Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Preparing for the next Op Session

With a bunch of summer activities done, I am getting some things accomplished on the layout each day in preparation for Op Session number 2 later this month. This will be followed up by the MER Convention at the end of October, and I have a list of operational and scenic things I'd like to get completed.

The first thing I did was assess the layout and see where all the trains were from the last session. There were a couple of trains that did not complete, and 2 that never left their staging tracks. This I hope to address through some changes to the overall train schedule. For this first restaging I decided to generally put the cars back where they were for the first session instead of flipping waybills. The main reason is I want to make some minor adjustments and assess how well cars got to their intended destination. In some cases the waybills will need some updating for clarity to the operators, and in other cases I think a car may be in the wrong place to start based on the sequence of trains.

An example the first condition is a car not picked up by the MEC QY-2 local heading back to St. Johnsbury. Looking at the waybill I can see how the operator might be confused about whether to pick up the car or not. So I can fix that.

An example of the second condition is the LVRC train from St. J back to Morrisville, MJ-1. Once that runs, any additional cars for the LVRC that come into St. Johnsbury yard won't get picked up until tomorrow (the next session). What this means is that I should have some previous day cars in the St. J yard already for the LVRC to pick up.

This was evident by the small size of the LVRC JM-1 train, and the accumulatiuon of LVRC cars in the St. J yard at the end of the session. Starting with no LVRC cars in the yard was the issue, and I can balance that a bit by getting some cars into the yard before the session starts, and reduce the amount coming in on later through trains accordingly as these will sit until the next session. Overall the LVRC MJ-1 should be the same size I planned for.

Another reason I want to use basically the same cars again is to take better notes on how I staged things and how many cars in a train were destined for other locations. I realize now I need this data to properly balance the consists of trains in staging and make sure I get proper staging for the next session. Some minor differences are OK, but each session should be about the same when it comes to the number of cars in each train.

One issue I am sure each owner of an operating layout deals with are cars missing their car card, and car cards missing their car. I had one of each as shown below.

A Conrail Gondola was missing, while this SP&S car that I know came from North Stratford into St. Johnsbury was missing it's car card and waybill.

Many times it might be a car and car card get swapped, and if you find one, you've found the other. No luck in this case. I checked every inch of track for the CR gon to no avail. Looking at the waybill was even more confusing as this car came out of Newport staging on train 917, briefly stopped in St. J as other cars came off the train, and then continued on to East Deerfield staging. Really no where it should have gone off of that train.

So next I started looking under the layout. Really nowhere else to look! And there it was!!

Now how did this gondola fall from the staging yard approach and land on top of this box?

My first thought is that there was a derailment when the operator brought the train out of staging. But this seemed unlikely as the operators were real good about pointing out any issues that occurred, and a derailment there would have been obvious and reported.

What I think really happened is that I myself derailed the car while doing the initial staging before the Op Session. The car card was in the middle of a block that was just passing through from staging to staging so the St. J operators did not even notice. Anyway, mystery #1 solved.

Now the missing car card is still that - missing. I checked everywhere obvious, and all car card boxes but no luck. It could have been dropped, so I will need to do a thorough check on that. It is possible it ended up going home with someone but no one has reported that yet. Worse case I can reprint the car card and associated waybill.

So, restaging is nearly complete - all trains are restaged, but now I am checking and balancing things. Just a few more cars to balance out and a few additional cars to add to a few trains and in the yard. It is amazing how many cars a layout will consume for operations. And more amazing there are still some cars I need to acquire or get up and running to represent certain traffic that is missing. Just a single siding that receives 1 car can theoretically mean I have 3 cars on the layout representing that traffic. I'll write more about that in the future.


Greg said...

Nice write up Mike! You hit the money about making adjustments to find that fit. On the same token the feast or famine in the yard for the LVRC is seen on the prototype more often than not. We are coming up on a local operating day in October where the St. Clair Sub will operate twice in the same day, so it will be interesting to see where we end up. All in the fun of operating ,adjusting, and sharing of ideas which I must give you credit as your plastic card / waybills. I was inspired to create my own hybrid version of a car card system using some of your concepts.


Greg McComas
Michigan Interstate St. Clair Sub

narrowtracks said...

Mike, thanks for sharing. I'm curious, are you using a commercial (or freeware) program to generate your CC&WBs?

Mike McNamara said...

The car cards are printed out of a Numbers (the Apple spreadsheet program, like Excel) document where I store my roster of cars, locos and cabooses. The way bills are also printed from Numbers. These started out as Excel documents using a template I downloaded from a Model Railroader article. I modified it slightly and adjusted the size for my car cards and vinyl sleeves. So it is all manual in creation. I keep track of waybills created so as to not overload one industry. More info on these is at this blog posting:
Examples of these files are available on my web site at a special page:

Mike McNamara said...

Thanks for the comments and I'm glad you were able to make use my cc/wb/sleeves ideas. I think they really work great and also lend a nice overall look to the fascia and car card boxes on the layout.