Monday, November 18, 2013

Operating Session - 11/14/2013

The First Officially Official Valley Line Operating Session is now in the books.  After the shakedown session, I had a punch list of items to do, and I got to most of them during the last Train Time Tuesday.  I even cut a viewing hole in the right end of the Somerset module so operators can see when they're close to the end of the tail track (which is in a tunnel - ugh!).  I didn't get to power the points of the switch that's in the tunnel, but the operators did ok with it anyway.  It helped that Joseph was there - he's fairly tall, and the bamboo skewer/uncoupling tool was long enough to reach.

Nathan, Joseph & Roman on the Air Line Local switching Somerset.  Note hole cut in fascia on the right.
Ah, but I'm getting just a little ahead of myself.  You haven't met Joseph yet.  Actually, this session included THREE folks that were not only new operators, but had never even been to the house!  Roman & Nathan were able to come too.  To the extent that ops sessions are social events, this was a pretty cool development.  Bonus: all three of them are in their teens - it's very cool to know there are some young folks interested in the hobby and in operating.  Experienced operators & long-time Photo Library volunteers Dave and Tom also joined the festivities, operating the Valley Local.

Dave & Tom on the Valley Local switching Middletown.
I used the same paperwork as the shakedown session, but even though the switchlists and work was the same, this session timed out much differently.  I expect since 1/3 of the Air Line Local crew had never operated any layout before (kudos for his first time!), and I think that crew made an early tactical error switching the first town, the Air Line Local was very late to Middletown.  Consequently, they held up the Valley Local, much to the chagrin of the grizzled more-seasoned operators.
Youth won over experience though - the Valley Local had to wait.  I'll likely rewrite future paperwork to allow the Valley Local to leave Middletown when it's done with its work - at least on the days it doesn't go south to East Haddam (when it would need to wait for Air Line interchange cars for delivery to down-river customers).  The Air Line Local would still have to wait for the Valley Local since (on my layout at least) it turns at Middletown and would need to take New Haven and westbound cars back to Cedar Hill yard.
But that was a fairly minor glitch in the operation, which I suspect will also be mitigated by installing "O'Rourke's Diner" (i.e. a refreshment table) at the diamond in Middletown, just like the prototype!
Other than the scheduling this time around, the only other glitches were in trackwork.  Rocky Hill/Dividend continued to be the troublespot.  The south switch at Rocky Hill was (pretty much) fixed with the installation of a tension spring on the far side end-of-ties (I decided to keep turnout control consistent and not use a CI ground throw after all) and it operated fine during the session.  But the north switch at Rocky Hill was balky, not wanting to easily seat when lined for the main (thanks to Tom for pointing it out).  Fortunately, once I got a close look at it, I discovered that the throwrod/tie was rubbing/binding against one of the adjacent ties.  A little scraping with a #11 x-acto blade freed everything up and I'm happy to report that that switch is now operating flawlessly!
The only major glitch of the night was a newly-developed "Hump yard" at Dividend!

The "Hump" at Dividend

Another view of the "Hump" at Dividend, looking "north"
I don't know if there was an especially high amount of hot air (ahem) that evening, or what, but this track was fine as of Wednesday night when I last checked.  By Thursday night's operating session, the Valley Local crew had to run over a "frost heave."  Fortunately, the weight of the engine & cars packed everything down ok to allow operations, and nothing derailed.  Sending out a work train to fix this during the next Train Time Tuesday will be Priority Numero Uno.

Despite these relatively-minor items, I think it was a very successful session.  In addition to lancing the hump (ewww...), another few items were added to the punch list, including numbering the frog-polarity switches on the Air Line to correspond to the schematics (alleviating a lot of the confusion - and the resulting annoying buzzing when shorts occur!).  The list of "must do" items is, thankfully, dwindling, but I'm sure the next ops session will add some more....

That's ok though - with every session, the railroad is getting better and the better it gets, the more enjoyable it is to run!
Air Line Local at Mill Hollow, heading back to Cedar Hill Yard.
I plan to skip December as far as ops sessions go, to allow for the holidays and associated schedule.  But I also hope the time off will allow me to get to some other construction projects, including fixing the cracks in the backdrop, hopefully starting some scenery in Wethersfield, and maybe even (gasp!) extending the Valley Line south of Middletown to East Haddam!

Guess I'll have to see if Santa has any "extra time" in his bag of gifts that he can give me....


  1. So, Dividend decided it wanted to be on the "Air Line"....

    1. Heh - Yeah, and I have a new "summit" on the line for sure!

  2. It's amazing how much the ambient temperature can change during a session. I had a lot of trackwork issues in my early sessions due to hot air. After several sessions of troubleshooting I had adequate expansion joints and the track problems mostly went away.

    The hot air, tough, can continue to be an issue... !

    1. I think my main mistake here was a case of doing "too much" "good" - i.e. soldering (almost) all the joints(!) In the future, I'll be sure to *at least* leave the turnouts floating. I guess I'd tried to get away from doing a feeder to each part of the turnout (4 feeders each!). Ah well, lesson learned. And I'm glad I got a 90-degree angle attachment for my Dremel! (coming in a future post)