Operations adds a great deal to the fun of any model railroad, at least in the opinion of the author. On the BDMRR we researched different methods of generating car movements for our operating sessions. Basically we looked at using a car card/waybill system as well as a switch list system. There are certainly proponents of both systems. We ended up selecting a switch list system generated by a computer. The software is a part of JMRI, the java model railroad interface suite of programs.
The JMRI software is a very robust suite of programs that are being developed by a group of volunteers. Much of the software is aimed at providing a computer interface with the layout. For example, this might be used as simply as throwing a mainline turnout from a dispatcher panel. Or it can be quite complex use of the computer for signal systems and train control. But the operations module of JMRI is not a computer interface.
I like to call the JMRI operations module "computer directed" (rather than interfaced) as the computer only generates a train manifest that shows the cars to be moved, and where the switching work is to be done on the layout.
Whether you use computer generated switchlists or car cards and waybills, there is a good bit of work required by the owner to set up the system. I believe that once the setup work is done, it is good to let the computer maintain the system, which is a form of data base. I believe it is easier, after the initial setup, to use the computer to generate a train manifest, rather than to deal with a set of car cards that have to move with the cars on the layout.
Our operators are given a train manifest on a clipboard which they carry around with them as they do their work. It has taken some a while to figure out they can hang the clipboard on a hook provided, and simply lift the paper to read it as they perform required switching on the layout. Where car cards are used, I see the operators placing the car card pocket with its waybill on the layout, leaning up against the car to be switched. Sometimes these get in the way of running the trains!
In any event, I would suggest that you consider using a program like JMRI Operations to generate train manifests to bring the railroad to life.
When my friend and I decided to embark on operations for our two layouts, we really didn't know much about it. It is a very broad topic that can become quite complex. I found some good resources on the NMRA Gateway Division website, from St. Louis. You will find an article there written by a fellow named Richard Schumacher which I found to be very helpful. It basically outlines eight steps to implementing a full operations system.
My friend and I found that we could get started at a level that gave us a lot of enjoyment but leave room to grow. For example, when we started we didn't have a timetable, a dispatcher or a fast clock. Yet, many operators seem to feel this is required -- it is not, although you may well find that you WANT to use these tools for more fun.
We sarted Operations in February, 2012 and continue to learn and improve. We added Dispatching some months later and developed this presentation for our operators to learn about our approach to dispatching.