How To Run a Multi-Throttle Layout
After months of experimentation, I developed several rules for train operation which work well for me. I feel confident they'll also work well for you:
• Rule 1: Use the right throttle knobs on the Dualpower for powering nearby mainline track, and use the left throttle knobs for powering nearby sidings, spurs, branch lines and automatic operations like subways or trolleys. Locate the mainline section throttles approximately midway between their section boundaries. Sections are never very long.
• Rule 2: All throttles are normally ON. This includes mainline throttles as well as nonmainline throttles, although automatic sections may have throttles on or off according to whim, and special sections unconnected to mainline or siding tracks will be on only when being used. This means that the only time a mainline or siding throttle would be off is if someone is using that throttle and has his train stopped. (Incidentally, I suggest that if you use signals, set them up to reflect this OFF position like so: Use a two-lamp block signal at all block boundaries with an always-on yellow or amber lamp on the bottom connected to lighting power and a green lamp on the top that's connected to the next block's track power. This will mean that engineers will normally see both green and amber lamps on, but if only an amber lamp is on, it means the next block is occupied by an engineer with either a stopped or a very slow-moving loco.)
• Rule 3: All throttles are set to speeds deemed best for that section of track. You can stick a little red Dymo tape arrow (or other marker) onto each throttle dial to guide the next user back to the correct setting (which he's responsible to reset before leaving that section) instantly and at any time, since it will sometimes be altered during train running, although, more often than not, it won't. The ramifications of this are several: (a) not only are you spared having to toggle switches (except for those you may use for such things as on/off switches for yard blocks and staging area blocks, and except for turnout toggles), you are also spared having to turn throttle dials much for most mainline running; (b) each area of your layout will be automatically preset to run trains at the best possible speed without any needed intervention from you—speed-ups for country and braking for towns are all set automatically, although you still need to stop at stations; and (c) you do not need to plug/unplug throttles or anything else, but what's more, you don't need to hasten to get to the next throttle as you walk around your layout, as all settings are already optimal and there are adequate numbers of throttles so that they are not that far apart. Moving a throttle knob, therefore, isn't really about running trains in an area, but about turning them off for stopping, slowing them down for turning off the mainline at a turnout, or yielding the right-of-way at a track crossing. (Note: Hardcore model railroad hobbyists will have already perceived a couple of obvious weaknesses of the one-size-fits-all speed settings. They'll be discussed as the last item in the section after next.)