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Hi! Welcome to the final part of my railway themed bliki series. Previously I covered topics such as railway history, landscape or stations, today I'm going to talk about trains themselves, or to be precise, their operation and taking care of them. It's going to be quick, let's get down to business.

Here's an aerial view of a roundhouse in Poland
Another aerial view of a depot, this time in Hamburg, Germany
A power substation in Wiesental, Germany. Tracks can be seen on the left.

Where trains go to sleep

Now that you have your tracks and stations ready, you're also going to need some trains to carry the passengers and cargo. And these trains can't just roam the rails 24/7. They need a home too, where they're cleaned and their technical condition is checked. While you don't really need to worry about cars, which are often just left idle on a side track, for engines you're going to want to build a railway depot.

Depots take two basic forms. The first one is similar to a station. There is a junction, several tracks under a shed and then sometimes another junction in the opposite direction, where all these tracks join once again. This is the prevalent type nowadays, as it's the most convenient logistics-wise. It can vary in size, the longest depots of this kind can be over 150 meters long, comfortably fitting in an entire multiple unit train.

During the steam era, depots would usually take shape of a roundhouse. That's a circular building surrounding a rotatable track called a turntable. There are some tracks from a station to the turntable, and then typically about 20 tracks from the turntable inside the roundhouse or just simple dead-end side tracks. The biggest advantage of this kind of depot is that it doesn't take up a lot of space. Roundhouses were usually built for steam locomotives, many of them are disused nowadays because the previous type is much more convenient, modern engines can run in both directions without need for turning around and in some places there isn't as much need for train transport as there used to be.

Draw the outline of the turntable as a circle tagged railway=turntable. It should be wide enough, the typical diameter is about 20 - 25 meters. There should be another 25 meters of tracks in front of the roundhouse entrance and additional 40 meters for the slot inside the building.

Depots vary in size. Large stations will have spacious buildings with many tracks and village stations will just have a tiny shed at the end of a weeded side track. Near the depots there are usually some spare tracks used for setting up the train consists, looking similar to the classification yards described previously, just without a hump.


A nice finishing touch is to add some power infrastructure to your railways.

Steam trains. For decades, these giants made of steel dashed the world's railroads. They were also not very efficient, used a lot of fuel (usually coal), oil and grease and required hard manual labor to operate. You won't really find them in regular service in any first world country anymore, but some of the remnants can still be found, like water pumps, or coal towers from which coal was poured into the locomotive tenders.

Even with diesel engines, you can get creative. Many stations will have an oil tank.


Electric trains are great. They're arguably the most eco-friendly option, they aren't as loud as the others, they don't pollute, but electrified tracks require some additional infrastructure.

They have to be connected to the power grid, which happens at power substations (area - power=substation.) Electricity is transformed from high voltage to whatever voltage the railway uses there. I don't know how extensive the power network in your country is, and think that topic deserves a separate tutorial too, but these substations are located near the tracks and connected directly to the high voltage lines connecting large towns.

There isn't much to actually draw except of the substation area itself, unless you want to go into really small detail and draw the individual wires and transformers and stuff, it's more like a thing to keep in mind while planning the power grid.

What you however can set is the tags electrified=*, voltage=* and frequency=* to your tracks. It doesn't change anything about their appearance, but it's a cool piece of information I guess? With the tag electrified you'd usually want to go for contact_line, because most tracks do use overhead wires as power supply. The values for voltage and frequency will vary, because each country has their own. 25000 V and 50 Hz alternating current (AC) seems to be the modern standard, but I recommend checking the Wikipedia page about railway electrification.

Weekly exercise

I think at this point you probably have most of the stuff figured out, so it's probably time to focus on detail.

  • Draw something tiny. Bridges, stations - these are impressive, sure, but even the little things can tell you so much about a place sometimes. Draw a water tower, or a small engine shed. It's the thought that counts.

Here's a depot I drew in the station featured in last week's post:

Loading map...

Drabantia flag.png View on map

Anyways, March is almost over, this bliki series is over; I hope you learned something. I hope you found it at least a little interesting. Even after the end of this month you can still post your creations to OGF:Making realistic railways/March 2018 Challenge, I'll make sure to look at them and give you feedback; if you still feel lost feel free to DM me for advice.

I'm actually not sure when the next post is coming out. I'm looking forward to spring finally arriving (it's still freezing outside for some reason) and I'd like to spend more time outside, like taking walks and leisuring and stuff, so I probably might set OGF aside for a while; anyways good luck with your lives bye

Monday bliki by Eklas

Comments and questions are v welcome

my favorite type of depot is the home depot - i love diy-ing

Thank you so much for doing this series! I've learned a lot. One thing I'm wondering about is if there are any special considerations for maintenance facilities. You mentioned them briefly in the first entry, but the depot discussion above made me think about it more. Aren't they mapped similarly to the longer depots but without the junction point for every track at the other end? I'm wrestling with my off-site mapping for Iola's central station, so maybe I'll just upload what I have and PM you if that's best. — Alessa (talk) 23:35, 26 March 2018 (CEST)

Glad to hear that! Yes, maintenance yards and depots are almost the same thing, and they can vary in layout as well, you can have terminal yards or pass-through ones. The main difference is that in a depot, fuel gets replenished, technical condition is checked and the train is cleaned, while in the maintenance station worn out or damaged parts get replaced. There are some other facilities as well, like factories where trains are upgraded/modernized, but that's really extra. DM me any time --Eklas (talk) 16:14, 27 March 2018 (CEST)

I still like the depot which is similar to a station. Just to add on, depots can be anywhere on the line, but mostly like near key stations, junctions or near the or at the end of the line. Sadly this had ended, but I belive this is far from over. Peopl can still share features of their railway on that March 2018 Challenge page. I believe that there is still more, but for beginners this series is more or less enough. Enjoy your post-winter! It is hot all year round in Singapore (I have never seen snow in my life even though I have been to Japan and South Korea)--Happy mapping and mind the platform gap! ZK (talk) 01:09, 27 March 2018 (CEST)

Thank you! The weather is kind of annoying, it's not snowing, it's just really cold and damp. --Eklas (talk) 16:14, 27 March 2018 (CEST)

Wow! I never knew much about how train operations worked but this tutorial has definitely changed that. Thank you very much for making this tutorial and I hope to see my country's rail network looking great! I also think that a power network tutorial should be created because I don't know anything at all about how to map it realistically. Again, thank you very much! — Arlo (talk) 12:31, 30 March 2018 (CEST)

That's great, you're very welcome! --Eklas (talk) 20:45, 30 March 2018 (CEST)