t all started with a yawn.
A fella was running coal on my Tuscarora a year back. To make interference for the local, the computer would come up with a random list of coal runs to make (such as make three loaded laps one way, two empties the other, run the engine light to the far end, run three more laps…). When I asked if he was okay, he told me he was bored. Everyone else on the railroad was working hard and pondering how to do their jobs. He was just chauffeuring coal.
To fix this, I had a brainstorm. Now the computer generates a tally sheet. In a nutshell, there are three mines to the west and three destinations to the east. Each of the mines produce three grades of coal (pea, egg, and lump). Each of the destinations produces freed-up hopper cuts. The game is as follows: you can build coal trains made up off all the grades in one mine, or one grade across all three mines. Sorta a three-of-a-kind, three-different sort of game. You can take three trains maximum but you must have enough empty hopper strings at the mine to carry those loads. And to get empty hopper cars, if you are in the eastern terminus, you can take all the empties from a single location, up to three. Each of these trains makes a “lap” of the layout. The tally sheet looks like this…
The opening move above would probably be to pick up one string of pea grade from each mine (along with a MT cut from each) and roll east. Cross off the ones you use.
It worked really well – we use it for both the Pennsy version and the Midlands version of my railroad.
So now I’m thinking of how to assign jobs. Originally my railroad ran with four jobs (dispatcher, interlocker, scheduled trains, coal trains). With six people at the last session, it looks like things are growing. For that, we’ve added four assistant/training jobs (clerk, station operator, conductor and mineral freight agent (who works the aforementioned tally sheet)). Now all jobs can be run with one or two people, depending on who shows.
So I’ve been thinking – right now, we just sit at the layout and pick sides as it were. I’m wondering if there is some sort of “game” I can create we can play the week prior to the session, one involving seniority, an extra board and bidding for jobs. I walk all over downtown on my errands and it’s a miracle nobody has run me over in a crosswalk while I ponder, ponder, ponder. I haven’t figured out a method yet, something where you get seniority points for every session you attend, but burn them if you are bidding for jobs. In the end, everyone not bidding on jobs goes onto the extra board (where maybe I’ll let them pick based on their current seniority points, perhaps).
I’ve read of one method in Paul Mallery’s Operation Handbook for model Railroads and it’s not quite what I want.
I guess, at this point, a seniority bidding system is like art; I don’t know what it is but I’ll know it when I see it.
Any ideas out there? Post them in the Facebook comments.