My interest in scale railroads has changed throughout my involvement in the hobby and twenty-five years or so ago I started down the operations path. At this time I realized I had more fun switching on collection of spurs and sidings I literally set up on a bookshelf in my bedroom than I did the two and three mainline railroads on a 4×8 sheet (N scale) and a larger 12 x 16 (HO scale) BN layout I helped a friend design and construct.

Visitors to the forthcoming B&SR layout will have the opportunity to operate the line, with accommodations for those who like switching and those who like mainline running. At the end of September, the B&SR typically ran three passenger trains in both directions, as the summer campers headed home. In combination with the occasional freight-only runs, this will, hopefully, satisfy those that like watching the ties flash by under the drivers.

Daily yard switching, preparations for the next day’s deliveries and local runs will provide an ample fix for the switch junkies (the ops I enjoy most). I do not have plans for switch list use, instead allowing the engineer and conductor to decide what cargo, as identified by the day’s waybills, will be loaded onto available cars. Per historical information, a set number of waybills will be placed at every location before each session. Each waybill, as envisioned, will include the shippers information, freight, destination and a bulk, weight and load time identifier. These factors will dictate how much cargo can be loaded onto any given car and how long it will take to on-load and off-load.

I am considering color coding the destination an the identifiers these to make them stand out visually, but may have to forgo this in favor of another differentiation for operators with some form of color blindness (for those engineers out there, ask me about working with a color blind stress analyst some time). Two of these identifiers will be the freight weight and bulk numbers, possibly surrounded or framed by a symbol used in determining what type of car or cars the cargo may be loaded on. A coal load would get one symbol restricting its transfer to a flat fitted with gondola sides, whereas a load of raw cotton would be placed in a boxcar. The two numbers mentioned would dictate how much of that load could be transported in the selected car. Using cotton as an example, a 10 ton boxcar would likely be filled by volume before reaching the weight capacity of the unit.

Rather than an operator having to add the numbers upon the spot, which was considered, I have mostly settled on using a custom abacus. I learned to use these in grade school and thought the were the greatest thing (back then). I’m a bit excited about putting that knowledge to use. Positioned at every location where freight is loaded and unloaded, the abacus would have two rods with multiple beads, with one designated for weight, the other for bulk. The base or frame of the calculator will have markings for 10T and 15T cars. As an operator selects waybills from the day’s bin, they move the appropriate number of beads on each rod, and when either row reaches the capacity of the selected car, the operator places all of the waybills in that car’s waybill sleeve and the abacus is reset for the next car.

I believe this will be easier than handing out calculators and save on paper slips were hand calculations to be performed, though I am curious to hear your thoughts. Would you like to operate on a line that requires a bit more effort than picking up a car with a predefined destination?

Historical information has shown that it took days for some freight to be delivered to its final destination. Though I have not dug in deeply yet, I believe the data will show that the delays are due to transfer time as well as time for the receiver to pay any outstanding freight and transport costs before the railroad delivered the product. This offers myself and the operators the flexibility to complete deliveries on everything except express items. I will need to decide if I want all waybills delivered and off the layout before I reset the calendar in my four to five week operating period. It seems to make sense to me at this time.