In 1948, real railroads generally ran on a regular daily schedule. The same trains traveled to the same places at similar times each day. Railroad employees typically had many years of experience not only with the company, but also on their specific job. Considerable institutional knowledge was accumulated over time which enabled efficient operations.

By contrast, model railroad op sessions frequently have folks performing a particular “job” for the first time. Some operators will be “working” on a layout for their first time. And, scheduled trains might vary considerably from one op session to the next. Thus, the circus train might be replaced with a coal drag. Institutional knowledge is sometimes in short supply. All of this makes flawless operation more challenging.

So what to do?


The NYC-VD provides a pre-op session training class, written job descriptions, a procedures manual and knowledgeable mentoring. First-timers will please educate themselves regarding the “right way” to perform job tasks. Everything needed, except mentoring, is included on this web site. Ideally, operators will read these materials BEFORE attending their first op session here. A mentor will fill in knowledge gaps as the need arises.

Crew Orders

This document describes in detail what each crew member should do as a specific train travels from origination to termination. The word “crew” applies to everyone at an op session. It is not intended solely for the road crew (Engineer & Conductor), but also includes the Dispatcher, Yardmaster, Stagemaster and Trainmaster. Thus, everyone should become familiar with Crew Orders. Crew Orders should not be confused with Train Orders which are an entirely different animal. Each individual train will have its own Crew Order. A few samples of Crew Orders are shown below.


Strict adherence to real railroad procedures is held in high esteem within the model railroading community. The NYC-VD is different from real railroads since there is no risk of death, expensive damage, unhappy customers, ruined careers, lawsuits, bankruptcy, etc. The goal here is one of relaxed enjoyment from operating trains with a definite character and purpose. Easy-to-understand procedures are the objective rather than precise replication of real railroad paperwork. Making things intuitive rather than authentic is often preferred. We bend a few rules and our steam engines, unlike the prototype, run on electricity.


Shown below are some examples of Crew Orders. As you read them, it is helpful to mentally follow the train’s progress around the track diagram (layout page) and learn what each job contributes to the overall experience.