My continuing column in Model Railroad Hobbyist or MRH, part of a series entitled “Getting Real.” is intended to provide information and examples of prototype modeling. The latest installment by me appears in the September 2021 issue, just released (see it at: http://mrhmag.com/ ), part of the magazine portion called “Running Extra.”
This column is called “Modeling Traffic on a Layout,” and of course by “traffic” I don’t mean automobile congestion. I refer instead to the work of the railroad, the freight it carries. I divided this topic into two parts, the industries that a modeler may include on a layout, and the industries in the rest of North America that may be sending loads to, or receiving them from, a layout.
One point I tried to make forcefully in the article is that there are really excellent resources out there to understand industries, and I provided a fair list in the article. I particularly emphasized the Kalmbach Books series by Jeff Wilson, entitled “Industries Along the Tracks.” I reviewed these books in a previous post (you can see it here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2018/01/handout-for-traffic-talk.html ), but just for a reminder, below are the covers of all four of these books. Some are out of print, but all are readily available from on-line sellers.
Another point I made in the article is that understanding your layout industries allows more realistic car movement to and from each industry on the layout. For simplicity, I used several of my own layout industries to illustrate these points. For example, I showed one of my rather small businesses, a marine engine service (Martinez & Sons), that only occasionally receives an inbound load. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)
By contrast, some of my packing houses typically have three or four cars spotted at them, and two or three of these are likely to be switched in every operating session. One of these, a modified Showcase Miniatures kit, is named Phelan & Taylor for a real packing house in the area I model. I’ve moved the usual string of PFE cars so that the building can be seen.
And I always like to emphasize the immense flexibility of the “universal industries,” house tracks and team tracks. These were often near a town’s depot, and I showed an example from my layout, in the town of Ballard, where the foreground track is the team track, and right behind it is the house track, with a box car spotted. The depot and loading dock are scratchbuilt.
The crate on the flat car is also scratchbuilt, as are some of the crates on the loading dock and in the truck. These are easy details to add, and create a sense that switching cars on the layout accomplishes something.
I personally enjoy learning things about railroad operations and activity, so for me, it is always fun to learn more about industries that are rail-served. But for any layout, I think traffic can be made more realistic with even a modicum of this kind of information. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend you consider it. And one starting point is my current column in MRH.