Multi-compartment models described by systems of linear ordinary differential equations are considered. Catenary models are a particular class where the compartments are arranged in a chain. A unified methodology based on the Laplace transform is utilised to solve direct and inverse problems for multi-compartment models. Explicit formulas for the parameters in a catenary model are obtained in terms of the roots of elementary symmetric polynomials. A method to estimate parameters for a general multi-compartment model is also provided. Results of numerical simulations are presented to illustrate the effectiveness of the approach.