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Book Review
Model Railroad Operation
Realistic Model Railroad Operation - Second Edition -
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

Respected expert Tony Koester teaches modelers how real railroads operate trains and how to apply those methods to their own model railroads in this extensively updated edition. Learning about timetable-and-train-order operation, as well as how cars are switched, how yards function, how signals work, and more, provides an added dimension of realism and fun for modelers, keeping the hobby fresh and exciting. - Kalmbach Publishing

So you have a model railroad and the trains go round and round? For some of us, that is all we really need. For many of us, that gets old after a while and then our layouts become dusty ghosttowns with the only action provided by cats tromping across it. Author Tony Koester explains how to add a new dimension which converts model trains into a model railroad: operations. Mr. Koester discusses and illustrates the concept through comprehensive use of his own expertise as well as that of some of the most loved model railroaders through a dozen chapters and sections in 95 pages:

    1. Basics of operation
    Learning the hows and whys of prototype and model operation
    2. Quick-start guide to operation
    Locating your railroad on a map, naming everything, spotting cars
    3. Classification, staging, and fiddle yards
    Operating visible and hidden yards and determining staging needs
    4. "Macro" operations: Moving trains
    Operating freight and passenger trains under various dispatching systems
    5. Timetable and train-order operation
    Taking a closer look at an increasingly popular form of train dispatching
    6. "Micro" operations: Forwarding cars
    Reviewing various ways to control the purposeful movement of cars
    7. More realistic waybills
    Developing easy-to-use waybills that are based on prototype documents
    8. Signal systems
    Understanding hand, whistle, and lineside signaling systems
    9. The operating session
    Scheduling regular sessions and attracting and managing enough operators

    About the author

This book is softcover; 8 1/4 x 10 3/4 format; 96 pages; ISBN: 9780890249390.

A basic reason many immerse themselves in the hobby is for a social aspect. Operations become a significant social activity in which deep and long-lasting friendships are formed. Bring your friends over to run trains, to work on your railroad, to visit - it is a grand time!

Basics of operation and Quick-start guide to operation are straight forward with why railroads operate plus the ideas of "planting" one's model railroad by matching it with prototype railroads, cities, industries, and geography. The interchange is explained and a small 8' x 2 (and other dimensions) switching layout is shown.

Classification, staging, and fiddle yards is an interesting chapter. A model can be simulated with as much or as little detail as the modeler wants to create. Freight yards, passenger terminals, and locomotive servicing is examined. Different types of yards are explained, including that wonderful invention from England, the Fiddle Yard. Through this chapter one can plan to create a model railroad that runs a "trick", or runs until your friends keel over.

"Macro" operations: Moving trains discusses locals and through trains, fast freights, people pullers, and the various types of systems used get trains moving without running in to each other.

Timetable and train-order operations (TT&TO) examines how to create a model district timetable and run your trains via orders from dispatchers. Examples are shown as to how to plan the priority of your trains with schedules, meeting points, etc., by setting speeds of different train classes within the length of track on a layout. Even if a modeler does not intend to operate TT&TO, this is a fascinating subject from the historical aspect.

”Micro” operations: Forwarding cars explains how to actually build a train so that “cuts” of cars can be expedited efficiently. Switch lists are important (and enjoyably challenging!) for building the trains and this practice is explained in good detail. Systems for keeping track of what goes where are demonstrated, as well as wheel reports and waybills. How these systems play into staging loads and empties are explained. Included is an interesting American Association of Railroads Home District map showing how empties should be routed. Also explained is the topic of demurrage, the special handling of coal, and locomotives and cabooses.

More realistic waybillsdiscusses how to make your waybill forms prettier. It also introduces us to a model scale to “weigh” your model cars to simulate loads and empties. No, your cars really don’t weigh that much but if you really want to immerse yourself in this aspect of model railroading, you need to know the tonnage that your pretend train is hauling so that you can add or remove cars. Those who run fast clocks need to allow for icing of reefers and watering of livestock. It even discusses the role of your operator who takes on the simulation of a freight agent.

Signal systems is a chapter that should be very popular. As the text acknowledges, They look cool! Graphics in this chapter include hand signals, whistle and horn signals, aspect signal colors with rules, block and interlock signals, and CTC territory.

Finally, The operating session introduces the reader to the joys of friends and kindred spirits assembling to enjoy modeling a railway operation. Visitors, human factors, learning curves, and other factors are discussed.

The remainder of the book is the Appendix of terminology; Rules; AAR freight-car and passenger types; train order forms. Finally, a short introduction to author Mr. Tony Koester.

Photographs, graphics, artwork
I did not count them yet there are scores of color and many black-and-white photographs in this book. I did not find a blurry or ambiguous “filler” one at all. The images are predominately shots of the author’s current layout of the 1954 Nickel Plate Road’s St. Louis Division and its predecessor, his freelance Allegheny Midland. Layouts of friends and associates are prominent, too, used to demonstrate concepts. I appreciate these for another reason: they show modelers the dichotomy between the “big name” modelers’ layout aesthetic priorities. Not neglected are prototype scenes, which provide excellent source material that supports the authenticity of the models. Ultimately, the photographs are worth the book for inspirational reasons!

Graphics and artwork greatly enhance each presented topic. They include model layout overviews; switching move diagrams; classification yard locations; car processing diagrams; signaling types and methods; waybill arrangement; that interesting AAR Home Districts map.

Many model railroaders equate running operations with eating sausage: fun to do but they do not want to know how it’s made. Your humble reviewer was invited to his first Ops session about 10 years ago and has been a fan ever since. It is a lot of fun (especially when someone goofs and the next Ops session commences with a highly embellished photographic and captioned review of the situation on The Wall of Shame)! Beyond operations, I have made friends and learned a great deal about how to make a model railroad that runs great and looks super. Moreover, yes, it is a mental challenge to weave one’s trains through everyone else’s without having a cornfield meet.

This book is tailored to the emphatic operation-minded modeler. It was shocking to me to read that some legendary model railroaders do not even run their layout for fun between meetings because they regard models as a real railroad, and railroads run purposefully. I shall leave it to you to judge whether that is a bizarre attitude. What I will say is that there are concepts in this book that I will employ on my layout, and concepts that will never see the artificial light of my scale day.

Overall, the book is educational, inspirational, interesting, and challenging. The photographs of model and prototype railroads are worth the cost of the book. I enjoyed the chapters and value the appendix. This book should be a valuable reference on a model railroader’s shelf and I recommend it.

This book was kindly provided by Kalmbach Publishing for review here at KitMaker. Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on RailRoadModeling.
Highs: Wonderful photography. Comprehensive text covers subjects tried and true by the author.
Lows: Some modelers may be put off by the almost theological view of Operations.
Verdict: This book is educational, inspirational, interesting, and challenging. The photographs of model and prototype railroads are worth the cost of the book and it should be a valuable reference on a model railroader’s shelf.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 12480
  Suggested Retail: $19.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: May 15, 2014

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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