Posted by: bgtwindad | October 7, 2010

Virtual Operations

I and a few others over at started a new experiment the other day.  Virtual Operations.  Also known as Virtual Interchange or Virtual Car Forwarding.  This isn’t some new invention.  There are some extant examples of this on other forums and groups, but it is new to us.  So far, it has been a fun way to add some operating interest to our modeling.

The basic idea is that we are pretending that our varied layouts are actually connected in a rail network, and so we can send shipments of various goods and materials  back and forth to and from our various industries.  We don’t actually physically exchange cars, but only the “paperwork” associated with them.

For example, I have a coal mine and Bob has a parts factory.  I may send a half dozen carloads of coal to Bob, while he ships me two boxcars of parts.  I will send my loco out to the mine, pick up the coal, bring it back to the yard and switch it into another train headed out to the interchange (my off-layout staging).  Once the cars are spotted on the interchange, I’ll send Bob a telegram to that effect.

Bob will then place a half dozen of his own coal hoppers (standing in for the ones I’m shipping him) on his staging track, and send a train out to pick them up, most likely dropping off the boxcars with my parts in the process.  He then telegrams me that the hoppers have been picked up and the boxcars dropped off.  To complete the transaction, I place a couple of my box cars on my staging, and send a train out to pick them up and deliver them to the end customer on my layout.

We’re using a thread on the website to post all of the “telegrams” and a separate thread for discussion.  So far we’ve handled several direct transactions, including a mis-ship and a through-transfer from an imaginary third railroad to the South.

The net effect is that all of a sudden that train I’m making up in the yard has a purpose beyond just something I made up in my own mind.  I have a customer I’m serving who needs that coal today, by golly.  I have a supplier for the customers on my layout and a source for all that traffic I’m putting together.

Like anything, this could get out of hand and become more work than it’s worth, but so far we’ve kept it light and entertaining.  One interesting aspect is that the settings and eras of our layouts don’t match.  I recently shipped some coal and chemicals in modern 100-ton hoppers and a 22,000 gallon tank behind a GP40.  They arrived at the customer in old wood-sided hoppers and a 13,000 gallon tank behind a steamer.

If you’re tiring of dreaming up reasons for the traffic you have, this can be an interesting way to generate traffic and activity on your layout, and so far it has definitely been a plus for mine!



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