Bringing the layout to lIfe!

Layout Operating Philosophy for the MKT, St. Louis Subdivision

The St. Louis Subdivision was intended from day one to be an “operating layout”.

The vision of the MKT St. Louis Subdivision is to recreate the feel of a busy single-track bridge route, moving intermodal, grain, and coal traffic.

During an operating session, a variety of traffic is seen, including unit coal trains, piggyback/double stack/autorack trains, and general merchandise trains, along with local train operation.

Franklin Yard is a small classification yard where the through trains set out and pick up blocks of cars, and where local trains originate and terminate.

The operation of the prototype MKT railroad is duplicated where possible, although during the period that we are modeling (1984), the St. Louis Subdivision was just a ghost of its former self because of poor track condition, frequent flooding, and alternate route options.

We operate the MKT with a nominal crew of six to seven operators:
  • Dispatcher
  • Franklin Yard Yardmaster
  • UP/MP crew at Boonville
  • 1-2 local crew
  • 2-3 road engineers.
During an operating session, the layout is considered a point-to-point design, although a balloon loop connects the staging yards. The balloon loop is used to re-stage trains in-between operating sessions.

The operating scheme is designed to give the feel of a granger/coal line through the use of multiple trains of like consist: three coal trains, and four grain trains (as opposed to single trains of every description).

Except for the locals (currently one local each direction, plus a Columbia Turn and a Westinghouse Job), all trains are "pre-staged", meaning that they exist in the off-layout staging yards, ready to enter the train room at the appropriate time.

Trains operate only once during a layout session, although the balloon loop and the east-end double ended yards allow automatic re-staging and re-use of some trains. The seventeen staging tracks (nine east-end tracks, and eight west-end tracks), have to-date provided storage for ample traffic for our operating sessions, although the double ended east-end tracks limit some train lengths.

Things to Know Before You Operate on the Mighty MKT!

These tabs contain details about specific operating techniques and devices that are used during operating sessions on the MKT.
Car Cards 

Every car has an individual car card

Every car has a car card associated with it. The car card follows the car as it makes its way from destination to destination.

The car card are printed with the usual reporting marks, car type (a simplified AAR designation) and addition information such as colors and or distinguishing features. The additional information is useful to aid in identifying the car, expecially in N-Scale!

I recently reprinted all the car cards on the layout with larger fonts and simplified car type info. The intent was to make it easier to read the car cards at a glance - important for the aging operators among us!

Some multi-car consists and unit trains don't have separate car cards. They are handled by a multi-car waybill.

The car card is folded and taped to make a pocket that will hold a waybill. On the mighty MKT. nearly all cars have waybills. The car cards include “When Empty, Return Car to ____” information, which sends an empty car without a waybill either west (to Parsons Yard) or east (to Baden Yard in St. Louis), based on its home road marking.
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Here are a couple of typical car cards and their associated waybills. Each car card has the basic information needed for operations: reporting mark and number, type of car, and color. Some cards have additional information to aid in identification, such as special brand markings or unique load.

The waybills provide information about the next destination for the associated car. This can be an on-layout destination, such as an industry or interchange, or an off-layout destination.

Some waybills have special “via” text, that provides additional information, such as which train takes the car, or interchange instructions.

The CLIC information is included to provide specific spotting instructions for the locals that deliver the car to the destination.
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Every car card has a waybill

The traditional four-sided waybills are used on the St. Louis Sub. I use Shenandoah Software's excellent Waybill Generator to create the waybills. The waybills contain origin and destination of the car, contents (empty or loaded) and special routing information if the car is going to an industry not served by the MKT.

All industries (on-line and off-line) are stored in the program's database and waybills were developed after consideration of the types of raw materials and commodities that would be required by the on-line industries. In almost all instances, the database provided by the program matched an actual industry to supply the needed product. Both eastern and western locations for the industries were used to provide a balanced mix of traffic across the St. Louis Sub.
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Here you can see
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Colors and Special Waybill Markings

All waybills are color coded to provide additional information to the yard and train crews. These color marking include:
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Here are the two types of yellow waybills.

The bright yellow waybill stripe indicates that the car is destined an eastern location off the layout. This car would go to Baden Yard in St. Louis, the be routed to another railroad.

The pale yellow card has a “West Alton” destination, and would be spotted at the BN West Alton Yard near Machens, Missouri.
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Yellow waybills indicate cars destined for eastbound locations off the layout
  • Light yellow waybills indicate cars are bound for interchange with the BN at West Alton Yard, east of St. Charles
  • Cars with bright yellow waybills will be hauled to Baden Yard in St. Louis for interchange to other railroads, primarily Contrail, UP, BN, or TRRA
  • Functionally, both of the eastbound colors send cars to the same off-layout staging tracks, but the savvy yardmaster can optionally block the West Alton car at the head end of eastbound trains.
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Here are the two types of west offline waybills.

The lighter green also has a destination (North Jefferson) and would be spotted at a town between Sedalia and Parsons. Although these “west end” towns are not modeled on the layout, these waybills are included to convey the sense that work can occur beyond the modeled portion of the railroad.

The darker green stripe has a simple “WEST” destination, and is used to describe a car that will be further classified at Parsons Yard in Parsons, Kansas. At Parsons, cars would be routed either south to Oklahoma/Texas or north to Kansas City.
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Green waybills indicate cars destined for westbound locations off the layout
  • LIght green waybills designate cars that are bound for towns east of Boonville, but west of Parsons Yard. These “west end” cars functionally go to same west staging tracks as any off-line car, but the yardmaster has the option of blocking this cars separately or creating a “West End Local” to haul these cars to staging.
  • Waybills with dark green markings will be hauled to the west end staging at Sedalia. Conceptually, these cars would continue on to Parsons Yard in Kansas, then routed south to Oklahoma/Texas or north to Kansas City.
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These two waybills show the routing of a car that comes in on the UP Job (from Kansas City on the former MP tracks), and is spotted at an industry that is served only by the UP.
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This example shows two more types are cars that are routed via the UP interchange track at Boonville.

On the left, this car would be brought in by the UP Job and spotted in the interchange track. The MKT Boonville local would then move the car to its destination (Sealrite) as part of its work at Boonville. The VIA: line says UP to MKT at Boonville

The car on the left originates at Davey Pasta, an industry served by the MKT Boonville Local. It would get moved to the interchange track, and would subsequently be picked up and hauled to Kansas City by the UP Job. The VIA: line says MKT to UO at Boonville.
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Blue waybills are destined for the UP Interchange at Boonville:
  • Cars with dark blue waybills will be spotted by the UP Job at local industries at Boonville (the on-line UP Industries)
  • Cars with light blue waybills will be hauled to the two-track Kansas City staging by the UP Job.
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These cars should be spotted on the NS Interchange tracks at St. Charles
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Red waybills are destined for the Nolfolk Southern (NS) interchange at St, Charles.
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These waybills show the standard online destination configuration - a non-colored stripe showing the destination city.
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Waybill with no color across the top are destined for on-layout locations. The City of the destination industry is located will be printed on the waybill.
Spot Cards 

Spot Cards and Markings

Special car card inserts are used at Westinghouse and on the UP job to provide additional information regarding the timing and ultimate destination of a car.

At other industries, instructions are printed on the waybill to direct the car to the proper location. For example, Tavern Rock has a loader track, and a crusher track, and certain types of cars (covered hopper or open hoppers) are directed to each track.

Some waybills have information that the car is to picked up by a particular train. For example, the auto racks at the Hazleton Autpramp in St. Charles will only be picked up by the 200-series trains. Similarly, the Pig ramps in St. Charles and New Franklin are only worked by the 300-seriies TOFC trains.
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The spot lines on these waybill show the specific track at Tavern Rock that these cars should be spotted.
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These spot lines on Westinghouse show the track where the cars should be spotted.
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Train Packs 

Train Packs

The car cards/waybills for a given train are collected and placed in a Train Pack.

The Train Pack is a plastic sleeve that provides a convenient way to carry the train information. A Train Summary Sheet and locomotive/caboose cars are also placed in the Train Pack
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The train card, consist card, and car cards with waybills are assembled into train packs
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Train Summary 

Train Summary Card and Consist Insert

In addition to the waybills, the train pack contains a Train Summary Card, and Locomotive and Caboose cards. The Train Summary Card provides information about your train, including its origin and destination and the type of work it performs along the way.
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The train summary card provides lots of information to the operator, including stops and work along the way (if any), and additional information about the train.
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The consist card summarizes the locomotive and caboose assigned to the train, and shows the functions available for the consist.
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Train Board 

The Train Board

All the train packs are stored on the Train Board, located near the Staging Tracks. Each train pack is stored below a number corresponding to the the staging track where the train is located.
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Upon completion of a run, the train pack is placed below the number corresponding to the destination staging track, and the train card is reversed to indicate that the train has completed its run.
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The Mighty Katy