Dispatcher

The next area of major interest [yet having little understanding] is the incorporation of a dispatcher.
I have operated as a guest on several layouts where we wore a headset and
there was a dispatcher directing our movements along the rails. I thoroughly enjoyed the concept. In all cases, the dispatcher was crammed into a less than enviable location within the same space as the layout. One guy was actually under a mountain on a rolling chair w/ a small sheet of plywood as his writing desk. All of the RR's used a magnetized board as the method to track train locations. That was not always reliable. Tony Koester has a magnificent CTC board pictured in his book. It is almost impossible to imagine the complexity of wiring a full-blown, electronic CTC machine such as that - plus the cost is equally daunting. Therefore, I can only anticipate the creation of a dispatcher system that also relies on headsets and a magnetized position board.
How have some of you incorporated a dispatcher into your operations?
Does [can] your dispatcher also handle the hidden staging assignment?
Does your hidden staging area serve as the starting point for each operating session [thus assuming the physical movements of the dispatcher's verbal commands]?
How do trains arrive from hidden staging onto your layout [via a tunnel, around a mountain, etc.]?
Thanks! Matt
P.S. I now have the John Armstrong book recommended in a previous thread. Lots of great reading ahead ...
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Matt Brennan wrote:

Must be a local thing. I've visited/operated on some layouts where the dispatcher's office was the nicest (most comfortable) area of the layout.

Again, quite possibly a local preference. I've seen everything from true CTC boards to a pencil and paper.
Tony Koester has a

Look into JMRI's Panel Pro, which makes it easy to create custom, professional-looking computerized dispatcher's panels. This free software also allows remote dispatching, via a local network (LAN) or the Internet. Your dispatcher doesn't have to be stuck under a mountain, he can in the next room or literally thousands of miles away.

I've built a dispatcher's panel with JMRI, but my layout isn't quite yet at the point where any serious operations are possible.

Sure, why not? It's just more trackage to him.

Think of hidden staging simply as an extension of the layout, not as a starting or ending point. After all, unless you are modeling a rather small railroad, all the trains aren't at one end or the other at the end of the day. They're scattered all over the system. So if your operating session starts at, say 4:00 in the afternoon, each train on the system would start from where it would be at 4:00 in the afternoon on the real railroad.

That would depend on the design of your layout. You mention two good methods, but there are many more. Your creativity is the only limit.

Stevert
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Depending upon what era you want to model and how intensive the operations are on that road, the dispatcher may only have a pencil and squakbox to run the road voa to,etab;e amd traom prdeer to a full CTC panel wjere je dorect;u cpmtrp;s tje ,pve,emt pf tje traoms via signals. I've run on both and find that they do definitely increase the movements os trains as opposed to just trying to run trains. The dispatcher also keeps down the number of problems of poeple trying to run into each other and having arguments as a result. Timetable and train order also allows for the delight of the dispatcher setting up conflicting train orders which then don't allow any operation over a section of track while the opposing ttains are waiting for each other. That generally causes the dispatcher to come out of his cubbyhole and snarl at everybody else for his mistake. Hidden staging yards tended to be the origion points of the trains where the engineer takes the train out of the yard and runs it on the railroad. For a CTC, sometimes a local engineer brings the train up to a staging yard to allow the road engineer to run the train from there. YMMV..
-- Why do penguins walk so far to get to their nesting grounds?
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You brought up a question I forgot to ask about DCC and hidden staging. I do not yet own a DCC system, but that is my goal.
I am not yet familiar with the specific job titles so I will be quite generic in this scenario and with this question. Train #123 is assembled and ready to exit hidden staging and enter the on-line layout through a tunnel. I am curious if this approach would be acceptable, possibly even protocol, or completely wrong.
The dispatcher, the person in hidden staging, or someone speaking on the headsets, calls the on-line folks and tells them that Train #123 is ready to enter the layout. Would some assigned operator on the layout take their DCC hand held unit, enter the number 123 in whatever manner that is done, and then bring Train #123 onto the layout?
I am quite curious how and when a train is acquired by the DCC hand held unit of the person who is assigned to operate that specific train on the layout.
Thanks, Matt
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Matt Brennan wrote:

The operator assigned to the train needs to know the locomotive's number, since it's locomotives that are addressed by DCC, not trains. Most people use the loco number as its address.
So suppose a freight originating in Powassan and bound for Dubuque is ready to go. Joe Johnson is the next operator in line for a freight job.
The train may be ordered as an "extra", and named for its engine number and direction, like this: "Extra 4235 West cleared to depart Powassan." That's what the Dispatcher says, so Joe Johnson takes up his trusty handheld, enters "4235", and so takes control of the train.
Or the train may be a "symbol freight", its name an obscure code derived from its start and end points, like this: "Freight PWDB, lead engine 4235, cleared for departure Powassan," and Joe takes his handheld, enters 4235, and takes control of the train.
There are other ways of naming or numbering trains, but no matter what, the dispatcher must let the operator know which engine (or consist) he will be using to haul the train. BTW, a real train crew is called to operate a train with a specified engine, too, so the DCC enforced method actually mimics prototype practice quite well. Nowadays, the whole crew rides in the engine. In the Olden Days, the conductor and rear brakeman rode in the caboose, the engineer and fireman in the engine, and the front brakeman wherever he found room. And the conductor is in charge of the train, not the engineer.
I strongly recommend that you buy John Armstrong's "Track Planning for Realistic Operation," pub. by Kalmbach. The title is somewhat misleading, in that it gives the puprose of the book, but doesn't tell you that a large part of the book is about how railroads actually operate. (I would title it "Railroad Operation and Layout Design" or something like that.) There is a 3rd edition available at this time. Buy it! You'll enjoy it: Armstrong was a good writer as well as knowing his stuff inside out.
HTH
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Thanks for the great description regarding the process to acquire an engine upon hearing the dispatcher's release. This will help me a lot as I re-draw and edit my initial track plan. BTW, I now have that Armstrong book you recommended. You are absolutely correct. The title does not do justice to Section I. It is fantastic. I am not one to re-invent the wheel, and this book has a yard that I plan to use exactly as it is shown. It's amazing. The industrial spurs he offers as examples are equally impressive.
Thanks Wolf!!!
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