Saturday, October 15, 2022

Seasonal operating patterns

 My  layout, which is set in 1953, operates year-round. That is, if we were to operate on October 15, on the layout it is October 15 of 1953. This scheme was chosen partly so that perishable traffic could reflect seasonal variations. I have posted background on that before, so won’t repeat the discussion here. (For example, this post: .)

To illustrate, I have an upcoming operating session in December. Obviously my packing houses have to be shipping crops that are harvested in  December. Noteworthy on my table of prototype vegetable harvests in the locale of my layout is that the new crop of broccoli is just emerging into extensive harvest. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

This naturally results in waybills like the one below.

But of course other industries than perishables have seasonal rhythms. I try to take those into account in setting up each season’s operating session. For the upcoming session in December, the four bulk oil dealers on my layout will be getting tank cars of heating oil. 

In the wine business, the grape harvest would have concluded by late September, and grapes would have been fairly promptly crushed and fermented. With only a couple of months having passed since fermentation, the wine (which in most cases is still largely undrinkable) is termed “young wine,” and is now being shipped to buyers who have a vintner on staff and can properly blend such wines. If you’re interested in more background on this topic, you might try this: .

Another possible seasonal cargo might be equipment for interior heating. Accordingly, a load of new boilers for heating systems will be arriving on one of the team tracks, shown here in the Guadalupe Local. These two Kewanee boilers are moldings from Resin Car Works (their kit 01).

So these possibilities are only intended to illustrate a few of the ways I try and reflect the actual season in which an operating session takes place. The intention is to make this part of the fun, at least for me, and maybe also for visiting operators who take a moment to read the waybills.

Tony Thompson


  1. Tony - I am planning on using a similar concept for my layout set in central Florida (early 50s) and have a question. The citrus season there was roughly November-January (sometimes into February). Since the packing houses would not be shipping anything in October, when/how would deliver the first empty reefers for them to load? Do you deliver them as a part of your October session (assuming you have one), manually stage it before November's, or deliver it as part of November's? I see pros/cons with all three and curious how you handle this.


    1. Shippers ordinarily wanted empty cars "just in time," partly because there were demurrage charges beyond 24 or 48 hours, depending on their agreement with the railroad. So I would not spot cars "early."
      Once we are "in" the season, my packing houses have cars at the dock before the session, and then empties are exchanged with loads in the session.
      Out of season, as with my Guadalupe Fruit, the only cars spotted may be replacement machinery, or box shook for the upcoming season.
      Tony Thompson

    2. Thanks, that is the approach I was leaning towards.

  2. The Resin Car Works Kewanee Boiler kits are currently unavailable according to their website, but Multiscale Digital LLC have many different boiler models in stock, including two Kewanee models, type C and 590. Link to the boiler collection here: