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SPlaying Trains

Jeff Mennell

240 posts

Hi all, what I need to know is how does one 'play' trains?? My layout renovation is almost complete so the time is drawing closer when I will have to think about what I want to 'do' with it. As a kid I would play trains but as an adult I have no idea. I've forgotten how to 'play'. Depends on the layout, I know but basically I need a 'point' to what I'm doing if you catch my drift. I can't just watch a loco going round and round 'cos I'll lose interest in five mins. I have spent a lot of time and money on this layout and worried that it'll be left unused unless I can think of how to interact with it in some way!

Timbo M

14 posts

Couple of ideas:

Scenarios: depending on the complexity of your layout, you can act out scenarios and try different things, e.g. match up x loco with y rolling stock (maybe one that isn't normally attached to it), with z loco involved in the shunting.  Then you can put them all back to where they started...  Also, depending on what you have rolling stock-wise you could have other scenarios to enact - e.g. a breakdown crane/train attending a derailment, a freight loco on a passenger train as a railtour 'special' etc.

Photography/video: if you've spent the time renovating the layout, see what good/interesting photos and videos you can get, including ones from interesting angles you wouldn't normally watch the trains from.

If you're wanting to regress fully to childhood, you can always make up daft/over-long trains for something to do, but careful of straining any motors!


7467 posts

 There are so many variations if 'playing with trains' . Here are a few -


1. Watching the trains go by.

You set up trains that are pleasing to the eye, set the road, and turn on the controllers. You then sit and watch the trains going round  consuming a beverage and/or biscuit of your choice. Until you get bored with it. You can then create some different trains,  different locos, carriages and wagons,  and repeat as often as you wish. Or until SWMBO calls you for tea.


This is how I run my coarse scale gauge O garden railway.


2. Running to a time table.

For this ideally you need two or more stations. You plan a day in the life of your layout, write down all the trains you want to run and then operate your trains to that plan. A clock that runs to 'scale time' is sometimes used, although not everyone agrees with this. If your railway is based on a real location you can of course use a real timetable but I think that you will get fed up in the intervening  30 minutes or more between consecutive trains. You need to hurry up time in some way. A lot of exhibition layouts operate like this.


I will operate my OO shed railway like this.


3. Moving the goods

This is for people who like shunting. You have to have at least two different sets of sidings, the more the better,  and a good variety of goods wagons. These wagons are distributed at random into each of your sidings before you start. You also need a pack of cards with the identity of each wagon you have written on it . Every wagon should have a number.  

You then shuffle and deal the cards into piles representing the sidings you have on your layout. You then operate your goods train calling at each siding removing wagons that are not in the pile of cards for that siding and placing the wagons into the sidings which are.  Wagons removed stay on the train until it reaches the correct siding. No cheating, every wagon has to be moved by the loco. You finish when all the wagons are distributed into the sidings according to the cards, Then you shuffle the cards, deal them out and start again.


I have plans for a fine scale O gauge shunting layout that will operate in this way.

Green trains are best!

Jeff Mennell

240 posts

Some good ideas there Tim. I especially like the photographing/video one. I have modified the layout somewhat and added things which I hope will increase 'play' potential but am curious as to what other enthusiasts do?


1711 posts

If you have DCC + Railmaster, you can set up a schedule of lots of train movements, set it off, and sit back and watch. Then you will have your hands free to take pictures and videos if you want to.


DCC Elite + Railmaster+ProPack, Windows 10 desktop

Jeff Mennell

240 posts

Stry, It's a single oval with numerous sidings and it's only DC so only one movement at a time!


236 posts

I' m not overly into trains. It started off with a loco, 2 coaches and about 6 wagons , and a fair amount of old steel track which had lay in a box from the late 50's.My little director general suggested I get running for our 1st grandson. But I do like making things and especially scenery. I get real chuffed when it turns out A1 and exceeds my expectations. 1st grandson , then No.2. Showed no interest, but to my surprise their little sister liked them, but inevitibly she has arrived at 12.yrs and is now close to teens and has developed other interests. But she stills comes up to the loft to see what is going on. I,m looking forward to loco detection ( ? ) and I will probably get into shunting programmes etc, which does fire my enthusium somewhat.

Yes Dear, I,m going to spend all day up here. Layout : "Strath Na Gowan" Running Windows XP , Elite v1.43 , Railmaster Pro v1.65.


4113 posts

There's a thread on here called - Let's see your layouts - presently about 1/3 down on page 3. Have a look at what is on there, to give you some ideas.


if it works first time, you did something wrong!

I usualy set up three trains and watch them go round a bit then when I'm bored with them, I get different rolling stock and/or locos and then watch them go round. I have three loops and an A to B branch line so have to keep an eye on the branch train. I like the branch line trains as it can have all sorts of cargos - passengers, livestock, coal, milk, post etc. All require different wagons so I can shunt them all into possition. I haven't got a lot of room for shunting but that what I do is fun. My younger sister enjoys transporting the figures and animals behind her own engine and taking them to other places. You could also make your own trains for current occasions, for example at Christmas, I sometimes set up my own 'Christmas Train': last year I had Evening Star pulling one pullman coach for Santa and Elves, a livestock van for reindeer, a flatbed with a Christmas tree on it and another van for all the presents.


I think it's important to have lots of different rolling stock for different purposes especially on a made-up layout so you don't get bored. Smile

Shunting has already been previously mentioned and you say it's DC so one train at a time, but that ain't neccesarily the case.

Why not look at options to improve what you already have, provide more flexability using insulated rail joiners and additional controllers (which can be relatively cheap), auto stopping at platforms using blocks (irj's), provide a reversing loop or a turntable if you have the money.

Some people just like to build the track and aren't particularly interested in running them others like problem solving by getting the maximumout of the minimum space they have.

Basically a trainset / model railway  (depending on whether you play or model) will keep the grey matter ticking over.

Youtube is your friend, I look at various peoples site's Barrie Davis ( got some great idea's) Chambs 123 is another, Sams Trrains also,so there are plenty to view.

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