105 – Real or Model

While we are talking about operations in a model railroad context I think it might be worthwhile to define what a model railway is. I’ll state the following:

“A model railroad layout is a model of a railroad, real or fictitious, that aims to reproduce the trains, track and other infrastructure and an operating plan to make it all work together for the owner and operators in a logical and prototypical way.”

By this I mean that you can own a plywood central style layout (plywood surface, track and a few tin cans to describe the industries) and yet still have a model railroad. This may seem wrong to those who need scenery to feel a model is complete. However, look at the it from an operating perspective by answering the following questions.

  1. Are shippers and consignees serviced regularly?
  2. Is there a working operations plan in place?
  3. Do trains run according to the operating plan?
  4. Are the users (train crews, dispatchers, singallers, etc) happy with their experience of operating the layout?

If you get a YES to at least 3 out of the four questions then you have a model of a railroad, shortened to model railroad for clarity.

As an example a “model railroad” does not need to be scenically complete to be functional. When I last visited David Barrow’s Cat Mountain and Santa Fé (CM&SF) it was a 24 foot by 36 foot plywood central with architectural models and photos of industries. Other than that there was little scenery, that scenery however, was evocative of the area and the time frame for the railroad being modelled. Of greater importance was the operating scheme for the railroad which was fully in place.

This allowed crews to pick up their trains, and the operating orders to fulfil the train’s role according to the operations plan on the layout. Crews could then begin all over again or take a break and move to another area of the railroad and take over another job.

Read on for more information in the next section – 106 – Ops Criteria

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