My HO scale SP Cascade Line is designed to be an operating model railroad. This means it will have an operating plan of various trains aimed at particular destinations to efficiently move (freight) traffic. It also means an objective means of guiding individual car movements. I will use the time-proven car card and waybill system, first introduced to the hobby in 1960 by Doug Smith. I will use my own car card and waybill formats which share dimensions with commercial systems. The car card, printed on heavy stock, is roughly 2x4 inches with a fold up pocket flap on the bottom for the waybill.
Use of the car card and waybill system requires installation of car card pockets (boxes) around the railroad. Car card sorting needs to be provided for, as well. Failure on this last point leads to crew members sorting car cards on the layout surface—ugly! With the wide operator aisle between Eugene and Springfield on the layout, I chose to provide fascia-mounted shelves for card sorting, holding throttles, and coffee mugs. The car card boxes mount on top of the shelf, but below all the switch control knobs.
Eugene fascia shelf and car card boxes before painting.
The car card boxes follow a design developed by Rob Spangler and shown in several of his forum posts at Model Railroad Hobbyist. (http://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/node/6051) My first version of the box used 1x3 MDF molding for the front, 1/8 inch hardboard for a back, 1x2 for the end blocks and ½ x 2 (1-1/2 inch actual) separators. The 1x3 front molding provides ample horizontal top surface for a pocket label, per Rob Spangler’s idea. The card pockets are 2-1/2 inch wide to accommodate potential use of trading card plastic sleeves for the car card function in the future. For now, the pockets simply are “generous.” After I built my first couple of these boxes, I realized I could use thinner material for the separators, so my “definitive” design uses ¼ inch poplar for this function. I also reduced the depth of the box by cutting down the end blocks and separators with a table saw to get 1 inch depth. All of this is glued together with carpenter glue. Since the boxes are protected by the shelves below them, the glue assembly should be sufficient.
Original car card box design in foreground. Final design in background.
I added a ¼ inch square basswood strip at the front of the shelf in front of the car card boxes. This provides a convenient leaning rest for sorting car cards. Note in the photo above that I spaced apart nearby car card boxes by at least the length of an NCE PowerPro throttle. The fascia shelves should be quite handy for holding throttles and other operating gear. Two boxes were used in the middle of the Eugene depot and classification yard area rather than one longer box. This will help separate the functions of the classification yard (long box on the left) and the depot tracks (short box on the right).
Car card boxes and operating equipment shelves at Eugene.
The nearly complete installation at Eugene is illustrated in the last photo, above. This should help with the next trial operating session!