different types of railroads?

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by 13Mtrainer, May 22, 2005.

  1. 13Mtrainer

    13Mtrainer Member

    hello everyone,

    i am now really into the model RR thing.[​IMG] I have a small 8' by 8' layout in my basement it is not prototypical or anything a long the lines of that due to i just wanted to start the hobby and i really wanted to run trains and i just did not take my time. my RR is not done yet but i hope to keep working on it. ok heres my questions. what different types of railroads are there (like the Pittsburg and the Reading lines)? what are the best types to model after? are there any good sites to help me? what does prototypical mean? and could anyone show me pitures?

    thank you in advance,
  2. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    OK, Lucky 13, here we go....

    1. What different types?
    There were many different real railroads out there, I don't know if anyone has a count, but I would guess well over 100 in North America alone.

    2. What are the best to model?
    That depends totally on YOUR interests. Myself, I am modeling a shortline that existed 125 years ago in the area where I grew up. Others pick areas they like, guys in our club model Denver/Rio Grande, Canadian Pacific in Ontario, Canadian National in Ontario, "nothing special", "My own world in 1940s", etc.

    What interests YOU?

    3. Any good sites?
    Lots, a quick Google search would probably give you thousands, all would have something of interest. Your best bet is to decide on Geographic area, time period or special interest first, then go looking for specific sites.

    4. Prototypical?
    Dictionary says: adjective: of, relating to, or being a prototype

    Prototype: according to the dictionary:
    1 : an original model on which something is patterned : ARCHETYPE
    2 : an individual that exhibits the essential features of a later type
    3 : a standard or typical example
    4 : a first full-scale and usually functional form of a new type or design of a construction (as an airplane)

    5. Pictures?
    Again, I would suggest you narrow your topic. A quick Google picture search for railroad netted me "about 287,000 images".


    My opinion:

    There are basically two ways to do a model railroad:

    1) base it on an actual place and time.

    2) do what you want and what you like and then you make up a story about where and when it is and what is going on.

    Bottom line: it is your layout, do it your way.
  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    As to the question of different types, it depends on what you mean. If you count in the shortlines, bridge lines, etc there are probably over 100 in existance in North America right now. I would venture to guess that there may be more than 100 in the U.S. alone. That doesn't even count industrial railroads owned by private industry to service factories, foundries, etc. Then by a different definition, you could model a class 1 railroad, a shortline, a switching layout, logging or mining, narrow gauge, plantation railroad. This isn't meant to scare you, just to let you know that whatever interests you probably has a prototype and if it doesn't, you can invent one to do what you want to do.
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Do you have fond memories of watching the trains somewhere? This might be a good place to start; the Pennsylvania RR (Conrail, Norfolk & Western) is well provided with models, many of them even accurate. One of the tourist /preserved/museum lines lets you mix equipment.
    Decide what you find interesting about railroads or model railroads. (It can be many things) You might want to run express trains, do switching, or build detailed models.
  5. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Well over 100? If you go back and count all the little short lines, fallen flags, and other railroads that have occupied the north American scene, more like thousands than hundreds!

    Small 8'x8' layout? Kind of a contradiction in terms, unless you're running G-scale...in my experience, 4x8 is an "average sized" layout--many get cowed when we see gigantic club layouts or basement empires in magazines, but really, 8x8 can be a lot of railroad. My own layout is half the size of a 4x8 sheet of plywood, in HO scale.

    As mentioned above, there are far more individual railroad lines than anyone could squeeze into a particular post, so maybe it might be better to categorize railroads by class:

    Class 1 railroads, which are big giant things, in the modern day they are often the results of mergers of many smaller and larger railroads into huge systems that span large chunks of the country--like Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and CSX. There used to be more Class 1 railroads, like Southern Pacific, New York Central, Pennsylvania Railroad, Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe, Pennsylvania RR, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Denver & Rio Grande Western, etcetera. Many model railroaders will model a portion of a Class 1 because the equipment is easy to get or they are fond of a particular railroad.

    Short lines, which run short distances from a few miles to a few hundred lines. Sometimes these are owned by other railroads but sometimes are independently operated. There used to be a lot of these, and most of them went away over the past few decades (replaced by trucking lines) but a lot of new short lines have sprouted up as railroading has become more profitable and the mega Class 1 operations didn't want to deal with short, marginally profitable lines. Lots of model railroaders like short lines because they have lots of character, you can make up your own if you want to (called "freelancing") and they tend to use older, more weatherbeaten equipment.

    Branch lines are smaller lines that can be part of a Class 1 railroad or have their own identity--these form a middle ground between short lines and Class 1 railroads. Many freelancers will create a fictional branch line of a real railroad, or model a real branch line they like.

    Industrial railroads are the smallest types--good for someone who likes really compact railroading. This can include everything from logging railroads, using weird narrow gauge equipment, to urban industrial railroads, or the special railroad equipment used in steel mills and other major industrial facilities. Most industrial railroads were limited to their industry's property, although in the case of steel mills that could mean a LOT of space!
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Prototypical can mean various things.
    Very strictly, it means that you are modelling an actual place with the actual trains.(Modelling Perth on The CPR line on January 23rd, 1957 after the blizzard, which is why you can't see the tracks and the trains aren't running.)
    Moderately, you are modelling the CPR, but the site is "typical" and the trains are what could have been run.
    Alternately, "this is what the prototype would have done". The hardest of all, as you need intricate knowledge but don't have an actual place to work from.
    Another form is the "could have been" line -- often a line that was planned or promoted but never built. There's a Southern Pennnsylvania line that was started and some grading and tunnelling done, but abandoned and is now the Penna. Turnpike.

Share This Page