Operating a layout goes hand in hand with planning a layout in my mind. Every layout has some kind of operation plan built in, be it the plan to run trains that the owner wants to just see run through scenery, switch industries, TT/TO, and any combination there of and more. Planning for operating a layout comes along with the layout design because one must make sure there is room on the layout for the planned trains, and adjust either the layout or the operating plan accordingly during the design and construction phase.
The layout we’re working on really isn’t big enough to run much true TT/TO. Some might argue that with me, and while I can run TT/TO, my personal preference is more laid-back operation with a 1:1 clock, time to switch, and time to get involved in the paperwork of the railroad, as that’s part of the model. To that end, I’m a huge fan of lots of the information that Tony Koester and Tony Thompson have shared in the model railroad press and on blogs about realistic waybills. The research to fill those kinds of waybills out is part of my personal fun.
I know that Tony Thompson started out putting stickers with the car information on the clear envelopes (baseball card protectors) that he uses for holding the waybills. I’ve thought about doing that same thing, but as the more realistic waybill systems have progressed, larger plastic pockets have been located and written about, and the advent of the ability to have a yardmaster re-route an empty car to a waiting shipper on the layout ideated of a car coming and going simply with a 4 cycle waybill system has emerged. Tony Koester covered how that kind of system works in a video for the Model Railroader Video Plus site when discussing their Winston Salem Southbound project layout and operating it.
The gist of the discussion is that an empty car is located by the yardmaster, and that person has a list of loads ready for shipping at online industries. The yardmaster can then match an empty car moving through their yard and re-route it to that industry by slipping a new waybill into a pocket that is shorter than the original waybills, covering the routing information. The one catch there has been that because the waybills typically include the shipping railroad information at the top, the shipping railroad information doesn’t change, and that’s just ignored.
In developing my own waybills, I’ve chosen, prototypical or not, to shuffle some of the information on the waybills around. I’ve moved the car information to the top of the waybill, allowing allowing for the shipping railroad and shipment information to be lower. This means that when the yardmaster on our layout needs to reroute an empty car for loading, the new waybills can all read ‘Norfolk & Western’, have the correct railroad number (if I leave that on the waybills, I’m still hunting for an ARA listing to see if those were used before the AAR accounting rules).
The resulting waybills fit nicely in the same plastic protectors that are now common to see on layouts using the more prototypical waybill system.
Now I have the ability to start creating waybills and routing for cars that I am building while waiting out the Winter cold for time to get back to the garage and layout building.