Operations is a Model Railroading game of running the layout like a real railroad. Each industry on the layout is assigned to send and recieve different goods, with the people who are running trains dropping off and picking up cars. Passenger trains stop at certain stations for certain periods to pick up and unload Passengers. Depending on the size of the layout and the railroad modelled, some have their movements goverend by a Dispatcher, while others are much more relaxed, with train movements essentially governed by the local crews themselves.
Some folks schedule their layouts with programs like Ship It! or JMRI, which automatically schedule each car like the Clerks of a real Railroad. Others use switch lists and manually assign cars to destinations. There are lots of ways to go about it, none of them wrong; many of them best suited for different kinds of layouts.
As a Club, one of the perks offered to our Members is the ability to come down and run trains at any time, but Operations tends to work best when whatever governing system knows where everyhting is. With a roster of ~400 cars in Transition Era and ~275 in Modern, manually scheduling destinations is almost too much, while Computer operated car routing systems are too structured, and we'd spend an equal or longer amount of time trying to find where cars are and put them where the computer thinks they are.
Operations on the NWR
Beginning in 2019, NWR members Tom Walker and Tom Carroll began working on a new kind of Operating System based on the premise used by Dan Hinel. Rather than a Car Card System, the NWR is adopting a Work Order System. Rather than a card for each car determing the destinations for that particular car, each Yard has a collection of Scenario Cards specific to some or all of the industries in a town or route served by a Local originating from that yard. These Scenario Cards specify what types of cars and in what quantity are to go to certain industries. Like in a normal Operating System, the Yardmaster is responsible for making up the Local to serve those industries using cars available to him in the Yard, but unlike a traditional system the Yardmaster is not bholden to a specific car number, instead able to choose any car in the yard provided it satisfies the requirement of the Work Order.
So, for example Naptown Yard may have a Scenario Card for
1 Boxcar, Naptown Glove
2 Boxcars, Van Kamp Hardware
2 Refrigerator Cars, RJ Frost Storage
2 Boxcars, 1 Hopper, Ball Glass.
The Naptown Yardmaster builds a train containing 5 Boxcars, 2 Refrigerator Cars, and an open Hopper for the engineer to take to West Naptown, who then spots the right number of cars at each industry and picks up any cars ready to go, as specifed by a previous scenario card up to his maximum train length. But unlike a traditional Operating system, of those 5 boxcars in his train, it doesnt matter which one goes to Naptown Glove, so long as Naptown Glove gets 1.
Because we are a Club of varied interests, skill sets, and time, we have a few goals we hope to achieve with our Operating System that may fall outside of normal perview. For 1, we are trying to make sure that each session can be as long or as short as we want to. Each Scenario card is only a couple of industries and we generally are trying to limit most trains to 8 cars. That way, someone isn't spending all day trying to work a single scenario if they don't want to. Most Scenarios are about 15-20 minutes from start to finish. And, since each scenario is derived from what a Yard has available, we hope to be able to run an operating session with as few as 3 or as many as 15 people] depending on turnout for the day.