P&EBR Operation: Where to Start?

Brian Bond’s Deer Creek & Laurel Railroad showing pockets for car cards and waybills on the fascia.

With the trackwork and trackpower complete on my P&EBR layout, I am itching to start running trains with a car forwarding system of some kind. Barry Cott, whose layout was featured in the 2003 Model Railroad Planning annual, wrote an exhaustive explanation of how he planned to operate trains on his small On3 layout. I downloaded his PDF and studied it thoroughly. His simple Pakesley Mill & Timber layout was similar to mine in some respects.

Barry had some great ideas about managing the running of trains on his layout. He relied heavily on prototype railroad practice to create an intricate “ceremony” for generating traffic and controlling train movements. Maybe he felt that, if the management of train operations were too simple, running trains would not be interesting.

Just as I was considering this issue for my own layout, I had the opportunity to attend two operating sessions on the same weekend. The two could hardly have been more different: at Clint Foster’s, about 12 operators were involved in running a large number of trains with complex instructions. At
Brian Bond’s, it was just Brian and I running a few log and coal trains with simple instructions. Running trains on the two layouts allowed me to compare and contrast the management systems of each.

As for my own layout, I want to keep in mind that the P&EBR is an industrial narrow gauge shortline. It seems to me that such an operation would not have use for complex paperwork or rules of operation. As I discussed typical op session paperwork with Brian Bond, and I thought back on the experience of participating in an op session myself, I had a more practical understanding of what I needed as an operator, and what I wanted as a host.

My focus is on determing how much information an operator actually needs in order to perform the duties of a crew on the railroad, and what is the clearest way to present that information. And as a host, I do not want it to require a great deal of time to set up the paperwork for the next op session. And, I do not want to have to focus on creating new paperwork during the course of operation when trains are running and fires need to be put out.