Since no one asked, I thought it might be interesting to start a discussion on the flow of hopper cars... I'd love to hear your philosophy and opinions - how do you handle bulk loads? What's most important to you?
Guys who are better modelers than me (this means you!) often prioritize the beauty of the load over the flow of the hoppers, preferring cars to be permanently loaded. I totally understand this, and I'm blessed to get to run on some gorgeous layouts that handle coal this way.
However within my head - scary as that may sound - it's more important that the railroad seem to be going about its business on its own. Meaning, I want to be merely a spectator and a railfan, interfering as little as possible with its traffic. The more I have to think through and manipulate things during re-staging, the more recognizable the trains are when they emerge during ops. And on my own layout at least, that pierces the fourth wall, and takes away some of the fun.
So if the goal of ops is to try to run a layout like a real transportation system, on the SNR at least I just can't re-stage loaded cars back to the mines. And just I can't take the loads out of shifters and send them back out with the same cars they just picked up. It chafes, man. For the simulation to work, I want to know that a mine's coal is going to all the way to market, and in the very empties that were delivered to its tipple to fill. As I said, it's a scary place in my head.
- Empties must be loaded at the mines between sessions.
- Hoppers must circulate randomly, with little identifiable repetition or pattern.
threads through the interlocking at SE tower and gets out of town, bound for Gallipolis staging.
My business partner once remarked to me, being the CPA, that "Even your checklists have checklists." This is from the attorney who couldn't follow a recipe to save his @$$, but that's a story for over beers. He's right, though, and just to prove it - at the risk of drowning you in minutiae (don't read it!) - here's a sample of the Coal re-staging checklist. And yes, it itself is represented by a single line item on the Overall re-staging checklist.