In order to operate well, a number of important factors must be considered. These factors, which I have borrowed from Allen McClelland, set the stage for your railroad, flavor the pike and exert influence over decisions concerning the railroad. Consider these factors when planning a model railroad empire or trying to set up a prototypical operating scheme. If these things are considered, the railroad will bring many years of satisfaction.
The first factor is the locale of the railroad. The location of the railroad is important. The modeler must pick an area of the country that he or she likes. This encourages the railroader to do more research into the area and learn even more about it. For instance, I like the Missouri Pacific Railroad (which will probably become evident over time). However, I do not necessarily like the relatively flat land found in the St. Louis area. I tend to like the older rounded mountains found in the Appalachian Mountains. I do not like the steep and jagged mountains in the Rocky Mountains for railroading. Therefore, I have decided that when I have the room, I will expand my current city switching layout to be integrated into a larger system including large portions of the Ozarks. This will allow me to model the Missouri Pacific (or my own company loosely taken from the MOP) and yet get the feeling of the railroad moving through the substantial mountainous regions of the area. This will force me to make certain decisions which I welcome. In order to operate in the White River region (yes, this is the White Water area in which Bill and Hillary invested), the MOP used helpers. This will force me to put the rail lines in a valley with the White River and towns. This means that there will be a lot of scenic interest in a little area. And, the scenery and grades will slow the trains which will require more time to go from point “a” to point “b”.
The next factor to be considered is the era of the railroad. The time period will influence the choice of motive power and rolling stock. It will impact on the industries the railroad will serve and their size. And it will also influence the autos, if any, you can use as well as the clothes your little people can wear.
The third factor to be considered is the traffic patterns you like on your route. A number of possibilities confront the modeler. For instance, a person could model a shortline, a narrow gauge, a heavy traffic mainline, a regional railroad, a local switching branch or a bridgeline. Each of these possibilities has its own traffic pattern, cars, tempo and flavor.
The final factor to be considered is the management style. This will influence every aspect of the railroad from the choice of motive power and the types of passenger cars to the paint scheme. Some railroads were willing to try anything in motive power to move the freight. This resulted in gas turbines and DD-40Xs on the Union Pacific. Other railroads were more conservative and bought tried and true engine designs. Liberal railroads purchased fluted stainless steel passenger cars while the more conservative railroads were using cars with smooth sides.
In order to have a successful pike, one should consider these factors and employ them on the empire. Pick out the features you like best in your favorite prototype and either model those, for those modeling the prototype, or take those features and apply them to your own dream empire. If these factors are used on your railroad it should bring you years of enjoyment and you should not tire of seeing or working on the layout. Until the next time, I hope all the signals you see are green over red.