Paper Work and Aids
Ops sessions take a reasonable amount of paperwork to have trains run on time and make it seem more realistic. Here are some examples of the paperwork and aids that I use or have for operators. Some of the aids have come about from discussions with operators that have been here and and are new to the layout. Everything is always clear to the owner but will not always be clear to operators that are already maybe feeling a little anxious. The brown book at the bottom of the above photo is a CN rule book.
All trains must have a clearance form before they can move. This gives them permission to be on the line.
All extra trains will also receive orders and can't move without them. There are times there may be special instructions for scheduled trains also.
The paper work for the train crews such as manifests and switchlist for yard crews is covered in this post JMRI for Operations
This train lineup shows at a glance what trains are going to be running for the day. There is a different one for (Mon, Wed, Fri) (Tues, Thur, Sat) and another one for Sun. This is useful to the yard crew as they can see what work they may have coming and when they need to try and be clear of the main. It is also used by the staging yard operator so he also knows what trains will leave and direction. His job is to mostly assist newer operators in getting the right train on the line on time.
This sheet is also used as an aid in staging. Ops can find what track their train is on and the number of the lead locomotive number which is not always easy to see.
This is the map of the layout so ops understand where they are coming and going to.
This is the CN system map and the little highlighted area is where we are operating and then I can also point out the 1cm piece on this map that is actually modeled.
The man is in case you need a flagman for your train to watch a crossing or the back of your train. There are the 3 coloured flags. The red is put out if there is track damage or work crew is on the track. The blue ones are used if personnel are working on equipment on the track. One would be placed in front and one at the rear of the work. The green flags are if you have to apply brakes for spotted cars.There are places where the grade will allow the car to roll so you can put this through the coupler and apply the brakes. The tiny white and green flags are spares for Extra or Section trains.
These are my layout rules that I expect/hope people will follow. They are posted in 3 different places so operators know what my expectations are.
Here is my Bad Order Sheet that hangs on the facia in the yard. I encourage operators to fill it in for things like couplers missing springs, cars that are acting up, locomotive problems, track issues and any other gremlins that come along. I can then go back and fix the items and sign off on them. It has worked very well to date.
These are the engine cards that each operator is encouraged to take for the engines they are running. I have 4 different types of sound decoders. Most are Soundtraxx Tsunami, there are 4 ESU, 2 Tsunami2,1QSI and some of the above that have special or different configurations like ones that come from Rapido. Even I have trouble remembering what the differences are at times. One of my requests is that ops will make use of the sound, lights and braking. On the back side of these cards is some data on the engine for some light reading when you are waiting.
I also have 6 carpenter cloth aprons for operators to store things in as they move around. A lot of the guys also have their own now.
There are also clip boards for all the train crews if they like. This one is for the yard crew and hangs on the facia.
I am also moving to using Cell phones as throttles by having my old desktop connected to my Digitrax system through JMRI and then use the Engine Driver Throttle app on my Android devices. There is an app for Apple also called WI throttle. My system also has it own router that is not connected to my Wi-Fi network. This get you a few things. 1 it runs off my Wi-Fi network instead of the Digitrax radio. 2 you do not need to be plugged in to acquire engines. 3 it is easier to acquire an engine off the list on the screen, 4 you can easily access all 28 functions or more as they expand, 5 if the Wi-Fi is lost your or you receive a call your engine just comes to a stop, 6 is way more intuitive for new ops or ones that do not normally use Digitrax, 7 the battery in the phone is rechargeable by design, 8 almost everyone comes with a phone nowadays, 9 You can see the fast clock from JMRI on the screen of each phone, 10 you have a Digitrax system and get caught between to two versions there are less problems and lastly you can buy a cheep smart phone for less than the cost of a throttle or sending one away to be fixed. This phone does not need data or a carrier just the ability to get WIFI which they all can do. There is no reason why you could not also use a tablet either. As each person connects to the network the name of their throttle appears on the computer screen. and shows what engine number they are running.
Now this does not fix all the quirky things that happen even when you use a Digitrax throttle those are inherent to Digitrax and they have never been fixed. The new versions of either ap let you use the volume buttons on the phone to control speed. The next thing is if your computer goes to sleep then you loose the connection to the locomotives.