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Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Using JMRI for Operations

I thought this was an appropriate time to do a post on this topic as I have just recently done a tuneup on on my JMRI operations with some help from the JMRI users group and Dan in particular.  There were a few things that I needed to understand better to improve car movements. This extra knowledge will  enable me to help others also. I have been using JMRI since 2010 and it has worked well, I am just trying to make it run better in the prototypical way that I prefer. I also use TT & TO to run my operation sessions. When I started out I used car cards but found this to be a bit cumbersome and so I switched to JMRI operations which handles all my car movements. I never did get to the part of having to build all the card holders and such. Like most things in each system has a few points that may result in compromise.  Living  in the Edmonton area where we have 10-12 layouts doing operation sessions that use both methods there are always conversation about it. I also use JMRI Decoder Pro and can't imagine running without it - I will cover this topic in another short post. None of of my comments in this post are meant as a slag against how anyone else runs their operations.
The great thing about JMRI is that it is open source so you do not need to purchase it to get to play with any of its features. I use other open source programs like Libre Office, LibreCad, and  Gymp which are all open source programs that are free.
It does take a  bit of time to set it up very similar to creating all those car cards. The JMRI site gives you access to a very well written manual.  Now I know most of us are men and do not need to read manuals "hahaha"  but you do need to read this one, most likely a couple of times before you start. and a couple of times after that.
It does take a little maintenance but so does flipping all those car cards before each session. The purpose in using any computer program is to make repetitive tasks much easier and it does just that.
JMRI Operations generates manifests and switch lists for trains that are printed out on 1 or 2 pages, which is easier for new operators to use since they have a sheet that gives them instruction on what to do. There are even switch lists for the yard operators. They  do not have to handle a stack of cards which for a 30 car train is about an 1 1/4 " thick and for the yard ops this can be huge.  For example my yard is on the smaller side but still holds 70 cars. The other thing this does is tell operators exactly what track the cars are going to as you can see below in Melville. Below is a what a manifest for  through freight 715 looks like. Rivers is in east staging and Watrous is west staging. The one thing that JMRI operations doesn't do well is block cars so I use this manifest to block the cars before a session starts. This is done in staging.
The first paragraph is mostly instructions I have added. This way even new ops have this with them all the time they are on this train.
Rivers is really just showing what cars and power 715 is leaving staging with and what track their train will be on. In this case the train will be on track 6.
Next it shows places they will pass and that there is no work there.
Then we get to Melville and it shows what pulls and spots there are and what tracks the cars are going to or coming from. The yard master will usually sort the pull cars ahead of time to a track and if busy the yard master can have the train drop all the cars to track 2 to keep things moving and move them later.
Watrous shows what cars you have and what track you are going to in staging. All my trains depart and arrive on the same track in staging. Each track just has different virtual names. Upon arriving in staging the train is reversed on the loop and then stored on its track. It will leave Watrous next trip as 716 east bound.


Manifest for train (715) West Through Freight
Valid 6/21/1959 17:29 (Tuesday)
At Rivers get your clearance, train orders and manifest
Drop cars to Track 2 at Melville and pick up cars from Track 3 West.
Or as instructed by Yard Master
At Melville take on fuel. Steamers can also take on water.
Get your clearance and train orders 10min crew change

Scheduled work at Rivers, departure time 07:00
 [ ] Pick up CN    9030   F7A      from Track 6                   
 [ ] Pick up CN    9037   F7B      from Track 6                   
 [ ] Pull    CN    478548 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    LNE   352    Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    CN    500799 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    CN    485338 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    CN    483916 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    CN    544559 Boxcar       40'  L< Boxes>    from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    NYC   168265 Boxcar       40'  L<Supliment> from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    GM&O  75003  Flatcar      40'  L<Ties>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    GTW   591599 Boxcar       50'  L<Auto>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    CN    479667 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    CN    500899 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    CN    526844 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    CN    543790 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 6                   -> Melville         
 [ ] Pull    NYC   712675 Gondola      52'  E<mpty>      from Track 6                   -> Watrous          
 [ ] Pull    CN    78934  Caboose      36'               from Track 6                   -> Watrous          
Train departs Rivers Westbound with 15 cars, 792 feet, 830 tons

No work at Cana Jct
No work at Atwater
No work at Bangor Jct
No work at Waldron

Scheduled work at Melville, arrival time 07:30
 [ ] Spot    CN    478548 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 2                   
 [ ] Spot    LNE   352    Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 2                   
 [ ] Spot    CN    500799 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 2                   
 [ ] Spot    CN    485338 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 2                   
 [ ] Spot    CN    483916 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 2                   
 [ ] Spot    CN    544559 Boxcar       40'  L< Boxes>    to Track 2                   
 [ ] Spot    NYC   168265 Boxcar       40'  L<Supliment> to Track 2                   
 [ ] Spot    GM&O  75003  Flatcar      40'  L<Ties>      to Track 2                   
 [ ] Spot    GTW   591599 Boxcar       50'  L<Auto>      to Track 2                   Ensure End Door Is Facing Ramp
 [ ] Pull    CN    110473 Hopper       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 3 West              -> Watrous          
 [ ] Pull    CN    533503 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      from Track 3 West              -> Watrous          
 [ ] Pull    CN    143201 Gondola      52'  E<mpty>      from Track 3 West              -> Watrous          
 [ ] Spot    CN    479667 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 5 Mixed East        
 [ ] Spot    CN    500899 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 5 Mixed East        
 [ ] Spot    CN    526844 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 5 Mixed East        
 [ ] Spot    CN    543790 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 6                   
Train departs Melville Westbound with 5 cars, 354 feet, 372 tons

No work at Burmingham Jct

Scheduled work at Watrous, arrival time 21:12
Reverse Train Before parking
 [ ] Set out CN    9030   F7A      to Track 6                   
 [ ] Set out CN    9037   F7B      to Track 6                   
 [ ] Spot    CN    110473 Hopper       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 6                   
 [ ] Spot    CN    533503 Boxcar       40'  E<mpty>      to Track 6                   
 [ ] Spot    CN    143201 Gondola      52'  E<mpty>      to Track 6                   
 [ ] Spot    NYC   712675 Gondola      52'  E<mpty>      to Track 6                   
 [ ] Spot    CN    78934  Caboose      36'               to Track 6                   

Train terminates in Watrous

The manifest  makes it easier for ops that are new to operations as everything is explained. There is also a switch list for the yard that shows what cars they need to spot and pull from local industries. I also have a train lineup sheet that the yard master can look at which tells what trains are coming including the extras which are not on the time table. I don't normally have a dedicated dispatcher except for me so it works well on my layout. The biggest thing I am trying to achieve is a less stressful atmosphere for new people to operate in.

In another post we will look at the paper work I use during operation sessions.

















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