Operation: Railroad Model (english)

americaN: Operations concept

Concept of Operations



The real railroads which serve as our prototype don´t, of course, run trains just for the fun of seeing the wheels go ´round. -John Armstrong-


Model railroading can be more than just runnig trains in circles.

Earlier than in Germany, North American model railroaders started with "Realistic Operations". The aim is to simulate what real railroads do. For example: supply a needed empty freight car at the shipper at the right day, or collect the loaded car and to transport it to the consignee.

These are the practices and tools which we at americaN use to copy the prototype:


First of all we have to know which freight will be transported on our modules at a specific day. We must know the cars to be arranged at the staging yards, and the ones to be transported off the shippers. The tool to get this information is the "station data sheet", one for each station.

Because we do not put fraight into our cars, or put papers with fraight information onto our cars, we have to simulate these activities. Therefore, each car has a "car card". These car cards get "empty car orders" or "waybills" at the staging yards, and by this each car movement is defined.

Railroads are one of the most secure transportation systems. To archive this, there are some security systems in use. Which one is the method of choice depends on the density of traffic. At americaN module arangements, we use "Track Warrant Control", a system similar the German "Zugleitbetrieb".

What does this mean?

To get a feeling for this philosopy, here are some thoughts by Joe Fugate:

A philosophy of prototypical operation

It helps the "enjoyment factor" of running a model train to think more "protypical thoughts". What does this mean? Consider:

  • Full-sized trains are heavy and can be dangerous if not operated safely. Take your time and don't rush things. Carefully check your train before you start, and stay alert for problems as you run so you can catch things before they develop into a major mishap (which might mean costly damage or even a fatality on the prototype).

  • Two person crews work best for running a train in a more prototypical manner. One person is the engineer, and operates the locomotive set moving the train. The other person is the "rear-end" crew, which includes the jobs of conductor and switchman/brakeman.

  • The rear end crew cannot see the track ahead of the train, and the engineer can seldom see much of the train behind. The rear-end crew should refrain from walking out ahead of the train to check the track, but should keep their eyes on the train to make sure all is well. (Note that the rear-end position is great fun, because you can railfan the train and be doing your job at the same time!)

  • Meanwhile, the engineer should stay with his engine set and watch the track just ahead. Neither should the engineer walk way out ahead of his train to track he would not be able to see from his locomotive. The engineer should not watch the train itself, but should rely on the rear end crew to find out how things are going with the train.

  • When approaching a turnout that needs thrown, the engineer should stop the train, throw the turnout, pull the train through the turnout, then stop the train again to allow the rear-end crew to re-align the turnout. Things like this lengthen the run, and thus add to the enjoyment of the assignment.

Author: Bernd Schneider, www.america-n.de, (c) 2007 published with permission
translation: mh