Operations SIG Operations PRIMER (FAQ)
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Question 1: I've read a great deal on the merits
and importance of including 'hidden staging' in a model railroad layout.
I plan to add this concept which sounds most useful in creating that
'beyond the basement' feeling.
What I haven't been able to discern is just how one schedules trains
to exit to and return from staging. Do you collect a number of cars via
their waybill assignment and then drag that consist off to hidden staging
with some engine from the enginehouse?
I'm unsure how the hidden staging area delays the re-entrance of
a car or an entire train in the same way a car is delayed on a siding for
loading or unloading via the card bins:
1) Is it also a carcard scenario with card bins on the staging fascia
once the train arrives in the hidden staging area?
2) Does it involve an entire train, or individual cars reentering?
3) Do the engines also assume a delay, or do you simply attach the
engine to the next train about to reenter the layout? I ask because the
entire train enters staging as a unit.
4) Would a train or its cars stay in staging until the next operating
session in most or all cases?
Answer 1: There are variations, but think about it this way: you are
modeling the XYZ railroad which runs from A (east) to Z (west). However
your basement is only big enough to model the part from H to P. So east
staging will represent all the stations from A through G, and west staging
will represent all the stations from Q through Z.
Let's say that H is a division point yard. So trains from the east come
out of staging (arriving from A) with an 'H block' of cars on the headend
which are destined for stations H through P, and a 'Q block' of cars on
the rear which stay on the train. The train might or might not change
engines, but it sets out the H-P cars and picks up any cars
in the yard destined for Q-Z. It departs and runs to west staging
'en route to Z.' Of course similar trains come from Z, set out
and pick up on the layout, and go on to A.
The staging yard can be a set of dead-end tracks, but since the
trains will eventually need to come back it could also be in the form of a
reversing loop; or 'west' staging and 'east' staging could
be the two ends of the same hidden double-ended yard so that a train could
run A-Z-A-Z repeatedly. This could be handy for loaded coal trains in one
direction and empties in the other, for example.
Individual carcards/waybills will indicate destinations, or
interchanges to connecting lines, at A-Z. Cars on the modeled part of the
railroad are handled with waybill boxes at each station, etc. For the
off-layout destinations, the entire train terminates on a track in the
staging yard and its cards/waybills are all put in one pocket corresponding
to the track, or sometimes they are just hung from a hook if held together
by a clip. Before the train returns (later in this session, or not until
next session) the waybills will have to be turned to their next position.
Now the train may need to be reblocked so that the (now) H-P cars are on
the head end and the Q-Z cars behind, for example. If the reblocking (or
swapping of cars to and from storage drawers) is to take place during the
session, that staging area needs to be accessible without interfering with
operations. Some layouts have a regular operator (the 'mole') who does
nothing but stay in the hidden staging area and make 'new' trains. They
swear this is just as interesting a job as the regular operators if you're
into that sort of thing, since you get to surprise the rest of the crew
with what appears. The mole may also change engines to perpetuate the
idea that no one has seen this train before.
Staging is called staging because the modeled part of the railroad
has been likened to the actors the audience sees on the open theater
stage. They appear from the 'rest of the world' when they
'enter stage left,' and disappear when they 'exit stage right.'
Q2: Is the four box scenario used in staging:
Train 1 arrives in staging. Its carcards/waybills are placed [as
one group] in the ARRIVE bin.
Train 2 arrives in staging.
Train 1 carcards/waybills now move to the HOLD bin.
Train 3 arrives in staging.
Train 1 carcards/waybills now move to the UNLOAD/LOAD bin.
Train 4 arrives in staging.
Train 1 carcards/waybills now move to the PICK UP bin.
Train 5 arrives in staging.
Train 1 is sent out of staging and back onto the visible layout.
That's five trains before one moves out of staging, four trains
if you use one less pocket in the bin rotation. Presumably you have another
group of trains running along the rails and doing their thing.
A2: Oops, no, staging is like a switching yard, there would be
one pocket or hook) for each track in staging. (Classification yards usually
have a pocket for each track and one moves the cards to the proper pocket in
parallel with switching the cars.) The 'industry delay' concept isn't used
for staging. So there is no particular relationship between when trains
arrive and when they depart, except of course there have to
be enough tracks empty for the arrivals. This often dictates the sequence
of operations on the railroad, but card pockets aren't any limitation.
Q3: What's a typical or normal number of
operating trains per lineal foot of track?
A3: I don't know of any particular relationship between feet of
track and number of trains, although on single track there pretty much needs
to be at least one more passing siding than the number of trains moving at
Q4: Let's assume Train 6 is moving along making
dropoffs and pickups. Some of the pickups have waybills that direct that
particular car to staging. When Train 6 completes its assigned duties it
returns to the yard with two waybills destined for staging. Train 7 is also
on its way back to the yard and it has three waybills for staging. Train 8
is coming in with one waybill destined for staging.
So I gather the yardmaster classifies these six cars for staging.
He/she assigns an engine to this staging consist and the train disappears
from the visible layout and arrives in staging as Train 1.
How do I as layout owner calculate the number of waybills needed that
call for staging as one of the movements so as to be sure that I create
enough demand in the yard to warrant a mole to be needed? And does the
mole combine consists if they arrive in varying sizes, or does the mole
always treat each arriving train as a separate entity regardless of how
large or small the consist happens to be?
A4: Your example is ok with the yardmaster deciding to run a
train to staging when he accumulates a worthwhile number of cars headed
that way. More often, though, the railroad has a schedule of (more or less)
regular trains that are planned to run each day at about the same time,
hopefully after the local switch trains have returned with their connecting
cars. They might originate at this yard (as in your example) or they might
come from the other end of the railroad (maybe the other staging yard),
possibly drop off some cars for 'tomorrow's' locals, and pick up today's
cars headed for staging.
Now, how may waybills? One approach suggests that since each waybill
'side' comes up every 4th session, and presumably staging 'turns over'
once per session, you can have up to 4 waybill 'sides' in circulation
for each carlength of track in staging. At industries, if cars average
staying at industries for two sessions, you can have (up to) two waybill
'sides' in circulation for each industry track spot in addition to the
staging bills. And if there are cars en route at the end of a session
(for example, sitting in the classification yard), there can be 4 times
that number of waybill sides too (they would have destinations in
proportion to the staging/industry mix above). Naturally the number of
carcards and cars on the layout is 1/4 of the above total, not counting
the cars swapped out of storage drawers.
There's no hard and fast rule, but I imagine that most often a train
into staging is turned back as about the same size and usually with all
of the exact same cars. The waybills would have been turned and probably
the blocking adjusted reflecting the new set of destinations. However,
especially if there is an active 'mole' during a session, he might
decide to shorten extra-long trains or add to shorties. It's entirely
optional, the criterion being what helps the visible railroad to function
best. Always remember, the concept is that the cars that came into staging
are on their way to places all over the country, so they won't be seen
again for several days if at all ever. If you think you are seeing a
similar car later on, it's probably only a coincidence (but it's good to
minimize the times this is noticeable, which is part of the mole's job).
Page updated: 2006 January 21