Newbie: How to run a railroad...?

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)

RailroadBookstore.com - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section.

ModelRailroadBookstore.com - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

#24
Think about the whole chain, since by modeling a railroad, you are modeling the whole supply chain.

A customer buys something from a shipper. The shipper orders empty cars from the railroad (or leases private cars). The railroad spots the empties. The shipper loads the cars. The shipper then gives routing and commodity instructions to the railroad (the bill of lading). The railroad puts freight charges with its routing instructions and creates a waybill. The railroad pulls the loaded car from the industry and moves it to the customer. The customer unloads it, then releases the empty car backto the railroad. The railroad pulls the empty and moves it home or to its next loading point.

If the car is loaded on your layout the first move is an empty car order, if its loaded off your layout the first move is the loaded inbound waybill move.



.... or neither. Actually the vast majority of railroad shipments have no due date and the further back you go the fewer time gaurantees there were. Pretty much railroad shipments get there when they get there. Unless the company has a storage arrangement worked out with the company, all inbound cars are spotted on arrival, regardless of what is needed.

If a company doesn't unload a car within 48 hours the railroad can charge them extra charges (demurrage). If the industry says they don't need the car, the railroad holds it, but the clock starts on the demurrage time and the railroad can charge them an extra charge to switch the car into the industry a second time (the "free' switch was burned putting the car in a storage track.)

Actual shipping data is tough to come by because its very perishable and not public information, its proprietary information.

Its also not especially essential. By the time you consolidate and compress the railroad operations to fit in your basement, you have to make so many compromises to the shipping patterns that prototype data is not essential. The approximations that modelers come up with are fine.
Wow. A lot to think about. I'm starting to get visions of there being something akin to the logic, control and "game play" mechanisms similar to what used in many "old" style board simulation games (i.e. Avalon Hill) that might be the way of simulating the random variable that often exist in the real world.
 

Y3a

Stuck in the 1930's
#26
My 2 cents.......

How deep into model railroading are you willing to go? How many skills do you have already? How much money can you throw at it? What do you like better, Building kits, making scenery, detailing and weathering your models - OR- Perfect trackwork, working signals, super-elevation around curves, DCC and other high tech things, or the Historic aspects, (Example- I model the N&W in the 1930's in southwestern VA.) correct prototypes, practices, great attention to details to achieve 'the look' of the real prototype -OR- Free-lance railroading, with great flexibility of all kinds of equipment that you can put your road name on. Do you want to model a single industry like coal, or switch many cars around multiple sidings throughout an industrial area? Do you want a single ended yard or 2 ended one? Steam? Diesel? Both? What kind of terrain? season? Rural or city or in between? Lots of structures and few trees or a few buildings and a LOT of trees and scenery. DCC or DC? Trainboard or benchwork? Sound? Painted walls for background? Special lighting? Brass or plastic? Code 100 or code 83? How many vehicles to you think you'll need? How many trees do you think you'll need? Gonna use natural materials?


Anyway these are just some of the things to ponder in sharpening your focus. The book "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" by John Armstrong will be one of your best references for any layout you may attempt. Good Luck and I hope we can get you hooked!
 

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
#27
I think I had already realized that the scale speeds would be deceptive, although as you point out, they may be even more deceptive than I imagine. Intuitively, I'd say that the physical scale and the speed scale correspond to each other? N-scale being 1/160th, scale speed would also be 1/160th of full scale speed? Or is it more or less complex a calculation than that?
Determining speed is a simple calculation. To operate at 60mph you can do the math for time and distance. 15 seconds for a quarter mile. Measure off a 1/4 mile segment of your track then time your train. Adjust your speed so you are running at the rivht speed that you want. 30mph would be 30seconds per 1/4 mile. You will be surprised how fast you have been operating your trains.
 
#28
My 2 cents.......

How deep into model railroading are you willing to go? How many skills do you have already? How much money can you throw at it? What do you like better, Building kits, making scenery, detailing and weathering your models - OR- Perfect trackwork, working signals, super-elevation around curves, DCC and other high tech things, or the Historic aspects, (Example- I model the N&W in the 1930's in southwestern VA.) correct prototypes, practices, great attention to details to achieve 'the look' of the real prototype -OR- Free-lance railroading, with great flexibility of all kinds of equipment that you can put your road name on. Do you want to model a single industry like coal, or switch many cars around multiple sidings throughout an industrial area? Do you want a single ended yard or 2 ended one? Steam? Diesel? Both? What kind of terrain? season? Rural or city or in between? Lots of structures and few trees or a few buildings and a LOT of trees and scenery. DCC or DC? Trainboard or benchwork? Sound? Painted walls for background? Special lighting? Brass or plastic? Code 100 or code 83? How many vehicles to you think you'll need? How many trees do you think you'll need? Gonna use natural materials?

Anyway these are just some of the things to ponder in sharpening your focus. The book "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" by John Armstrong will be one of your best references for any layout you may attempt. Good Luck and I hope we can get you hooked!
I am at the exploratory stage and as yet have no money invested and no equipment (other than a few HO pieces I inherited from my dad). The questions you pose are all interesting questions which I will keep in mind as I do my preliminary research, then ponder more deeply as I get to the point of actually investing time and money. However, based on my limited knowledge of myself, my skills, my interests and my obsessions (did I really just say that?) I can vaguely address some of them, and provide a blank stare for some others:

How deep into model railroading are you willing to go? Undetermined at this point, but I tend to be obsessive about things and when I get into them I tend to go a bit off the deep end.

How many skills do you have already? Since I do not know the range of skills that may be required this is difficult to answer. However, I do have some past experience with building static, plastic models, including some customizing and scratch building experience, although my skills were hardly stellar.

How much money can you throw at it? Short term or long term? I can tell you in advance what ever I do will have to be slowly built up with many small investments over a long period of time. I am not a wealthy man. In fact, I aspire to be merely poor! :D

What do you like better, Building kits, making scenery, detailing and weathering your models - OR- Perfect trackwork, working signals, super-elevation around curves, DCC and other high tech things, or the Historic aspects, (Example- I model the N&W in the 1930's in southwestern VA.) correct prototypes, practices, great attention to details to achieve 'the look' of the real prototype -OR- Free-lance railroading, with great flexibility of all kinds of equipment that you can put your road name on. Some of terms you use are unfamiliar to me, or unfamiliar within this context.

I enjoy building kits, not sure about scenery (can't say I've ever done any of that).

Detailing models depends on the level of detail to which you are thinking. Given that I am leaning toward N-scale I am not sure how much opportunity for detailing there is or isn't. But I have been known to include details that no one could see simply because...well, because it was there.

Weathering models is an area I am very weak and under skilled on. Wish that it were not so.

Perfect trackwork, working signals, super-elevation around curves... Blank stare at present.

...DCC... Blank stare at present. (although, from what I gather, that is digital controls and I have not seen any reference to that in N-scale so I don't know if that applies there or not).

...and other high tech things... Oooo. I love tech.

...or the Historic aspects... This could be my downfall. Just from what I am thinking so far, I can predict I will be someone obsessed (there's that dang word again) with this, undoubtedly to my detriment and ultimate frustration.

correct prototypes, practices, great attention to details to achieve 'the look' of the real prototype Blank stare. Prototypes? As in, one-off, test bed equipment?

Free-lance railroading, with great flexibility of all kinds of equipment that you can put your road name on. If I understand your meaning here, this is a definite no. At least for my initial plans. I am interested in modeling the Alaska Railroad.

Do you want to model a single industry like coal, or switch many cars around multiple sidings throughout an industrial area? Given that my area of interest is the Alaska Railroad and they seem to do it all (sometimes at the same time), then I think the answer to this is...switching things around.

Do you want a single ended yard or 2 ended one? My initial thinking is that I will want to build up a layout based on the Alaska Railroad. To that end, I will need to do some research on their lines but I am thinking of letting the design of the layout be dictated by my research. I know...a rather uninformative answer, but it's the best I can do at the moment.

Steam? Diesel? Both? Diesel to be sure. Most of the equipment available for the Alaska Railroad (without getting into repainting and such) is diesel era so diesel is pretty much a given. I would like to keep the option of steam open but it depends on a number of factors, one being if I can come up with a time period that encompasses both, with the appropriate equipment available (freight cars, passenger cars, et cetera) along with sufficient information to make a period appropriate layout.

What kind of terrain? I suspect we are now getting into territory where the decisions made early on will have unanticipated ripple effects, effects for which I have not the present knowledge to even comprehend. The terrain will depend on what portions of the ARR lines I ultimately decide to model. Back to the research and obsession thing.

...season... I'm glad I don't have to decide this yet. I am wondering if it is possible to do a layout which encompasses multiple seasons?

Rural or city or in between? Lots of structures and few trees or a few buildings and a LOT of trees and scenery. As with the question of the terrain, this will likely be dictated by the portions of the ARR lines I ultimately decide to model but my initial inclination would be do be 65/35 or 70/30, rural/city.

DCC or DC? Trainboard or benchwork? Blank stare at present.

Sound? Never occurred to me. Dunno. Maybe at some point.

Painted walls for background? I think I'd prefer to go more photo-realistic, if possible.

Special lighting? Not sure what type of special lighting to which you may be referring, so I'll go with "blank stare" for now.

Brass or plastic? Code 100 or code 83? Blank stare at present.

How many vehicles to you think you'll need? Are you referring to railcars and power units, or vehicles in the layout scenery?

How many trees do you think you'll need? Well, it's Alaska. Probably quite a few.

Gonna use natural materials? I presume from the context that you are referring to their use in the layout scenery. I'm not sure I can appreciate the potential ramifications of the use of natural materials at this point so that would be one of those things I would decide at a later date.

The book "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" by John Armstrong will be one of your best references for any layout you may attempt. I think this has been recommended to me a couple of time, which probably means it's a good reference. It is going on my ever growing list of books to get and study.
 
#29
Another potential type of railroad to consider is the "bridge route". Picture a major railroad at one end of your line, and another major railroad at the other. Your railroad's major job is to get cars from "one end" to "the other end". In this scenario, you can run whatever types of rolling stock you wish, since neither the beginning nor the end points of the cars' journeys are modeled on your railroad. All you need is the motive power to move those cars from point A to point B.

Of course, almost anywhere there is a railroad, industries will spring up along the tracks. Companies of all sizes will want to make use of the (relatively) cheap transportation of raw materials in and finished products out. This is where you put the industries that you WANT to model.

My plan -- when I get around to it someday -- is an around-the-room layout, with a center peninsula. A yard will occupy the center peninsula, representing both ends of a point-to-point route. A train will leave the yard, make several laps around the around-the-wall trackage (simulating distance traveled), then re-enter the yard (which is now the end point of the run). My space is somewhat constricted -- roughly 16' x 13'. And as I have modeled HO scale for years, that is the scale I'll be modeling.

At least, that's the plan...

Maybe this is something for you to think about.

Regards,
Tom Stockton
 
#32
"prototype"

And yes LDMartin... Good that you bring that up. The term "prototype" always bothered/puzzled me too. In the engineering R&D world, "prototype" always referred to a single construction of a device, or system, as a 'proof of concept'.

So I guess the word "prototype" has a very elastic application. In model railroading, it could be a reference to a boxcar type that thousands of real-world copies were made -- if you make a model of it. The real railroads probably use the word for one-off experimental items like most other disciplines do.

So what other term would be more suitable? You could refer to "real" instead of "prototype". But that just makes the model seem less real and edging toward 'toy-like".
 
#33
Another potential type of railroad to consider is the "bridge route". Picture a major railroad at one end of your line, and another major railroad at the other. Your railroad's major job is to get cars from "one end" to "the other end". In this scenario, you can run whatever types of rolling stock you wish, since neither the beginning nor the end points of the cars' journeys are modeled on your railroad. All you need is the motive power to move those cars from point A to point B.

Of course, almost anywhere there is a railroad, industries will spring up along the tracks. Companies of all sizes will want to make use of the (relatively) cheap transportation of raw materials in and finished products out. This is where you put the industries that you WANT to model.

My plan -- when I get around to it someday -- is an around-the-room layout, with a center peninsula. A yard will occupy the center peninsula, representing both ends of a point-to-point route. A train will leave the yard, make several laps around the around-the-wall trackage (simulating distance traveled), then re-enter the yard (which is now the end point of the run). My space is somewhat constricted -- roughly 16' x 13'. And as I have modeled HO scale for years, that is the scale I'll be modeling.

At least, that's the plan...

Maybe this is something for you to think about.

Regards,
Tom Stockton
I'll keep your idea in mind. At present that is not the direction I am thinking of going, but since I am just beginning the thought process and am probably light-years from the actual design and implementation stage, who knows what will happened between then and now.
 
#34
Oh, one other thought... It will be YOUR railroad. If other folks don't like it, tough noogies -- it's YOUR railroad! :)

Regards,
Tom
A line from "The Right Stuff" comes to mind as I read this. But as this is a family-friendly forum, I will refrain. But if you're familiar with the movie, you'll know to which I refer, "bubba!" :D
 
#35
And yes LDMartin... Good that you bring that up. The term "prototype" always bothered/puzzled me too. In the engineering R&D world, "prototype" always referred to a single construction of a device, or system, as a 'proof of concept'.

So I guess the word "prototype" has a very elastic application. In model railroading, it could be a reference to a boxcar type that thousands of real-world copies were made -- if you make a model of it. The real railroads probably use the word for one-off experimental items like most other disciplines do.

So what other term would be more suitable? You could refer to "real" instead of "prototype". But that just makes the model seem less real and edging toward 'toy-like".
If the term "prototype" in this context is referring to a real-world railroad, I suppose the term "real-world" would work without making the simulated railroad seem "toy-like"? But if the accepted term is "prototype", I suppose that is fine. I just wasn't sure from what was written of the intended meaning.
 

cv_acr

Active Member
#36
In the model railroad context, "prototype" refers to the real-world item that is being modeled.

Outside of the model railroad context, it usually refers to a test design that may end up being the basis for a later production run.

It's a bit different, but that's the accepted term for "real world thing that is the subject of my model".
 
#37
In the model railroad context, "prototype" refers to the real-world item that is being modeled.

Outside of the model railroad context, it usually refers to a test design that may end up being the basis for a later production run.

It's a bit different, but that's the accepted term for "real world thing that is the subject of my model".
Okay, I'm sorta figuring that one out. I can be a bit dense at times.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#38
I think I had already realized that the scale speeds would be deceptive, although as you point out, they may be even more deceptive than I imagine. Intuitively, I'd say that the physical scale and the speed scale correspond to each other? N-scale being 1/160th, scale speed would also be 1/160th of full scale speed? Or is it more or less complex a calculation than that?
No, it is actually less complex than that. Time is time and does not scale. This means that an N-scale locomotive that travels a scale mile in 1 minute is going 60 N-scale miles an hour.

This is why many model railroaders resort to fast clocks. This slows trains down and gives the illusion of having longer distances between layout towns. Common fast clocks run 6, 8, 10, or 12 scale hours to 1 real hour.
 
#39
Time is time and does not scale.
I think Mr. Einstein might disagree! :D But I think we are saying the same thing in different ways, and perhaps I didn't say it as clearly as I was thinking it. If N-scale is 1/160 of full scale, then a scale mile would be 1/160 the distance of the real-world distance. Traveling sixty scale miles in one hour would be the scale equivalent of traveling sixty real-world miles in one hour, or as I originally phrased it 1/160th of full scale speed.
 





ModelRailroadForums.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Top