METRO Model Railroad Club

Operations Guide

This document is to help new operators understand the operations system that the MMRC is using. We want you to be able to jump right into our system and have a good time at the club. Please read this in its entirety before the operating session (even though we don't expect you to remember all of it).
1. The Great Lakes and Western is a free-lanced railroad across south central Wisconsin from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. The names of the towns on the mainline are an acronym that helps operators know where they are. East to west they are:
Marquette Harbor

Emerald Grove

Three Lakes

Red Cliff

Ojibwa Falls

2. When facing the layout, you are always facing south, no matter where you are in the layout room. East is to your left and west to your right (the opposite of how a map is laid out.) The staging yard on the east (lower level) represents Chicago/Green Bay, and the staging yard on the west (upper level) represents Des Moines / St. Paul.

We use the NCE DCC system (with some compatible System One throttles). Persons unfamiliar with this system should come early to learn how to use these throttles. We have both radio and plug in throttles. Operators may bring their own personal compatible throttle, but must have the cab number verified before use to ensure that there is no duplicate cab (we are currently using 16 of the first 22 numbers).

3. Operations are conducted on a track warrant system, controlled through the radio. Channel 8 is used for mainline operations. Trains needing to move on the mainline should contact the dispatcher for authority to move to their next work point. A typical dialogue:

Engineer: “Dispatch, Train 71.”

Dispatcher: “Train 71”

Engineer: “Train 71 requests a warrant from Meachem Yard to Three Lakes.”

Dispatcher: “OK, Train 71. Warrant number 326-1 to Train 71 at Meachem Yard West.
Authority to proceed to Three Lakes on the south main. Take the north main at Dundee.
Advise when you have cleared Dundee.”

Engineer: [repeats back warrant.]

Dispatcher: “That is correct.”

Expect that if you are making a long move, you will only get a warrant for part of it. Contact the dispatcher again when you are nearing the end of the warranted track. Know where your next work location is and do not ask for a warrant beyond that point until your work is done (the dispatcher may not know your work locations).

4. Trains are prioritized by number – the lower the number, the higher the priority. Westbound trains have odd numbers; their eastbound counterparts have even numbers. Often in a session you will be asked to run both numbers.

5. You will be given a clipboard with a number of pages on it. Starting from the back, there will be a simplified timetable to help you locate yourself on the layout. The next page is a description of the train's job; please read this carefully since it defines what work is expected of your train and where you need to stop. The third page is a blank warrant sheet to write your warrants out – this is not required but is a good idea for new operators. The front page is a clear pocket page with the train number on it. The other pockets may be used to hold and sort your cards.

6. To find your train, go to the starting location of your job. In one of the card pockets will be a packet of cards with a pink card in the front with your train number. The packet will be in the box of the track number of the track your train is on in the staging yards (numbered one to twelve from front to back).

7. Study the packet of cards carefully. The first card(s) will be gray in color. These are locomotive cards. They identify your locomotive(s) and the DCC code. The pink card should be in the pocket of this front card. If you have multiple locomotives, the pocket will also contain a neon yellow card – this is the consist number. Please do not lose these cards.

8. The remaining cards will be yellow in color. These are the cards for the cars in your train. Please check your train to make sure all the cars are in the train and that you have no cars for which you don't have a card. (At this time, passenger cars do not have cards since they are not being changed out during runs). In the pocket of most cards will be a waybill; if there is no waybill, presume your car will make the entire run with you without being set out. Note the city of the consignee on the waybill, then sort the cards by city.

9. Once you begin your run, you will be expected to set out the cars for each city designated by the waybills. Unless told otherwise, any open side track may be used for set outs at the destination. [Side tracks have gray or brown ballast; mainlines have pink lady.] Place the cards for the cars set out in the box labeled “Set outs” at the destination

10.Operations should be at a prototypical speed. Speed limits are a scale 45 mph for passenger trains, 30 mph for freight trains, with 10 mph speed restriction through yards (yard limits are not marked at this time but limits should be fairly obvious). Trains with sound decoders are expected to use standard horn signals for starting a forward or reverse move and for grade crossings; bells are to be used through yards, and for stopping and starting a passenger train at a depot. Trains holding in a siding for another train are expected to give a “good roll-by” by radio to passing trains.

11. If your orders require you to pick up cars at a location, look for the box marked “WB pickups” or “EB pickups” (eastbound or westbound, depending on your direction.). Locate and take the cars matching the car cards in those boxes and add them to your train. Add the cards to your pack

12. In some cases, trains need to do a double loop of the layout (to make their jobs equal in time to other jobs). The run-around loop starts at Golden Spike on the west end, and your train will not be visible again until it comes out on the bridge over the entrance to the lower staging yard. Going east, the loop starts at the tunnel near the refinery. You need to be on the north track east of the crossover at East Meachem (MY Tower) to get to the tunnel.

13. In all cases, reset all mainline switches to the through route (as opposed to diverging) once you pass through them (but always presume that the prior operator has not done so, and check all switch positions). Switching operations that require use of the mainline need dispatcher permission for such use.

14. Whenever you are entering the staging yards, contact the dispatcher to ascertain what track you will be coming in on – this is especially important for the lower staging since part of the ladder extends onto the finished portion of the layout and you will be expected to set that portion of the ladder up yourself using the switch panels. The dispatcher will set up the hidden portion of the ladder track, and can help you into the yard.

15. When you reach your final destination, if you are returning as the counterpart of your train, you need to manually exchange the locomotives to the front of the train. The best way to do this is put the locos on one track, disconnect and move the train by hand onto an adjacent track.You can then run the locos back on the train, moving the caboose (if you have one) to the rear by hand..You don't need to do this if your work is finished. Passenger trains operating out of Marquette Harbor need to be turned on the wye and backed into the station, except the commuter train which is push/pull. Note that domes and bilevels do not fit into the trainshed on the two tracks closest to the operator. When finished, leave the cards in the pocket that corresponds to the track your train is on.

16. Please use the throttle pockets and clipboard hooks, and do not place items on the layout. Minor derailments and break-in-twos need not be reported to the dispatcher unless it will take more than a minute to rectify. Food and drink are not permitted past the duck under.

17. We expect all equipment to be running well. However, if there is a car with serious operating issues, you have authority to remove it from the layout. The car and its corresponding card can be left under the bridge by the duck under. There are bad order slips in a pocket at the end of the layout; please fill one out with the car's issue and leave it in the car card pocket. Contact the dispatcher for locomotive issues.

18. We want everyone to have fun in operating sessions..Please do not be afraid to ask questions of members at any time or for help in doing your job. At the end of the night, we want to do a debriefing getting your comments on what you liked and what things you think we can do to make this a better experience.

Side note – a few layout quirks:

1. Trains entering and leaving the east staging yards must check with the dispatcher on what track to use and set the switches accordingly on the panel near Dotzero (the small tower just outside the coach yard).

2. The crossing between Dotzero and East Meachem (“Boat Crossing”) is presumed to be green for trains on the primary mainline (between Marquette Harbor and Meachem Yard) and permission to cross is not needed. Trains going to and from Twisted Oak / Ahnapee must get dispatcher permission to proceed across this crossing. These trains should also check the smashboard under the road bridge over the coach yard (“Lake Crossing”) to ensure it is set for their route (which it should be).

3. East of the crossover at East Meachem (MY Tower) is not double track though it appears to be. The North track is the mainline. The south track goes to the refinery, Twisted Oak / Ahnapee, or the loop track. There is no way to cross over past MY Tower.

4. The switch at Tinker is hidden behind the fascia. Make sure it is set correctly before you pass over it since derailments here can be a major headache to fix. To help you see switch position in advance, the signals at either end show green for the through route (south main), red for diverging (north main).

5. The signals at Badger Junction (Three Lakes) also indicate switch position, not track authority. Green indicates the switch is set for the through route, red for diverging.