The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading
  NUMBER 116


© September 21, 2008   

©Discover Live Steam and Rick Henderson (PC Rails).  This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.

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Your Favorite Riding Scale Railroads

Visiting riding scale railroaders enjoying the Bitter Creek & Western Railroad. Photo by Jim O'Connor

Written by Rick Henderson

For many, a significant part of this hobby is visiting other railroads in their area and even across the country and operating their trains on other tracks. They recognize a big part of the learning about the riding scale railroad hobby is in the visiting of other railroads, especially if you are building your own. The leading exchange of ideas comes from seeing, not just reading, how others have done things. You often learn what works, what did not work, and what would work best at your location. As no two railroads are alike, there is something to learn from all that you can visit.

In the recent survey conducted on DLS asking about railroads hobbyists have visited, several comments stand out as observations on what makes a railroad appealing. You do not necessarily need to be "The Biggest and Best Railroad" in the country to be considered a favored railroad.

Based on survey respondents, the median number of railroads visited by people in the hobby is 10. The responses for the number of railroads people visited ran from two to 30 with one lucky individual claiming to have visited 100 different railroads over the years. The fact that 49% of the respondents preferred the variety of the railroads they visited over their own home railroad is not a surprise as people enjoy diversity.

There were a few key comments on what made the railroads attractive on which to operate. The comment used to describe 45% of the railroads was "Friendly" because they felt truly welcome. People felt that their hosts were exceptional in making them feel very welcome and, with some respondents, as if they had been a long time member of the railroad.

Scenery was also often mentioned as an attractive point. When you ride around and see more than just other nearby tracks, it is very appealing to people. Along with the natural scenic views, scale structures were also very appealing to visitors.

Size did matter to some degree, but it was not a high concern. The most often comment that went along with size was the appeal of the variety of route options one could travel rather than just a long loop.

People just seem to love railroad trestles & bridges, as they were a high point to many visitors. Also rated as great features are tunnels, signals and bi-directional running, all of which drew remarks as some of the most attractive points about operating on railroads. Single direction running or always just following the caboose in front of you was not an attractive point.

If you were to describe an ideal riding scale railroad from these results, it would have friendly hosts, scenic views likely in woods and/or with some hills, have trestles and signals for bi-directional operations, with perhaps a tunnel and scale structures such as town or industries scattered out over multiple routes to explore.

A few, less attractive, issues or drawbacks for some railroaders are the local amenities, especially if the railroad is remote, having to ride the public, an issue many clubs have to comply with just to exist, and not being larger enough to allow for more visitors. These are not any fault of the railroads; they are just a factor visitors consider when making plans to visit.

Overall, the railroads listed as the most favored for visiting were, in alphabetical order, Bitter Creek & Western Railroad, Eagle Point Railroad, Maricopa Live Steamers, Michigan Central Railroad, Train Mountain Museum, White Creek Railroad and Willow Creek Railroad.

Most railroad owners derive a great deal of satisfaction from having visitors go away with a positive experience from their visit. When you visit a railroad, let your host(s) know how much you appreciated their efforts in building, maintaining and opening the railroad to guests. If you see something you like about a railroad and may want to duplicate it, asking how they did something so you may try it at your home railroad is really a large compliment. Most people are more than happy to share ideas.

With close to 400 riding scale railroads listed on the Discover Live Steamís Railroad Listings just in the US, there are bound to be some in your region or along your future travel route that you could arrange to visit. If you plan ahead you will find most railroads are very accommodating to others in the hobby and will try to work with your schedule.

Written by Rick Henderson

Be sure to visit Rick Henderson's web site PC Rails


©Discover Live Steam and Rick Henderson (PC Rails). This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.

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