Although most of the Vasona Branch track is in yard limits (and so trains don't need permission to move), everything uphill from Vasona Jct. is outside yard limits and does require permission. Currently, we dispatch informally; I'll tell a train what they're to do, or if I'm being obnoxious, I'll give them a cryptically-worded command formed from the likely train order.
"Can we come downhill?"
"Oh, I should do that as a train order. Engine 2174 run extra from Santa Cruz to San Jose and return, protecting against Extra 2721. Extra 2721 has rights over Extra 2174 from Los Gatos to Campbell."
That pretty much says that the little engine 2174 will be bringing the gravel train down from Santa Cruz, but he'll have to wait at Los Gatos til Engine 2721 (switching San Jose and Los Gatos) is done with his work. Those orders have a bit of the flavor of real train orders, but trying to parse that sentence in your head is tricky.
I'd thought about having pre-printed train orders ready for the crews, with faint lettering in the place of locomotive numbers for easy customization:
Locomotive (gravel train) run extra Santa Cruz to West San Jose and return. Locomotive (San Jose Turn) run extra from San Jose to Los Gatos and return. Extra (San Jose Turn) has rights over Extra (gravel train) between Vasona Junction and Los Gatos.That doesn't have any of the repeating and transcribing of the operator job, but it does give the crew a piece of paper to examine as they think about what their train must do. Operations on the Vasona Branch may never be complicated enough to need serious train orders, but little orders like this could help new operators get a feel for what train order operations feels like.
I'll try this on the next operating session, and let y'all know how it goes!