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Operations Planning

Ops Planning is much more than a timetable ...

Some modelers are stumped by how to begin developing an operating session. Start with the trains? With a timetable? What are the crew roles? Car-cards-and-waybills or switchlists? Timetable and Train Order or CTC? Too often, the fun of op sessions is delayed until all these questions can be worked out.

Successful op sessions depend on coordinating all of these elements. Whether you are planning your layout now – or want to add operating fun to an existing railroad – I can help you start easily and then add complexity to reach the level of challenge that's right for you and your crew.

What's included with an Operation Planning consultation?


Based on the three keys, I'll provide suggestions on trains to run, operator roles, car routing, dispatching methods, etc. If you like, I can also develop all the materials you will need to support your op session from train lists to procedure manuals to timetables. Every engagement is different and I'll work with you to provide the information and level of detail you need. Some recent op session planning engagements have included:

Op Session Conceptual Design – Looking at the railroad, your concept, and your givens and 'druthers around the op session (number of operators, session length, etc., etc.) to come up with a suggested list of trains, operator roles, session flow, train control and traffic generation methods. The product of this work is a few text pages along with schematics or flow charts as needed along with discussion to go over it all.

Op session materials development – This is creating the instructions sheets, train lists, timetables, etc. to support the op session.This has included (in some cases) an overall layout handout, individual operator cards, yard sequenced instructions for yard, road and other crews, various forms, etc.

Ops concept analysis – A look at your existing or planned op session to identify potential pitfalls and highlight interesting alternatives

What information do you need from a client to begin?
If you already have a layout or it's in the final planning stages, I'll need a drawing or computer rendering of the layout which includes staging, approximate length of sidings and yard tracks, etc. This need not be a work of art, but knowing the basic capacities of the various tracks is important. I'll ask you to look over these questions to help you focus your vision of what you'd like your op session to be. Then we start talking and it goes from there.
If you don't have a layout or a firm design yet, there's a lot we can do now to be sure that the eventual layout incorporates the operating features you desire. A short, focused ops consultation now may help immensely when it comes time for the final design (no matter who does it).


Past clients have received a variety of materials: detailed operating plans including train instructions, guidance in developing a traffic control scheme (Track Warrant, TT&TO, etc.), suggested timetables and crew roles, and more. Operations consulting projects are tailored specifically to your layout, interests, crew experience, and more.

Let's get started

Operations is one of the fastest-growing areas of the hobby – because it’s fun and engaging! Contact me today to learn more about how we might work together to get operations started on you layout.

model railroad operations, Ops, three keys

Read about the Three Keys to successful operating sessions

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Ops planning may take many different forms depending on your layout and interests

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