To add a twist to an operating session I have always thought it would be fun to add certain “unforeseen” issues. The following are a few fun items I came up with to add interest to an operating session.
The Fussy Receiving Manager
Who does not know someone who is very good at their job yet very fussy about what goes where. Our little puzzle here centers around a very fussy receiving manager, who wants his cars spotted in just the right arrangement (and gets you to do the work for him). You will be required to do several moves to accomplish what he requires. The key is you never know what these moves will be until you check in with the Receiving Manager.
Here is how it works; Select a location with two or more tracks to spot cars. Setup your deliveries and pickups so that there is always a few cars (at least 1/2 of what it will hold) at this industry. Set a sign at the entrance to the industry indicating something like, “Check with clerk for car spotting”. The game is that all the cars being left at the industry must be mingled and placed in a particular order. The order could be determined by the host shuffling the car cards (upon checking with the clerk) and placing them into respective pockets for each track. The cars will then need to be shuffled to that order.
This will create a switching puzzle for the crew and could (with just two turnouts) create an inglenook sidings puzzle. More on Inglenook sidings and other puzzle arrangements can be found at Adrian Wymann’s site at http://www.wymann.info/ShuntingPuzzles/.
Some industries that could have such a requirement to shuffle cars are; corn syrup plant (tank cars), food processing plant (refrigerated/box cars, printing plant (box cars of paper) or any industry that might get several types of a single product in the same type of car.
The Hot Box/Equipment Detector
This works like pulling a chance card in the game Monopoly. Every crew that passes the Hot Box Detector must pull a card. The card will either give a pass or a fail (you could make this fun with any number of “high-ball” or bad order terms). If you get a fail indication, you just gained yourself an extra switching move. The crew will be required to set out the car at the next possible location.
Which car to set out can be as simple as rolling the dice. A simple random number generator could also be affixed to the fascia next to the hot box detector. If you have that number car, you have a bad order.
A Roll of the Dice
A simple way to add time (or unexpected early arrivals) to your schedule is to add a roll of the dice to your operation. Do you have a dummy diamond crossing on your layout? Try putting it to use. A simple roll of the dice will indicate how long you have to wait for a clear signal before proceeding. An electronics savvy person may add a bush bottom that controls the signal. The timer can be random so the crew has to sit and wait just like the prototype. Anywhere the prototype typically has to wait can be an opportunity to make the crew have to take action or wait.
Derails and Gates
In the prototype many locations have derails, gates or inspections that cause delays when spotting and picking up from industries. Why not add little tasks to locations that should have these items. These small extra steps will add interest to the location. Again a simple use of a dice or the integration of small lock on the fascia that a key must be found for, just adds to the experience.
All in Fun
Introducing little obstacles like these are meant as fun variables to the otherwise predicable operating session. Post operating session discussion will almost certainly center around the Hot Box or the what happened with the Receiving Manager.