discuss more operating concepts to expand our knowledge and fun with model trains.

- Mark N. Goedert

* The above templates are compatible with the Old Line Graphics car card and waybill system. Old Line Graphics products are available through Micro Mark tool company. You can try out the system above using the templates on this web site and expand with the Old Line Graphics product line if desired. Old Line Graphics and Micro Mark are trademarks of their respective companies all rights reserved.
 



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