O Gauge Modelling on the GWR

A personal Journey

Running a railway

Running a railway: Operating Considerations and services


Organising how to operate a railway, more often than not, stems from “what have I got, (coaches, wagons, engines, etc.)” and “where can they run, (stations, sidings sheds)”. Not an unreasonable assumption seeing as most of the models, buildings and engines will have been built or acquired by the owner often over a long period of time as part of an ongoing hobby. But having thought and discussed this notion with several others it could well be the downfall of operations as it will not have any built in “natural” tendencies attached to it and as such could become something that eventually gathers dust through an eventual loss of interest.

Therefore I want to look at the railway from the ‘natural’ potential it contains and build up a running plan from there. This is not a new concept, nor is it my idea as it has been attended to by others on many occasions. But, I merely want to raise its head above water again as a part of the concept of running a railway as opposed to playing trains, (neither of which is a ‘wrong’ approach to this wonderful hobby of ours)

So, the ‘Geography’ of the railway, (its Social, Economic and Physical aspects), is to be our starting point, not “what shall we run today?” And where better to start than with my own railway as an example.

My railway was built really to have four distinct sections. Rather like four large paintings that I could work on independently. Having said that they are all connected together by a double track mainline that runs through each section. Section 1 is called Wallington Park and includes the businesses and facilities that surround it, section 2 is called Fairbourne Hill and includes its coalfield, section 3 is called Staverford Holt with its adjacent industrial development and section 4 is called Longhampton Bridge and Halt with their manufacturing development and storage areas.

Of these four sections there is much they each have in common. Firstly, they all have clients who want regular and varied freight and passenger services from the railway to deliver raw materials and despatch a variety of products and people to other areas of the railway. With industrial needs, they want sensible deliveries of these raw materials, and the forwarding of the products they turn out. For Passenger trains, they would be working the stations along the line that run daily services, on weekdays, or market days, or during seasonal events such as the harvest, a winter’s service, or for holidays. This seems a much better set of options and would require a different approach on different days, somewhat reminiscent of an actual railway!

Let’s look at each section in more detail:

Section 1.      Wallington Park

Wallington Park has a 4 platform terminus station, (A 1, A 2, A 3 and A 4), a creamery, engine sheds, turntable, large coaling stage,  a large goods shed and limited storage sidings.

Here are some of the considerations for this section:

1.       Delivery of Coal and Loco spares to the engine sheds, Ash removal from the engine sheds, (use of the turntable, storage and preparation of locomotives)

2.       Delivery of Milk for the production of Cream and Cheese, (in the Creamery)

3.       Services for passengers, parcels, newspapers, pigeons and perishables in small amounts such as flowers, vegetables in season. (platforms 1-4)

4.       Delivery of Cattle, Sheep, Horses, Pigs, etc. (cattle dock)

5.       Level loading, Awkward loading, Craned goods, etc. (Goods Shed)

6.       General and Perishable goods and produce in volume. (Goods Shed)


Frequency of need: an example of a manufacturing factories requirement:


2 coal wagons every Tuesday and Friday

3 Timber wagons on Wednesday

2 Timber wagons on Saturday

2 Empty vans (for factory ), alternate days

1 van of fittings, every second Thursday

1 tanker of oil once a month

Section 2.      Fairbourne Hill

Fairbourne Hill has a through station consisting of 2 platforms, (B1 and B2), siding access to the coaling stage and 2 storage sidings, and the coalmine which is accessed from section 3.

Consideration of the areas requirements:

  1. Delivery of Coal and collection of empties for the coaling stage,
  2. Services for passengers, parcels, newspapers, pigeons and perishables in small amounts such as flowers, vegetables in season.. (platforms 1-2)
  3. Coal production at the coal mine and spoil

Frequency of need: an example of the areas requirements:

3 coal wagons every Tuesday and Friday

2 Empty wagons (for coalmine), alternate days?

2 empty wagons for removal of spoil Saturday

Section 3.      Staverford Halt

Staverford Halt has a single platform on the up line only, (C1). The brewery is situated behind the halt and has direct access from the mainline. There is access to the Tar, Coke and gas works from section 4 and TPO ground apparatus on the down line. The gas works feeds off the coke and tar works line.

Consideration of the areas requirements:

1.       Production of Gas, Coke and tar  and removal as required using special tank wagons, hoppers and open wagons.

2.       Services for passengers, parcels, newspapers, pigeons and perishables in small amounts such as flowers, vegetables in season. (platform 1)

3.     Delivery of grain, etc. to the brewery.

Frequency of need: an example of the areas requirements:

2 or 3 tar tanks every Tuesday and Friday

2 or 3 Empty hoppers (for coke works), alternate days?

2 wagons or tanks Monday and Thursday (for the brewery).

3 coal wagons for the gas works.

Section 4.      Longhampton Bridge and Halt

Longhampton Bridge is currently a terminus station with 3 platforms, (D: 1, 2 and 3). Access to the Halt with 1 platform, (E1), Malthouse, Engine shed and cattle dock and on the mainline the Milk terminus. Some storage sidings. Shunt head into the tar works and Coke works and latterly into the Gas works.

Consideration of the areas requirements:

  1. Production of Malt and collection of milk,
  2. Services for passengers, parcels, newspapers, pigeons and perishables in small amounts such as flowers, vegetables in season. (platform 1)
  3. Malt and grain supply from the malthouse etc
  4. Storage sidings for Engineering works vehicles

Frequency of need: an example of the areas requirements:

2 or 3 milk tanks every Wednesday and Sunday

2 wagons or grain hoppers Monday and Thursday (for the malthouse).
Cranes and associated wagons as necessary

General Activities

Early morning beginning of shift duties:

  1. Preparation of pilots and shunting locos, (coaling, watering, positioning, shunting).
  2. Preparation of locos and setting of consists for service activity, (coaling, watering, positioning, shunting).
  3. Identifying and movement of wagons ready for despatch from sidings, (daily, weekly, one-off procedures involving the Brewery sidings, creamery sidings, goods siding and storage sidings, livestock).


Example Services:

Passenger Services

1.       Mainline non stopping traffic: A (platform 2) to D (platform 2), shunt coaches to D (platform 3); return to A (platform 3)

2.       Mainline stopping traffic: A (platform 2), B (platform 1), C (platform 1) and D (platform 2); return D (platform 2), B (platform 2) and A (platform 3)

3.       Suburban Steam Railmotor services: E (platform 1), B (platform 2) and A (platform 4); Return A (platform 4), B (platform 1), C (platform 1) and E (platform1 )

4.       Suburban B set: A (platform 1 bay), B (platform 1), C (platform 1), D (platform 1 bay). Returns B (platform 2), A (platform 3), shunts back to platform 1 bay.

5.       Mail train non stop: D (platform 3),  to A (platform 2); returns stopping ,B (platform 1), D (platform 2 or 3), drops/picks up mail on the downline section only.

6.       Suburban stopping train: A (platform 1 bay), B (platform 1), C (platform 1),  and D (platform 1 bay); returns B (platform 2), A (platform 4),





Product services

7.       Milk train: from pumping station to Creamery; return empties

8.       Coal mine: to pick up siding to coaling stage; return empties

9.       Coke works: production of, and tar production

10.   Brewery: distribute barrels to major stations; return empty

11.   Breakdown consist: out to rescue damage on the railway as needed; return when possible.


Livestock services

12.   Animals: Transport of Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Horses and Poultry.


Manoeuvres involving locomotives, pilots or shunters:

Re 1, engine uses run round loop or replacement engine if available

Re 2, engine uses run round loop or replacement engine if available

Re 4, pilot engine to shunt into sidings

Re 5, pilot engine to shunt into sidings

Re 6, pilot engine to shunt into sidings

Re 7, pilot engine to shunt into sidings

Re 9, engine uses run round loop or replacement engine if available

Re 1 and 2, Use of turntable for large engines to face correct way

Positioning of pilot locos for shunting duties

Shunting of wagons and wagon sets

Shunting of coaches and coach sets



Locomotive servicing and maintenance

Engine sheds: F (small double), G (Large double with turntable), H (small single)

Coaling stage: CS storage 1, 2 or 3 coal wagons to CS, (should be 1 empty each time returned to the sidings at the bottom of the stage ramp).

Coal supplies: Starts at the coal mine, (full wagons 1 or 2 at a time), transported wagons to storage line next to the tar works waiting for pickup. Delivered to A 4 (or nearest available spur), then shunted back to coal storage sidings, (1 or 2) then moved up to CS for use. See CS note for return.

End of day shift duties:

  1. Distribution of locos, pilots and shunting locos, (coaling, watering, positioning, storage).
  2. Distribution and parking of consists, (coaches and wagon sets if required).
  3. Clearing of individual wagons and positioning of guards vans ready for the next shift.


Timetable organisation:

Frequency of regular ‘Mainline’ services for passengers, (out and back)

Frequency of ‘Suburban’ stopping all stations services for passengers

Frequency of ‘Special’ services for passengers

Frequency of ‘Goods’ services, (Coal, Milk, Beer, Other)


The Daily Routine services

The passenger and goods services consist of several out and back consists, Mainline, Suburban, Special and Goods.

Mainline operates 8 return services in a 24 hr period.

Suburban operates 5 services

Special operates 2

Goods 3, (1 of each commodity)

Putting all this together in a meaningful and useful way is no mean task. But there is a program that has been about for some time that can do the work for you and that program is called Wagon flow 4.

Wagon flow 4 is not a new program. It was developed some time ago and runs happily on a Windows XP machine. For me this is convenient as I use an XP laptop to run JMRI as a loco controller in conjunction with an iPod Touch. It will run on Windows 7 machines but there are issues, (some of which can be solved by choosing a different screen resolution – akin to the XP range). I purchased the downloadable suite of Wagon flow 4, with pdf manual, Fastclock and Scaler. But for now I am concentrating just on Wagon flow 4.