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Ops Planning is more than a timetable ...

Some modelers are stumped by how to begin developing an operating session. Should we start with the trains? With a timetable? What are the crew roles? Car cards and waybills or switchlists? Timetable and Train Order or CTC? Too often, the fun of op sessions is delayed until all these questions can be worked out.


Successful op sessions depend on coordinating all of these elements, but the process need not be difficult. Whether you are planning your layout now and want to be sure it will accommodate the kind of sessions you enjoy or whether, like many, you want to add operating fun to an existing railroad, I can help you start easily and add complexity to reach the level of challenge that's right for you and your crew.


Let's talk today about your vision for a successful op session and the steps we can take to bring it to life.

Three Keys to operating realism and fun

Successful ops plans are based on:

- Personality

- Interaction

- Balance

Read more about these keys


Large layouts with large crews
If your vision for an ops session involves a dozen or more crew members running a couple of dozen trains on a large layout, I can help with planning, operating documents, crew roles, car routing schemes, and dispatching ideas.
Whether your layout exists, is being planned, or is yet in the dream stage, planning for operations will help you optimize the space and infrastructure you have for the most operating enjoyment.
model railroad operations documents sample

Dave Salamon's Deep River Southern gained new operating interest with the addition of two side-by-side staging yards. Click the image for more information.
Adding operations to existing or smaller layouts
Even if your layout was not originally designed for operation, is smaller, or doesn't provide room for a large crew, you can still have satisfying operation. Together we'll identify key aspects of the prototype operations or create a suitable operating scheme and find ways to make the best use of the space and track that's available.
We can start where you and your crew are comfortable, then add challenge and complexity in manageable steps until you reach your goal.
Click here for an example of what can be accomplished, even on a small "classic" HO 4X8.

What's included with an Operation Planning consultation?
Based on the three keys, I'll provide suggestions on trains to run, operator roles, car routing, dispatching methods, etc. If you like, I can also develop all the materials you will need to support your op session from train lists to procedure manuals to timetables. Every engagement is different and I'll work with you to provide the information and level of detail you need. Some recent op session planning engagements have included:

Op Session Conceptual Design -- Looking at the railroad, your concept, and your givens and 'druthers around the op session (number of operators, session length, etc., etc.) to come up with a suggested list of trains, operator roles, session flow, train control and traffic generation methods. The product of this work is a few text pages along with schematics or flow charts as needed along with discussion to go over it all.

Op session materials development -- This is creating the instructions sheets, train lists, timetables, etc. to support the op session.This has included (in some cases) an overall layout handout, individual operator cards, yard sequenced instructions for yard, road and other crews, various forms, etc.

Ops concept analysis -- A look at your existing or planned op session to identify potential pitfalls and highlight interesting alternatives

Car card/ waybill creation -- Development of car cards and waybills to support the traffic flows appropriate for your layout.

What information do you need from a client to begin?
If you already have a layout or it's in the final planning stages, I'll need a drawing or computer rendering of the layout which includes staging, approximate length of sidings and yard tracks, etc. This need not be a work of art, but knowing the basic capacities of the various tracks is important. I'll ask you to look over these questions to help you focus your vision of what you'd like your op session to be. Then we start talking and it goes from there.
If you don't have a layout or a firm design yet, there's a lot we can do now to be sure that the eventual layout incorporates the operating features you desire. A short, focused ops consultation now may help immensely when it comes time for the final design (no matter who does it).
Except photo, all material Copyright 2004 by Byron Henderson

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