A line-up or sequence of events is a simple way to conduct operations. You would simply write a list of the trains that will run, in time order. Maybe it would say something like, “run the hotshot freight westward; run the mail train eastward; switch local industries in Epsilon and then run the local freight as far as Delta, do needed switching en route, return.” This avoids time pressure, because each train movement only takes place once the previous one has been completed. Of course, if there are a lot of trains, or multiple routes, where closer coordination becomes important, the obvious solution is the prototype one: a timetable.
Why did I recommend a timetable even if you want to operate informally, with a line-up, or without clock pressure? The prototype employee timetable usually contained a lot of additional information, and this can be helpful to your operators. Let me explain how I made mine, and give some examples of that information.If you choose to make a timetable, one approach is to start with the prototype for your area (or a similar prototype, if you are freelancing). This provides some authenticity to what you are doing.
My timetable is sized as 8.5 x 11 inches, to be folded in half the long way, exactly as SP employee timetables were done. The artwork on the outside cover is entirely stolen from actual SP Coast Division timetables (though I identify it as a Supplement), and I print it on manila card stock, again, like the prototype did. Here it is (you may click to enlarge), folded the long way:
On the inside front cover and first right-hand page (the former being on the manila stock, and the latter on white paper), I have collected a summary of Freight Train Procedures. These would usually appear in a Manifest Train schedule but I don’t want to multiply documents. I won’t include my summary here, as there is enough background for this topic to make the discussion too lengthy for this post.
Correspondingly, in the back of the timetable, I included some selected rules, drawn from the actual SP rulebook. Usually on the SP these would be included in a separate Special Instructions document, but again, I compacted everything into one document, and these rules add flavor. They also provide information, permitting operators to reference any specific rule which may affect operation.
My layout is set within the Guadalupe Subdivision of the SP, so I used schedule information and graphics for that Subdivision in my timetable (see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/04/coast-line-operations-1953-for-my.html ). That timetable construction forms the middle or center pages of my layout’s timetable document.
Another item which can be useful is a schematic diagram (not a map) of any towns or other complex trackage, complete with track names. Railroaders give names to every feature which might be of importance, and certainly to every track they might need to use (or direct someone else to use). Many might be obvious (team track, warehouse spur), but others may be more obscure. Richard Hendrickson tells the story of visiting Jerry Stewart when he was a tower operator, and overhearing Jerry tell an approaching train crew to hold short of “the oil track.” Looking down the line from the tower, he could see no oil facilities. So he asked Jerry, who of course replied, “Oh, the oil stuff has been gone for years, but that’s the name of the track.” Your operators need to know all these names.
Here is an example of a simple, hand-drawn schematic, from when I planned to include Lompoc on my layout. The interchange was with the freelance short line, Lompoc & Cuyama.
These are only examples of some of the considerations that may be of interest or value in creating a timetable for a layout. I have taken pleasure in reproducing the look and feel of the actual SP employee timetable of the era, but of course there can be deviations from this as well, if appropriate to a particular layout. But I believe a timetable like this can add interest and value to your operating session.