Operation is one of those loaded terms that everyone thinks they understand. After watching this short video and seeing what the engineer sees, I won’t look at it the same way again.

I was truly surprised at how restricted the sightlines can be. I knew it in theory but seeing the reality of going around that outside curve brought it home. Realizing how hard it is to see switchpoints or the crew on the ground is an order of magnitude different from running a model locomotive where we can see the whole layout at a glance.

Watching how the professionals do their work confirms for me that a small layout can be just as viable and interesting as a large one. My thanks to the videographer for sharing this work. I can’t do anything about the YouTube ads and you may have to adjust the video’s playback resolution for a better quality picture.



  1. Craig Townsend

    Working as a engineer taught me to really trust the guys on the ground. They also have to trust you that you will stop.

    The view from the cab might not be much, but its always sunny and warm inside.

    I always find it very interesting to see modelers work a layout during operations vs railroaders. Sometimes we do the same thing, but other times not so much.

  2. Mike Cougill

    Hi Craig,

    I’ve watched a lot of switching from the ground as a spectator. Seeing it from your perspective is eye opening. I won’t look at modeled operations the same way.


  3. Dave Eggleston

    Getting a handful of cab rides over the years, mostly in steam engines and once in a diesel switcher, really opened my eyes. The diesel ride, on the local Ballard Railroad, was a revenue run with the crew. Everyone was scanning the horrible track for issues, the slews of oblivious pedestrians and cyclists crossing in front of the train and the many cars parked across the tracks (the local tow company makes good money taking the crew’s calls. In the 50s the GN just pushed cars aside with the engine). A lot of thought went into getting out and back safely and efficiently on a line serving just one customer. This was a powerful learning experience, but still only actually scratched the surface of the workers’ experience, knowledge, problems and stress.

  4. mike

    Hi Dave,
    (In the 50s the GN just pushed cars aside with the engine).

    That is priceless. I can only imagine how happy the lawyers would be with such a practice today.


  5. Dan Placzek

    Excellent video, Mike. Thanks for sharing.

    Dan Placzek

  6. mike

    You’re welcome Dan. Glad you enjoyed it.