A Compendium of Model Railroad Operations (Review)

A Compendium of Model Railroad Operations (Review)

kay, for people who’ve never listened to my hobby-babble, model train operations means running your model train layout (your own or a club’s) like a real railroad. I’ve been doing this for years and have been blogging about it endlessly HERE. So this, like anything else; stamp collecting, slot cars, whatever, is total geekdom stuff.

But, oh yeah, it’s cool.

This book goes into how railroads work. What positions should you simulate. What do trains do. How do they make money. And how do they avoid crashing into one another. It’s actually a fascinating subject (trust me on this, or come out to our train come someday and watch us do it). But enough of this: to the book itself.

I found it quite interesting. It’s already got me thinking about how our club forwards freight. Right now, we use a computer program to do it (takes a couple of hours). This book didn’t come out and say how to do it better but it got me to thinking and we’ve got a new system bouncing around right now, getting closer to trying. And that’s good. But then again, I suggested to another layout owner how he could improve his session and he politely asked me to keep paperwork out of his hair, so there’s that too. Not everyone’s a convert.

On the plus side of this book, it’s pretty inclusive. It covers a lot of things about railroading that you didn’t know about (like B&O-style signaling). It also does a fairly good job given newbies (those people who have a round-the-Christmas-tree loop of track and are looking for something more) some practical steps on going further.

Now, on the negative side, that’s fine. But the book did go off the rails (had to use that pun) in a number of spots. Those B&O signals, that was a page and a half of space which probably could have been used better elsewhere. Me, I wanted to find out more about warrants (which we use at the club). The question I had, the “Do not foul ahead of” option, was brushed off. And as far as how waybills work, yes, while they spent dozens of pages detailing all the famous systems in model railroad history, I don’t remember a newbie-level example of a waybill and a lading slip, and how they really work. Same with string diagrams. Same with how Time Table and Train order really work (their fictional account was more filled with artistic license that actual solid examples). So, in the long view, I’m not sure what the target for this book was – it wasn’t basic enough to school an isolated newbie to get started with his first basic sequential operations scheme (was that even covered?). But for the railheads, most of this was pretty basic (with the exception of that “Do not foul” thing, which I’m still swimming in countering definitions over).

But great pictures and interesting information, all around. The good thing about this book is that, if you are a railroader and sitting on the fence about whether to op or not, this might push you into the greener pastures.