I have a surprise trip this week, and so, there will be no physical work on the layout. To get my mind off the reason for the trip, I’ve been thinking about operations. Specifically, what mechanisms am I going to use to generate freight traffic on the layout?
As mentioned before, on a small layout, I think it is important that the traffic reflect the reality of the shippers and receivers. Some assignments should be random, but others should be regular. Ideally, I would also like consumables on the layout to reflect consumption: if we use all the locomotive coal, we should get a new shipment.
Now, Pembroke is set in an era when you still paid a monthly subscription for electric light – not electricity. What’s more, all the paperwork from the Canada Atlantic I’ve ever seen has been hand-written; there do not appear to have been any typewriters, even.
I haven’t stated it before, but one of my goals is to make the experience of operating Pembroke feel consistent with operating the real thing. This is why, for example, turnouts are being thrown with manual levers, rather than with buttons. So, while a computer program, like Excel, could certainly generate the complexity of traffic I am looking for, I would want it to be hidden somehow, and result in hand-written – not printed – paperwork.
Lots of model railroaders decry paperwork because they say they do enough of it at work. Personally, while I am a knowledge worker, I probably handle less than one piece of paper per day. Almost everything is on screen. So, if there’s a little paperwork, that’s okay with me.
Finally, it is worth remembering that Pembroke lives in a shared space, and so, I don’t want too much hanging off the fascia, except during operating sessions. Also, I won’t be able to leave great stacks of paper about between sessions.
So, to summarize, the parameters for Pembroke’s car forwarding system are
- Realistic replication of the freight agent role.
- Regular shipments
- Random shipments
- Handwritten paperwork
- No obvious computers
- Small physical footprint
- Clean fascia