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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Notice Cards

Regular SNR operators know that there is a switchlist posted at each town to guide a local crew's regular work.  

However for occasional random events such as flag stops, setting out a car going a different direction, business car moves, etc., I have relied on notes attached to a train order.  The regular train order directs you to consult the note at a certain step.  I have my traffic software generate the notes along with the switchlist. 

The downside of this, aside from all the CPA work (Cut, Paste, Assemble) - (I can say that, I'm a CPA) - is that, because the real estate on the orders is pretty limited, the notes are printed in a reeeeeeeallly tiny font.  (Getting pretty hard to read for all these old guys I operate with.)  😉

So due to both considerations, I've overhauled that process.  Microscopic "notes" have now been replaced by color-coded "Notice" cards, which are posted on the layout fascia, as near to the town's panel or depot as possible.  It's analogous to notices hooped up along with orders to train crews on the prototype, or bulletins posted at control points.  

Asterisks on the order now direct the crewman's attention to an external Notice at a specific location.  

Large fonts for the train symbol and big color blocks should make the Notice cards easy to identify at a distance.  Clipping them to the fascia should keep the crewman from having to juggle multiple documents with the train order, and eliminate the risk of them getting separated.  

The inscrutable note in 8pt Arial Narrow font, 
formerly stuck to the old PL-3 order, 
has been replaced with 
a clear and friendly Notice card on the fascia. 

The Notice cards are red, yellow, or green.  Red is for passenger train flag stops.  Yellow means pay attention because there is some special switching work to do.  Green means no action is required.  

Green is important because, just like a clear signal, green not only indicates that you can proceed, it also provides positive confirmation that you have indeed found the indication at the place where you were expecting to find an indication, so you're not left searching.  Every asterisked note on a train order will have a notice card on the fascia, in some color or other.     

Local passenger trains have scheduled stops at stations of any actual import, and flag stops (conditional) at places like Podunk and East Backwater.  So the bright red notice card functions as a station agent's flag at those locations. 

Even across Segway's congested alcove, 
Train 32's crewman should have no trouble seeing 
the bright red Notice card below the Hadley depot, 
telling him he needs to make a flag stop in that little hamlet today.

A side benefit to the scheme is the ability to at last remove the MoW equipment from the switchlist for Dominion.  No matter how many ways I've tried to handle this, it universally generates confusion, as to whether the switchlist indicates the cars that should be on the Materials Yard's siding, or the cars that should be in the MoW train.  

Now the Notice card unambiguously stipulates the moves.  
I printed up extra blank cards to accommodate random cars 
and future additions to the MoW fleet. 

It's my hope that this scheme will reduce confusion, eye strain, and setup time all at once, while still allowing me to "call an audible" - to deviate from the playbook occasionally, and keep the defense guessing.  It's also open-ended, allowing for future interesting wrinkles to be added pretty easily. 

So watch for asterisks on your next SNR train order, and look for a Notice card at a control point near you!

Thanks for reading.  Let me know what you think!