Thursday, April 30, 2009

Operating styles

There are many ways of capturing operational complexity of a railroad. I have encountered three distinct ways in which "serious" model railroaders operate their layouts:

Realistic freight operations: This approach tends to be standard practice with those who model North American railroads and is nicely described here. The goal is to replicate the way American freight railroads operate on a train layout - the movement of freight cars from one location to another in a plausible manner. For example, moving a coal car from a mine to a power plant.
Typically, this involves the use of waybills to track consignments. A lot of switching (i.e. shunting) is involved. Trains are assembled in yards from freight cars collected from private sidings and loading docks. Road engines are then attached to the assembled train which is then dispatched to the destination. Along the way, the train may drop off or pick up additional freight cars from line-side industries. At the terminal, trains are disassembled and freight cars forwarded to the proper recipients.

Intensive traffic: This goal of this approach, favored by many European modelers, is to simply keep a lot of trains moving on the layout, usually under computer control. This may not sound realistic to American readers but if you have had an opportunity to do some railfanning in Europe, this does actually make sense. It is likely to appeal the most to those who wish to be "railfans" on their own layouts.
In April 1995, while in Nice in southern France for an extended business trip, I spent an enjoyable afternoon railfanning at a small station on the main line between Marseilles and Ventimiglia on the Italian border.
Most of the traffic consisted of passenger trains with some freight trains mixed in along with them. There were both local and long-distance passenger trains including some TGVs. Some trains stopped at the station while others passed through without stopping. This was purely a passenger station but one freight did stop in a loop line to allow a passenger train to overtake it.
Modelers who adopt this approach typically have large hidden staging yards from which trains are dispatched by the computer according to some pattern. Meets and overtakes are staged at stations in the visible part of the layout.
This video of the Märklin layout at the 2009 Dortmund train show is representative of this approach.

Timetable driven operations: The modeler uses a timetable to control the operations of trains. The main prerequisite is, of course, a timetable. In America, where most trains are not timetabled, this approach is not likely to find much favor. In my experience, I have seen this style of operation used mostly by British modelers. This is because they usually model small branch line stations usually based on actual locations for which time tables are available. It is possible to stage realistic time table driven operations .

In my next posting, I will describe how operational considerations governed the design process for my own layout.

No comments:

Post a Comment