Quin and I ran another abbreviated session today (10/22/2016) and I and I'm happy to report that everything worked as expected. YAY!
Issues we were having (this may get kind of convoluted, sorry) were several and some of them were compounded as well.
The first problem was a simple fix. I have my Wheel Report designed on Excel. Shortly after getting it running, Steven from The Rock Island: Ottawa Sands, told me that he could get it to automatically generate a session randomly when you hit the F9 key. He did this and it's been super nice, but it has one drawback. Anytime you make a change and save it, it also recalculates the session! I did find a way that you can turn this off. But even so, I have had to redo a session before as halfway through, something changed.
Which is exactly what happened last week while running session #12 but I didn't catch it in time and halfway through the session Doug called out to me saying something was awry! He had too many cars and others were missing while he was building the Haskell Turn. So after the session was over I compared the sheets that I had printed off and sure enough. One thing I found was Dixie Woods was asking for an All Door Boxcar and there wasn't any to be found.
What I came up with was to generate a session, then right away save the entire workbook as a PDF, all 18 pages. Once it's saved I can go back and print off just the 2 sheets that I need to stage the layout and the 2 sheets that the El Dorado crew uses to block the 3 Turns with. Plus now that I have it saved, I can go back and compare notes if anything went wrong. I can also reuse any of the saved session at any point if needed instead of regenerating new session.
The next issue was kind of a hidden one and was hard to place a finger on until Quin started playing the Wheel Report one night. The sessions that we have are single sessions and when they are run, they are done. They are NOT consecutive. At the end of each session the cars that were picked up are left in El Dorado to be picked up and returned to the main yard during the next session by the 4 manifests.
The 4 manifests that feed El Dorado leave the staging with 2-3 locos, 18 cars and a waycar. Depending on the amount of cars that were picked up from the previous session, the manifests may grow beyond their 18 car limit. We've had some that topped out at 28 cars. Now these manifests do not fit in MQ and DuBach siding with 18 cars so the length doesn't really matter that much. But it can and does cause a small problem in El Dorado at the start of each session. El Dorado only has four tracks and it can get kind of crowded at times. But being crowded or having too many outbound cars isn't the whole problem. To complicate matters, there are captive service cars that never return to the main staging yard, instead they would sit in El Dorado in a track that we first called the "Pool Track". Some of these cars would have a day delay because they didn't get picked up and returned to El Dorado in time to be placed on the W&OV's Razorback train. So they would have to sit in the "Pool Track" until the next session where we would pull from them when the Razorback came to El Dorado to swap the cars for that session.
The problem was the amount of Pool Track Cars would at sometimes be enough that it would fill 1 of the 4 tracks. At times we had to use the lead that will eventually run up the hill to El Dorado Proper as another yard track. This will become a problem after I get the El Dorado proper built because there will be an incline to this track of about 3%. This means the cars won't stay put and will roll back down.
Yes I know 3% is steep, but it's going to be nothing more than an industrial track so there should be no more than 4 cars going up at any one given time, so it shouldn't be a problem?
What Quin came up with was to do away with the Pool Track and Pool Cars. Basically we restaged the yard at El Dorado on this test session. Otherwise what we were doing was running a single session on the layout but consecutive sessions for El Dorado. It's kind of a step backwards but it worked.
The original Wheel Report that Jim Hediger used on his Ohio Southern worked like this: When a local left the yard it had a limit on its length so it would fit in all his sidings. As the local worked it's run, it would pick up the same amount of cars that it dropped off at each industry, thus the length remained the same.
What we did was to place the exact number of cars that would be picked up or delivered in this session in El Dorado yard. If the first NB manifest was to drop off 3 cars, then we placed 3 cars in the yard and marked them with white NB tabs. If the next SB would drop off 6 cars, then we set 6 cars in the yard and marked them with white SB tabs. We did this for all 4 manifests. Likewise, whatever cars that would have been pulled from the Pool Track, we place enough cars in El Dorado to cover those needed for this session and placed the proper colored industry tabs on those as well.
Now how this played out was good, the 4 manifests came to and left El Dorado with 18 cars. Before each of them arrived I grabbed that exact number of NB or SB cars from the yard tracks and placed them on one of the A/D tracks. I knew before they arrived how many cars were needed as I could look on the Yardmaster list that we used to stage the 4 manifests with.
One thing I should remind you of, we have four manifests, the first two run near the beginning of the session and bring cars to El Dorado that are needed for the Winnfield Turn and W&OV's Razorback. One NB and one SB. The second 2 manifests run about halfway through the session and do the same thing for cars needed for the Haskell Turn and El Dorado Trick. Knowing how many cars are being dropped off from the 4 manifests can be seen on the Yardmasters list.
As for the changes to the tabs, this was simple. We decided that ANY cars that were called for pick up would receive a White tab marked with "EDY" (El Dorado yard). By doing this, El Dorado Yard became and industry. During the restaging of this session, those "EDY" tabs in El Dorado yard were replaced by either a White NB or SB tabs for the cars being picked up by the manifest and the old "Pool Track" cars would receive a Blue or Yellow tab so they could be picked out of the yard easily when the El Dorado crew was building either the W&OV's Razorback (Yellow tabs) or the Winnfield Turn (Blue tabs)
Another thing we're going to do will be to leave the colored tabs on the cars that are delivered to their respective industries. This will do 2 things, one it will help mark the industries (as some of them do not have any buildings in place yet) and two, it will show for sure that those cars will not get picked up.
Now that this has been done and I have a better plan, I'll need to make a up a bunch more tabs. I can add this to the "To Do" list I already have planned for this winter.
But the first thing on the "To Do" list will be to get the new circuit breakers installed and replace the aging PM42's, so stay tuned...