A little history - my first introduction to car card systems was through Frank Ellison and his excellent Delta Lines. In Model Railroader magazine articles, Frank stressed the importance of operation at a time when money model railroaders just wanted to 'run trains' . That meant in circles, repeatedly! Boringly unprototypical because it did not emulate the real purpose and function of prototype railways. But for them it was fun. For a while.
Operation experience led me full circle - back to car cards. Though you may prefer the commercial car card systems with their layout-fascia pockets, turnable waybills, lamination and professional printing; none of that works for me. I simply demand too much flexibility and minimal preparation to get in the way of operation. In four easy, leisurely steps, here's what I do to make Trackside Leisure work well:
Oxford from Staples. These are 4 x 6 index cards of various colours, available at business supply stores for about $5 per hundred. I write reporting marks at top right, blt date and car type if I think it'll help identify the car. To fully use the pack of cards, and make car cards easier to sort, I designate CN family cars Blue, CP family cars Red, and American/private cars green (above). I pulled the piles of cards out for illustration, but normally they are kept in a metal file box.
Some advantages of Trackside Leisure:
- it's free
- it's gets you using your imagination. What sort of loads does my industry receive/ship? Just what are these cars doing on my layout anyway?
- it's been tested over time, in fact over three iterations of my current layout spanning several years
- a freight car need not cycle repeatedly to a single industry, as is the case with some commercial car card systems
- a newly-acquired car requires minimal documentation before coming online for the first time
- there is a minimum of setup - when a car comes online, spend a moment to decide then write where it's going and if you like, what it's carrying
- you have a permanent record on each card showing where the car has been
- write in pencil - it's easy to change your mind!
- each card will last as long, or longer, than the car!
- it's scaleable. Instead of YARD and INDUSTRIES, a larger layout could include clips of cards at various locations around the layout
- like any car card operation system, there is the issue of visually matching a card to a car, especially if unfamiliar with the layout. Printed photos attached to each card could help make this easier.
- there is less set-up and tear-down before and after operation than other car card systems
- by placing most recently-placed cars at the back of each clip, the system cycles itself
- a larger layout with unit trains or blocks of cars could be kept clipped together, or multiple car numbers written on one of the cards only.
My system is based on lots of reading on other modeller's favourite operating systems!
**YMMV - Trackside Leisure may not work for you if:
- Your layout's too large.
- You like a paper list of each operating sessions.
- You want to spend more money (!)
- You want to make things really, really complex.
- You like keeping operating sessions stressful, with lots of set-up and take-down time
- You don't want to use your imagination that much.
- You'd rather just run trains round and round without considering the enjoyable aspects of realistic operation!
Amtrak remembers the LRC/ je me souviens LRC.
Trackside Treasure reader Malcolm Peakman was out at 0815 hrs on Sunday, February 7 to photograph CN No 371 with ex-IC 6100 in the locomotive consist. Here's a more mundane photo - paper cars on the Grand Trunk bridges on Little Creek Road east of Napanee, ON. Malcolm liked the light, which I do as well, but I really liked the mundane nature of this photo.
Approaching my 40th anniversary of scrawling numbers trackside just over a week away!
Watch for a masthead change soon!
Welcome aboard Trackside Treasure -
Trips, Trains and 40 Years Trackside with Canadian Railways.