Operating the keystone midland
The Keystone Midland Model Railroad is not a 'toy train' layout. It is run as much like a real railroad as possible. (We do have a Christmas Display layout that's much more a traditional 'toy train' operation, and that's great to see. Check it out here.) But here's what you'll see if you come visit us at our club:
Dispatchers (located at the control board in our balcony) control the movement of trains.
Operating sessions begin with road crews receiving their assignments from Dispatch. Assignments will tell them what train they are operating, its origin, its destination, and what it must do along the way. For instance passenger trains will note which station stops must be made, while freight trains will have instructions to pick up or drop off cars at various industries or yards.
Major stations and yards are controlled by a stationmaster or yardmaster respectively. Crews entering or leaving these facilities work with the master to coordinate their arrival, any necessary activity at the facility, and departure.
Once released from the major station or yard, crews are controlled by the dispatcher. They receive clearances for how far they can move their train, permission to enter sidings, etc.
In some areas of the layout, the dispatcher communicates with trains via the use of signals. Trains stop at 'stop' signals and proceed when they get a clear signal. In other areas of the layout that don't yet have signals, communication is via radio. The goal is eventually to have nearly-all areas of the layout work by signaling alone with little need for radio communication except for unusual situations (again, much like a real railroad operates).
Since the Keystone Midland is modeled in the 1950's era, signaling and communications are handled as they would have been at that time.
It takes about a full week's effort to prepare the railroad for an open house. Many dozens of trains with many hundreds of cars must be prepared, positioned, and an operating schedule prepared. Multiple members spend several evenings 'staging' the trains to run and be ready: It's a big deal! Operating the railroad smoothly for 10 hours over a 2-day open house requires probably 240 man-hours of preparation.
A note for visitors: We love company and enjoy showing off our layout. We're friendly folks happy to explain what's going on or answer questions; but please understand we're also operating the layout for you. If you hear our radio go off and we have to stop and operate our train, we're not being rude... just "workin' on the railroad".
Check out the video below to see the Dispatcher operating the railroad.