• Southern Custom Stamping (SCS)
    This customer receives coils - in coil cars, gondolas or on flat cars. The products are shipped by truck.
  • Alexa's Specialty Bakery (ASB)
    This bakery receives grain and flour in closed hoppers, corn syrup in tank cars, fruit in reefers and additional ingredients in boxcars. The products are shipped by truck.
  • Metal & Scrap (MS)
    This scrap yard ships assorted metal and scrap in gondolas, some valuable scrap in box cars.
  • Team Track North (TTN)
    This is a short team track for only one car. This way smaller industries without an own spur can send and receive goods per rail.
  • Team Track South (TTS)
    This is for transloading goods like plastic pellets.
  • White Goods Wholesale
    This is a non rail-served industry.


I don't want to push around cars without any plan but I also don't want it to be more complicated than necessary. Finally I created a bunch of "switching cards". On each switching card some car movements to be done are listed, for example:

Obviously I skipped a lot of details, like AAR-Types, car initials, car number and so on, but there is enough information to know what has to be done. If a spot should already be occupied by another car, the new car will be placed off spot waiting there. An important detail is the time column - the time how long this car will sit on its spot. The crew has an extra list to note how long each car is already sitting on its spot in order to know when to pull it:

The cars for the job to be done are set up on a tiny one-track fiddle yard extension before the session begins. Any appropriate car will do, a gondola is a gondola, but a plastic pellets hopper isnt' usable for flour. After returning into the yard the cars are put back in the "shelf storage" and the switching card just finished is put back to the switching card collection at a random position.

The next session will use the switching card coming up next. So I'm always using the same switching cards (over 30 at the moment) but because of their random order it's never boring operating this layout. I know prototype railroad traffic isn't randomized - it follows a great plan, a lot of contracts between sender and receiver. But there are a lot of imponderabilities which can delay the final spotting of a car so I believe that my approach is not too bad for a simulation of the real thing and additionally giving a lot of variety in operating this layout.

Some industries are switched more often than others - they are mentioned on more cards than the others, so it's easy to respect a different amount of traffic for different industries.

The full set of switchcards is available as PDF. A typical session takes about 20 to 40 minutes with prototypical procedures.

This concept already showed proof to provide interesting and diversified op sessions where hardly two will be the same. Some cars will fetched in the next session already, others will sit there for two or even more days, sometimes a car has to be placed off spot and wait until it can be delivered, ...


Closed cars are easy to model - you only need your imagination to load or unload them and "to see" the loading. Open cars need prototypical loadings and for my understanding of operations they must be easily removable for a quick change between loaded/unloaded. That's so important that I am willing to accept missing tie-downs - operation comes first.


All operation ideas and concepts are only as good as the technology in the background is. Running one or more locos with comfort is best done with DCC. Additionally you have great possibilities for motor control and sound - since all my locos have sound.

To the left the booster, to the right the command center (and a throttle).

Published on  February 8th, 2016