Obsidian for railway knowledge

Hey Everyone :wave:

I am new to Obsidian, well new in the terms that this time I want to actually use, I have downloaded the App a few times but got overwhelmed to a point I back out but have a clear purpose this time round but need some help getting off the ground.

I hope this category is the right place for my question?!

I asked this over on the Discord but it didn’t really help much, I can’t reference back what was said (easily), it just left me with more questions and wondering if my “setup” was going to work for me which in turn just left me procrastinating.

The Background

I am a volunteer on a local heritage railway, on the railway as a volunteer there are lots of areas that you can potentially be involved in and with them areas are rules, to progress you must know the rules but at the same time other volunteers will sometimes share knowledge with you from their years and years of experience.

I need to learn the rules and to do that I can’t just read the rule book, I like to take the rules and put it next to pictures or break them down into notes, this is where (for me) Obsidian is going to come in.

The Goal

Keeping all this information in a nice to read, searchable place is my ultimate goal but I need to find a structure that is going to work for me.

My Brain

When tags first came to the mac, I tried to use it but it just didn’t work, my brain likes folders, I don’t know why I just like to be able to visualise things I guess.

So metadata and front matter are things that I am finding really confusing when trying to build a note template - mainly because I can’t visualise how it all comes together.

My Attempt

With all the above in mind this is my attempt at creating a vault.

The Problem

I immediately ran into an issue, lets take Signalling as an example, this topic can cross multiple other areas for example a Driver needs to know signalling and so does a Guard but a Guard doesn’t need to know about the Signal Box frame.

I guess what I am looking for is some advice on how I can lay my notes and my vault out so that I can take notes of the rules, jot down the knowledge shared with me, store pictures of loco parts with descriptions in a way that will work - though I understand this will evolve over time, I just need a spring board to get going.

Oh and yes, I tried them YouTube videos but Zettelkasten and other really complicated methodology and loads of plugins to get this really involved workflow just put me off.


1 Like

Hello! Very cool!

You may consider looking into using tags. These can also take a nested form. But you mentioned you don’t really visualize them too well. I think it may be worth persisting. You could build different queries and bookmark them into different bookmark folders. The Dataview plugin is amazing because fields add another dimension. But you can also embed normal Obsidian search queries in notes.

Good luck and welcome!

1 Like

I think backlinks could help you greatly. The idea is to have one note per rule. In the rule note, mark the topics it relates to like [[Signaling]] or [[Conductor]].

Then, you can go to your Signaling note and see all the places you refered to it in the backlinks menu. You Signaling note effectively becomes a folder. But the key is that a note can be placed in the backlinks of multiple notes. That solves the problem you expressed where you can’t file a note that would belong to multiple folders.

Hope this helps!

1 Like

Interesting, thank you for getting back to me - this is where I get stuck with seeing in my mind how all this fits together.

Would anyone be willing to show me a demonstration of their vault as to how this works practically?

Try Excalibrain with link types (dataview link references), that generically, reference sideways (e.g.“see-also”) as well as heirarchly (-parent-child"), plus accomodate tag and folder views.

1 Like

Hahahaha I had to laugh when I read your thead Rich

Willkommen - Félix’ digital garden (felixonrails.ch)

Oh? How come?

Edit: I clicked the link, now I see. I am trying to figure out how this all works as I don’t speak…Polish is it?

Because I also made a vault about railway knowledge and its name is felixonrails. But for now, I take my notes in german. :blush:


Ah ha! Yes. I would be interested to know how you link them together. Or what your vault structure looks like.

I study railway engineering, so for I took literature notes and lectures notes. As I also started Obsidian just before, so the methodology is work in progress and changed. Now I use a lot of Influx (like the plugin Influx).

My way to go is to take lecture notes, where each lecture and chapter is a heading. The content is written in hierarchical bullet points. I mark important topics, subjects within these notes as links. After completing a lecture, I create all the subject notes that I marked in the lecture notes, then I go through them one by one and add the content that is shown by the Influx-Plugin. (note : you can’t copy and paste from Influx directly because it will format the links between the notes incorrectly).

For example, let’s say I have a class that is called “Railway Operations 101” and it has 5 lectures 1. Basics 2. Signalling 3. Driving 4. Shunting and 5. Maintenance, then my lecture note will look like this.

Railway Operation 101



  • [[Signalling]] enables train operation in [[block distancing]]
  • [[Signalling]] can be achieved by [[Cab Signalling]], [[Wayside signal]] or [[Token]]
  • [[Token]] Signalling is very common on UK heritage lines.

Train driving



From these exemplary literature notes, I’d create the notes Signalling, Block Distancing, Cab Signalling, Wayside Signal and Token.

The note token would contain

  • [[Signalling]] can be achieved by [[Cab Signalling]], [[Wayside signal]] or [[Token]]
  • [[Token]] Signalling is very common on UK heritage lines.

If I intend to publish this note, likely I’d rewrite the content as full sentences.

Another alternative is to achieve a hierarchy, like

  • [[Signalling]] can be achieved by
    *. [[Cab Signalling]]
    *. [[Wayside signal]]
    *. [[Token]]

Then the note Token would look like that

  • [[Signalling]] can be achieved by
    *. [[Token]]
  • [[Token]] Signalling is very common on UK heritage lines.

Token would not be linked to Cab Signalling or Wayside Signal anymore. Maybe this is more suitable to your needs, and it’s also a matter of personal preferences.

Does this get you an Idea how to continue?