On Sheet – It’s your railroad

On Sheet – It’s your railroad

n last week’s On Sheet blog, I went after the misuse of timetables (you can read it HERE). And it struck a bit of a nerve with some people. Discussed it online (at length) and when I got to the club, it came up a few more times.

In my defense, I was just musing about the use (and misuse) of timetables. Sure, they are necessary (an evil?) in Time Table and Train Orders. It’s the backbone of how the entire thing works. If you’ve run TT&TO, then you know about holding in a siding, orders in one hand, timetable in the other, trying to figure out of you are safe to continue (it’s even more fun when you can’t see enough of the layout to peek ahead).

But really, most of us run warrants or some sort of loose sequencing (even mother-may-I). Really, without a solid control method, the assumption is that you are running on full radio permission and imaginary signalling. In fact, I don’t think too many owners give it much of a thought – they have friends over and operate the layout and have fun.

So I thought about it.

Yes, it might not be as “purist” as I’d like to have timetables floating about when everyone is just running trains. But something that’s been said to me when I fussed and tussled with my own operations is “it’s your railroad”.

And that’s the thing – if you want to put a timetable up on your wall yet just call out positions and make meets on the fly, go right ahead. And if you want to write up instructions that operators must rigidly follow (for La Mesa club, you are responsible to know the 100+ page rulebook), well, it’s your railroad, too. Whether you build it in your garage or convince a club to follow your lead, whatever method you control your trains (via cameras, geostationary satellites, legal agreements or tarot cards), it’s – yes – YOUR RAILROAD.

Hey, we did ops for two years on the Tuscarora with pseudo-TT&TO and it was my railroad. And then, while thinking of a clinic I had to give on TT&TO, I realized what I was doing wrong and changed it to a more rigid form of TT&TO (not using a simple interlocking tower as a system-wide CTC board) and now it was my newer railroad.

I think the best example of this was when I ran on the Komar’s West Virginia Northern, an outstanding railroad. Originally it had a dispatcher (always Gail) and it was her railroad. But then they changed it, eliminating the dispatcher all together and installing signals safeguarding each single track mainline. As you approach a signal, you push a button and claim that section before entering – you’d get a green and everyone else would get red. As a long-time dispatcher, I sorta sniffed at this – it’s their railroad. But the more I ran on it, the more I liked it. Sure, it isn’t quite the way I’d do it (but then again, it’s nice that if I’m going to drive two long and dangerous hours to get there, I get to run trains). Yes, it’s their railroad, and I really love running on it.

So that’s my clarification on last week. Sure, I might point out and even question things that people do in ops. I might go elitist in my simulations, a real Mr-Know-It-All. But really, given the sizes, complexities, preferences, operator abilities and overall goals, it always comes down to one thing.

You know what it is.