Choosing Your First Yards

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After completing FYM's tutorials, you will need to apply to operate one or more maps in FYM's network.

In normal play, each map is assigned to a specific player, termed the Yardmaster (YM), who operates all trains at that map. The YM Control Window, accessed through the Maps and Trains Window, allows players to apply to become YM at currently available yards, and to relinquish control of yards they currently operate that they no longer wish to play. Applications are then considered on a regular basis (approximately twice per week), with YM assignments being updated. The header message in the chat window, seen on logging in, displays the date of the last update. To help them into the game, new players applying for their first maps often get assigned them as soon as possible after applying, but after this initial exception any new applications must await the normal updates.

FYM has a huge number of maps with varying degrees of complexity for players to manage, so choosing your first maps can be daunting.

How many maps should I apply for?

We generally advise that new players take on several maps at once. Not every map will receive trains every day, especially for the smaller maps that new players often run - these may only receive one or two local trains per week. Having several maps helps to smooth out the peaks and troughs in traffic.

What should I look for in choosing my first map?

Look through the list of available maps in the YM Control Window and take the time to download and look at maps that are available. There are filters to help you see which maps are currently vacant. This is a great way to determine whether a map's layout and operations are interesting and suitable for you. Some points to consider are outlined below.

- Mainline, branch line, or dead end?

A map on a mainline is not necessarily complicated - it may have a large amount of through traffic that requires very little work, with local traffic handled by a couple of trains a week - don't be afraid of taking such a map. Some players love running trains through on a busy mainline, while others find it less interesting. Branch line maps usually see fewer through trains, or only local trains shuttling back and forth. Dead-end maps generally only see a handful of trains a week, delivering cars and returning the way they came.

- One railroad or several?

Some maps are served by multiple railroads, which can add to the traffic, interest, and complexity of a map. Such maps usually have multiple IDs; one for each railroad or location - this can be seen in the Maps and Trains Window (child maps show "child of..."), or by clicking on sidings and seeing multiple map identities listed. Multiple Identity Maps require you to keep track of traffic for each railroad independently, which can be a substantial increase in complexity in some cases.

- One panel or several?

Some maps consist of multiple images called "panels," usually connected to one another by exits. This allows what would otherwise be several smaller maps to be grouped into a single map, often tying together train operations in an interesting way, and providing more interest. These maps can appear daunting, but in most cases the panels were collected because they operate in coordination with each other. While multi-panel maps can take a little longer to get your head around, they often do very well at providing a lot more "bang for your buck" - working a local train across two or three panels can mean two or three times as many industries to switch - and even more fun if you also sort the train at the start and end of its journey across the panels.

The connection maps in FYM are helpful in understanding multi-panel maps - white outlines are displayed around all parts of maps composed of multiple identities or multiple panels.

- Industry, sorting, unit trains, or intermodal?

Very broadly, these describe different operations. 'Industry' covers switching cars at industries - while reasonably simple, this is a vital part of the FYM network and can quickly become more complex at large industries with high levels of traffic. 'Sorting' describes locations where cars are assembled into trains or blocks - in many ways, this is the most interesting and complex part of FYM, and requires coordination between adjacent yardmasters. Unit trains avoid most of the 'Industry' or 'Sorting' steps - these are trains carrying a single commodity, such as coal or grain, from one origin to one destination, and are generally less time consuming to operate - this can mean that a single coal mine or power plant does not provide enough variety to keep you fully entertained. Finally, intermodal operations are distinct from manifest traffic - traffic patterns are more fixed, although they can still be highly complex.

- Easy or complex operations?

From the map alone, complexity can be difficult to determine. A good way to judge complexity is by the TSARs for a location - these can be seen by accessing the drop down TSARs menu at the top, and selecting the identity (or identities, if a map has multiple) of interest. Are there many trains that originate and terminate, and do they have complex notes on the blocking of cars? In some locations, there may be few originating trains, but many through trains with notes to pick up and set out cars. Another good way to learn about operations is to ask other players in chat.

Map Classifications

In the YM Control Window, several map types are defined. Each type is color-coded in the display, and a filter can be applied to display only yards matching certain classifications. The classifications provide some broad guidance on the operations and complexity of the map. The classifications are as follows:

Major Classification (Pink)

These are major sorting locations, with complex operations and potentially dozens of inbound and outbound trains, along with a constant stream of traffic. The majority of hump yards fall under this category, as well as many large flat switching yards. Due to the complexity of these maps and the number of players who are affected by their smooth running, they will only be assigned to experienced players.

Medium Classification (Orange)

A step below the major classification yards, these maps still perform important and complex sorting operations but generally have either fewer sorts to make or less traffic. These yards often serve larger cities, or otherwise important operational points along railroads. Most of these yards do not have humps, although many are former hump yards that have been downgraded. A reasonable level of experience in FYM is required for players assigned to these maps.

Small Terminal (Yellow)

Much more common than the major or medium classification yards, small terminals often serve as local hubs of operations. Alternatively, these maps may be important block swapping points, or serve other important roles such as the servicing and maintenance of unit trains. Some of these these maps are appropriate as first maps for new players, or as the next step up in complexity once you have gained some experience. However, some maps under this classification require more experience.

Intermodal Hub (Green)

Intermodal hubs often represent key intermodal facilities that dominate a given railroad's operations, alongside a handful of other locations that play key roles in intermodal routing (e.g. Clovis, NM). In addition to generally high volume of traffic, these maps also require a good knowledge of the intermodal routing practices of their own railroad (and, in many cases, of other railroads). These yards will be generally allocated to more experienced players.

Intermodal Terminal (Light Blue)

These are smaller intermodal terminals throughout the network. This classification covers maps where intermodal operations are the main source of activity - many intermodal terminals also exist in maps under other classifications where the intermodal traffic does not dominate. Some smaller intermodal terminals are suitable as first maps, although it is important to recognize the specificity of intermodal operations.

Large Industry (Dark Blue)

This category covers a fairly wide variety of maps, ranging from mid-sized maps serving many smaller industries to maps dedicated to one or a handful of very large industries. As such, these maps cover a range from busy beginner to intermediate-level; a map in this category that is serviced by locals from a nearby yard is likely to be better suited for players of any experience level.

Medium Industry (Maroon)

This is the most common classification in FYM, covering hundreds of maps across the system and a lot of variety - larger collections of smaller industries, mid-sized industrial plants, ports, collections of coal mines, minor intermodal terminals, and smaller sorting yards can all fall under this category, and often maps include the combination of several of these. These maps can be ideal first maps for new players - one or two of these maps, perhaps in different regions or covering different operations, provide a good introduction to FYM.

Small Industry (Tan)

These maps are the smallest and easiest to play in FYM. They commonly consist of a handful of industrial sidings, or coal mines and power plants. These maps are all appropriate for new players. If you decide to apply for one, it is heavily advised to apply for several more, because a small industry map may only see a train once every few days - you will easily be able to handle several of these, and maybe one or two busier maps.

Child ID (White)

These maps are child identities of another map - you cannot apply for them, but must instead apply for a colored, "parent" map. These maps are filtered out when using the "Available" button in the YM Control Window. In the Maps and Trains Window, child maps show "child of XX:Somewhere Yard", indicating the parent map.