A ProRail Perspective

Twenty Years and Counting...




Continued from the previous page:


From its inception, the ProRail Annual has been an invitational event. There’s no registration fee. (The host group covers costs associated with their event.) People attend as guests of the host group, and host groups are free to invite whomever they wish. The guiding principle a host group uses is that invitees primarily comprise ProRail owner-operators – i.e., those who own or manage an operating railroad that hosts prototype-based operating sessions. Each ProRail Annual location is informally selected simply by a group’s willingness to host – much like choosing who will host the next round-robin dinner party.   


The central theme of the ProRail Annual is to provide a platform where owners of operating model railroads may host each other, exchange knowledge about prototype operating practices as applied to model railroad operation, and share in the fellowship of the prototype operating experience. There is no ProRail organization, no officers, no membership, and no membership fee. Being a layout owner-operator with a sincere interest in prototype based model railroad operations is the only required credential.


ProRail – a contraction of “PROtotype model RAILroad operations” – is intended to foster realistic and prototypical model railroad operations. While model railroad “operations” can certainly mean different things to different people, the term “ProRail operation” is meant to convey that the operation is based on prototype practices.


So what is a ProRail operating railroad?


■      The railroad has a prototype foundation and physical design. Whether the railroad models a specific prototype or is a freelanced road is not important as long as the railroad is plausible and reasonable, is physically designed to replicate the prototype, and operates continuously as a prototype railroad.


■      Traffic moves on the railroad in a prototype manner. The specific car movement system is irrelevant so long as the traffic moving on the railroad does so with some logical purpose, reason, and prototypical method.


■      Train movements are authorized using a prototype-based procedure.  Whether CTC, TWC, DTC, TT&TO, or Yard Limits, movements on the main line are based on a prototypical foundation appropriate to the era and railroad.


Some have said a ProRail operation is a simulation, while others suggest reenactment as a more appropriate term. Regardless, it means the owner and the operating crews derive operating fun and entertainment from doing things the way the prototype railroad does or did it. Leaving a ProRail operating session with the feeling of having worked on the railroad is the mark of a “successful” operating session.


Other types of model operations – i.e., “fun runs” – can be just as fun and equally entertaining – sometimes more so! After all, prototype railroading isn’t always fun, and everyone is not always kept busy. But it’s that very prototype experience that ProRail railroad owners and operators seek. It may not be everyone’s style of model railroad operation. Not everyone in the hobby enjoys tinplate, traction railroading, steam or modern era railroading, or narrow-gauge railroading. Similarly, not everyone will enjoy ProRail-type operations. It’s not a matter of being good, bad, right, wrong, better, or worse. It’s only a matter of being a unique and specific way of enjoying the hobby. Since the purpose of the model railroading hobby is to have fun, those with an operating railroad and an interest in this kind of prototype-based operation are encouraged to participate in – or, better yet,  host! – a ProRail or ProOp event. For those who enjoy it, that kind of experience can be an immensely satisfying way to participate in and to enjoy our hobby.