Running a Railroad

As construction on the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge progresses, I am spending more time thinking about how to operate the layout.


Tracing out the flow of materials and supplies over the railroad.

Operation of a model railroad is a game of sorts that uses the layout as the "board" and the locomotives and railroad cars as "pieces". The rules of the game reflect the rules used to manage a real railroad, and the object of the game is to run trains on the layout in a way that reflects the same purpose that trains run on a real railroad. Industrial railroads like the P&EBR are an integral part of the production process of the company that owns them. The railroad is an extended conveyor system for moving raw material to the mill, and moving finished products from the mill to the distribution warehouse. I would like to develop a system whereby friends who come over to run trains on my layout will not only see a model of the process of converting quarried stone into finished products, but will actually get involved in the process by providing the transportation necessary to make the whole system work.


Flatcars will be used to haul stone from the quarry to the cutting mill, and boxcars will be used to haul the finished product from the cutting mill to the transfer warehouse.

Having group operations as a goal for the model railroad is a priority that has impacted all the planning and construction of the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge. The train movements involved in providing rail service need to be interesting without being overly complex or contrived. And all the stopping, starting, coupling, switch throwing and other mechanical procedures need to be practical and reliable. Sustaining the illusion requires everything to work smoothly, and greatly increases the recreational aspect of running trains. To be completely focused on the trivial pursuit of running a model railroad can be as fun as building it, but only if everything works like it is supposed to. Out of respect for friends taking time out of impossibly busy schedules to come over and run trains, the trains need to actually run, and run well.