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Operations Road Show - Quick Guide to Timetable & Train Order Operation

      Updated: 02-JUL-2019

Since we began holding operating sessions, we've identified some basic things that it is useful for new crew members to know about timetable and train order operation before a session begins. These are what we consider to be the essential details- we feel that knowing them in advance, or at least having a copy of them on-hand during a session can make it much easier to get into the flow of the session and come up to speed quickly. As a result, we've put together this brief guide. While we are making it available on this web site, we also have hardcopy versions available to crews during our operating sessions.

As this is still very much a work-in-progress, it will continue to evolve. It is not intended to be a complete and detailed guide, but a set of basic starter guidelines for our specific simplified implementation of timetable and train order rules. It is presented here in HTML form, but is also available in a format which you can download and print.

Please feel free to adapt any parts of these instructions that you find to be of value for use on your own layout.

Operations Road Show Quick Guide to Timetable & Train Order Operation - Revision 1.0

Please note that these rules and guidelines are specific only to the Operations Road Show layout. Other layouts' implementations of timetable & train order operation and adherence to prototypical rules and practices will differ from those that we have chosen to use here.

Upon Reporting at Your Initial Terminal

  • Pick up your orders from the order clip. Do you have your clearance form? Do you have all of the orders listed on the clearance form?
  • Do you have the pack of car cards and waybills for the train? If not, get them from the Fiddle Yardmaster. Make sure the cards in the pack match your train.
  • Check the timetable to determine whether there are any scheduled superior trains (going either direction) you need to wait for. You must check the train register at the terminal to determine whether any scheduled trains you must wait for within the last twelve hours have already arrived.
  • Are there any other trains you need to wait for before departing, per your train orders? You must check the train register at the terminal to determine whether any you must wait for have already arrived.
  • If your train is scheduled, is it time to leave yet? Your train may not depart any station ahead of its schedule.
  • Check that no train order or interlocking signals are set against you.
  • The Train Card (the first card in the pack of car cards) will explain what work your train is supposed to do.

As always, feel free to ask a Host if you have any questions!

Upon Leaving Your Initial Terminal

    1. Fill out an entry in the train register for that terminal.
    2. "OS" out of the initial terminal to the dispatcher.
    3. Ensure that any turnouts you had to throw in order to depart have been realigned to their normal (mainline) position.

Upon Approaching a Train Order Station

Train Order Stations are marked by a train order signal (semaphore) beside the track and a repeater on the layout fascia.

  • If the signal is not set against you (the semaphore blade is up and the indicator on the fascia shows green for the direction your train is traveling), you may proceed past the station, so long as your orders do not state that you must stop there. If the station is open "OS" by.
  • If the signal is set against you (the semaphore blade is down and the indicator on the fascia shows red for the direction your train is traveling), stop. Do not foul any switches or adjoining tracks- you may be instructed to wait for a meet. Next, "OS" in and pick up the orders for your train from the clip on the fascia. If the train orders are not there yet, you must wait for them to be issued. You may contact the dispatcher to ensure that the order board is not set against your train by mistake.
  • Do not pick up orders that are not addressed to your train.
  • Verify that your orders are good. A valid set of train orders must include a clearance form issued at the station at which you pick up the orders. It must list the numbers of all train orders included in the set of orders. If you have a clearance form that lists one or more train order numbers which do not correspond to train orders in the set, the clearance is invalid and you must inform the Dispatcher.
  • If the signal is set against you, you will need to receive a written clearance before you may proceed past the station, even if there are no orders for you.
  • Once you have received your orders and clearance, indicate to the dispatcher that you have received your orders, then you may proceed.
  • Once the end of your train passes the train order signal, "OS" out of the station.

Upon Reaching a Meeting Point

Meeting points are determined either by being specifically arranged in a train order, or by your determining that you need to get out of the way of a scheduled superior train.

  • When meeting a passenger train, you need to be in the clear on a siding by the time that the timetable indicates that the passenger train is scheduled to leave the last station the passenger train passes before the siding where you are waiting.
  • At a meeting point, the inferior train should take the siding unless it has received a train order indicating otherwise.
  • The crew of the first train to arrive at a meeting point is responsible for lining the switches to prevent a collision.
  • If the meeting location is at an open train order station, the crew of each train must "OS in" to inform the dispatcher that it has arrived.
  • Similarly, if the meeting location is at an open train order station, the crews must "OS out" when they depart.

How to "OS" at a Train Order Station

Under Timetable & Train Order operation, the only way the dispatcher knows your train's location is if the operator at a train order station reports in when your train arrives or passes by. Since we don't have operators at the train order stations, it is the train crew's responsibility to play the role of the station operator and report in.

  1. Determine that the train order station is actually open. The hours of operation for each station are printed in the timetable and are marked on the fascia.
  2. Pick up the phone at the train order station, wait for a break in the communication traffic, then say "OS [location name]."
    When the dispatcher tells you to go ahead, you reply.
    • If the train is passing through without stopping, OS by as follows: "[train designation] by at [time]."
    • If the train is arriving and will be stopping to wait for another train or to do switching, OS in to the dispatcher as follows: "[train designation] in at [time]."
      When you leave after having stopped for a while, you OS out by calling the dispatcher ("OS [location name]") and reporting: "[train designation] out at [time]."

    When you report the time, be sure to indicate whether it's AM or PM. 

  3. Hang up the phone.

The train designation is either the train number (for scheduled trains), such as "Number 1", or, for extras, it is the word "Extra", followed by the number of the lead engine and the direction of the train, such as "Extra 450 West."

Upon Arriving at Your Final Terminal

  1. Do not run your train into the Fiddle Yard until the Fiddle Yardmaster instructs you to do so either verbally (at Peru) or by signal indication (at Lafayette Junction).
  2. Sign the train register for that terminal.
  3. Give the packet of car cards and waybills to the Fiddle Yardmaster.
  4. Give the Fiddle Yardmaster the throttle you have been using.
  5. Inform the Fiddle Yardmaster of any difficulties you experienced with the locomotive, cars or throttle.
  6. Inform that Dispatcher that you are now off duty.
  7. You may keep the train orders or throw them away.
  8. Go to the bullpen to wait for your next assignment.

General Rules

  • For purposes of operating on this layout, you need only concern yourself with the parts of the timetable showing scheduled times between Peru and Lafayette Junction.
  • A scheduled train is not allowed to leave a station before its scheduled departure time.
  • Unless otherwise specified in the train orders, a scheduled train is superior to an unscheduled (extra) train.
  • Once you have passed through a mainline turnout, you must leave it lined to the normal, mainline position. Unless otherwise marked on the fascia, pushing in the turnout knob will align the turnout to its normal position.
  • A train is superior to another one by train order (right), class or direction:
    • Train Order - Instructions in a train order overrule any considerations of superiority by class or direction.
    • Class - First class trains are superior to second class trains, etc. Extra trains are the lowest in this hierarchy, unless overridden by a train order.
    • Direction - Eastbound trains are superior to westbound trains.
  • Within Yard Limits (at Peru and East Yard/Lafayette Junction), you may only proceed at a reduced speed, approximating 15-20 scale mph.
  • Train order stations are not open all the time. The hours during which a train order station is open are posted on the fascia. You do not "OS" at a train order station if it is closed.
  • Any time you stop on the mainline or leave cars on the mainline while switching, you must protect your train with a flagman behind the train. To do this, set out a paper flagman on the tracks 18-24" behind the last car of your train. If your train orders indicate that you do not have to protect against trains following yours, you do not have to do this.
    Always remember to pick up the flagman before leaving.
  • When you have finished switching an industry, make sure to leave the car cards for any cars you've set out and take the cards for any cars you have picked up.
  • If you need to set out a car in any place other then the one it is billed to, leave its card in the "Set Out" pocket and notify the Agent or the Dispatcher. The traveling agent will tag it as an off-spot car and move the card to the "Pick Up" pocket for a later train to re-spot.
  • Train crews should not change or remove the waybills on the car cards. The Agent will handle all bills.
  • If you do not understand what to do in a particular situation, we encourage you to ask a Host for clarification.
  • Crews, off-duty personnel, and visitors should refrain from distracting the Dispatcher and Fiddle Yardmaster. The railroad runs most smoothly when they are able to focus on their jobs.
  • Take your time when running trains. Even the fastest passenger train which has no meets should take over one "fast" hour to run between Peru and Lafayette Junction. Freight trains should be even slower!

      - F. Milhaupt, R. Milhaupt, J. Fryman,
J. Young, A. Robertson

Printable Copy

A printable copy of this guide is available in Adobe Acrobat format. It is laid out to be printed on legal-size paper (8.5" by 14") so that it can be folded into a four-panel pamphlet.


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All original contents of this web site are Copyright © 1999-2023, John F. ("Fritz") Milhaupt on behalf of the Operations Road Show, All Rights Reserved.