Friday, January 26, 2018

Handout for traffic talk

This handout is for a new clinic presentation about prototype traffic and how to model it. A major part of the handout is the references to the various published articles and books mentioned in the talk, along with a few links to prior posts in this blog on related topics.
     No, this clinic isn't about waybills (except in passing). It's about freight traffic, and the point is that the needs of traffic give rise to waybills, not the other way around. To create realistic traffic flow on a layout, the starting point is understanding each layout industry, then creating traffic patterns to serve each industry's needs. One can then add as much detail as desired, drawn from knowledge of each industry type, and resources to do so are described. Examples from a wide range of industries are included as illustrations. 
     One source of information emphasized in the talk is the four Kalmbach volumes by Jeff Wilson, a series entitled Industries Along the Tracks. Complete citations for the four books are given in the bibliography below under the author’s name (Wilson). Here are the four covers.

Listed next are the contents or topics included in each volume, six topics in every case.

Vol. 1: grain, petroleum, coal mining, automotive, produce, livestock
Vol. 2: coal customers, milk & dairy, breweries, paper, iron ore, package & LCL
Vol. 3: ethanol, cement, sugar beets, canning, trailers & containers, team tracks and transloading
Vol. 4: salt mining, coal gas, brickyards, quarries, lumber, waterfront ops

      There are a fair number of other publications referenced or recommended in the course of the talk. Citations of all of them are listed below. Many of these books are out of print, but are readily available used from a wide range of on-line booksellers.
     Several of the topics touched on in the presentation have been the subject of multi-part threads in this blog. Starting-point links to the various posts are given below as part of the bibliography.
     This has been an interesting clinic to assemble, and as readers of this blog will know, it draws on and expands a number of previous posts developed for the blog. It’s a new development to combine the various parts into a single talk. Hopefully it proves interesting and useful to those who attend it.
Tony Thompson


Amfahr, Mark, “Bay Area Auto Shipments in the Postwar Years,” The Streamliner (magazine of the Union Pacific Historical Society), issue for Spring 2016.

Armstrong, John H., The Railroad–: What It Is, What It Does (Chapter 8, Railroad Operations), Simmons-Boardman Publishing, Omaha, 1982. [there are several subsequent editions with updates; the original is closest in time to the era I model]

Chubb, Bruce, How to Operate Your Model Railroad, Kalmbach, Milwaukee, 1977.

Coughlin, E.W., Freight Car Distribution and Handling in the United States, Car Service Division, Association of American Railroads, Washington, 1956.

Ellison, Frank, “The Art of Model Railroading, Part 6,” Model Railroader, August 1944, pp. 342–347; reprinted as “The Art of Operation” in Model Railroader, January 1965, pp. 52–55.

Frailey, Fred W., Blue Streak Merchandise, Kalmbach Books, Waukesha, WI, 1991.

Koester, Tony, Realistic Model Railroad Operation, Kalmbach, Waukesha, WI, 2003 (2nd edition, 2013).

Mallery, Paul, The Complete Handbook of Model Railroad Operations, TAB Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 1979, esp. Chapter 7, pp. 133–174.

Million, Arthur B., and Paton, John C., The Pere Marquette Revenue Freight Cars, Hundman Publishing, Mukilteo, WA, 2001.

Sagle, Lawrence W., Freight Cars Rolling, Simmons-Boardman, New York, 1960.

Sebastian-Coleman, Laura (editor), America’s Driving Force, Walthers, Milwaukee, 1998.

Thompson, Anthony W., Church, Robert J., and Jones, Bruce H., Pacific Fruit Express (2nd edition), Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, CA, 2000.

Thompson, Anthony, Southern Pacific Freight Cars, Volume 3, Automobile Cars and Flat Cars, Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, CA, 2004; see also Volume 4, Box Cars, Signature Press, 2006.

Thompson, Anthony, “Freight Car Handling and Distribution,” The Dispatcher’s Office, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 28–31, October 2011.
  [correct version available at: ]

Thompson, Tony, “Operations: Demand-based car flow,” blog post, 7 November 2011, three-part series; see for example:

Thompson, Tony, “Modeling a Bulk Oil Dealer,” Getting Real column, Model Railroad Hobbyist, issue for March 2014.  (always available for free at: )

Thompson, Tony, Seasonality of Produce Shipping, see for example: and also summarized recently in Model Railroad Hobbyist for January 2018. (always available for free at: )

Union Pacific, Official Freight Shipper Guide and Directory, UP, 1938. This and about a dozen others are available from Rails Unlimited, as you can see on their web site, .

Wilson, Jeff, The Model Railroader’s Guide to Industries Along the Tracks, Kalmbach Books, Waukesha, WI. Volume 1, 2004; Volume 2, 2006; Volume 3, 2008; Volume 4, 2010.

Wilson, Jeff, Railroading and the Automobile Industry, Kalmbach Books,  Waukesha, WI, 2019.


  1. Tony; Thanks again for an excellent presentation, and especially for the extensive bibliography.
    I also appreciated your comment later in the day about starting a layout/operations design with key 'signature' industries... which facilitates following the traffic inbound/outbound/intra- from there.

  2. Tony:

    This is a great clinic. I enjoyed your presentation at the LDSIG/OPSIG meet last weekend.

    ~ John

  3. Thanks, Richard and John. I enjoyed putting the clinic together, as it kind of slices the freight movement topic at a different angle.
    Tony Thompson

  4. Hi again Tony:

    I must be asleep at the switch because I do not see the link to the handout.

    ~ John

  5. This IS the handout, providing the factual backup to the presentation. It isn't the presentation itself.
    Tony Thompson