Saturday, June 25, 2011

Progress Report 06.25.11

I have re-staged the layout with the new waybills.  It should be interesting to see how it operates now.  I quickly noticed a change as the CNW and N&W locals coming into Davenport now have 10 cars each!  Now, time to give it a trial run!  I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Progress Report 06.21.11

Last year at this time I was moving along at a lightning pace.  Laying track does that to you.  This summer has been a much slower pace, but I'm not complaining.

It has been quiet on the progress front, but we have been working on a behind the scenes project.  I have found in operating that I'm already seeing a trend with the same cars servicing the same customers.  Plus, with changes over time since the original waybills were created, there were a lot of errors and not a good distribution of rolling stock across all the various lines.

I opted not to purchase the Shenandoah software that I used originally to create the waybills because a) I'm cheap and b) while it's ok, it has some quarks that I didn't like.  So, I decided to design my own in Word and use a mail merge from Excel.  Keying the data in Excel made for really fast data entry.  I have changed the waybill process.  Now, each waybill is a single cycle vs. 4-cycle as before.  Once the car arrives at the location, it will receive a new waybill.  It will either go back out with a load or quite possibly could return to one of the individual railroad agents as empty.  This will make it highly unlikely that the same cars continue to the same customers.  I've also added better routing of cars.  Traffic will certainly increase on the NW Peoria, CNW Davenport and AT&SF Joliet lines. 

I have also found when re-staging the layout, many times I tend to ship all the cars except for one.  This makes it too predictable.  I have always used a spreadsheet to track how many spots were available and how many cars I had enroute to a destination to ensure balance when re-staging.  I took this spreadsheet and added the Excel RandBetween (Random Between) function that randomly selects the number of pickups.  From the remaining available spots, the system will generate a random number of loads to send to that location.  As I'm re-staging the layout I simply use my spreadsheet printout as a guide as to how many cars to send en route to a location.  I'm really excited about this.  It now takes me out of the equation creating a much more random (and hopefully interesting) world. 

A sample of the new waybill is below:
The new format is much easier to read and understand. 
- Freight Train East/West
- Local or Return to Agent location
- Industry Name
- Town Name
- Commodity / Mty
- Not seen: Car Type
- Omitted Shipper

Owning a medium size railroad has been quite the learning experience for me.  I have found that in the beginning you need to expect a lot of change.  Many times what you *think* will work doesn't play out in reality.  This could be due to the various operating styles of members or simply reality doesn't work out like you thought.  I have not been afraid to make changes.  I'm dedicated to making the railroad run well, provide ongoing interest, and most of all for everyone to have fun.

I have been pleased with my success so far.  I hope that it continues....