A COMPANY STORE
A DOLLAR A CAR
Remember that our operating sessions are aimed at young operators, some as young as six years. What I will be describing in this section is methods we use to add interest for your operators. I don't think these methods would be appropriate for older operators.
At one of the early operating sessions each season, I ask my operators whether they know how a railroad makes money. The usual answer is that they make money by running trains. I then point out to the that running a train costs them money. No one will pay them to just run trains. They get paid to move people and goods from one location to another. If they don't make enough money to pay for their equipment and the wages for their employees, they go broke. Then they have to fire their employees, sell their equipment, and tear up their track and sell it as scrap. On our railroad, a load is represented by a lumber load, a coal load, or a painted washer placed on a car. (See the article on car movement for more details.) Our goal is to move as many of these as we can during an operating session. On real railroads, employees are paid a daily wage. On our railroad, we use a commision system. Each member of one of our train crews earns one dollar of railroad scrip for each car their train delivers to its destination. This includes empties since real railroads have to pay the expense of delivering empties as well as loads. This adds the feature of "scoring" our operating sessions. Our crews are all trying to deliver more cars than the other crews.
Of course, we have other jobs besides train crews on our railroad. We have a dispatcher, a shipper, and station masters. They help with the work of delivering cars, and they also need to be paid. The better they do their jobs, the more cars are delivered during a session. These operators are paid a fraction of a dollar for each car delivered. If three trains are running, then they get on dollar in railroad scrip for each car delivered during the session.
We use a dispatcher's form to keep track of car deliveries. You can see our form by clicking here. Since we devide our operating sessions into two parts with refreshments in between, we have two sections on our dispatcher's form. The dispatcher writes in the names of all train crews and other personnel, then puts a tally mark beside each train as it delivers a car. It is the responsibility of the conductor of each train to bring the marked loads or washers to the dispatcher for credit when a car is delivered. The dispatcher tallies the delivery and then passes the marked loads and washers on to the shipper.
You don't have to actually pay your operators. You can just tally the number of dollars in scrip earned at the end of each session and announce who had the highest totals. You might keep a record of this over the course of a season and announce the highest totals at the last session of the season. You could provide prizes as additional incentive if you wished.
One funny story I have to pass along. When we introduced this system and I first told our young operators about the consequences of bankruptcy, I had one of our regulars come up to me after the session with a question: If they didn't deliver enough cars, would I really sell all my trains and tear up the track? He was obvious concerned, and I assured him that this was just part of the story behind our railroad.
SCRIP AND THE COMPANY STORE
We could just keep track of how many dollars each operator earns, but our youngsters get a kick out of receiving Middle Earth bucks, or hobbits for short. (Remember, the LT&S is in Tolkien's Middle Earth.) I designed these on the computer in denominations of 1ME, 5 ME, and 10 ME. I print different denominations on different colors of paper. After each operating session, the dispatcher hands his report into the paymaster and each operator is paid.
An example of LT&S scrip - a Hobbit.
Our operators can spend their hobbits in our company store. The main item in our store at LT&S t-shirts. We design these and have a new set made whenever we run out - every two or three years. We make a few in adult sizes and the rest in various youth sizes. The first time we had t-shirts made, we gave them to any shild who came to an operating session. Sometimes a child would come once, we would give them a shirt, and we would never see them again. Now we price the shirts so an operator can earn enough hobbits to buy one in about three operating sessions. This insures that our shirts go to "regulars". It also means that we don't run out of shirts nearly so often. Our operators often earn a shirt for themselves and then another for their parent or grandparent who brings them to the sessions.
The other items in the company store are less expensive, and operators can earn enough hobbits to buy something in one or two sessions. I would guess that we spend $3-4 on items that our operators buy at each operating session, except for the shirts. Certainly a company store like this is unnecessary, but it is an additional element of realism for our operations. And it helps teach the children a bit about how a business works. I can see no reason why kids can't learn something at the same time they are having fun.
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