Now that I have an operating layout (though it is presently un-operable as some areas are under additional construction), I've been approached by folks who would like to participate in an operating session. Up until recently, these are folks I know or friends of friends and the resulting sessions have been fun - any stress being totally of my own making (wanting the layout to operate well, making sure guests have all they need and have a good time, etc.), and I'm sincerely flattered when everyone enjoys themselves and wants to come back.
Even so - still being relatively new to this ops session thing - it does sometimes occur to me that the session host is essentially inviting folks over to use his railroad, handle his locomotives and rolling stock, operate the electronics, etc. And that's the point - as a layout owner, one of the coolest experiences you can have is seeing your layout come to life, which only happens effectively during an operating session. And when you have a good crew of trusted friends over, it probably doesn't even occur to you that you're literally placing a lot of your valuable stuff their hands.
But what of the apparently increasing number of operating weekends, "ops til you drop" and such, when you're putting your layout in the pool for all and sundry to come over? Clearly, there are many good souls out there that are willing to do that - otherwise such events wouldn't be so popular. And these events certainly expose more folks to the joys of railroad simulation (aka model railroad operating sessions), even - or perhaps especially - folks that don't have a layout of their own with which they can reciprocate.
So I guess the questions is - what do you do? Have only friends or friends-of-friends operate on your layout? Open it up to anybody that wants to come? Do you use different equipment depending on who's coming over? Maybe have unknown folks paired with your regular operators?
I certainly hope that those who know me know that I'm generous with my time and what I've been blessed with (or at least try to be), but at the same time, I've put in a not-insignificant amount to time and money into this project. So I'm just trying to get a sense from the more experienced among you how you go about approaching this topic.
So please feel free to leave a comment - or you can contact me directly offline if you'd rather. Really interested in hearing the different perspectives and approaches.
(Bonus if you have any funny stories to share involving Bright Boys and/or peanut butter sandwiches . . .)