Operators Guide

Complied by Cliff Robinson, Keith Gutierrez, Richard Kamm, and David Barrow. David was a featured clinician at the 1996 MCoR “Gateway Getaway” Regional Convention.

Operation Directives: These directives evolved over the past few years as our informal touring group visited, operated, critiqued and compared layouts. Based on these visits, the group established a list of directives that insure an enjoyable operating session.

#1 – Understand the Layout

Try to understand the layout setting, philosophy and the owners rules of operation. Obey them even if you don’t agree with them or can think of a better way.

#2 – Ask Questions

Ask questions if you are unsure.

#3 – Understand Uncoupling Guidelines

Understand the uncoupling guidelines. Ask if it is OK to handle cars or not?

#4 – Don’t Handle Locomotives

Don’t handle the locomotives. If it leaves the track, ask the host what to do. If he wants you to re-rail it, look before handling. Be careful of grab irons and other detail parts!

#5 – Understand Owner’s Rules

Understand the owner’s rules for spotting or removing faulty cars and locomotives. Above all, tell someone if you are having trouble with a car or other equipment.

#6 – Understand Radio or Telephone Rules

Understand radio or telephone rules. Listen before speaking!

#7 – Check Your Switchlist

Check your switchlist before leaving the yard and during the run to determine and anticipate car forwarding and switching problems. Try to know what you are going to do before you do it.

#8 – Run At Prototypical Speeds

Run the train at prototypical speeds. Don’t run too fast! Try to match prototypical stops and starts. Don’t reverse the locomotive while it is moving.

#9 – Stay With Your Train

Stay with your train. Don’t stand at the end of aisles and watch the train disappear in the distance. The whole point of “walk around” layout planning is to try to create the illusion of really being in the cab.

#10 – Don’t Block the Aisles

Don’t stand in the narrow parts of aisles. Also, don’t try to carry on a conversation or distract yardmasters or operators when they (or you) should be doing something else.

#11 – Know Clearance Points

Know clearance points. If a siding only takes three cars, don’t try to put four into it! You will save yourself considerable embarrassment if you observe the fouling point for all turnouts and avoid throwing the turnout under a car or locomotive.

#12 – Pull Before Put

In general, perform pickups before setouts. Check the switchlist carefully and you might save yourself some time down the road by pre-blocking a car or two for the next town.

#13 – Obey Signals

Observe and obey signals. If a signal is not working, assume it is displaying its most restrictive aspect and be governed accordingly.

#14 – Report Problems

Report maintenance problems to the dispatcher. Don’t shout it out! The host probably has a list to keep track of problems. Report your difficulty as tactfully as possible.

#15 – Locate Turnouts Before Throwing

Locate turnouts before throwing. If necessary, get dispatcher permission to unlock and throw mainline or passing siding turnouts.

#16 – Leave Turnouts Aligned Correctly

Before leaving a town, be sure turnouts are aligned correctly and locked if appropriate.

#17 – Be Patient

Be patient with other, especially new, operators. We all had to learn sometime.

#18 – Don’t Distract the Other Operators

Don’t engage in non-operating related conversations in the layout room during timed operations.