Complied by Cliff Robinson, Keith Gutierrez, Richard Kamm, and David Barrow. David was a featured clinician at the 1996 MCoR “Gateway Getaway” Regional Convention.
Layout Owner’s Directives: These directives evolved over the past few years as our informal touring group visited, operated, critiqued and compared layouts. Based on these visits, the group established a list of directives that insure an enjoyable operating session. Use of the directives during planning, construction and maintenance guarantees we will like it!
#1 – Command Control is Required
Regardless of the trackplan, you must have a command control system; brand is not important as long as it works. One of the key causes of new operator dissatisfaction is having to remember all of the secret switches, methods, procedures and policies governing the operation of their locomotive. The most effective system is transparent to the operator and requires no sermons on how to use.
#2 – Motive Power Must Run Smoothly
Equip your operating fleet with the best running locomotives and place all others on the rip track for rebuilding. This must be done even if the operating fleet may be prototypically incorrect. A highly detailed, prototypically correct, but poorly running locomotive frustrates the best operator. Do not continue to use a locomotive in need of repair. Advise operators how to determine locomotives in need of repair or just wheel cleaning.
#3 – Less Than 2 Derailments Per 100 Cars Moved
Excluding operator errors, the mechanical condition of trackwork, rolling stock and locomotives must result in less than two derailments for every 100 cars moved.
#4 – Insure Operator’s Comfort
The most enjoyable sessions take place in a climate controlled room which has adequate heating and cooling. Climate control assists in meeting directive #3 since layout expansion and contraction is less. Floors should be carpeted and there should be strategically placed stools for tired operators. Layout height should be comfortable and of an average height.
#5 – Aisles Must Accommodate Operators
Operators come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Aisles should be wide enough to allow operators room to pass. Narrow aisles require careful scheduling to prevent boxing-in an operator. Back-to-back operating stations or positions must be avoided and adjacent positions must allow adequate elbow room.
#6 – Turnout Controls Easy to Understand
Fixed operating positions, such as yards, should be equipped with standard control panels. Layouts designed for walkaround control should use simple turnout controls mounted on the fascia panel directly below the turnout. Switches must be easy to throw and provide positive indication of turnout direction. A direction convention such as “up=reversed” and “down=normal” must be adopted and consistently applied.
#7 – Track Must Be Easy to Reach
Cars occasionally and quite mysteriously jump off the track. Rerailing is much easier if the operator can reach the track without ladders, stools or a sky hook. Avoid hidden staging tracks since chances are 50-50 there will be a problem when entering or leaving. And finally, the probability of having a derailment is directly proportional to the degree of “reach” difficulty.
#8 – A Communication System Must Be Provided
Telephones or radio must be used to insure proper and timely transmittal of train orders without distracting other operators. Guidelines for using radios must be understood and followed to avoid interference.
#9 – Switch Lists and Spots Must Be Readable
The simplest switch list is usually the easiest to understand and use. Always specify pickups first to make room for setouts. List towns in order of arrival. List cars alphabetically. Intra-town car moves should be uniquely marked to avoid accidental removal. Identification of all industry spots must be unambiguous and easy to see.
#10 – Limit Visitors and Trainees
Limit the number of first time operators (Trainees) during normal operating sessions. Best case is when a regular operator shadows a trainee during an entire session, explaining things as needed. Trainees should be allowed to make errors without fear of embarrassment. Visitors should be discouraged from coming during operating sessions.