I have wrestled in previous operating sessions with the fact that scale-size blue flags are neither large enough nor of sufficiently eye-catching color to be readily noticed by operating crews. I illustrated this problem in a previous post (you can find it at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2018/10/blue-flag-awareness.html ). In that post, I mentioned the creative and effective idea used by Bob Hanmer on his layout, to employ a form identifying tracks for which access was temporarily blocked, and to provide that form to switch crews.
To illustrate, I will repeat a photo shown in the post just cited, of one of my blue flags in place at the Union Oil unloading track in my layout town of Ballard. It is right past the edge of the road. Certainly if you look for it, it’s there, but I have already had crews run locomotives right over flags like this.
I decided to create a form with the same goals as the one Bob created, but to use it in a different way. First, his form is a good approach for an industry (a large paper mill) that is switched throughout the day, with multiple cars moved to and from multiple tracks. I don’t have any industries like that. Instead, I have industries that may not even be switched every day, but which do employ blue flags for hazards like tank cars connected for unloading.
Second, my framework for communication with switch crews is in the form of messages and paperwork from the agent in each town. A form that is intended to occupy a track slot in a waybill box or rack is not readily part of that framework; indeed, I have no waybill racks on my layout. Thus I decided to make up a form that could be part of the message package that crews pick up at each town.
My conclusion was that a slip the size and shape of the waybills I use on the layout would permit these blue flag notices to be part of waybill package. I used the ideas of the Hanmer form to make these, but designed as a single-use form that an agent could fill out and hand to a crew.
The color blue is chosen for the obvious reason.
This clearly is very simple to fill out, and can be done during an operating session in real time, depending on how a crew’s work is going, or can be done in advance so that work has to be structured around the restriction. As the session “supervisor,” I can remove the blue flag at the designated time, so the crew has access to the restricted track. Here’s an example.
I will be trying this idea at my next operating session, to see how well it works, and whether there are drawbacks to different ways of using it. But my hope is that it “empowers” my scale-size blue flags to do their job.