lot of layout owners, when they start setting up for ops, build a timetable. Sure, it’s fun since now all those trains have numbers, go places, do things.
But is it necessary?
Yes, a timetable can allow you to make sure your flow works, that there are enough sidings for trains to meet, do work and whatnot. You can build sequential operations out of a timetable. And, of course, you can hang it on the wall and smile at it.
But if you are running your railroad under warrants, CTC (centralized traffic control, i.e. with signals) or mother-may-I (verbal orders to crews to proceed, i.e. make-believe signals) then a timetable really isn’t necessary. Think about it – if the railroad has finally moved beyond TT&TO (time table & train order, where exact positioning of trains and seniority of movements determine an ability to advance) then there is no real need for a timetable. With warrants and CTC, the dispatcher gains flow over the railroad. He can move trains as he sees fit, boosting them ahead if the track is clear. A railroad might have “timetable things” in their corporate offices to determine their lineups, capacities and such, but crews are not religiously following them. They are looking at their warrants or signals to determine if they will proceed.
I run on a number of lines that have timetables while under mother-may-I or CTC. The CTC pike I really enjoy actually forces you to hold trains if they are running ahead. I always hate having to do that – a crew is sitting on a siding and can see several stations up the empty line and the signals are all stubbornly red. All I can do is tell them to go to beans. The owner gets cross with me if I move trains more than an hour before their posted schedule.
Now, an aside here – passenger trains (by their nature and the fact that people will be on platforms at specific times for specific trains) always follow timetables. On our Lehigh, Monongahela & Ohio (club layout), we have timetables for the passenger runs and start times for everything else. If you are in a freight train, a turn, a peddler or an extra, you go at your start time and run as far as your warrants permit. Of course, the start times are so every freight doesn’t pour out of staging when the clock goes hot. It permits spacing. And guys can hang around drinking a coke with an eye to the fast clock, waiting for highball time.
Hey, as they all say, it’s your railroad and you can run it however you like. But I’m just saying that most railroads are not trying to preserve their legacy timetables with mile long freight trains holding in sidings with shiny rails before them.