Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lists or cards?

Two main trains of thought (please excuse the pun) for train forwarding on layouts exist: using car cards and waybills or switch lists.  I've leaned towards the ladder but have always held out the possibility of using the former. It's safe to say about 90% of the layouts I operate on use the car card system. I've also operated on layouts using switch lists.  My good friend Dave Ramos uses both on his NY Harbor RR.  He uses switch lists generated by the yard clerks on both his pocket yards served by car floats, one at Erie's 28th street yard and also at the Lehigh Valley's 27th street yard.  These two yards can be operated like small independent layouts on their own.  On the NYC Highline and 38th street yard he uses car cards and has made them to look like small versions of real waybills. Both systems work flawlessly on Dave's layout.

So, what should I use on the Ma & Pa?  My original intention was to use switch lists.  I've tested this out by having a few trial run sessions using them.

Being that the layout is small compared to others I've operated on, writing out switch lists before a scheduled session isn't that hard to do. Plus it saves having to setup initially all the car cards for each and every car that will run on the layout.  That being said, I always feel at ease just a little more having car cards with my train. It helps me plan out my moves a little easier.  One of the things I've kept in the back of my mind for this layout as pertains to possibly using the card card system is if could find a cheap and easy way of building car card boxes for the front of the layout I might go that route.

On a recent trip to AC Moore to pick up some mat medium for scenery work I found these project boxes.  They sell them for $1.00 each.  Looking at them I realized that they could maybe be made into car card boxes.  I bought 6 and brought them home to experiment with.

I cut one in half on the table saw.  My measurements reveal I can get 3 card spaces per half.  I will cut the sliding top into separators for the spaces.  

Here's the before and after shot of what the boxes started as end ended up looking like.

A quick placement to see how they would look mounted on the fascia.   If a single half is just used I'll have to modify the short end to match the higher end.  I also figure the boxes can be modified by cutting them into single and double boxes.  This just might work.  Not bad for $1.00 each investment.


  1. Holy Cow Ted! You totally stole my idea! Well, it was in my mind so you're clearly a mind reader. I also saw these at AC Moore a few months back and took a couple photos to remind me to "think more about them" and get them next time I'm at the store. But you're clearly way ahead of me here - and I love your idea to put'em on the saw and get TWO of them for one. $.50/each - can't beat it! Awesome idea - will look forward to hearing how you like them long term. And also looking forward to following your saga on the CCWB vs. switchlist question. I'm in the same boat as you - I'm currently using switchlists, but for my size layout they're a bit of a pain.

  2. I'm old enough to remember when the Car envelope/route Card system was introduced to reduce the time consuming and mentally exhausting paper work of switch lists. As you say, the size of the task of generating of either CarCards or switchlists depends on the size of the layout. For my small layout I use switchlists. I have three sets which are used in sequence - typically the round robin group schedules four operating sessions per year on my layout By the time several months roll by the crews do not remember the old switchlist. Design of the switchlist for ease of use is very important. I use these columns in this order: Town, Industry, pick/put, AAR Car type, road name, road number. And the switchlist entries are sorted by that ordering.

    Car routing is half the operation. Train dispatching is the other half. And CarCards/Switchlists do not address train movement. I do that with Form 19's. The Form 19 is printed on one side of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of 90lb paper. The switchlist is on the other side. The big sheet of paper does not get lost and does not go home in pockets. It's stiffness makes it easy to hold in one hand.

    I'll send an e-mail with attachments.
    Dick Bradley