Wednesday 19 March 2014


One of the great features of the model railroad hobby is the experience of an operating session.  Here I would like to offer a few thoughts on my efforts as a historical type modeler and miniature re-enactor.  

Briefly put, the layout comes alive.  We do more than run a few trains.  The model locomotives are chosen and detailed with respect to the real ones as in the late 1940's as is the rolling stock.  Scenes are modeled with a view to creating a photograph that could pass as a shot taken in the same period or even duplicating one taken a long time ago.  When we complete the scene in a time warp sense and operate our trains with the support of a Dispatcher and Station Operators, interacting with each other over the length of the line, we are participating in a role-playing game that brings the events of the past close to us who are mad about trains.  These events are rather hum-drum if we think about it as there are no wars waged, nor lives lost, no earth-shaking cataclysms or car-chases and explosions.  On the contrary, it is just the everyday movements of trains from A to B as they did 60 or more years ago on a backwater railroad in a sparsely populated corner of a vast and mountainous country.

This aspect of modeling the prototype; i e, working it as the real railroaders did is quite fascinating.  The more you formally do the jobs of the railroaders, the more you realize that there are things you do not know and would like to find out.  On the other hand, there are things you do not even know that you do not know and so do not have questions to ask.  Sometimes, this is realized in conversation or listening in on an exchange between two persons who make an off hand comment and you do not know what they are referring to.  For example, there was an entry-level job at Brookmere called the watchman and a couple of old-timer KV enginemen were making reference to a particular watchman's unfortunate accident and afterwards I asked them; "What did the watchman watch?"  They could not believe someone could ask such a basic question and after a moment of astonishment, they both replied; "Well, the engines of course!" Why did they do that?" I asked, to which they replied with a only little less perplexity,  "To see that they don't explode or lose their fire."  "Oh" said I.  And so I found out something for which I did not previously have a question.

So, over time I had come up with questions to ask the railroaders at the annual August reunions in Brookmere which was always an interesting event.  Sadly, many of the men I talked with at these "Brookmere Campouts" are gone now and with them their tales of yore.  However,  I was able to glean enough information and hear some of their tales to enhance the operations of a Kettle Valley Model Railway.  As this blog continues, I plan on sharing something of the experience of our operating sessions which are based as much as we can on the real railway and its method of operation.

Here was an interesting meet during a session last September's Vanrail event.  There are three trains here at Hope and another locomotive waiting on the Wye to couple on to the Extra 5101 which is itself waiting in the siding for No. 79 to pick up his orders and clear.   Squeezed onto the backtrack is the Eastbound way-freight which is eager to return to his assignment. The action varies a great deal even though there is a timetable.  Photo by Brian Ferris.

Any operating scheme must have some sort of structure, schedule or sequence of trains and herein I post copies of the Coquihalla Subdivision pages from two Timetables: a model version for use during operating sessions on the layout in my basement and a prototype one on which it was based.  In constructing the model version, schedules of trains approximate the times in and out of Brookmere.  And of course, the model version is considerably shorter than the prototype.  Here is the model version composed on a Word Document.

And a reproduction of the prototype Timetable No 94, September 1949:

I hope this is of interest to readers and is an inspiration to modelers to get operating or at least to plan for eventual operations of their layout.  For further reading on operations visit the Website of the Operations Sig at:  and check out future posts here for more on a Kettle Valley Model Railway.

Coquihalla Man


  1. Anthony, I am enjoying your posts immensely. Having been fortunate enough to operate on your layout last VanRail, I am keenly looking forward to another opportunity. Keep up the good work, and thanks for sharing your insights and learnings.

    1. Hi Brian; I only just noticed your comment. Thank you for the compliments. I am enjoying the writing but it does make me a little less productive since time at the keyboard is time away from the workbench. Since you were here last, more scenery and structures - one of them being a logging truck - does that qualify as a structure? As you know from my latest post, one of my closest friends has died and I am feeling a little heartache now - missing him more and more as reality sinks in. Hope to see you next year. Q-Man