Ops, TT&TO, invective, and blah-blah-blah

It’s been a while since my last post. Life has become hectic with lots of work (as the opposite to none at all for quite some time) so to keep the blog moving I thought I’d cross post my response to Joe Fugate’s recent editorial: Secret to needing less layout on page 11 of the June 2017 edition of the e-zine ‘Model Railroad Hobbyist’. I found that as I read through the responses there was a lot of heat being generated by those for and against the smaller layout ethos. A recent kind email from a new model railroading friend Charles Malinowski got me to thinking about the original post on Joe’s editorial and the thought that perhaps it might be time to draw that line in the sand on this blog too.

If you can, take a moment, to read of some of the initial responses to Joe’s posting. Then either read my post on the MRH  site or as reproduced below. Don’t be shy. Got something to say, then comment and start the conversation here. It’s the only way we all learn.

Am I missing something? Did the hobby just become a pain in the butt during this discussion (and I’m not through reading all the responses yet)? Timetable and train orders, and… all to much work for me. While I understand that model railroading is all things to all people I don’t need all of that other stuff to make a me a happy modeller or operator.

I like small layouts. I live in rented accommodation, and will likely for the remainder of my life due to circumstances beyond my control. My wife loves the idea of me ‘not’ cluttering the place up with ugly wooden stuff that takes over the space, so I have to consider the aesthetic of any layout design as well as the piece of furniture it must also purport to be.

I’m limited in space, money and the time I have available to actually build the thing. So a long time ago I took the first mile, last mile approach to railway modelling. I model industries and locations where there is a lot of work to go on (switching) at an industry or location (such as a team track facility) getting the loads in and out in an efficient and useful way.

Do I care about Timetable and Train Order operation? Nope. Does it affect me as either the modelled customer or as an operator? Nope. And lastly, does it affect my enjoyment of the hobby? Nope. Would I love to model TT&TO operations? I’d love to but I cannot afford it.

I use paperwork, operations plans and rule books to model, and there’s a reason for this. I like my crew (usually my son and I) to feel the need to get the work done efficiently and with haste. There’s a train to catch out there somewhere and our cars need to be on it. I love operating by real railroad rules and with prototypical operations paperwork.

I focus on the things that matter to me, and that is the first mile and the last mile. What happens in between where the rail line curves away from my business – is none of my business. I put a lot of thought into what makes operations work for me. And I’ve shared that online as well. And it is not all that hard to achieve, especially in a small space. You can read more about that on my blog.

Joe’s TOMA approach I like. It means that it is achievable, in space, time and money. It gets you working quickly and allows for interests to develop as your skills and knowledge develop. Big TOMA, small TOMA, even in between TOMA… who cares? The idea is to get something going that allows you to play, find out what you enjoy the most and do that with the effort you have available.

Thanks Joe for sharing that article. I’ve been following along with the TOMA approach because it mirrors what I’m already doing and because it makes sense from my son’s perspective (Dad can we get something running now, I want to play with the trains again).

I appreciate that others do things differently. It’s a good thing. Let’s not get so focused on the forest that we forget about the trees. Happy modelling from Ballarat in Victoria.


6 thoughts on “Ops, TT&TO, invective, and blah-blah-blah”

  1. Lately I see a lot of people making a religion out of what should be a hobby. Time to relax…
    Through my years enjoying this hobby (now over 50) I have seen many layouts and built many layouts. When I was young my dreams were big… Big house, big yard, big layout… etc. In time I began to realize my own limitations — Especially when it came to time, capital, lifestyle, and space… I became a fan of the “Micro-Layouts” because of those limitations. If my resources/limitations were different, my choices would probably be different — Not better, not “more righteous”, just different.
    In reading the TOMA article I did not see one word that disparaged the builders of large layouts or advocacy of small layouts. What I did see was “a different approach” and one that I seem recall seeing in some of Bill Koester’s “Trains of Thought”.. Build your layout one scene at a time… No matter how big or small your dreams may be.


    1. John – Brian Woolven makes a valid point in another post on this topic that most of those (that I know of at least) who had a contrary point were living in the Northern American continent. Those of us from the more English school of model railroading – where space is always a luxury are used to having to use the imagination to work beyond the modelled layout.


  2. I followed much of the responses to Joe’s article, and I came to the conclusion that a very small minority are blinkered to their own way of thinking, and they cannot accept any alternatives.
    I have been railway modelling since the mid 1960’s, with a variety of scales and sizes, as space in a UK house permits, and I find all types satisfying. This is probably the difference with those of us from ‘overseas’ to the US, in that we have to use our resources and ingenuity as best we can, so often have built multiple layouts, depending on our interests.
    Yes, there are certain aspects I like more than others, but I don’t let it become an obsession. I think if it does, then it s time to move on.


    1. Brian – thanks for your post on this topic. I had not thought of the location of the modeller as a variable. But yes I agree that having lived for 10 years in the US, and the other 40+ here in Australia very much in the English model of smaller = simpler and better, while in the US the mantra is bigger is better because you can run over long scale distances is in general prevalent. Having said that though and being a fan (as well as a one time operator on David Barrow’s Cat Mountain and Santa Fe layout (around version 17 I believe) David’s layout was big – as in an enlarged double-triple garage and modelled a section of the line around Abilene, Texas. Yet while the layout was large, the actual area modelled, as in square SMiles (scale miles) was not so large. His focus was on switching and capturing the movement of trains between points north and south of Abilene from my memory. And even though the focus was on switching you still needed to run from the yard to the switching area where most of the work was done. I guess what I am trying to say, and perhaps failing dismally, is that while David’s layout modelled a large area his genius was in focusing on local ops as well as trains going past, picking up and dropping off and switching the yard. The principles that applied there can be translated directly to a small, micro, or any size of layout irregardless of size. Any end of the line/customer focused layout requires that you have those connections further up the line as a part of the game play. They don’t need to be modelled to still be a part of the game play. Talk to you later. Andrew


  3. (Again)…Well said Friend Andrew!
    So well said that I have printed your posting and put it on the “Company” message board in the Train Cave.
    Forward Andrew!!!


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