All things must pass

allthingsmustpass v1-1

The model railroad, designed for operation, where you don’t model either end of the industrial process it is supposed to represent and really only provide enough stage to host an extract of the operating session. Just enough to model the bit I’m interested in:

  1. Engine enters the stage from “C” and moves through the scene to exit at “B”
  2. “B” represents a place where loaded hoppers are retreived. I’m not interested in modelling how they are loaded I just need them to come from somewhere to support the play. Further, by excluding this scene from the layout it can be greatly reduced to only a single track where I add or remove cars from the layout instead of a complex yard of tracks, cars, and scenery – all of which distracts from the purpose of the plan and the intent of the experience.
  3. With the engine shoving from the tail end, a string of hoppers is shoved through the scene. Even though only one motion in one direction, it’s a dance of delicate steps: feeding in enough throttle to maintain inertia but not so much as to break traction on the rails.
  4. Cars are fed into an unloader of some sort located at “A”. Again, not interested in building a model of this and don’t feel I need to.
  5. Repeat from step 1.

Just sawing back and forth through the scene and enjoying just how good it feels to watch and listen to well-made models in action. Not that it demands more detail, but from another page in the sketchbook, I found this page providing some additional detail for the typical operating session:

allthingsmustpass v2

The length of the operating session is determined by the amount of time I feel like attending. When retrieving hoppers, it is just running across the stage. When shoving them through the unloader though, even though the actual unload point is off-stage and not modelled the act of feeding cars through it one at a time is a very important part of the operating session.

  1. The train rests, all three cars and an engine of it, on stage
  2. Grab a notch on the throttle to shove the first hopper into the unloader.
  3. Pause while it’s unloaded and then shove the second into place…then the third. With
  4. With all three now unloaded move back to staging.
  5. Return with as many hoppers need to be unloaded next or if this is a day where we only received three hoppers, bring the engine home and go get on with life.

In terms of reference, the operating session looks one heck of a lot like the second half of this video:

And the sound and look of that little engine is a lot like this:



  1. A truly valuable and well thought out post. A great project for anyone,but particularly useful for those in our hobby who never get tracks laid because they feel overwhelmed by commitment Involved in the layouts typically featured in the hoppy press.

    The inclusion of the prototype example was both helpful in getting your idea across but also for inspiration. How many of us spend time watching trains on YouTube for the sheer enjoyment of watching the trains at work. Yet more often than not the clip represents a very limited vantage point with little or no view of points “A” and “B


    1. Thanks Scott

      How often do we go to watch a train at our favourite railfan location or chase a train without expecting to see the terminal points?

      In my small spaces, I don’t have room for both. In the example of this plan, A, B, and C are all removable staging boards that are not left out between use. All that remains is the stage.


    1. That curve uses up a lot of real estate but I think it’s space well spent. To operate this, I have to physically turn to face the alternate ends of the line. That shift in stance does sort of feel like I’ve been somewhere too. All too often with the typical small layout, I operate from one place on the floor.


  2. Pretty much exactly like the “layout” I’m currently building. I had enough room for a narrow shelf around my desk that could extend into some hidden track at each end. I figured building something to have a train run on was better than nothing at all. Once complete I’ll be able to rail fan from my seat as trains can go back and forth beside me while I work.

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