Saturday, February 16, 2019

Timetable planning for operation

This post amplifies some topics I have discussed previously in my blog, having to do with how I have evolved my use of a timetable for operation of my layout. My layout is set within the Guadalupe Subdivision of Southern Pacific’s Coast Division. As I described in an earlier post (you can read it at: ), I made a modified timetable just for that subdivision.
     I explained in one of my Model Railroad Hobbyist (MRH) columns how I constructed all the various parts of my timetable, removing some station names from the actual Timetable 164 of September, 1953, but keeping the actual train times. I showed this as Figure 12 in the issue for October 2014 (you can download or read on-line this or any issue of MRH, for free, at their website, ).
     I also wrote a kind of introduction to that column for the blog, a post which can be found at:  Reproduced below is that compacted timetable.(You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

When we use this timetable, we refer to the clock in the layout room, which operates at a 1:1 ratio (that is, normal time rate) but is set to the desired starting time for the session, independent of actual time in the world.
     What is important in this timetable for my operation is that it contains trains I cannot run (a realistic Daylight or Lark would have to have a dozen or more cars, and  I simply cannot stage that big a train), or trains I can only run occasionally, such as the mail train, nos. 71 and 72, which was only occasionally during the year small enough that I can operate it. What does that mean?
     First, it means that I can set an operating session to start and finish (on the layout clock) outside the times in which those inconvenient trains would run. So, for example, I can operate a morning session, and would start it at 9:20 a.m., because at that time, no. 72 has just passed. However, no. 99 will be along about 12:30 PM, so either we would need to finish the session in three hours (usually it would take a little longer), or I have to issue a train order that 99 is running late. The morning schedule also includes through freight no. 914, though like most Coast Division freights, it often runs a little late. I might add an extra train or a second section of 914.
     These considerations mean that a crew working at Shumala, the junction on my layout between the Coast Division main and the Santa Rosalia Branch, knows at about 11 a.m. what train this is, and in fact they have been expecting it; from the example just given, it would be no. 914.

     A second option is an afternoon session, which would conveniently start on the layout clock at 1:50 PM, at which time no. 98 has just passed. This means that through freights nos. 912 and 913 would both pass Shumala during a normal session, but no passenger trains during the session. An even more “open” session can be conducted in the evening, say starting at 6 PM. Now the two freight trains that will operate are nos. 915 and 918, and there is no looming first-class train coming at us.
     There will normally also be one or more of the Guadalupe Local and/or Surf Turn trains passing by on the main line, and these usually drop off and pick up cars at Shumala, the interchange point for the branch line to Santa Rosalia that makes up most of the layout.
     So for any session, I need only to tell the operating crews whether it is AM or PM on the layout clock, and they can consult their timetables to know what to watch for on the main line. They may also be helped by having a line-up passed to them by the Shumala agent, as I described in an earlier blog post, which is at: .
     These time slots help define how I can efficiently operate my layout, subject to actual SP train scheduling, yet working within the constraints of my layout capabilities.
Tony Thompson


  1. Tony, I think adding the timetable with its inherent link to the "outside world" is very worthwhile addition to your already great operating scheme. I also like how you avoid the "marquee trains" that are too large for your layout. When I'm working a train that has to be on a main track, having to check a time table to avoid being on a superior train's time adds to the operational interest and challenge.

    Al Daumann

  2. Thanks, Al. What you describe as the good features are exactly what I hoped to accomplish. So far what has taken place with the timetable in operating sessions has worked well.
    Tony Thompson

  3. I enjoy your posts that run along the lines of how to make your layout fit into the prototype you're trying to model. Food for thought and points of departure. Thanks.