One of the advanced features of Model RailRoad Manager is multi-layout operations (MLO). MLO is sometimes called Virtual Car Forwarding or VCF. There is a Virtual Car Forwarding Internet server as well as one MRRM client for each layout needed to use the MLO feature as shown in this figure.
MLO is the use of two or more railroad layouts to deliver the goods from the shipper's dock to the consignee's dock. This requires the traversal of at least one interchange connecting the two layouts. MRRM's design supports the traversal of up to six interchanges and the participation of up to seven concatenated railroad mainlines.
We have compiled a list of over 70 railroad interchanges in the CONUS and Canada. (See figure below). To use MLO, you must connect your layout to one of these 'real' interchange points.
Currently, MRRM only supports the processing of fast freights or 2nd class yard to yard and interchange stop schedules. Passenger trains and Unit trains are not supported at this time.
With MLO, model railroad owners can be Partners to allow two or more distinct layouts, possibly in different geographic locations and/or possibly different scales, to pickup or setout cars at an interchange shared by the layouts. Seller Industries on one layout can ship goods to Buying Industries on another layout. The end to end status of any shipment involved in MLO can be determined at all times by all Partners.
The following figure identifies four Partners that could inter-operate using MLO.
Each layout must run regular fast freight trains that can pickup or setout cars at the interchange as well as at the yards(s) serving the Industries on its layout. Local freights on the respective layouts move full and empty cars between their industries and yards in the usual manner.
Each railroad layout participating in multiple layout operations must inform the other layouts of its fast trains and their routes and timetables. The next figure shows two fast freights operated by each of three MLO Partner railroads.
How it works! Basically we move carloads of requested commodities from an Order that the Buyer Industry's Railroad distributes to the Partners needed to route the car(s) from the Seller Industry's railroad to the Buyer. Lading or Commodity names must be consistently applied.
The car type does not matter, nor do the Car Marks and Numbers!
Each railroad declares the industries, stops, and trains data that the railroad wants to involve in Internet Freight Forwarding to the MRRM Internet server. The next figure shows several industries that are off my layout but are reachable via MLO Internet operations. The User ID identifies the Partner that has a local train to service the respective industry.
This figure shows a Partner's fast freight route from the Pittsburgh Interchange where we exchange cars through to the Chicago Interchange where a third Partner can pick up the cars and take them to Hershey's plant in California.
When a railroad generates an Order that involves MLO, details of that Order are uploaded to the MRRM Internet server. The Order data includes the list of Railroads involved in the Order. Orders are queued to each participating railroad.
When a railroad operates with MRRM, it downloads the Orders queued to it. These Orders become Shipments under control of the basic MRRM Traffic Generator freight forwarder. Waybills are created as usual as are rolling stock assignments.
This means that each participating Railroad is processing the same Order as distinct Shipments on its copy of MRRM!
Each PArtner declares the Divisions on their railroad as the next figure shows for Partner #4
However, for each route leg of the Order/Shipment, only one MLO Railroad is in control of that order. That railroad is the one that is responsible for the stop pairs on that leg!
Local, Way and Fast Freights are run on each layout as usual. However, when a fast freight on the single layout that is controlling a shipment route leg sees eligible waybills, those waybill are assigned to the appropriate manifest as usual. The other layouts continue to ignore their copy of the Order/Shipment.
When the controlling layout train run is complete, it handles the waybills and shipments in the usual way. In addition, however, MRRM recognizes that MLO is involved and it creates a message to be sent to the other participating layouts via the MRRM Internet server. This message identifies all shipment legs that were completed, including the GMT timestamp. Running all layouts on the same GMT assures correct operations are possible for each Partner's contributions. If the entire shipment is completed, that flag is set also.
MRRM adds these messages to the Train Complete Acknowledge Message queues for each MLO participant (Partner) railroad.
When the other MLO railroads download their messages, the completed leg(s) and associated waybills are marked as done.
If the shipment is not done, the waybill(s) for the next leg are made eligible for a manifest in the usual manner. In this way, only the current MLO partner railroad will run the next leg's train and every other MLO participating railroad will know the status of every shipment involved in MLO operations in the usual manner!
Each MLO participating railroad must be a registered MRRM owner to participate. Registered users are assigned a unique ID and, the Railroad Name that they elect to use is reserved for their use only in MRRM MLO with all other Partners.