While in some ways Christmas 2011 was a disappointment, with many promised products failing to make production in time. Hornby’s new teak liveried LNER Gresley suburban and full brake coaches failed to make it to Santa’s sack and arrive under my Christmas tree.

One very welcome arrival was Bob Essery’s new book in the “railway operation” series: Train shunting and marshalling for the modeller. I’ve had copies of Essery’s titles on freight train operation and on railway signalling for some time, and have found these really useful reference volumes. I’m sure the book on shunting and marshalling will be no different. Besides covering the shunting of freight wagons there are also chapters on marshalling passenger stock and on locomotive movements on shed. Though Bob homes in on examples from specific train companies, operating practices varied very little from company to company, except for the GWR. Where GWR practice was different it is specifically referred to in the text. There is great attention to detail, and very clear description of how things were done, often with the aid of diagrams. With information like this around there really is no excuse for getting things wrong in miniature.

Shunting the goods yard has always been a favourite relaxation pastime of mine, I’m really looking forward to doing it properly in 2012!

The series of 5 books really is a must for the bookshelf of any serious historic modeller. There are few people around who can remember the details of railway operation in the steam period with any great detail, and while we modellers think we know how things were done much of our precious information on prototype practice has been passed between us by word of mouth, along with a host of apocryphal inaccuracy. If you really do want to operate the way the real thing did, then I suggest you read some of the below.

Unfortunately not all the titles in the series are easily available, and as you can see below, only two are currently stocked directly by Amazon, though copies can be obtained from other places.

Personally I’d rather like to lay my hands on a copy of the original book in the series Railway Operation for the Modeller, but it is out of print and fetching some prohibitively high prices right now: