Why Research?

Now, you might be wondering why research is needed for a model railroad layout. Certainly, arguements can be, and are, made that research isn't needed and that you can just go ahead and do what you want. And if you are modelling a totally freelanced line, that is probably acceptable.

However, I would suggest that you take a look at what you are trying to accomplish with your pike before you move ahead and go for whatever. In fact, one of the advantages of even a little bit of research is that it can make your hobby dollar go further for you and like most folks, that is to your advantage!

If you want to model, let's say the 1950's, in the Southwest, you can focus in on the common prototype cars and locomotives, letting you select the best options that fit those wants.


What I research

Since I am modeling what I term the "modern era", which I've decided means from 1990 to about 2000, I concentrate on information about those years, but this doesn't mean I do not look at information that discusses time frames that would be older. In fact, as you look through older documentation, you can find the underlying reasons why things on the railroads are done certain ways. If the railroad or area you are interested in was the subject of mergers (which is just about every railroad ever...) you can also use this sort of information to develop timelines and information about what was changed and how it was done. In my case, I've been able to find information that sourced from a study done before the ACL/SAL merger that suggested how to bring the railroads together in the ares; it turned out that this was mostly done when the merger finally completed, but it does also give you a "what if" if you want to take a tangent from reality if you decide that could be more fun.

I look for information from historical societies, current and former employees, Google maps, the USGS, books and magazines. The local newspaper archives might also be helpful. Richmond is also the home of the Library of Virginia, which maintains many collections on Virginia based business, of which both the RF&P and Seaboard were. (And at one time, the Chesapeake and Ohio was as well)

Also, don't overlook asking around your local area to search out railfans and fellow modelers that have learned information on the prototype of your models. This first hand information is very useful when you are trying to investigate operations.

Sources I've found with specific Richmond railroad information:

Historical Societies; these folks are also listed on the sidebar on this page, but I wanted to better highlight them.

  • Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard HS
  • Items of note: SCL Track Profile document, a few maps, publication of the Lines South quarterly. They do keep a good lookout for unique cars produced in model form.

  • Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac HS
  • Items of note: Publication of the Linking North and South quarterly. They have a dedicated modeling editor, so that is very positive.

  • Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society
  • Items of note: Boatloads. The COHS has more stuff than you could shake a spike at; they have a full time staff and facilities in Clifton Forge, VA. They have extensive archives and will take requests to find certain information. An item I look forward to getting my hands on is valuation maps for the area on DVD.

  • Southern Railway HS
  • I spoke to them at the Atlanta NMRA convention a few years back; nice folks and pretty well stocked with good information. I understand they have an affiliation with the Smithsonian.

  • Norfolk and Western HS
  • Based in Roanoke (natch!), they publish The Arrow quarterly and have a good archive of data as well. They also function as a Virginian Railroad society as well.

Magazines: The railroad and railfan publications are most useful; general news magazines don't have much detail.

  • ACL/SAL/SCL Historical Society's Lines South 2nd quarter, 2007, issue on Richmond, includes a map
  • Lines South x quarter, 200?, issue on Petersburg
    • I'm trying to track this issue down; I had a copy and it has seemingly disappeared from my office.
  • Railpace Magazine March 2008, February 2009, April 2009; articles by Jeff Hawkins
  • Railfan and Railroad Magazine October 1997; article by Kurt Reisweber, includes a map inside the article

Books: Many books have been written on the RF&P, ACL, Seaboard, SCL and the like. Books of interest that I have in my library include:

  • One Hundred Fifty Years of History along the RF&P by William E. Griffin, Jr, RF&P Railroad
  • Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad - The Capital Cities Route by William E. Griffin, Jr., TLC Publishing
    • This is out of print; published 1994 after the RF&P got absorbed by CSX.
  • Richmond Railroads by Jeff Hawkins
    • Softcover picture book; the photos are from various people taken at various times of the numerous railroads here in Richmond.
  • RF&P Linking North and South by Bob Kaplan and Deanne Mellander
  • RF&P Passenger Service by William E. Griffin, Jr, TLC Publishing
  • Virginia Railroads, Vol 1: Railroading in the Old Dominion by William E. Griffin, Jr and Thomas W. Dixon, Jr, TLC Publishing
  • Virginia Railroads, Vol 2: Chesapeake and Ohio by William E. Griffin, Jr and Thomas W. Dixon, Jr, TLC Publishing

Sources with foundation, general interest or specific topic information:

Magazines: The railroad and railfan publications are most useful; general news magazines don't have much detail.

  • Model Railroad Planning
    • These annuals from Kalmbach are the cream of the crop; they are thought provoking, engaging, and cover a topic that doesn't get the attention it deserves.

Books: There are books aplenty out there in the marketplace. Books that I have in my library include:

  • Twilight of the Great Trains by Fred Frailey, Expanded Edition, Indiana University Press
    • A look at the famous (and not-so-famous) trains before Amtrak as passenger service faded.
  • Zephyrs, Chiefs & Oter Orphans by Fred Frailey
    • The first five years of Amtrak. Has consist information; softbound and way way way out of print.
  • How a Steam Locomotive Works, Karen Parker, TLC Publishing
    • A pretty book about steam locos and all their associated parts and accessories. Very neat stuff.
  • Amtrak By the Numbers, David C. Warner, White River Productions
    • If you model Amtrak, you need this book, period. See my blog post about it here.
  • Seaboard Coast Line & Family Lines Railroad by William E Griffin, Jr
  • CSX Diesel Locomotives in Color by Patrick E. Stakem and Patrick H Staken
  • Atlantic Coast Line - The Standard Railroad of the South by William E. Griffin, Jr., TLC Publishing
  • Seaboard Coast Line Railroad by Douglas B. Nuckles, TLC Publishing
  • From the Cab: Stories from a Locomotive Engineer by Doug Riddell, Interurban Press

Websites: Besides those listed on the right, Jeff Hawkins has a page at Rails In Virginia that is a great resource of information.