Large Scale Central

Post-TrainOps layout work

As threatened, I’ve moved the western switch into Williamsport past the step over. This will allow a station spur, and maybe another behind Goodson’s.

I’ve also fixed the two switch throws that were giving people trouble, and have the two flats in the shop to figure out why they kept derailing.

I had also talked to Stan about several ideas for making the layout better. One idea was to move the switch that leads down to Majestic further away from the viaduct, to lessen the grade. If I put it here before the bridge, its easily accessible, and the grade will be better.

Have you ever posted up a entire track plan or aerial view that shows the entire layout?

Was it truly to lessen the grade or was it old wisdom speaking in tongues suggesting movement further from the hallowed ground of the gulch ?


Wow Bob, you really move quickly! And nice work, I can now appreciate how all those changes will help.

On our side of things, we’ve begun discussing how our layout could be adapted for ops by adding a yard at one end, etc. And I’ve started looking at the various industries and load / car types involved. Small steps, and I hope to get something running in a decade year or two. :crazy_face:

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Wow, Cliff. Did Linda convince you she needed a wool shed siding in her new craft room? Not keeping score, but that’s a win-win!

If memory serves correctly that would add a shortline railroad with switch backs to surmount the grade down hill. Good spot to utilize that nice Shay you now have. I can see it now with a 3 track yard just inside the craft room. The ladies will want you running trains while they’re there. :innocent: :sunglasses: :wink:

At TrainOps we gor a late start due to problems with one leg of our network for our handhelds.

We have a RS485 network around the layout. Years ago we greatly exceeded the max length of RS485 and to fix the issues we developed a repeator that repeats the signal but not the noise.

While we have had elecronics fail before this was the first time we had an actual segment fail due to 12 volt DC power showing up on one of the network wires. The solution for the ops session was to use wireless throttles when going through that segment of the layout.

Post session I went to work to discover the issue.

This segment is one of our longer ones with 18 plugin locations. Most of this segment has not been touched in over 14 years.

I found that in 6 of the boxes there was what looked like past insect nests covering the solder pins.

For the most part they were dry and not yet causing a problem. However in one box it was very wet and causing a direct short,

Turns out that Friday evening was our watering day and after we had shut down the layout we turned on a sprinkler that in addition to watering the garden also watered that network box. Normally this would not have caused any problems because it would have dried out quickly but with the high humidity and sponge like dirt in the box, it maintained the moisture and caused the short,

Since TrainOps all the boxes in this segment have been cleaned out which hopefully will put the segment back in service for another 14 years.


I’d say that 14 years MTBF for electronics mounted outdoors is pretty darn good. Have you never had to replace any of the sockets due to corrosion. I would think they would be the weakest link.

It was super cool to finally understand the logic behind an ops session this last weekend, Al’s and Bob’s being “switch lists” and Stan’s being “car cards.” Once I got past the mystery hump, all made perfect sense. But wow, what a challenging “game”!

Seems like car cards and switch lists are the way to go, but I was curious if there are other equally straightforward and suitable methods for a garden rr. But out of curiosity, I was looking for a synopsis of types of ops sessions, and ran across this. It has a nice bibliography as well.

My S, MD & SIL are all addicted to physical board games, and they might enjoy an ops session from that point of view.

It would be fun if there were unintended occasional oddities to be interjected… e.g., dead cow on track, washout, telegraph blackout, tunnel fire, emergency hauling of the fire department to a fire, picnic train for all the townsfolk (on flats), and so on. All of these happened on the V&T, so a special event list for others would vary. But it might, in theory, add to the ops session “game”.

Of course, Al and Stan and Bob will have connected their layouts by the time I make mine semi functional, but I’m inspired by them, and am glad for it.

The simplest method of Ops that I know was taught by Ric Golding at E.C.L.S.T.S many moons ago. The randomness is provided by regular dice. You decide what number is what type of car, for example 1 would be a Flat Car and 6 is always a Box Car, Assign all the rest. Use the dice to make up your train, as many cars as you wish. Out on the railroad you exchange for like cars. If a siding has a boxcar, and you have one in your train, then swap them.

I would probably get Car Card operations better if I had a better understanding of Stan’s layout. The division points were not clear to me so I wasn’t sure if I should have dropped any of our cars along the way. As it turned out, the yardmaster at Bat House was happy to take them and forward them on. He gave us one lone car to take up the hill to Emma!


You bet, that’s a very understandable method Jon, simple and elegant.

Seems like you had the opposite experience and we, who were sent all the way up the layout. I agree, it took a while to understand that if (and only if) we could pick up a car that was heading our way, we should do so. And if we could set a car on a junction more suitable for its destination, we could.

Ultimately, it was easier than that. We were kinda maxed out for our loco at the beginning, and could only do so much, up to Bat ? Yard where we peeled off half. But the grade further up to Solitude didn’t allow us to pick up any more cars.

Back to the “game” point, here’s some stupid and crazy ideas.

Neat idea for the “game”-I would print some cards up and just have a deck to draw from…I would probably add a few “nothing out of the ordinary happens” cards… There are a number of sites that do some custom printing and they turn out much better than I could ever do.

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Made me laugh!
I was thinking about Herself exclaiming “WELL IT’S ABOUT TIME YOU GOT HERE! The ladies and I have been waiting.”

Ops can be as simple or as complicated as you want…

I’m a switch list kind of operator just because that’s what I’m used to but I’ve used car cards. Car cards take up time to develop but once you have them it’s a pretty self rotating thing.

I’d start by listing all your spur tracks and the types of cars you have and go from there. In fact, I bet your mine area would be a fun little mini ops session. There’s what 2 tracks servicing your mine Cliff? Each track could be a different “grade” of product.

There’s a lot of people that are scared by ops and they never want to try because they think it’s this confusing and complicated thing. Sure it can be but it doesn’t have to be.

Ops can be broken down into two major topics.

  1. Train authority movement ( this is probably the most complicated and thing that turns people off). Terms like TT&TO, TWC, CTC, DTC, Yard Limits are things related to "what authority does a train have to move from X to Z.

  2. Car movement. Where and why do cars go from point A-B. Car cards, switch lists, dice games, etc all fall under this.

Typically you don’t have to do number 1 to do number 2.

Start with just some simple moves of cars from one place to the next. But move them with a purpose. Why did the mine all of the sudden need 2 more cars for X? Well because the mine produced more of X product today. Then tomorrow they moved Y product, etc.

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Great explanation Craig, thanks.

Truth be told, Linda’s yarn store is just inside the patio door (near the layout), and she sometimes has me run a train during her monthly yarn tour open house.

It does get the ladies’ attention. And inevitably, their husbands have a Lionel set in the attic which they have to talk about. So I head for the shed…

I’m at the other end of the spectrum, starting to build a layout that I want to operate (and do roundy round :grin:) but don’t know much about what to do ‘right’.

At this stage I’m throwing sidings into wherever they seem to fit, sometime with a purpose, mostly not.

Really good to see how you guys are doing it, most online stuff seems to be indoor HO based that needs a bit of translation.


I’m right there with you, Neil, at that end of the spectrum. But I’m feelin the glow of inspiration, after visiting three wonderful layouts. And maybe I’ll do something about it, who knows. :grinning:

And heck, your layout could be utterly awesome for operations, as-is.

Our family also plays boardgames. We enjoy “plaver vs. the environment” games, where we have to cooperate to beat the game (Ask your family about “Pandemic” to get a feel for this style.). I think you could adopt the railroad to this sort of game, where one deck / die rolls reflect what the players have to do, and the other reflects the “clock,” which includes blanks, bonuses, and setbacks.

As for operations on the Triple O, it’s MOW. just keeping our track level and the 'trons flowing is a handful! But, boy, when it all works, what way to enjoy a sunset!


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