Messages From ldsig



#68041 Dec 5, 2006

Ken Biles wrote: "<. . . 30 years ago, no one was thinking Operations, and

the yardstick

was completely different. It wasn't until enough people tried Operations,

and found that it was fun, that the model press picked it up.">>

I hope you'll forgive a bit of transatlantic musing but I've been following

this thread with interest and our experiences seem to be parallel but


There have been operation oriented layouts since the very early days of the

hobby on both sides of the Atlantic. The "Model Railway News" of 1934

describes an 0 scale layout called "The Maybank", probably the first

terminus to fiddle yard (staging tracks) layout ever built that represented

in its 34' length a main line passenger terminus with a small freight yard

and a loco depot mounted above the staging tracks. This appeared at several

exhibitions in London and always ran to a timetable.

After WW2 the hobby became popular with people who didn't live in large

houses and the 00 branch line terminus to fiddle yard layout became one of

the clich..s of British railway modelling. Unlike that other clich..- the

solid 6'x4' continuous run layout - this did allow serious if limited

operation and one very infuential layout John Charman's Charford branch

packed a complete set of terminus operations run to a strict timetable into

a station less than six feet long with a similar length fiddle yard all

built and operated as a very portable layout in a small mobile home.

I think the big difference is that we've tended to focus on station rather

than train crew operation and though this is partly a result of limited

space in our homes even large operations oriented layouts with several

complete stations have tended to have an operator for each station rather

than for each train. This maybe reflects the different nature of the

prototype with more intensive service- with more passenger than freight

trains- and fully signalled with local signalbox rather than dispatcher


One thing I have noticed is that, though the approach differs, operating

rather than simply building layouts does seem to be peculiar to the English

speaking world. The French build superbly detailed scenes but apart from

microlayouts (which always strike me as rather akin to the automata of the

18th Century) complete layouts seem far less popular than modules and

dioramas and when I've been with layouts to exhibitions there we've

generally been the only people making any serious attempt to actually

operate and switch trains. The Germans by contrast seem to like large

complex layouts on which complete trains run more or less continuously with

as many as six or more trains circuiting at once but again very little

switching- there are of course exceptions to all of these.

What I don't know is how much the layouts seen in magazines or at

exhibitions reflect what most modellers are actually doing in their own

homes. I suspect that an awful lot just like to run trains on continuous