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How to Conduct Freight Operations


Instructions by Operations Manager - Peter Prunka

Now that you’ve set up your layout for Ops or chosen one of the prebuilt layouts and generated a switchlist, you’re asking yourself “Okay, how do I move all those cars efficiently?” The purpose of this clinic is to help you understand some of the basic principles of freight movement as they apply to TrainPlayer and to illustrate those principles graphically.


  1. Organize your switchlist. Group the cars by CURRENT location so that you can see your initial moves. On most layouts, the majority of cars will be in a yard. That’s a good place to start organizing.

  2. Remember that you may use as many engines as necessary to complete your switchlist. Of course, TrainPlayer requires that you use one at a time, but the proper sequence can save you time and moves.

  3. Look at the color codes or the destinations for the cars. Use either the Route Finder or your Mark I eyeball to scope out a route that will take you past all or most of the destination points. Keep in mind that some may be better served by another engine or train.

  4. Take careful note of drop off and pickup points that are on facing point switches. Cars will need to be in front of the engine for these. Is there a nearby runaround track or do we need to push these cars a long distance?

  5. Look at each location where cars are to be dropped. Are there cars there already that are not scheduled for pickup? Good practice says to move these and place your cars behind them. Plan accordingly.

  6. Examine each drop off location for capacity as well. It is NOT uncommon for Traffic Departments (or TrainPlayer) to schedule more cars than will fit in a siding or stub. Such cars may be left at nearby empty sidings for the next available train or simply left behind at the yard for the “next day.” In fact, many yards had a special track called the “fornow” track, where excess cars were left “for now.”

  7. Now that you have a general plan, organize the cars in the yard first.

  8. Finally, make up the initial train and get moving!


1. Organize your switchlist

One of the best ways to see what you need to do is to select the columns shown below using the Field Chooser. Then sort your cars by current location. You’ll notice that most of your moves start in the yard:

pic 1

2. Look at the color codes or the destinations for the cars:

It seems that we have a nice variety, with much of the action centered near the yard. We have two outbound cars for the REA facility and there’s one there to pick up, as well as what looks like a “for now” car right behind the REA. We also have to deliver cars to the Barrel Works and Benson Fluids. There’s a pickup at the Barrel Works, too. Finally, we have traffic for the interchange. Since the car from the Barrel Works is destined there, we as well handle that traffic last.


3. Take careful note of dropoff and pickup points that are on facing point switches:

Fortunately, our chosen route doesn’t require any facing point moves.

4. Look at each location where cars are to be dropped. Are there cars there already that are not scheduled for pickup? Examine each dropoff location for capacity as well.

Hmm … this would seem to apply to just about ALL of our destinations! In addition, our yard is pretty full already. Perhaps we can make some room by sending the engine from the Western Express off to the REA siding to arrange and collect those cars.

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5. Now that you have a general plan, organize the cars in the yard first.
Now that we have some room, we see that our train is in pretty good order. First we drop the RS351 on the yard track below ours.
pic 4


The REA-bound cars are near the front and can be spotted next. We return the X350 temporarily to our track.

pic 5
Then we drop the REA-bound cars on the yard track below ours pic 6

6. Make up the initial train and get moving.

We recouple with the cars bound for the barrel maker, Benson and the interchange (as well as our caboose, of course!).

pic 7

While we’re gone, the Western Express will sort out the REA moves and recouple to his train, awaiting further orders. Of course, in TrainPlayer we can’t do both simultaneously, so we’ll send the Sherman Drag out on the main, headed for its destination while the Western Express finishes the local work at the yard area.

pic 8

The Western Express now pulls all three cars from the REA area and drops them temporarily at the empty yard track.

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Next, the Western Express will pull the two cars destined for the REA and deliver them.

pic 10

Next, the Western Express must get and return flatcar F2 to its spot at the REA, in front of the newly delivered cars. To do this, it takes flatcar F3 along for the ride.

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Its work is now done and Western Express, with F3, returns to its yard track to await further orders.

pic 12

Meanwhile, we return to the Sherman Drag, up near Lyons, where it is ready to go to work.

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Let’s see what we have to do. First, we can’t leave the caboose on the mainline, so we move it into the siding at Lyons, uncoupling the caboose, leaving it there. (Nitpicker’s note: Yes, we know that this is not really a siding, but a different manline, but this is an exercise. Our other choice would be to set out a flagman.)

pic 14

Now we have a pickup at the barrel maker and set outs at the barrel maker and Benson Fluids.Since the benson car is at the rear of the train, we’ll work with that first. We need to pull the cars already at Benson, so we can place our car at the spot.

pic 15

We can drop them temporarily on the barrel works siding while we set out our car.

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TA 352 has been set out, so now we get the two Benson cars and return them to the siding.

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Next we have to set out X350 at the Barrel Works and pick up X7 for return to the yard. Of course, we also have to move F339 to make room for our set out. We’ll grab both cars and temporarily drop them on the Benson siding while we set out X350.

pic 18

Next, we’ll return F339 to the Barrel Works, keeping X7 coupled to the train.

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Our final bit of work in this area is to get our caboose and head back towards the yard

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Of course, our work isn’t done yet. We still have to set out X7 and XM347 at the interchange.  This time, we leave our caboose on the main and send the rear brakeman out to flag. Remember that our set outs must go to the rear of the cut now on the interchange, so we’ll need to pull that cut first.

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We set out the last two cars on our switchlist and go get the interchange cars in order to replace them. (No, we didn’t run over the flagman. He moved further back in accordance with the rules.)

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Finally, having returned the interchange cars, we head home to do the paperwork and grab some dinner.

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And now we’re home and here’s the completed paperwork. Don’t forget the flagman!

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We hope you enjoyed this little clinic on operations and that it gave you a feel for TrainPlayer’s newest upgrade!

A few notes for the nitpickers:

  1. Although the Western Express is usually a road engine, it received special orders to work within yard limits to perform the switching at REA. Because the yard limits do not extend to the interchange, it could not do that work without violating the BLE agreement.

  2. TrainPlayer does not maintain switchlists between sessions, so it isn’t really necessary to move standing cars before spotting new cars. It DOES add to the “play value” and is far more prototypical.

  3. RS351 should have been moved to an empty track, rather than being included in an existing train. I know. I just missed that.

  4. Got more nits? Post them on the Yahoo Group and we’ll address them. It’s part of the fun!


Freight Operations
by Peter Prunka
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