How To Model Railroad Operations The best snacks to eat during operating sessions

The best snacks to eat during operating sessions

By Rene Schweitzer | February 27, 2024

| Last updated on March 14, 2024 staff members chime in with their favorites

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An operator in a gray shirt watches his locomotive on the upper deck of an HO scale train layout
Joe Russ, who acted as conductor for Steven Otte during Steve’s first operating session, brings up a helper engine to couple on the back of Steve’s freight train at Essex West. Almost as important as preparing a layout for an operating session is preparing what snacks to eat during operating sessions. Steven Otte photo

You’re hosting an operating session with a group of friends. What kind of snacks do you serve? staff members chime in with their favorite items.

 Trains Associate Editor Bob Lettenberger

Good meat sticks from a local butcher shop. They are not too greasy and don’t make a mess when spilled. Honey BBQ is the way to go!

Classic Trains Editor Brian Schmidt

The layout I operate most on usually has pizza. Producer Ben Lake

A well thought out cheese and sausage tray.  Nothing too oily and no dips.

Model Railroader Senior Associate Editor Steven Otte

Cookies – preferably non-messy ones that can be eaten in a couple of bites, like Oreos, Nutter Butter, or Chips Ahoy. Nothing with icing or gooey chocolate to get your fingers sticky, and nothing soft enough to crumble in your hand.

Model Railroader Editor Eric White

candy next to a candy bowl
Eric White suggests serving “fun-size” candy that is easy to unwrap and pop into your mouth. Rene Schweitzer photo

I like to alternate between sweet and savory. Operating sessions are one of the few times those tiny candy bar morsels are good, as you can unwrap it and pop it in your mouth without getting chocolate on your fingers. Something as simple as M&Ms and mini pretzels works for me. As Bob said, nothing that will get your fingers messy. Utz cheeseballs are a no go.

All of this assumes people can snack in the layout room.

Many hosts have a no food and drink rule, so you hang out in the “crew lounge” to snack and take a drink. In that case, you can have just about anything as long as there are enough napkins.

Feedback from a reader

I agree that non-messy snacks are a must, but was surprised that there were no “healthy” items listed. While I certainly enjoy all that was mentioned, but when I have an ops session I lean toward something a bit healthier.

So what do I serve? Apple slices, sliced green peppers, grapes, popcorn (with no extra butter) and some candy, usually Hershey Kisses (as I have Hershey on my layout – I model the Reading RR). I’ve also used some other veggies, sliced celery and small carrots. Of course, there is always a main dessert that is served as the night/session winds down, usually a cake of some sort.

Your article didn’t get into the drinks. I serve pop/soda, coffee, and water. We had at least one person in our round-robin group that had problems with alcohol so none of us serve any of that. For the pop/soda I favor the 2 liter bottles. Operators use disposable plastic cups and use a permanent marker to write their name on their cup. An ice bucket is there to add ice to your drink. Water is Costco brand bottled water. I have a small crew lounge area, so drinks are usually kept there. If someone wants to carry around a beverge, that’s fine with me. Our operators know not to place cups on the layout. — Barry Hensel, Canton Mich., owner of the Reading Lines, Central Divison

Learn more about operations

Basics about car cards and waybills

My first ops session

Simplify operations with train sequence lists

3 thoughts on “The best snacks to eat during operating sessions

  1. Being diabetic, my operations snacks have to be a bit more blood-sugar friendly. Personally, I prefer beef jerky (turkey jerky will do in a pinch). or a plate of raw baby-cut carrots or a plate of celery.

    And really…who wants to munch on lettuce????

    1. ha ha, depends on what the lettuce is wrapped around. Endive works well too, filled with a little ham or chicken salad (buy pre-made if you want). My brother just came up with small bite sized baked chicken tenders wrapped in bacon and then wrapped in a bit of endive with a bit of garlic aioli. They were VERY good. Substantial snacks makes for a happy (and full) crew which makes for a great ops session.

  2. REALLY!!! what ever happened to pizza and been/soda? or a an old friend munch on a stick of lettuce?

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