So what is it?
First-mile/last-mile railroading, what modellers refer to as customer switching, is the customer end of railroading. That is the setting out and picking up cars from a customer’s premises on the railroad. This can be directly from a customer’s spur, a ramp at the local yard or a team track, off the local mainline.
It is the point at which the customer and the railroad meet. All railroad economics relies on it and always has. While in the modern era the customer has gotten bigger to take advantage of intermodel and block trains, the underlying forces remain the same. Customer shipping goods. Railroads picking up goods and moving them to their destination. Destination (consignee) receiving and accepting goods.
So why is this important to me?
For you, the small layout builder/operator, the first-mile/last-mile end of the operation is the:
- simplest to model,
- easiest to operate, and
- most interesting to work with for the longer term
Whether you use a ‘tuning fork’, inglenook, supernook, or another layout design element you enjoy, by focusing on the customer end of the operation you make the layout simpler to build, which means getting going faster. You can operate for 10 minutes, 30 minutes or for as long or short as you have the time for. And over the life of the layout (whether that is a few months, or a decade or more), operation varies day to day, session by session, from a well-designed customer operation so that no two sessions are ever the same.
If you’ve been following the blog for a while you’ll know that I enjoy watching Railfan Danny on Youtube. Danny has just released another video, this time a Q&A session. One of those questions was about first-mile/last-mile railroading. I hope you’ll watch the entire video, for those without the time, I’ve linked to the 7:11 mark to watch the section specific to today’s post.
- Railfan Danny’s “Railroad Questions Winter 2021”
There are more switching videos over at Danny’s YouTube channel, just follow the link below to go to all the videos with ‘switching’ in the description:
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