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Ferro-Mnemonic™ Hardware


Early on in the operations on Jim Rollwage's Denver Pacific (UP), I gravitated toward running the yard at LaSalle, Colo..  In those days, the large 36th St. Yard in Denver was yet not built, so everything on the entire 1,500SF of layout ran through the wee 24-car yard at LaSalle.  It was kind of a busy place, you might say.  

So to keep things straight in the heat of battle, one night I made car-top tabs from folded scraps of paper, to show, and keep, destinations at-a-glance.  That worked great - until the A/C came on.  The lone register in the whole basement is right over LaSalle, and away went the clerking aids in a puff of whimsy.

So before the next run, I ran by the hardware store and bought 8 each of a whole bunch of different steel objects that would fit on HO roofwalks.  I had hoped that each shape or name would correspond to a destination in some meaningful way, and I got close.  Washers were for Westbounds, Lock washers were for LaSalle, etc..  At some point the luck ran out, though, and I simply had to choose an identifiable shape and get used to what it meant.  Cotter pins were for the DP local, push nuts were for the Dent local, etc..  I sorted them all into a giant geriatric-style 7-day pill minder, labeled the sections, and off I went into the breech.  

"Laugh while you can," I said to the naysayers and haters, and went on to reduce them to whimpering piles of ineffectuality with my ingenious system.  With the permission and blessing of the Superintendent, I went on to prove a number of useful points:

  1. With a tab system, you only have to clerk cars once, and they stay clerked.  No writing, no rework, nothing out of date, and status-at-a-glance.
  2. With tabs made from a heavy material, they stay put when in motion (and in high wind).
  3. With tabs of unique shapes, they correspond to destinations and form memory aids (mnemonics).
  4. With tabs made of steel (ferrous), you can pick them up with a magnet and not touch the cars.
  5. With a "right-hand rule", all blank cars in a cut to the right of a tab are billed for the same location - so you don't need to tab every car.
  6. With a yard-specific system, the tabs do not need to stay on the cars outside the YM's domain.  

This system is definitely not for everyone, nor every situation.  Many visiting YMs at LaSalle prefer to run it their own way - what they're comfortable with - and that's perfectly fine.  Many can't stand non-scale objects in the scene, and I can relate.  The Denver yard crew (including me) would like to use it at 36th St. but the arrival tracks are about 1.3 armlengths from the aisle, thus rendering it impractical. 

In any event, thanks go to Jim Rollwage, for his indulgence, as well as the many kind things he's had to say about the system, to me as well as to guest operators and visitors.

And it was not long before I developed a parallel system, for use on the SNR.  Hey should you happen to give such a system a try, shoot me an email, would you?  I'd love to hear about it.

With Ferro-Mnemonic™ hardware (man, that needs to be a billboard!) you can see at a glance what's happening in Yaeger Yard, above.  I spy outbounds on tracks 1 & 2, a cut for St. Amour on track 4, K&NE on track 5, and the yard goat is pulling the unclassified mess out of track 6 that has cars for Bryan Ferry, Dominion, Millsbrae, and K&NE in the mix.

All done?  Look, Ma, no need to touch the coke load!  

Here's the study guide for the Suffolk Northern's implementation.  My guest yardmasters have always been sporting about using the system "when in Rome", and I'm pleased to say most get used to it quickly, and have said they've found it helpful and simplifying.  However, I always offer the option, for anybody willing to run the yard, to run it any damn way they want to! 

Pill time for Great Grandma?  Nooo, just the SNR's hilarious collection of steely car tabs.

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