Let’s begin by looking at a single terminus station – the kind that turns up on many smaller layouts or off the main route of bigger ones.

The numbered spots are potential clients, generating traffic. The traffic is fairly obvious of course but many modellers don’t exploit it. What we see here is (for example):

  1. Coal, Loco spares, Ash removal.
  2. Milk and Fish.
  3. Horses, Parcels, Newspapers, Pigeons, Flowers.
  4. Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, etc.
  5. Level loading, Awkward loading, Craned goods, etc.
  6. General produce.
  7. Perishable goods and produce.
  8. Coal, Coke.
  9. Gravel, etc.
  10. Local industry: steel, timber, tankers, grain hoppers.

The main platform isn’t numbered, but it quite reasonably could be.

Okay, so what’s wrong with that? Well, nothing and perhaps everything. Too often the modeller says “I’ve got a coal wagon, where shall I send it?” But guess what – the real world doesn’t work remotely like that! Railways were built to get connected to the outside world and to trade and hopefully grow rich. They were the 19th century Internet.

So forget your freight stock and look at your town. Start thinking of each of those numbered points as your clients, demanding service from your railway. What does each one need, what does it send out? Food, clothing, hardware, timber, coal, building products, livestock, agricultural produce ... ? And is this needed daily, weekly, irregularly, seasonally ... ?

Forget “I’ve got a coal wagon, where do I send it?” Now it’s “I want three coal wagons and I want them this morning!” But if this looks like work – stop worrying! Not only does this change of viewpoint come quite easily, but it’s quick to do and the modellers who’ve already made that switch find it fun and a lot more realistic. If you haven’t already looked, see the things people say to me. Or stay with me and see how to work out each client’s needs.