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Milepost 24
CPR Galt Subdivision

Generating Traffic for Realistic Operation

If you stand all day long at the side of your favourite railway you will see trains having a variety of rolling stock in their consists. The various kinds of rolling stock are needed for carrying many different products. The types of goods carried will differ depending on where you live. Some areas are more industrialized, while others are agricultural in nature. The traffic created on the railways reflects the needs of the industries it serves in each respective area. The variety of such traffic creates interest for those of us who are fascinated with trains.

Railway traffic can include commuter trains, regional passenger trains, local freights and long distance through freight trains. Creating a good model railroad includes thinking about what industries would appear in the area you are modelling, what these businesses would need in supplies, the products they would ship, and the types of rolling stock they would require to serve their needs. Moreover, it would be very helpful to know these things even before you create your layout plan.

Creating realistic traffic on a tabletop model railway can be a challenge, but is not impossible. One option is to generate traffic to and from a railway car ferry, or barge, at a port near the edge of your table. A railway barge allows you to take goods away from the layout, and bring back the “empties” or cars loaded with supplies later on. This style of operation existed in the Okanagan Lake area of British Columbia, providing service to an isolated branch of the railway. A small scene with the barge or car ferry could be built on casters to move it off site from the table, or the railway barge and dockside area could be included as part of a layout with a marine theme. The rail barge provides you with another location for spotting freight cars, which is an important feature of a model railway whose focus will be operation.

An interchange operation offers another method for creating a variety of freight traffic on a tabletop railway. Many prototype railways interchange freight cars with other railways at an interchange yard, or even a single interchange track that is connected to both railways. On a tabletop model railway, one could easily include a small, two-track interchange yard in one corner of the layout. The offline railway “delivers” loaded or empty cars to the interchange outbound track. Your modelled railway exchanges these cars for cars delivered to the inbound track from industries on the layout.

Other options are available for building a layout with good operating potential. For example, you could build your model railway around the room or even a point-to-point shelf layout.

Let us consider a shelf layout that represents a small industrial railway. The layout could include a small yard at one end, and a main line leading to an industrial park. Our traffic involves moving goods from the yard down to the industries and back to the yard. The complications and the fun arise in having to move cars around other cars in order to service each industry.

Even one large warehouse with several tenants and their respective delivery doors can add operational interest. For that location, some cars would have to be picked up, some delivered, while others would have to be returned to their original spot since they were only partially unloaded. If the warehouse track is crowded, other cars awaiting delivery could be “off spot” to a nearby spur or siding until room was available at their destination. A small switching layout can provide an hour or two of railroad activity, but expanding the railway a little more can provide even more entertainment for a small crew.

If you were to extend our small switching layout to a sawmill in one direction or even a higher level, and a port in another direction perhaps on a lower level, much more traffic is possible in addition to trains to the industrial area. For example, lumber from the sawmill would be shipped down to the yard, then later from the yard to a furniture factory. Empty cars would be returned to the sawmill. The furniture factory ships furniture to the yard, where the load is picked up and delivered to the port. Empty cars are returned to furniture factory for the next loads. This whole process involves six different trains, so adding a few more industries will certainly get really interesting.

If we have a rail barge or car ferry at the port, we can send empties and loads onto our main layout. For example, grain hoppers from the port could be shipped to our yard, and later on another train, they could find themselves on their way to a large mill. The mill then ships hoppers loaded with flour back to the yard, and the loads eventually go out to a bakery. The empty hoppers are returned to the yard awaiting further deployment. The bakery later ships baked goods to a town near the sawmill or to our distribution warehouse where a baked goods distributor leases space behind one of the receiving doors. A trucking company could then deliver the goods locally.

You could spend hours completing just one cycle of traffic on a model railway of this sort. Similar operating action can be created on an around the room layout, moving goods from one side of the room to the other. Even small switching layouts can offer hours of enjoyment moving traffic from a small yard or interchange track to a few well-placed industries. Author Lance Mindheim explores this topic in depth in the various books that we carry on layout design and operation.

Interesting rail traffic can also be created for passenger service. Push-Pull commuter services such as GO Transit can send trains from a main station to other stations along the route. As well, a servicing facility to fuel and wash the trains can be installed at one end for the trains to visit before they return to the stations they visited previously. The trains do not have to be turned at any time as they just shuttle back and forth along the line.

Intercity passenger trains can be modelled in a variety of methods. One way is by having the trains disappear from site to a storage area where they can be turned around. This design gives the sense that trains going westbound will later return from the west. On a simple branchline railway, a short passenger consist could be stored at the main station where it returns after doing each run to the smaller stations and whistle stops along its route.

Many opportunities are available to create traffic on your railway.

At Credit Valley Railway Company, we can help you by answering your questions or directing you to various books on track planning, service facilities, operations, and much more.