Freight management software

Discussion in 'Model Rail Operations' started by webmaster, Feb 21, 2006.

  1. webmaster

    webmaster Member

    I was wondering if anyone here uses freight management software to operate the industrial side of their layout?

    I was thinking of using the tried & tested card & waybill system, but obviously software would be far more efficient as it would know where all of your cars are at any given time and probably cut down on repeat actions.

    If you do use freight management software, what software do you recommend?

    Are there any free programs that you know of?
  2. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I've operated on a layout using computer generated switch lists. We never quite got all the bugs out, but there were always interesting moves. I think most of our problems were of our own making (moving the wrong car; generating a set of switch lists, then generating a second set without printing the first!) It doesn't solve all the repetion problems - we had a paper box manufacturer on the next siding to the canning plant and each session would trade the empty boxcar at the plant for the one full of cardboard boxes. The program didn't differentiate certain cars -- if your food tastes bad, it's because we hauled cooking oil in the Shell and Texaco tank cars.
    The fellow who owned the layout had once used the thumbtack method. One of my friends uses a printed 4-move tag on the car. (I haven't used these).
    Repetition can alleviated by adjusting the stay each car has at a location. Give a move sequence, but attach it to a different waybill. Limit the number of cars in the train, so some stay a bit longer.
  3. webmaster

    webmaster Member

    Excuse my ignorance, but what is the thumbtack method?
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Thumbtack (push pin?) is an old method. I've not used it. Thumbtacks are made up with a large colour segemnt and a small colour segment. The tack is placed in a hole drilled in the top of a car. Each colour designates an area -- you may have a letter decalled on as well. Take the car to the designated area that it's not in.
    Some people use washers and get four colours for more move.
    This is an old method and I think not favoured because you have to deface your cars.
  5. RevnJeff

    RevnJeff New Member

    There is a Car Card and Waybill Generator program that is available as freeware....sort of. You need to have MS Access 97 or 2000 for the database to work. It allows you to input your cars, locomotives, and then make waybills. The program prints them up nicely.

    I did try ShipIt! from Albion Software. I had a terrible time getting it to work consistantly. I spent over 100 hours fooling around with it and couldn't get it to work. ShipIt! generates switchlists and has an option to output the infor onto waybills. Frankly, I gave up on it.

    Augsburg & Concord R.R.
    (a fictional shortline in Central Illinois)
    Come see us on the web:
  6. webmaster

    webmaster Member

    I have been looking at a few bit's of software, but like ShipIt, they all seem a bit buggy, & I'm loath to part with cash that could be spent on the layout in a trial & error quest to find a good stable system..

    Where can I find this Car Card and Waybill Generator program RevnJeff?
  7. RevnJeff

    RevnJeff New Member

    To get to it, join the Yahoo group: Car Cards. It's an open group, just follow the instructions to join. THere's no Moderator approval to join. The CC&WB program is in the files section. The program was written by Dave Huseman. For more info, check with me off list.

    Augsburg & Concord R.R.
    (a fictional shortline in Central Illinois)
    Come see us on the web:
  8. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    I downloaded the CarCard system and gave it a try.

    It's quirky at best, and a novice MS Office user would be totally lost on how to use it. Using MS Access for something like this isn't really necessary, unless you have a HUGE roster of rolling stock...numbering in the thousands. Excel, though really a spreadsheet, can be used for the same purpose and is much more user-friendly. With a little time and effort, an Access database could be set up to run with the correct forms and reports, then the links to Word and Excel wouldn't be necessary.

    Those who are interested in something like this, post a wishlist here and I'll see if I can come up with something better. For starters, I figure this is a minimum of what would be needed:

    Database for rolling stock
    - type of car
    - road number
    - current location on layout (yard name?)

    Database for motive power
    - type of engine
    - road number
    - current location on layout (yard name?)

    Database for industries/stops on the layout
    - inbound items needed for production
    - outbound products produced
    - number of tracks at location
    - how many inbound/outbound trains it can handle

    Database for yard locations
    - would take information from above databases
    - relative distance (scale miles? actual ft?) to each industry

    Each operating session could be saved under a different file name. For this example, I'll use Session1. You would open the database and proceed:

    By adding information to the industry database, modifying the inbound/outbound information, it would require certain cars to fill the order. Delivery times would also have to be entered at this point.

    The database would then search for the needed cars to haul loads, naming their locations on the layout. Through an interface, you would be able to assemble trains and print out waybills, that would automatically be generated for distribution to yard dispatchers.

    Ideally, you would be able to view the status of any train, engine, or individual rolling stock at any time during the session...provided things are kept up to date. Each time a load is transferred, its new status (empty or full) would have to be manually entered by the database operator. MS Access can also produce reports and graphs. At the end of the operating session, you would be able to analyze traffic patterns and such.
  9. webmaster

    webmaster Member

    I think you have it pretty much covered 2-8-2.

    I think it's really about keeping track of all stock movements so that new trains are only made up from stock that is sitting idle and/or accessible.

    For me personally, I'm looking at 2 small yards surrounded by various industries and 'off scene' staging which would hold complete trains somewhere in 'the rest of the world'.

    I think the main problem that I can see me having is that my off scene staging is made up of 3 tracks which can hold 3 trains each. If one of the trains that is behind another gets called up to return to the layout, it would mean running the train if front out of and back into the staging, which would then put it at the back.

    Does this make sense?
  10. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Yes, that makes sense.

    The staging yard has Train1, Train2, and Train3. Train 2 is needed first, which means Train1 would have to be moved out, rotating the lineup to Train2, Train3, Train1. This brings up an interesting question on how the database would operate most effectively. Ideally, you'd want something set up to kill this problem before it became a problem. I've never participated in an operating session like this, so I'm going to need your input. How is train priority assigned?

    Your "off world" staging would have to be part of the yard database. Let's call it YardSite3. Information entered would include: Number of tracks and total car capacity. By pulling information from the rolling stock database and engine database, you would be able to tell what is currently there. If it's merely a storage, or waiting station for completed trains, it would work just the same.

    The train database wouldn't require entry by an operator. It would pull updated information from others. As industries call out certain cars and their locations, trains are made, thus making a new entry. Train5 (you could designate it with a name if needed) would include Engines X and Y, and Rolling Stock17, 33, 12, Caboose4, etc. As a train makes it's way to a destination, say Industry3...which requires dropping off Rolling Stock17, the database would have to be updated.

    Actually I think the whole thing could work rather well. The trick is going to be making it easy and simple to use, and have it look good. It sounds more complicated than it really is. I personally have no real use for something like this with my small layout, but I'd be happy to make something for those who do.
  11. webmaster

    webmaster Member

    To be honest, it doesn't matter to me what it looks like as long as it's user friendly. I don't know what other people think?
  12. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    I need a little input from the community here:

    I'm currently working on the industry database. Taking information from an old paper system, it lists the following:
    1. Industry Name
    2. Location (Town)
    3. Inbound/Outbound - Car Type - Material Type - Frequency
    My question is about #3. How many inbound/outbound cars would an average industry have? If I have a section for inbound w/ 3 options, is that enough? An additional 3 for outbound? Or does 3 seem low? Would 5 options for each be plenty?

    Another question is with frequency. I was going to include the following options:
    1. Daily
    2. Weekly
    3. Monthly
    4. Annually
    Are these enough options for frequency?
  13. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I think you need to add number of cars to that list. An industry might take (for example) two hoppers of coal bi-weekly (and there is another frequency for you....). ;)

    We use the standard waybill system at the modular club, but how the lists are generated is still a bit of a mystery to me...

    Have you looked at as an option? (While you are there, go up one level and take a look at the layout. He's got the traffic down to a science...

  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    When we were running a system, we had a "number of days delay" at a given site for loading/unloading. It was an arbitrary thing, and we tweaked it as we went along. There was another parameter, where we could say how many days had elapsed since the last session. We would sometimes force this high to get some movement. Number of cars is a function of the industry. Most model railroad industries would be stuck trying to load a car a week. But we want this to be interesting to run. You also need to program in the length of the siding -- I've had sessions where the cars for the coal mine had to be stored in the nearest yard.
    Your train schedule will also require tweaking. If you just have one or two operators, you don't want to have six trains running at once. We often used to find that the "every station" pickup freight would be looking for cars somewhere, but there was a little switch job that hadn't been run yet.
    Look at your staging yards as STAGING. Rearrange the trains on them to what your timetable asks for. You may have to run them onto the layout to the nearest passing siding, but that's done between sessions. (Theoretically). The way we ran our sessions, each train started with a loco in the engine yard and ended with the loco going back to the yard. (we didn't have staging as such).
    Find some sort of industry that will absorb any load that thrown at it. We had interchange tracks and a car ferry. The team track would do for this as well. (Our car ferry was a track that ran off the edge of the able and a set of display shelves underneath.)
  15. webmaster

    webmaster Member

    Is it possible to have a multiple choice?

    Say 1 - 20? The reasoning behind this is if you have a factory that produces flat pack cardboard boxes, they may only fill 1 car per day, but if you also have a coal mine, the mine may fill 20 cars twice a day.
  16. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Just about anything within reason is possible. :)

    20 options? Sure, not a problem. It complicates things a bit, with tracking and error checking, but definitely doable.

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