Operating a large virtual railroad
By Brian Eckard
Construction continues on my fictional railroad, the Utah & Rocky Mountain Railroad. As of this writing I have extended the tracks to Riggins, Idaho. Before continuing construction south to Boise, I thought it would be fun to explore how I plan to operate a large virtual railroad that currently takes almost 8-hours to cross from one end to the other.
Since I am building a full size railroad that will ultimately traverse long distances, a strategy must be developed to make it feasible to operate. Like a real railroad, the U&RM has been divided into smaller divisions. This is an important design aspect that will actually facilitate the operation of the railroad in more reasonable time chunks. Each division requires between one and three hours to cross. That is a more reasonable time to sit in front of a computer monitor.
The other aspect that facilitates operating a virtual railroad of this size is the ability to save the train session. This ability allows for even shorter operating sessions. So, unlike real life, a train operating session can actually take many days and weeks to accomplish. I like to compare this type of operating session to reading a good book. You might not have the time to read an entire novel in one sitting, but with a bookmark you can read the entire novel over a period of time.
On the U&RM I currently have three divisions established. They are Spokane, Moscow, and Riggins. The Spokane division runs from Spokane WA to Coeur d'Alene ID. The Moscow division runs between Coeur d'Alene, ID and Moscow, ID. The Riggins division runs between Moscow, ID and Riggins, ID. My operating strategy consists of running each division for a 24-hour period, staging the trains and rolling stock for advancement into the next divisionï¿½uro;™s session. To start off, I begin the first 24-hour session at Riggins, ID. The trains are only run between Riggins and Moscow during this 24-hour period. However, the AI trains at this time are allowed to run the entire layout. I only venture out of the operating division to fix traffic jams that might occur with the AI trains.
During the Riggins operating sessions the trains are run up to Moscow and the cars left on a siding in anticipation of the Moscow operating session. During the 24-hour period there will be numerous through freights run, and at least one local train run. After the 24-hours are over, operations continue in the Moscow Division. Through freights are run up to Coeur d'Alene and set out in anticipation of the Spokane operations. After that 24-hour period passes, operations then continue into the Spokane Division. After the Spokane operations end we move back to the Moscow Division, and then the Riggins Division. These 24-hour operating sessions simply continue to rotate through each of the divisions. This method allows me to operate the entire railroad and keeps each session and scenery interesting since it is always changing with every 24-hour period. --Brian