What do you plan to do with your model railroad? Well, if you’re going to run trains around the layout to watch them roll, or to make up trains as you want, then there’s not much need to read this section of my blog. But, if you plan to model a transportation system as many of us model railroaders do, it helps to have an idea of how real railroads operate, and to develop an operating concept for your railroad that is representative of a prototype railroad. Even if you’re freelancing or proto-freelancing your railroad, having a believable approach to operating trains makes it easier for your train crews to make sense of their jobs and what their trains do. I believe it also adds to the fun and the challenge of the hobby.
Warning: I’m not going to teach you about railroad operations in this blog. My purpose here is to give you an idea of an approach you can take to learn about operations and develop your own operating concept.
To begin developing your operating concept, you’ll need to have created the concept for your railroad, and begun considering the types of industries and trains you want to model. I knew for the Arcadia Creek and Woodbury Railway that I wanted passenger and freight trains. I like the look of passenger trains as they run, and I also had the Great Northern Empire Builder in the back of my head. And I have a soft spot for the gas electric railcars known as Doodlebugs, gotta run a little passenger train with those!
I needed to include freight trains of various types because I like the look of long cuts of cars, and I have worked in the food service and retail industries and enjoy the process of icing reefers and moving food which requires special perishables and express trains. Mostly, though, I really enjoy the logic puzzles involved in making up trains and switching industries.
I considered the various industries my inspirational railroads included, the demands of my imaginary customers, and industries I liked such as agriculture, logging and mining. I also thought about the end products my industries would produce and the components required to produce those products, in other words, what would those industries ship and receive, all of which factored into the elements of my operating scheme. Then I thought about the number and types of trains my railroad would require.
I learned a lot about operations through my experiences with the Sunset Valley operators, but I still needed to learn more about bridge route and mainline freight movement. The model railroad press has quite a few good books available on operating your railroad; you might want to check Kalmbach Books. That’s where I started. Armed with some limited research and John Armstrong’s book Track Planning for Realistic Operation, I felt like I knew enough to create an operating concept that would fit my “good enough” approach to model railroading. I’m sure the guys will help me improve my operating scheme (correct me) once we get into operating my railroad!
What follows is, to borrow a phrase from Steve Brown and his YouTube channel “It’s My Railroad”, a “regular guy” approach to an operating concept for my railroad. It probably won’t stand up to the scrutiny of a professional railroader or even an expert on operating model railroads, but it’ll be good enough for me. It includes most of the trains I’m likely to run if the railroad is ever completed, and those which I can start with when I have the core T-Trak layout in operation. This scheme will help me prioritize and focus my locomotive and rolling stock purchases.
Traffic includes passenger, freight, and express service.
- 231-north, 232-south: One short passenger train north and one south each day, typically F7A&B with mail/baggage and two coaches, or combine and one coach
- 487-north, 488-south: One express (freight and perishables) north and one south each day, typically F7A&B and 8-12 cars, two to four of which are destined for AWRy
- 741-north, 742-south: One freight train north and one south each day, typically dual RS units and 12-16 cars, four to five of which are destined for AWRy
- All trains stop at Grand Junction to interchange with AWRY
- Note: Numbering is typical for GN passenger and freight trains on the Lines West division
Wesley Dock and Transfer Company (all freight)
- 311: Elberta Local switches Elberta Cove industries
- 371 The Fish-witch (Fish Switch Local) switches King Fisheries at 4:00 AM in advance of 177. Switches eastbound reefers to AC Express track, local loads to AC Cold Storage (Northern Food Service), empties to AC Cold Storage
- 372 The Chiller (Local) is a late-night job that retrieves iced reefers from AC Cold Storage and sets them out at King Fisheries
- 377 Freezer Job switches inbound perishables from 178 to AC Cold Storage, clears empties to AC Express. Note: Once unloaded, empties are pre-iced for delivery to King Fisheries via 372.
- 571-572 AM, 573-574 PM: Ferry Turn, AM and PM to and from AC/EC Yard for ferry loading and unloading
- 577: Wharf Job switches loads from wharf to freight house, warehouse, and AC yard for outbound general freight, returns light to wharf
- 581 and 582: Harbor Turn, transfers freight between AC Yard and WDT (Elberta) Yard
- Note: Numbering is AWRy designation
Arcadia Creek and Woodbury Railway
- Single- and double-digit train numbers are first class passenger, three digits are freight
- 100 class freights are fast freights, 170s are perishables, 180s are general freight
- 300 class freights are local jobs
- 500 class freights are special service jobs (lumber, mining, ferry service)
- Odd numbered trains are Eastbound or “Up” trains heading up and over the mountains
- Even numbered trains are Westbound or “Down” trains heading toward the coast
- Extras are numbered in the 90s consistent with their class and direction; i.e., 191 would be an extra fast freight up or eastbound, 92 would be a passenger train down, 395 would be an extra eastbound local
- 1 up, 2 down (historical first passenger train on the line): One Doodlebug daily between Arcadia Creek and Elberta Cove for ferry and steamboat passengers, with or without trailer depending on passenger count
- 11-up, 12-down: One express daily each way with passengers destined for Woodbury or returning to Arcadia Creek
- 21-up, 22-down: One Commuter daily from Arcadia Creek to Sweetwater Pass, up in the morning, down at night, carrying miners and loggers to the mines and camps
- 31-north, 32-south: Two Doodlebugs daily between Grand Junction and Woodbury for connecting passengers, one for northbound, one for southbound, typically without trailer
- 177 up, 178 down: The Eagle, express perishables hauler from Arcadia Creek to Woodbury early in the morning carrying primarily fresh caught and fresh frozen fish, and other perishable freight from AC Cold Storage, and returning in the early afternoon from Woodbury with fresh produce and meat. Trains are typically only three or four cars.
- 187 up, 188 down: The Grizzly, direct freight hauler from Arcadia Creek to Woodbury in the afternoon and from Woodbury to Arcadia Creek in the morning. It’s heavy and long but non-stop and requires double heading up Boulder Canyon.
- 331: Arcadia Local switches Arcadia Creek industries
- 341: Woodbury Local switches Woodbury and Coats Grove
- 351: Canyon Local switches mine and lumber camp supplies, Georgetown and Silver Plume
- 551: The Woodsman switches all sawmill products and empties for Arcadia Creek and Elberta
- 555: The Logger operates on Wesley Woods trackage as needed to switch the logging camps
- 561: The Minesweeper switches all mine and quarry products and empties for Arcadia Creek and Elberta
Initial Schedule (AC Transportable T-Trak Layout)
Notes: All GN trains are annulled, AC 1/2, 11/12 except Wednesdays, 31/32, 341, 551, 555, and 561 are annulled, WDT 311, 571/572, 573/574, 581/582 are annulled.
- 4:00a WDT 371 Fish-witch (Fish-Switch) daily King Fisheries to Express Track and Northern Food Service (AC Cold Storage), run light back to dock
- 5:00a dpt AC 177 The Eagle to Woodbury daily
- 6:30a dpt AC 21 Daily Commuter Run to Sweetwater Pass
- 7:00a dpt AC Yard 577 w/empties for WDT Wharf
- 8:00a arr AC 188 The Grizzly from Woodbury daily
- 10:00a dpt AC 11 Wednesday Weekly Passenger Run to Woodbury for Steamer Passengers
- 10:15a wrk AC 331 Arcadia Local
- 11:30a arr EC 571 Ferry Turn (WDT)
- 1:30p arr AC 178 The Eagle from Woodbury daily
- 2:00p WDT 377 Freezer Job, run light from dock, work Northern Food Service (AC Cold Storage) including empties for icing, return light to dock
- 2:15p wrk AC 351 Canyon Local
- 2:30p dpt EC 572 Ferry Turn (WDT)
- 4:00p arr AC 12 Wednesday Weekly Passenger Run from Woodbury for Steamer Passengers
- 4:45p dpt AC 577 WDT Wharf return w/loads to AC Yard for classification
- 6:00p arr AC 22 Daily Commuter Run from Sweetwater Pass
- 6:15p dpt AC 187 The Grizzly to Woodbury daily
- 8:30p wrk WDT 372, run light from dock, pull iced refers from AC Cold Storage, switch King Fisheries
Arcadia Creek Industries:
|AC Eng Term Oil Dock 1||1||Tank|
|AC Eng Term Oil Dock 2/Coal Dock||1||Tank, Hopper|
|AC Eng Term RIP Track||1||Box, Flat, Any|
|AC Eng Term Sand Dock||1||Gon|
|AC MM Storage||AC MM Storage||6||Gon, Hopper, Ore, Tank, Box, Flat|
|Baxter Commercial Warehousing||AC NE Ind 2||2||Box|
|Chubb Electric||AC Ind 2||1||Box|
|DJ’s Woodworks||AC SE Ind 2||2||Box|
|Griffis Chemical 1||AC Ind 1||5||Tank, Cov Hop|
|Griffis Chemical 2||AC Ind 2||2||Box, Tank|
|Hall Manufacturing||AC SE Ind 1||2||Box|
|King Fisheries||AC WDT Shoreline Ind||3||Reefer|
|Northern Food Service/AC Cold Storage||AC Ind 3||3||Reefer, Insul Box|
|Stewart Industrial Supply||AC NE Ind 3||1||Box|
|Vanderlip & Merriman Machinery||AC SE Ind 1||2||Box, Flat|
|Water Street Freight Terminal||AC NE Ind 1||3||Box|
|WDT Wharf||AC WDT Wharf||4||Box, Flat|
|Wesley Woods||AC SE Ind 2||2||Box, Flat|
|Z Total||Z Total||36|
|Yards and Staging||Spots||Type|