Running a model railway to a timetable can indeed be extremely boring to onlookers if real time is strictly adhered to but people get round this by using a speeded up clock which compresses hours into minutes.
Alternatively the layout is operated in a sequence, so that once a move is completed the next follows . The moves are printed on a sequence of cards and turned over in sequence. Very often the cards are punched so they can be held in a clip such as comes in the centre of a ring binder, screwed to a board.
There is another technique for dealing with goods wagons where the fleet of wagons on a model are each allocated a card. These are shuffled and dealt out in piles representing each siding, and the wagons are then placed in those sidings. Then the cards are gathered and shuffled again, and dealt out again into the same piles, which then indicates the destination sidings, The layout is then operated to transfer the wagons by train to the destinations indicating by the second deal. Once this is completed this is repeated, until you get bored with it!
Marshalling of goods trains safely is a black art. First there has to be enough brake force to stop the train. In the old days this was solely by the brake on the engine and the guards van only. Trains could only run slowly so the train could be easily brought to a stand at an adverse signal, or an emergency. Travel too fast and the brakes become ineffective!
As more wagons were fitted with automatic brakes (usually vacuum brake) goods trains could run more quickly. but of course the hoses between these wagons and the locomotive had to be connected and the brakes working. The wagons with vacuum brakes attached to the locomotive was called the 'fitted head'. Wagons with livestock and with fragile loads were usually marshalled in the fitted head. Fragile loads might be carried in shock absorbing wagons. However plate glass in crates was carried in special well wagons which surprisingly was not fitted by vacuum brake!
Exceptional or heavy loads in specially constructed wagons (Weltrol, Flatrol etc.) which needed to be supervised by the guard were marshalled next to the guards van where he could keep an eye on it.
The need for barrier wagons between the locomotive and the guards van and wagons containing dangerous goods has already been mentioned. Care was needed to choose suitable wagons to be used as barriers . Open wagons with tarpaulin sheets were a definate No No because a stray spark from the locomotive might set fire to the sheet.This was especially true if the wagon was loaded with hay or straw, or if straw was being used to pack the load. Ideally covered vans were chosen, or empty wagons.
Wagons loaded with steel bars were not supposed to be marshalled next to tank wagons carrying compressed gases or poisonous substances.. This was because if there was a collision the bars may puncture the tank.
Certain dangerous goods were not permitted on the same train. For example explosives and nuclear material were to be conveyed seperately.
Once the safety aspects were sorted out then the train would be marshalled according to where the wagons were going. This was done to make shunting as simple as possible.If the train was also picking up wagons as well as dropping off the marshalling needed to be carefully worked out so newly attached wagons would not get in way of wagons to be detached subsequently.
Unlil the 1960s most goods trains carried more trucks of coal than any other product. Everyone had a coal fire (or used coke or other 'smokeless' fuel) so a typical goods train would have plenty of open wagons carrying it, or empty going back to the colliery to be re-filled. Only a handful of goods yards had facilities to deal with petrol or oil, and usually the places where tank wagons were discharged had a fenced off area where it could be done safely.
Not all goods trains went into station goods yards. Trains of perishable goods such as fish or meat would be worked to sidings alongside the big markets or to special goods depots alongside main line terminals. Perishable goods trains were normally composed only of vacuum braked vans which could run at express goods speed, and were frequently pulled by locomotive more commonly associated with passenger work. On the LNER the V2 2-6-2 was often associated with express goods work, and the name "Green Arrow" was a marketing device for the LNER Express goods network.
I find goods work much more interesting than passengers.