Monday, November 3, 2014

Fast Clock App

I mentioned in my recent ops session post that I use a fast clock. You might wonder why, when I only run two trains and they're extras & locals to boot. But, along with weather forecasts from the actual day I'm modeling, to the operating paperwork for my trains, to sound-equipped locomotives, I find that noting the passing of time really contributes to the layout's overall authenticity as well.

For example, my crews go on duty at 7am. So I set the clock to start at 7am. Then, each time a crew has to visit the agent in town and get their switchlist and/or orders, the agent notes the time on the paperwork and on the train register. For the last operating session, I used a 3:1 ratio where 20 minutes of real time equals 1 hour. Consequently, the Valley Local booked off (ended their day) at "3:22pm" (seems about right - an over 8 hr day), but the Air Line Local booked off at 12:52pm.  Seems a bit short.  Next time I'll try a 4:1 ratio (15 minutes = 1 fast hour).

Even though we're dealing with laid-back branchlines, it's still neat to see how "time" passes throughout the "day" - and I've even gotten lucky a few times and had the two locals in Middletown during lunch time, just like the prototype!

Back in the "old" days (um, up to a couple years ago), getting a fast clock could be a pain. But nowadays "there's an app for that" - literally.

I use the "Fast Clock" app (go figure) which you can get here.  It's available for both the iPad and iPhone (I'm not sure what's available for Android) which is cool since you can use the iPad version as your "station clock" and the iPhone version as your "pocket watch."

Bonus: you can also customize the background, including adding a clipart logo from your railroad as I've done.

Even if you're not doing intense TT/TO or passenger operations - or, I would argue, especially if you're not - give the fast clock a try. I think you'll discover as I did that adding the dimension of time to your layout is another great step toward authenticity.


  1. Hi Chris:

    Is there a need on your layout for one or more train registers?

    They'll be listed in your prototype employee time table and were common at junctions and terminals. If you do need one (or more), then you would need a (fast) clock so crews can record the time that their trains arrive and leave the register point.

    I wrote about train registers on my own blog, here:

    Just a thought about turning something "nice to have" into something "essential" for an ops session.


    - Trevor

    1. Hey Trevor & thanks for checking in! Yup! I have a train register and each time a crew has to visit the agent in town and get their switchlist and/or orders, the agent notes the time on the paperwork and on the train register as well - "OSing" them through each town. It gives the crews & agent an additional prototype task each time they get to a town. Whether the crew receives orders or has switching to do in that town or not, they still have to check in with the agent, and the agent has to check the clock.