Introduction to Time-Table and Train Orders (TT&TO) – Clinic (Hickory, NC 2011)

Sorry for the delay in posting notes for my clinic.  In giving the clinic I too learn, so I wanted to make a few updates before posting.  Thanks to all who attended and contributed to my clinic you participation made it all worth while.

For  those who could not attend the clinic, the model railroad PAR&NCo. is an HO scale model railroad set in 1910.  It is was used as the example during the clinic.  The PAR&NCo has 4 mainline town and a small branch to log loading.  The railroad is in a 16×16′ room and the dispatchers desk is in an adjacent room.

David Keith


I’m not a real railroader, instead I’m a model railroader who believes that bringing a model railroad to life through prototype based operations is lots of fun.  Honestly, I’ve only operated with TT&TO on sessions I’ve setup on my Sn2 SR&RL (dismantled in 2006) and a friends HO PAR&NCo.  These are small model railroads, but still worthing of operating.  I’ve obtained most of my knowledge by reading model railroad publications and a few prototype publications.  So all credit to this clinic goes to those who have shared their information, thanks.  Below is a list of references to get you started too.  The list is not comprehensive.

  • OpSig (the best $20 in model railroading or $7 for electronic membership)
  • OpSig references page:
  • How to OPERATE your model railroad by Bruce Chubb (out of print – great general model railraod operations book.  Not so simple, does include some TT&TO information)
  • Realistic Model Railroad OPERATION by Tony Koester (Replaces Chubb’s book, and is general operations.  Should still be available from Kalmbach)
  • Model Railroader’s monthy “Operators” section by Andy Sperandeo (this has been going for 3-4 years.  Andy present one page about prototype and model operations.  Collect the pages for more comprehensive knowledge)
  • The Rights of Trains by Peter Josserand (The be-all reference for railroad rules, includes TT&TO, CTC, .. information as it pertains to real railroads)
  • The Condensed Code of Operating Rules (A model railroad simplification of Rights of Trains)
  • SWOOPS Ops Event: (you can operate the layout in the clinic or an HOn3 EBT layout).  There are many such events around the country (20+ a year).  There is no better way to learn about operations than to operate on other railroads.  To find out about these events join the OpSig.  Get out and operate.
  • GML Enterprises (fast clocks):

Two fundementals to Railroad Operation Plan:

  1. Movement of Trains:  The means by which trains are moved across the railroad (The When).  Examples are Sequence, TT&TO, WTC, CTC…
  2. Forwarding Cars:  Routing of freight cars to industries and passenger cars for riders (The Why).  Examples are Switchlists, CC&WB, tab on car, …

This clinic is about the Movement of Trains only.  Specifcally by the means of Time-Table and Train Order (TT&TO).

Why TT&TO for a Model Railroad

  • It was used by railroad from 1850’s to 1990’s (After clinic, I was informed of a SOU line running TT&TO into 1990, might have been through Hickory)
  • Used by all major narrow gauge railroads (C&S, D&RG, EBT, SR&RL, ET&WNC, … )
  • Most other Model Railroady MR movements are not prototypical for NG railroads
  • Useing TT&TO is a form a modeling

Excuses – Why not use TT&TO

  • Too Much Like Work:
  • If you want to watch “day’s of our lives”, stay at home.
  • TT&TO is a challenge, like a roll playing game or puzzle
  • Some rolls/trains are easier than others choose a roll that suits you.  Run an passenger train for ease.  Run a local extra for challenge.
  • Medical journals have reported that TT&TO is better than Sudoku at staving off Alzheimer’s
  • I do not want to write things down:
  • Properly applied crews do not write things down.  Only the Dispatcher and Operator(s) write.  Signup to run a train.

Elements of TT&TO

The elements of TT&TO

Modeling TT&TO

Making a Time Table

  • Make a list of “regular” trains (scheduled trains, usually just the passenger trains on our NG model railroads
  • Calcualte the travel time between each town.
  • Adjust the times for the fast clock ratio you plan to use.
  • Use the time between to towns to calculate the times in the time table.
  • Allow time to perform switching
  • It might be helpful to have a string diagram of all planned trains (scheduled and extras)
  • Extra trains are not included in the time-table.

Fast Clocks

  • Fast clocks or model railroad time clocks put the operators into “railroad time”
  • Fast clocks give a feeling of time passing
  • Fast time is usually described as a ratio (3:1, 6:1, 12:1)
  • Early model railroads tended to use high ratios (8:1, 10:1, 12:1), possibly to complete a 24 hour day in a 2 hour operating session
  • Current trend is for lower ratios 4:1, 3:1, 2:1.  Some have even chosen 1:1.  The change is that operators have realized the switching approaches real time
  • Remember to choose a ratio that will allow trains to perform yard switching, turn train at a terminal, perform local switching
  • For the PAR&NCo. 6:1 was choose because passenger trains and a complete railroad day occurs in 3 hours or so (up to 18 hour railroad day).

Sources of Fast Clocks

  • NCE has fast clock built into the system and external clocks are available too.  Only the full featured power cab shows the clock
  • Digitrax – A 3rd party loco net clock is available, I’m not sure if any throttles can display.
  • GML Enterprises has fast clock systems –
  •  Free-ware on computers – Clocks are available for the computer, but to my knowledge they only support singe display of computer.
  • Future – I predict computer driven clocks will apear on wireless phones (along with throttles).

PAR&NCo. Time-Table Sample

PAR&NCo. Time-Table a sample from a model railroad

 Above is the physical time-table.  On the PAR&NCo. we post the time table along with help on reading the time-table for the following information.  This is created in Excel but any word processing tool with tables would work.

PAR&NCo. timetable sheet. This single page include critical information related to time-table.

Extra Trains

  • Extra trains do not appear on the time table
  • Extra’s may be run daily.  Circumstances often cause them not to meet a schedule or run to a schedule.
  • Regular trains get their rights from the time table thus only require a clearance card to depart the inital station
  • Extras require a clearance card and a train order to depart initial location
  • Extras get their rights from the train order.
  • Extras are exciting, crew must navigate the railroad dodging the schedule trains.  The dispatcher protects them and keeps them from falling too far behind.

Conductors & Engineers

  • On a small model railroad with short trains (5-10 cars) a one man crew is usually sufficient
  • Two man crews are fun for longer trains.  Consider requiring that crews use hand signals when performing the switchin (Engineer/Front Brakeman gets signals from Conductor/Rear Brakeman)
  • Two man crews are good for training
  • One of the most important points for a crew to remember:  “Time table gives a train 12 hours rights, so trains can run late…It’s OK”  Make safe choices.

On the PAR&NCo crews are provided a Guide as follows.  I Try to make it a single page that a crew member can fold and put in their back pocket.

PAR&NCo. Guide for Conductors and Engineers

 The Dispatcher

  • The dispatcher will issue train orders and must transmit and record them as prescribed by the rules.
  • The orders are issued to augment the time table.
  • Orders are issued by writing them in the Train Order book and then dictating the order to the operator.

The Station Operator

  • Writes orders from the dispatcher (the PAR&NCo is very small, so the dispatchers job is minimal.  Sometimes we have the dispatcher write the orders, as the operator bounces in and out of the railroad room.  Gives DS more to do)
  • Sets order boards when orders are waiting or coming for crews.  Ideally order board would be functional models on the layout, but non-prototypical means of lights on fascia, balls in CC&WB box, fags on fascia are all good substitutes as is hollaring
  • Delivers orders to the C&E’s (usually by walking to location and placing order in crew’s hands or in the car-card box)
  • OS’s train departures (some arrivals) back to dispatcher
  • On PAR&NCo, the operator can stand in doorway and seem 90 percent of layout, and relay OS back to dispatcher at desk in adjacent room.  One operator is sufficient
  • Larger layouts may benefit from having multiple operators (one per isle?)
  • Larger layouts may benefit in having a phone between DS and Operator, and the PAR&NCo, it is not required.
  • Operator(s) are not descision makers.  Decisions are made by the DS and crews.  The operator is a communicator.  Ths is a low pressure job for those who do not want to work hard.

Guide for Dispatcher and Operator

Guide for Dispatchers and Operator(s)

Dispatcher Train Order Sheet

PAR&NCo. Train Order Sheet. Most real railroads had books of these sheets. A three ring binder could be used to make a book.

Dispatchers Sheet

PAR&NCo. Dispatcher's sheet. This sheet is used by the dispatcher to track trains on the railroad. Model railroad owners may replace this sheet with a magnetic board. The advantage of the paper form is that there is a record of what occurred.

Clearance Form

All trains must have a cleanance form. The form at right is from the Operations Road Show (Wabash layout during the 2005 NMRA national) the form at left is micro mark

Form 19

Form 19 is the most commonly used train order paper form. The form at left is from the Operations Road Show (2005 NMRA national convention) the form at right is from the micro mark. The micro mark forms come with carbon paper so that copies can be made for multiple crews.

Form 31

Micro-mark Form 31. Again, these come with carbon paper.

Train Register

  • Train registers exist at division points or locations where trains enter or exit a division
  • The train register reviewed by crews to determine what trains are on the division
  • Crews must sign the train register
  • The PAR&NCo. uses registers at each end of the railroad.

Sample train register from PAR&NCo.

Reading a Time Table

An extra is working Milltown and wants to know when the next train is coming through town.

Employee Time Tables

  • Real railroads have employee time-tables.  This is a single booklet (4.25×11″) that was required to be on employee.  It contained all rules of the railroad.  One can find them for various railroads on ebay or included in some publications or from historical groups.  These are very valuable in understanding how a specific railroad worked.
  • May model railroad have employee time-tables too.  I find them hard to use for first time or some time operators.  The operators can not determine what is “critical” to their job.  As such, the PAR&NCo. uses guides for each job (as shown above).  The guide is a one page document that an employee can read and digest and reference as they break in to a specifc job on the railroad.
  • I suggest having employee time tables as your crew advances.  They are a cool thing to model!

Codes and Rules for all Railroads

  • All railroads followed a comon code.  Even the narrow gauge railroads.  Many employee time tables only contain the railroad specific deviations from the code.
  • The code contains information rules of communication, order writing, signaling, etc.
  • The best reference is “Right of Trains” by Peter Josserand (try checking amazon)
  • A Chicago area group create “The Condensed Code of Operating Rules”  This is a simpler version of Right of Trains.  It is availabe on the web at the following URL:

Parting Comments

  • This clinic was just a teaser.  There is much more out there to learn.
  • Hpoefully you now have confidence to try TT&TO, it need not be daunting
  • TT&TO is enjoyable…can be relaxed
  • Operate!

I probably should have proof read this more….but I just wanted to make it available…as soon as possible….

Send any comments to dckeith @ fuse . net (no spaces…)

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