Train Operation

The primary purpose for a railway is to provide a service, to carry passengers and goods from and to places. The primary purpose for a model railway is to provide fun and interest. A simple trainset operation will be a tail-chaser around a loop of track which has limited appeal and there have been a host of ideas developed to move on from this. The simple branch terminus to fiddle yard shuttle is the original concise solution to escape the tail-chaser.

Whatever solution is adopted depends on why you chose to model railways. For me, train operation is part of the scene setting just as much as the scenery created on and around the lineside and beyond. Trains take people or things to and from places and that starts to suggest what the trains on the model railway should be seen to be doing.

Passenger trains and closed wagon trains look pretty much the same full and empty but open wagons are unmistakably empty or full. For example, if a coal train runs northward full, then it should run southward empty, so an out and back return loop won’t work. It would work for a passenger train unless you have a four-character headcode on the locomotive, as these are destination-specific. Life is simpler with oil lamps!

I was loaned The Living Model Railway by Robert Powell Hendry (Silver Link Publishing) and found it to be tremendously helpful in shaping my thoughts. In it, the author discusses ways of generating and running traffic appropriate for the railway and its industries. He also looks at engine rosters and their maintenance requirements: for example, every steam engine needs to be washed out at regular intervals depending on water quality and usage. Thus each engine would be unavailable for traffic duty on those days, which has the fringe benefit of justifying a larger roster and variety in marshalling.

The main lines will see regular passenger trains, some express, some stopping, as well as regular through goods trains. These services will allow me to run any wagon that I possess without compromise. Services for the branch will be stopping passenger and pick-up goods for the local industries, as well as the occasional horse and cattle traffic. Goods traffic will vary day by day and that is where I shall be looking at options for generating traffic. One such is the Wagonflow software which is designed to create schedules for traffic flows arising out of the industries and communities I create, although this may well prove to be too much for what I want.

I shall probably adopt a train schedule but not a timetable. That is, I shall have a schedule of movements for passenger trains and for goods trains that will happen in some sort of order, but I will not be running by a clock of any sort. I’m retired and I choose not to submit myself to the tyranny of a rigid timetable!


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