Re: Freight TRAIN Consists

Shawn Beckert

Tim O'Connor wrote:

I would like to inject the idea that MODELING freight train consists
on layouts is not precisely the same thing as understanding what a
particular prototype may have done at a particular point in time...
In my opinion, if your layout represents a mainline railroad, you are
going to have a particular mix of model cars on your layout and you will
need staging and you will need to have train consists that
(1) represent 'possible' or reasonably realistic consists given your
location and time period and scenarios
(2) are variable, so that trains do not all look exactly alike and may
even cause an occasional incredulous 'Wow, I didn't expect that' but
on reflection you may agree surprises are part of the real world
experience of train watching.

I would agree that, given time, space and budget constraints, most of us
can only approximate in 1:87 (or whatever) what the real thing did in terms
of what industries were served and how specific trains might have looked.
Still, the more research and information you have, the more you can at least
recreate the feel or look of your particular railroad in a given time frame.

Ten years ago or so I fooled around with software that combined an
amount of randomness coupled with a number of 'rules' and I ran thousands
of train consists simulating dozens of years of operations at the North
Shore RR club.
Every now and then I would get really interesting results, but generally
train consists were highly consistent with their purpose and types of cars
and the road names and destinations of cars.
Sounds like "Ship It" or other such programs. Maybe you should have packaged
your version and marketed it to the rest of us?

On a private layout, you can control the exact mix of equipment according
to the fleet statistics carefully compiled by Tim Gilbert and other folks
that have made studies of conductors' books and interchange records. But
personally I think a layout that completely lacks the occasional oddball car
is diminished if you operate it a lot, because it starts to seem very
predictable and routine. On the other hand, rules for oddball cars should
ensure that they do not show up all the time. Some may only be seen once a
I have no problem with the occasional unusual car or block of cars running
across the railroad, but with enough detective work on what kind of industry
might have needed that "oddball" car and when, you can at least narrow down
what that car might have looked like and how often to run it.

Shawn Beckert

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