Operating Sessions

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Section Hand
A lot of discussions center on Operating Sessions and exactly how the owner of layouts expects his session(s) to operate. If you have Operating Sessions on your layout, does your layout use Car Cards, Waybills, a Dispatcher, a computer generated system or car tabs to name a few ways of operating.

If you don't have Operating Sessions on your layout, but operated on other layouts, what method did you use when visiting another layout?

Did you enjoy being part of an Operating Session and what was your most memorable Session?



D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
When I do op sessions on the D&J Railroad, I use Way Bills for each car that will be moved. Groups of cars, i.e. coal cars or tankers will have all car numbers on one way bill if they are all staying together. When the car arrives at its destination a new way bill is created for the cars next move, either as an empty or as a new load.
I have 14 industries on the layout and setting up an op session typically takes a couple days to put cars in place, write up way bills and assign the right train that will move it depending on which direction the siding is oriented.
I'll typically start an op session with just free running until all the operators arrive then I start making up train crews, i.e. engineer and brakeman then assigning trains to each crew. As the layout fills the 2,000 square foot basement, it takes the crews about 2 hours to complete their assignments and return their train to the division Balfour yard. After that, its free running again until they can't walk anymore.


Some guys will come just to watch the operations while others really get into switching the industries. I have one section where three industries are in one area but the train crew drops off and picks up cuts of cars from a holding track. From there a local switcher is assigned to spot the cars at the specific industries.

Ops 5.jpg
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Active Member
Operating has (at least) two facets: train control and car control.

For car control, our club layout uses the classic Car Card + Waybill system for car movements, with some tweaks to how we populate and control the system but that's behind the scenes during setup and not seen by operators during the session although it has the effect of getting very realistic traffic and train consists.

Train control (dispatching) is done with a form of track warrant forms on one line, and the other line will eventually be CTC signalled, although currently that is in the construction and implementation phase and we're using informal verbal instructions to move on the piece that is currently built.

My home layout doesn't exist yet, but will also use CC/WB for car movements, and probably timetable operation with informal "train orders" for train movements.

Two other home layouts I've operated on also use CC/WB for car movement and verbal train movement authority from a dispatcher.

Another local modeler uses switch lists (i think manually prepared before hand) but the layout only handles one train at a time, so no dispatching of any kind. Old school DC block wiring. Essentially a large single loop with a LOT of industrial switching. "Operating sessions" are basically switching excercises for one crew.

Another friend who just has one large industry (paper mill) modeled so far prepares a series of switchlists in advance when he has a group of people over, so a few different crews can run the mill switcher. This layout will be expanded yet into the rest of the room, and I'm not what his operations will look like at that point.
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