Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ops Session 12-29-2016

Like all of you I'm sure, it's been a busy holiday season. But fortunately, I was able to squeeze in one last operating session for 2016 - just about accomplishing my goal of one-session-per-month since finishing the Big Expansion last March.

As it was, the session almost didn't happen. After having a very dry/snow free season so far, Mother Nature decided to wreak a little havoc on Thursday. That 86'd JimD's and MikeR's (actually two MikeRs!) chances of coming down. Even Randy couldn't make it. With all the cancellations, I was especially glad I'd expanded the invite list and Kaylee was able to join at the last minute, ensuring that we'd be able to run all the trains - albeit with some one man/woman crews.

In the end, we had BillS running PDX-1 and all most of the Shoreline trains, and TomD worked with first-timer operator (on the Valley Line anyway) JamesM on the Valley Local. Unfortunately, I had to throw other first-timers KayleeZ and BobM out on their own on PDX-2 and the Airline Local, respectively. Fortunately, they didn't seem to mind (though Kaylee had her hands full in Essex!). I was on the desk working the tower (with some help throwing switches) and doing Agents' work.

Actually, that last bit proved to be especially stressful. Just a few hours before the session, I'd just finished soldering the last of the feeders some new tracks in staging (more on that in a future post). Consequently, and without Randy to help me, I didn't get all the paperwork done ahead of time as I usually do. So I spent a lot of the session trying, frantically, to get the switchlists written up and completed for each town before the local arrived.

But all in all, it was a great session. I'm glad I designed the layout to be "scalable" - which is to say, I can operate it with just one or up to twelve operators. So being a few folks down is no problem - even the prototype annuls trains from time to time. But given the experience of those who were able to show up, we got to run all the trains after all.

We even got to run a LOT of Shoreline trains(!), due to Tom's generous donation of additional DL-109s and Bill's generous donation of time getting said DL-109s up and running in time. Saybrook was really humming as a result, and the basement stairs provided some perfect impromptu stadium seating to watch the trains go by.

Of course, as with all operating sessions, I have a punch list of items to try and get through for next time:
  • Make new uncoupling tools (they're finally wearing out, but a good "problem" to have)
  • Rolling stock issues
    • M-I 2142 gondola "A" end coupler
    • PRR Pullman coupler spring
    • Dragging air hoses
    • Should probably go through ALL the cars and standardize on KD #58s and confirm all cars have metal wheels, even the borrowed ones
  • Engine issues
    • Bachmann USRA R-1 Mountain #3304 is doing its "sound but no movement" trick again - hitting the steam dome starts it on its way again, but that's hardly a solution. We ended up substituting a DEY-5 (Atlas S-2)
    • BLI I-5 Hudson #1407 needs its volume reduced. A lot.
  • Track issues
    • Lift out between Somerset and Mill Hollow needs clamps to retain proper alignment
    • Need to check hidden track between Middletown and Mill Hollow on the Airline (had a hopper derail there - of course it's the least accessible track on the railroad)
    • Check switch control on Meech & Stoddard siding (points not throwing over all the way to the siding)
And before the next session:
  • Figure out how to configure the fast clock on my NCE system
  • Cycle all switch machines (a couple stuck the first time being used)
  • And most importantly, get all the paperwork done ahead of time!
Thankfully though, nothing too major. And I have some fun research projects I'd like to get done by next time too:
  • Which passenger trains made stops in Saybrook? (needed now that we're actually able to operate these trains)
  • Which crossings were protected and which were "stop & protect?"
  • What engines were used on what Shoreline trains? (thankfully, I have this report which tells me all I need to know, for April 20, 1948 anyway...)
Speaking of Saybrook stops/ops - now that the mainline trains are becoming more operable, and thus more prominent, I need to beef up my staging and the "script" for when all those trains are supposed to run and in what order (and, most importantly, where they should be staged and where they go when done). So, if there's a major construction project between now and the next session, it'll be to finish and enhance the large east end staging yard (the west end staging yard can't be expanded):
  • Bumping posts at end of each track (my engines have pretty high momentum and a few have Keep Alive circuits. 'nuff said)
  • Diagram all staging tracks, including - most importantly - car capacity
  • Add the Shoreline locals to the staging/mainline ops script
But all that's in the future. For now, how about some photos from the session? Thank to friend BobG - who took all these photos - I have a record of what turned out to be a great session, despite the weather . . .

Kaylee operating PDX-2, the New London to Cedar Hill local, via Old Saybrook and East Haddam. Bill figuring out how to run 33 trains on just 10 feet of mainline with only 4 staging tracks at each end.

Rare shot of yours truly, here at the Towerman/Agent's desk filling out (yet more) switchlists, based on the work generated by the spreadsheet.

First-timer BobM works the Airline local all by his lonesome. He looks in pretty deep though(t) - probably wondering why the runaround is just a little too short...

Tom and James in the Middletown/Dividend area, contemplating their next move(s)

As I mentioned, the Shoreline got a pretty full workout during this session. Here are a couple of westbound passenger jobs, coming "under" the hopefully-soon-to-be-completed Rt 1 overpass.

And an eastbound, rolling past Saybrook station

Agent's desk with the control board indicating All Clear - fast clock at the top

Every time the bell rings, an angel gets its wings the Agent/Operator gets annoyed (but he gets over it pretty quickly). Rare self-portrait of our intrepid photographer
I hope you enjoyed - even if only vicariously - this little ops session. And, given it's the last day of 2016, I want to thank you for following my efforts here and especially for all the comments & helpful feedback. My primary reason for starting this blog was to document my Valley Line project, but an unexpected and pleasant surprise has been all the many new friends I've made over the last 3 years since my first post. Your participation and involvement has made this effort all the more rewarding and I can't wait to see how this project will evolve in the coming months. 

So Thank You! And here's wishing you and yours a Wonderful, Happy, and Healthy New Year!