A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
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February 20, 2021

Random Events for Op Sessions


I want to add a new feature to my op sessions when we start running the Aquia Line again after this latest construction and COVID is under control. This feature will be pre-scripted events that will occur at random during the session. My intent is to add a bit more period flavor to my op sessions.

I haven't figured out how exactly I will implement it yet, but the general idea is to have an event like the ones listed below happen at various points during a session.  Right now I am thinking, I will have a series of cards. Each card will have a random event. The cards will be propositioned at various locations in boxes around the layout. That way events can be tailored to a location. As the crew passes the random event box they must draw a card and react as the event dictates. 

Often the card will be "No Event" so they continue on their way. But if they do draw a random event, then they have to follow what the card says. The mix of cards will be tailored for the location. So not all events will have the same likelihood of occurring. The events will be distributed in each box with many  "No event" cards so that actionable random events will be somewhat rare. This will avoid them becoming too cliche. 

Here are some random events I have come up with so far. They are based on actual incidents from the Civil War or other period railroading.  If you have any ideas for additional events, please comment below or drop me an email. I prefer events that are based on historical incidents. They should be minor and not catastrophic, i.e. no low water causes your boiler to explode, or rebel raiders capture your train. I won't have any events that caused derailments as we have enough of those on our own.  The events could also just be for color and have no effect on the operation. 


  1. Hot journal box - stop for 10 minutes to let it cool
  2. Sparks from locomotive set hay on fire. If your train has a forage car, stop to fight the fire. Delay 15 minutes.
  3. The superintendent wants you to stop at some designated point to pick up a valise for a general to deliver to Aquia Landing. Stop at designated point for 5 minutes.
  4. Brakeman falls off train. Roll a die to see how severe his injury is. The more severe the injury, the longer the delay.
  5. Sparks from train set bridge on fire - stop to fight fire delay for random time 5-15 minutes.
  6. Your train hits a handcar left on track without flagman - roll die to determine damage and delay to fix 0-15 minutes
  7. Your train hit a cow - roll die to determine damage and delay to fix 0-15 minutes
  8. Boiler low on water - stop at next water tower or creek to fill engine using bucket. Delay 5 minutes.
  9. Pick up officers at flag stop at Camp Prichard or other designated stop. Delay 3 minutes.
  10. Rain has limited visibility reduce speed to 5 miles per hour for the next 15 minutes.
  11. Snow has limited visibility reduce speed to 5 miles per hour for the next 30 minutes.
  12. Agents report broken rail ahead of you. Wait at your next station for 15 minutes so the crews can repair it. 
  13. A drunken colonel has received a dear John letter from his fiancé and stops your train and demands that you take him to Aquia Landing immediately. Wait 10 minutes until the Provost Marshall can arrive to arrest the officer.
  14. Telegraph system is having trouble. Delay at next station for 15 minutes before departing.
  15. An aide de camp of a general flags down your train. You stop to see what the problem is. He says a  wife of a general wishes transportation on your train. Explain that he is not authorized to do that.  Roll die for delay 3-5 minutes.
  16. Heavy rain has caused the creeks to overflow. Before crossing the next bridge, stop for 3 minutes to inspect the sills and footers.
  17. One of your brakemen found a bottle of brandy and drank it. Delay 5 minutes while you drop him off at the next station and write a message to the superintendent.
  18. Soldiers on your train get unruly and start vandalizing their car and set the brakes.   If you are carrying passengers, stop for 5 minutes to restore the situation with their chain of command. 
  19. Superintendent sends you a message to pick up a cask of whiskey at Brooke to deliver to Camp Pritchard. Stop at Camp Prichard for 5 minutes to drop off the cask.
  20. One of your cars has a broken axle, determine by random die roll. Set it off at the next siding.
  21. You receive a message to pick up ten barrels of flour, bacon or other appropriate supply at the next stop. No other effect on your operation.
  22. There is a regiment of 2 year-men waiting at Potomac Creek for transportation to Aquia Landing. Their enlistments have run out and  they are returning home. When you are returning to Aquia Landing, wait 10 minutes at Potomac Creek to load men on your train. They will ride on the tops of the cars or anywhere else they can find. 
  23. At your next stop you encounter a new colonel that insists you drop off commissary stores for his unit. Delay ten minutes while you argue with the officer and get a message to the superintendent to clear up the matter. 


  1. Bernie, Looks like u covered all the bases and then some...I did that when I was doing solo wargaming between club meets...Adds interest and a non biased attitude to the action...Good job!
    Brian K

  2. I don't have the knowledge to come up with historical events, but would deserters have tried to escape by train? You could have detachments of soldiers board the train looking for suspects. Also wondering if photographers might have specific requests, like lots of smoke or whatever. Not that you can make smoke. Hmm.

  3. I operated on a Santa Fe layout years ago and the Owner had us draw "Chico Cards," named after the Indian boy the AT&SF used in advertising. The idea was the same, every third or fifth card called for a car to be set out with a hotbox. It was always a relief to get a pass so you could continue to the next town.

    Keith Hayes