Thursday, July 7, 2011

Arteries in Place, Time to Get the Blood Flowing...

So, now that the primary infrastructure of the Western Maryland Western Lines layout is in place, and the ceremonial last spike and first trains have been dispensed with, it's time to get down to the business of operating a model railroad.

This means the uproariously fun activities of inventorying the rolling stock, updating the car cards (these are actual cards that represent each and every piece of rolling stock on the layout) and preparing the multitude of waybills for each car.
Car cards and waybills begin to make sense of the mayhem.

I use a simplified 4-cycle waybill in my operations, wherein each car card is matched to a slip of paper that dictates four different destinations for the freight car in question.  The waybill slip is turned at each destination, revealing where it will be headed next.  Some of them are easy, such as some of the coal hopper fleet.  When loaded, they head east, when empty they head west back to the mines in the mountains.

One of the challenges of organizing the operations on my layout is to keep the "bridge" traffic as interesting as the on-line and local stuff.  The Western Maryland earned it's bread hauling coal, but it was the through traffic as part of the famed "Alphabet Route" that provided much of the butter.  At the west end, trains came to the WM from both the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie and the Norfolk and Western at Connellsville, while to the east, priority freight arrived from New England and the northeast via the Reading at Lurgan, and from the WM's own terminal at Port Covington in Baltimore.

On the real WM, Hagerstown was the nexus of the eastern routes, while Ridgeley Yard near Cumberland worked the traffic coming and going from the west.  Between the two yards lay the Cumberland Extension, a largely unpopulated route designed to little more than shuttle trains back and forth with virtually no on-line traffic along the way.

Coal traffic, meanwhile, was concentrated at Knobmount Yard, just south of Ridgeley, where coal drags from both the Thomas Sub and the Connellsville "New Line" came together to be weighed, marshalled and otherwise readied for distribution to the WM's many coal-consuming customers.

On the WMRY Western Lines, I had to pick and choose my operations focal points carefully.  Initially, my primary yard was to be Hagerstown.  This was driven by the relative importance of this yard compared to Ridgeley, as well as the desire to model the massive engine terminal there.  But I really needed to also account for the coal traffic at the west end, since I clearly don't have room to model both Hagerstown AND Knobmount.  So I compromised, building the large yard and engine terminal in the mold of Hagerstown, but naming it Ridgeley to be more reflective of the overall traffic flow.

A side benefit of this is the geographic proximity of Ridgeley Yard to Cumberland is a reasonable facsimile of reality on the layout.

Having spent the last few evenings riffling through the paperwork, the overall operations scheme of the layout is starting to come into focus.  I'm planning a little shake down session in a couple of weeks, so I expect to have a bit more to report once that's under my belt.

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