I’ve done a few model railroad-related presentations. Here’s slides for the talks.

“Life and Death Coordination in Victorian Times” or “Timetable and Train Order Operation”, December 2007, gathering of friends interested in work practices and cognitive science. [Slides]

Lots of folks study how complex, life-and-death systems work. Anthropologists in the past have studied such how groups of people work on safety critical systems such as air traffic control, 911 centers, and the like. Many of the same issues were important 100 years ago when railroads wanted to safely move many trains across the U.S. while avoiding collisions and other risks. Controlling trains without instantaneous communication - without radios, phones, or sometimes even telegraph - required elaborate rules and processes to avoid collisions and loss of life. I talk about the ways railroads kept the trains running safely.

“The Vasona Branch: What Went Right, What Went Wrong”, January 2010, Bay Area Layout Design and Operations meet. [Slides]

I’ve been working on my Vasona Branch model railroad for five years. Over that time, I’ve made a bunch of design decisions, some that worked and some that did not. I’ll reflect on what techniques worked out, but I’ll also mention the things that didn’t work out well and whether I was able to recover from those flaws.