Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ops Session - October 29, 1947

As wonderful as they are, sometimes ops sessions can be a bit of a pain. If you're doing any sort of construction on the layout, you can't operate until you clean up the mess. And a lot of times, it's just more convenient to leave the mess and continue working on the layout.

Provided you're actually accomplishing something, rather than just making a mess.

So, preparation for last night's ops session included the following:

  • Finish up plaster cloth in Wethersfield and do strips/cloth at the Middletown diamond (to keep my newly-completed Middletown Tower from falling to the floor)
  • Cleanup all the mess, remove drop cloths, vacuum, etc.
  • Run engine all around layout & into all the sidings.
  • Discovered 3 feeders that came unattached, and one short from a rail touching a frog when I moved a siding.
  • Re soldered the feeders & separated the rail
  • Prepared paperwork (updated Bulletin Order, clearance cards, train orders, switchlists)
  • Layed-out foam floor squares
I started to run short on time, so I ended up reusing switchlists from a previous session - but the crew members were on different trains this time, so the repetition wasn't apparent, and saved a ton of time.

Snacks were set up, paperwork divided between the two locals, fast clock set - and we were ready to go!

The Valley Local southbound with K-1 mogul #278 arrives in Wethersfield with John Wallace at the throttle (having "fun" with the new momentum and brake settings) and me as conductor.

Valley Local switching Hartford Rayon in Dividend (Rocky Hill). Note Hartford Rayon mockup which is just started.

The timing worked out again very prototypically - both crews were in Middletown at the same time and had to coordinate movements. Roman had arrived by this point and pitched in as brakeman so I could railfan a bit and concentrate on the paperwork.

Airline Local crew switching Middletown yard, with Pieter holding down the right hand side of R-1 4-8-2 #3304 and Tom making the moves as conductor. Valley Local is standing by.

The two locals at Middletown.

Airline Local working back south from Middletown is now in Mill Hollow for some additional switching.

Meanwhile, with the Air Line Local out of town, the Valley Local can do its switching in Middletown.

Air Line Local continues south to Cedar Hill, but not before doing some switching here in Somerset.

After finishing its work in Middletown, the Valley Local heads back north to Hartford. Here it is just north of Rocky Hill.

Air Line Local had tied up for the day, so Pieter could head to Wethersfield to catch the Valley Local doing its last switching before heading to Hartford for the end of the day.
Since I'd finished my conductor duties, I had the engineer drop me off so I could take some Super 8 video with my new-fangled recorder (and, um, a drone apparently):

Valley Local northbound at Jordan Lane in Wethersfield, heading back to its home terminal for the night.

As always, I had blast - and this time, I actually got to operate a bit (sometimes rare for a layout owner). Also, as always, the ops session exposed a few issues that need to be addressed:
  • Atlas couplers need to be replaced with KD #58s. All but one of the coupler failures during the session (and, thankfully, there were only a few of them) occurred with the stock couplers that come on Atlas freight cars.
  • Speaking of couplers, the front coupler on the K-1 (of unknown origin) started to fail - so it also will be replaced with a KD.
  • All of the cars performed flawlessly otherwise, except for one NYC mill gondola which needs its trucks checked out. They may need some more play.
  • Inexplicably, 2 of the 3 feeders I'd just resoldered the other night came unattached again. So I need to do a much better job now that I'm not pressed for time.
  • Some miscellaneous sound decoder modifications needed (volume, sync, etc).
But, all in all, the Punch List that my operating sessions are producing are getting smaller and smaller - which is some evidence that the layout is improving!

After we tied up for the night, we went to "O'Rourke's Diner" (upstairs kitchen) for some banana bread and debriefing. The layout ran well and there aren't that many things that need to be done before the next session - hopefully next month (we'll have to see with the holidays coming up).

My plan now is to focus on getting the Wethersfield section of the layout "done" - which is to say, bridges completed, backdrop done, and scenery in (including - gasp! - water in Goff Brook. I've never done water before...). East Berlin is on that same peninsula, so maybe if I'm lucky with time I can get that at least done for operating (track down). If so - added bonus! - I can do an operating session in 1949, when it was all diesel and the Air Line local served served E. Berlin. That would give them some additional work to do and would balance time a bit better with the Valley Local.

So, lots to do - now I just need to concentrate on taking small - but regular - bites...


  1. Had real good success using "Magic Water" recently on my State Line branch. Very low odor!
    Let me know when you are ready to do Goff Brook, I'll send you photos of how I prepped my stream bed before the pour, it may help .

    Joe Smith

    1. Thanks Joe! I got some of the Woodland Scenics "EZ Water" but the consensus at the session was that it wasn't great. So I may go ahead and try it since I have it, but I'm really looking forward to trying the Magic Water you mentioned. And I will DEFINITELY pick your brain when I start Goff Brook!