Senior Citizen Operation

Senior Citizen Operation
by Jim Harrison

I have been interested in operation ever since reading Frank Ellisonís article in the early forties.  Since then, I have worked nine different jobs on the NYC railroad.  Working also as an RPO clerk increased my interest.


We have operated on my JT&MB railroad for over thirty years.  I have tried all the usual methods that I have read about or seen on other model railroads.  I have a 25' by 25' layout with point to point operation and a 35' point to point branch line.  We also have three interchange points.


I have tried writing out train orders.  For a while, we also tried 3x5 index cards, moving paper clips for the destination.  For the last twenty years, we have used car cards with waybills.  I still like this method best but in the last year or so we have run into problems.  Lately we found that we had a large number of misplaced cards.  After an operating session we usually discuss any problems or ideas to improve future sessions.  We decided that most of this was caused by age.  Most of our group has been together for over thirty years and our eyesight has deteriorated till we had trouble reading car numbers.  I decided to look for a different method.


George Allenís method of using tacks and the recent use of different colored stickers sounded like they would work but I didnít like the look of cars with holes in the roofs or spots on top of them.  So I worked up a variation of these methods.  I bought a supply of different colored 3x5 index cards.  I decided on a different color card for each type of car, white for a boxcar, blue for a hopper, green for tank cars, and so on.  I then assigned a different color sticker for each town and a number for each industry or destination.  This is the same method as the tack and sticker ideas use except for the cards.  I was able to use the pockets at each town and industry that we had used for the old car cards and waybills.  I also made a pocket at each yard for each type of car, box, gondola, etc.


The yardmaster picks from the front of each pocket and assigns a card for each car in the yard.  He then makes up trains.  To initially get the system started, I placed a card for each car type used by an industry at all the industries on the railroad.  We had some industries that use more than one car of the same type each day.  As an example, we have two mines that load five cars each day.  I made some cards with a number in the corner, in this case a five, so that the yardmaster could make up a train of ten cars for the branch line using only two cards.  I put a pocket on each card just like the old card and waybill system and made up some waybills as illustrated.


We can use both sides of this waybill.  When all four sides have been used, we pull the waybill and treat as an MTY card.  If you donít want to go to the trouble of making pockets, you can use one sticker on the corner of the card and just turn the card over and use the blank back of the card for the car picked up and return the car to the yard where a new card will be assigned.


I keep a supply of cards at each mine for outgoing cars to different destinations and a different number of cars so that each dayís total cars out equals five, the same amount of inbound cars.  For example, three cars to D.J. Powerplant and two cars to Jamestown Coal Dock.


This method seems like it will work and save a lot of old tired eyes from having to read car numbers.  I would like to hear from anyone who tries this method to see how it works for you.  It takes a little time to set up, but  it then seems to work with little maintenance.