June 9, 2022

On Sheet – 6/9/2022

arrell Maples asked if I’d contribute to the group. Since it’s what I do best – writing for free – how could I turn him down? It’s what I was born to do. So I’ll be contributing these On Sheet postings, short pieces about model train operations, why they are fun and how you can get involved in them (by yourself or with two dozen or more people). I’ll start my first bit with a sorta-quote (I might not be exact) from Atlas Shrugged (the book, of course). In it, a woman who runs a railroad mentions that trains are […]
July 15, 2022

On Sheet – The Right Car for the Right Job

orry I was out – I was recovering from surgery (and no, it wasn’t brain removal). Anyway, last time we talked about using tabs-on-cars as a method of getting a car to a specific industry. This time, let’s make it even simpler – let’s assume that we’ll just switch by car type alone and not worry about reading those teeny tiny numbers or placing tabs on our roofwalks. Most model railroads do this in one shape or form. For example, if you go to a layout with a coal mine, you probably will just shove all the hoppers under the […]
July 23, 2022

On Sheet – On Sheet? What?

few days ago someone asked me why I call this blog “On Sheet” in the first place. Fair question. Let’s take a break from ways to get our tiny boxcars to our tiny industries and chat about how railroads work. Or worked, as in past tense. You might have a small station on your railroad, one with a bay window and a semaphore signal out front. You might have assumed that that signal is to make trains stop and go. So did I until I bumped into Steve King and he got me into the religion of Time Table and […]
August 12, 2022

On Sheet – IDing the Perp

ne of those problems you might face on your first op session is where everything is, industry-wise. Sure, your waybills/switchlists/tabs might dictate that a car be dropped at Amalgamated Antimatter but it’s one of a dozen industries on your pike. How do your newbie crews find it? Well, there are many ways you can do this, all of them with pros and cons. Written Instructions: Sure, you can provide documentation for your operations, but generally one operator in ten will read them (and that’s only if he’s bored). Obvious Building Functionality: A fuel distributor and a stock pen are pretty […]
August 26, 2022

On Sheet – The Straight and Narrow

p front, I’ll admit that railroads made most towns. The rails would come through, the depot would be built, and then “Railroad Avenue” would parallel the line. The town grid would firm up off this, buildings in line with track, everything lain down as if on graph paper. Historically accurate? Sure. Interesting? Um…. Too often, small railroaders with limited space instinctively snap their sectional track on a bead two to three inches from the forward edge. And their town naturally follows, with ninety degree corners in the streets, everything placed to parallel the sides of the layout’s edge with geometric […]
September 2, 2022

On Sheet – Away Game

aybe this whole idea of operations seems too confusing and complex to you. You’ve got to figure a train timetable, jobs to be filled, a freight forwarding system, a crew-call system, so many things (I’m not talking you into this, am I?). So, if you are facing this daunting challenge, why not see if you can horn your way in on an existing operation session? Maybe you can wallflower and watch, sure, but any good host should push you in (presumably with an easy newbie job). But how to find a session where you live? There are many places where […]
March 10, 2023

On Sheet – Annunciator

read this little passage a while ago. It came from a little anecdote in a book on Southern Pacific depots in the 1950s. …I was busy with these customers when the annunciator sounded, indicating a westbound train was approaching… I’d never heard of such a thing. It seems that, in the fifties, there was some sort of relay switch to automatically ring a station when a train was inbound. Interesting. I filed it away and didn’t give it too much thought. Then we went into that piece from two weeks ago where I admitted my layout was more CTC than […]
May 25, 2023

Big CDs, keep on turning… (DOG EAR)

ad to do that mom-snowbird thing, driving her up the North Carolina from Florida. This time, I decided to take a road trip after dropping her off. My sister Pat was gracious enough to allow me her Prius and so off I went, running up from Beach Mountain to Columbus Ohio (to pay respects to my father). And then out to Waynesburg, PA to see the site of where my model train layout is set (and covered HERE). And then back. The first and third leg were seven to eight hours each, and the crossbrace leg would be three. I […]
September 1, 2023

On Sheet- Crowd Fumbling

o I used to play Sid Meier’s Railroad Typcoon . Loved it and stayed up too many nights playing it. It was great to have my own rail empire with little computer trains running through their assignments, flawlessly. So much order and control. And I’ve found that real world model train operations are anything but. To push the positive, model railroading operation on a club layout is one of the grandest games there is. In this crafted miniature world, we run our little trains along agreed-upon rules. It’s a massive cooperative effort, and unlike that lonely solo computer game, everyone […]
September 17, 2023

On a Pale Horse (Review)

remember becoming aware of this book when my date was reading it on a cloudy day on a Chesapeake beach some forty years ago. I remember saying I’d read it soon. Well, the date turned into a relationship that turned into a bad joke. But yes, four decades later, I finally picked this book up. One reservation (not about the girlfriend (which I should have had)) on the book; it is part one of something called The Incarnations of Immortality. And since I got this in a used book store, it’s like a four leaf clover – just because you […]