The Iron Horse -- The Railroad

The railroads, both prototype and model, are fascinating. There's nothing quite as stirring or awe-inspiring as 10,000 horsepower shaking the ground. Ships and aircraft often have more horsepower, but distance separates the viewer from the source; the event is either seen or heard. With the railroad, the 10,000 horsepower is feet from where you stand!

What Railroading means to me

This page is even more disorganized than normal -- it combines a couple pages of my own sources across a couple of years of editing. I haven't been working on it for years (as of 2008), but perhaps I can organize it somewhat better. It's not that I stopped liking trains and railroading, more like I'm too busy for them, and everything else I enjoy :(

Table of Contents

My Railroad Pages & Articles

This section is more or less a place-holder until some of my web page automation becomes smarter.

Original Railroad Links

These are the railroad links from the Bolo Fascinations web page. I've had this new RR page for quite some time, but nothing was linked to it! While I'm sorting that out, I'm keeping the old links and the new links and content together.

Prague Transit System Notes

Actually, this section started out as I tracked down information about the Tram System in Prague and other parts of the Czech Republic after my travels there. Between my own notes on the construction of the system -- which I should record here, research on the system and others like it, visits to the transit museum, etc. I've collected quite a bit of info on such systems. Makes me want to return to Prague to learn more, maybe become an engineer or operator for the transit system while they still have the grand old hardware which works hard. The new stuff, as is typical with transit systems, sucks. It looks pretty, but it doesn't work well, is difficult to use, and its largest failing is that it doesn't move people, which is the entire purpose of such a system!

Scale & Gauge

This description and notes grew quite long; it has since Moved to its own page.

Model and Railroad Info

Follows is the content I have surfed the web for looking for various info. This first section is the existing info I had in my web pages which has been centralized here. Eventually I plan on organizing the content more. For now however, this puts all my RR links in one place.

Subway & Transit Info

Signals & Signalling

Realistic Signals and Signalling systems are an essential part of both Prototype and Model railroads. These systems provide for Safety of operation, Timeliness of operations, and also for a high operations count by efficient use of resources.

I will admit, it is also very cool to watch the signals fall down and have trains automatically obey the system, whether it is ABS -- Absolute Block Signals or the more directed CTC -- Centralized Traffic Control, or to the operation of a Interlocking.

James Sterbenz once remarked on the now-defunct Signals List that his model railroad would probably be just a roadbed with signals. No scenery or other distractions. I agree with that -- I hate building the scenery, but the operation and the traffic control -- that is cool.

I've been working on software to model trackwork, track blocks, signals, and inter-lockings for a number of years. The problem isn't the software, it is a lack of hardware to drive it to actually have it control trains and allow routings and avoid accidents. Without a layout and the control to run it, it isn't more than a pipe-dream, no matter how cool.

Despite all the work I've put together modelling this, I find nothing but admiration for the ages old relay-based signal systems which the railroads used for years. Those things are fault tolerant, work in a changing and destructive environment, and are reliably in the face of so many failures I couldn't even start enumerating them. To imagine that -- relay systems more complex and reliable than the computer systems trying to replace them. That happens in real life too -- people trying to replace the system with computer components discover that they have a difficult time generating the same reliability that the old system just provides as a side effect of its wiring.

More Railroad Info

This info is somewhat categorized, but less informative than the stuff that has been on my web pages. However, it has a lot more information than the old stuff did. Once I decide how to organize everything I'll start merging the two.

Rolling Stock

Preserved Railroads & Historical Societies

XXX Split RR and societies up

Prototype Railroads & Equipment

Small Gauge Railroads

This is a tough category to name; it is small railroads, such as with 12-18" gauge rails, running at zoos, at preservation, amusement parks, etc. However, this is all serious railroading that I am listing here, amusement park rides don't fit.

If you want smaller, start looking at some of the Live-Steam Railroads in my workshop section

XXX get a link to add!

Model Railroads

Publications, Publishers & Booksellers

Organizations and Standards




True-Action Throttles. Command Control. Interlocking. Signals. Crossing Bucks. Find it here!

Structures & Scenery


In 2008 Marklin ceased its United States operations (in Berlin, WI), and gave up on the market. Walthers, Inc is now a Marklin distributor, but I have heard nothing good about them as such. The brand and its needs are so unique that ordinary distributors may just not capable of dealing with it. I hope Walthers will treat Marklin as its own brand, and do a good job for the consumer of Marklin products.

Some of the Command Control/Digital/DCC things are here so my Dad might find them faster.

Generations of Marklin Digital

O-Scale Specific

Large Scale

Large Scale railroads are often referred to as Garden Railroads, because they are large enough to run outside as part of your garden. It's great -- you have to build track like the real railroads do, to resist floods, earthquakes, frost-heave, sun-kinks, as well as the depredations of godzilla (pets and other animals). You have issues with grading of ballast, snow removal, track cleaning, remote power delivery, adhesion and traction, etc.

I mention these challenges so you know what you are getting into. The flip-side is that you have a place large enough to truely exhibit these large scale trains. Curve radii large enough for them to work properly, scenery which you don't have to make yourself, and no problem with really walking around you layout to fix problems.

There are a few different Large Scale scales, and a common gauge which they use. The two popular scales are 1:24, which is basically twice as large as O-Scale (1:48), and 1:29 which is slightly larger and gives the trains a more narrow-gauge look. The common gauge track is G-Gauge.

The one exception may be Marklin's 1 Gauge trains. They run to a slightly larger scale 1:32. I don't even have a Marklin catalog handy to lookup the details.

The 3 Major manufacturers of Large Scale equipment are

LGB was sold to various companies and is in Limbo right now, and apparently has been since late 2007. The links remain below in case it ever comes back to life. Silvergate has purchased part of LGB, and Marklin another part, or something like that.

Traction -- Interurbans & Trolleys

Hobby Shops

I've purchased my Model trains since I was a small child from both Popes's Hobbyland of Wausau WI, or from Midvale Hobby of Madison WI. I highly recommend both stores; sometimes their selection can be limited, but they have a knowledgeable staff and are eager to provide information and help to model railroaders.

Large Hobby Shops & Distributors

For some people these may be a Local Hobby Shop, but for me, these are places far away...



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Last Modified: Mon May 18 00:58:10 CDT 2009
Bolo (Josef Burger) <>