One of the challenges for operating crews is organizing yard tracks for efficient switching. Our operating crews are not "on the ground" at scale size where they would be able to read switch target labels. They also do not do this job day in and day out. One of the ways I have tried to help my yard crews was to provide track number labels at each end of the yard tracks. This at least conveys a common understanding of the track numbering, but still does not convey use of those tracks. Even the track number labels disrupt the visual flow, but I view that as a necessary evil to promote a common reference for operating crews.
Most model railroads have limited classification tracks. Mine is no exception. The practical limit for number of classification tracks often involves arm-reach distance and viewing distance. The consequence of this is the multiple use of classification tracks during an operating session for sorting to different locations or trains. With a yard crew of more than one, this means communication, often from the person designated as Yardmaster to the person or persons designated as switch crews. An important part of the Yardmaster's job is organizing the yard for the work at hand. My Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard also finds tracks serving different locations so it also has constantly changing yard organization.
For most of the life of my railroad, I have used card slot identification tabs that can help a Yardmaster keep track of cars and destinations. This is fine as far as it goes, but the switch crews need something more to help with the immediate task of remembering what destination is assigned to what track. The card slot boxes are located in the middle of the Classification Yard, often obscured by the Yardmaster. The Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard card boxes are mounted on the layout fascia away from the switch control panels--the remaining fascia space that was available.
Car card slot box for the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard with slot identification tabs showing for (L to R) Ogden, Roseville, Los Angeles and Oakland. A "temporary" tag indicates track 12 holds cars for classification.
One effective way of conveying the current organization of a yard is the use of an erasable panel (e.g., a whiteboard), mounted in a convenient, visible spot such as an overhead valence. I chose to build my railroad without valences as I find them confining and difficult to set heights for, especially for taller folk. My operating crews reflect a fairly full spectrum of heights, with several of us significantly above six feet tall. I thought clipboards hanging from the aisle shelves along my fascia might serve the communication and reminder purpose, but my crews have ignored these.
One of my Santa Clara Tower operators (responsible for the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard) suggested removable labels to be placed inside the rails of the yard tracks. I finally took time to create a set of destination labels. I cut my label backs from 0.020-inch styrene sheet that I cut into half-inch wide strips. I made labels that I applied to these strips and then tapered the ends of the strips, much like a track rerailer.
Removable track labels at the RR-West end of the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard. Crew feedback should let me know the preference for white-on-black versus black-on-white labels.
My initial use of the labels confirms they pose no derailment hazard. They are handy for keeping track of the yard track use/designation, especially when both ends of long tracks (my classification yard) or reverse loop tracks are involved.
RR-East end of the reverse loop tracks of the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard. Ah yes, the infamous "Work Mastodon" lingers from last April 1.
Track labels used in the Eugene Classification Yard.
I look forward to crew feedback on these labels at the next operating session.