While my primary era focuses on the Autumn of 1948
, my ops sessions can run from 1947 through 1949 (well, 1947 is tough until I get more steam locomotives finished). So my operators can readily tell what year it is by what engines are running. For the session I had this past weekend
, with the local freights being all diesel-powered, the date was October 7, 1949
I was a little nervous about how the layout would operate, especially since 1) it's been a while since I've operated, and 2) this session would be primarily for folks that were coming from out-of-state for the annual NHRHTA Reunion
. It also took me longer than usual to set up, since I'm a bit rusty. Yet another reason to have sessions more regularly and closer together . . .
I needn't have worried though. By all accounts (in addition to this one detailed account
:^), the layout ran great. It's pretty well dialed-in at this point, thankfully. No major issues - or any issues really - and the resulting punch list is very short. Heh - speaking of shorts, I'm going to tweak the wiring on the liftout between the Saybrook wye and Essex that decided to start shorting toward the end of the session. And I want to change the programming on the latest additions to the motive power fleet. But that's pretty much it.
Oh - and I want to get going on a LOT more scenery and structures! As much as I enjoy operations - and devote a lot of my hobby time to setup and sessions - it's SO much nicer to operate through completed scenes. So I definitely want to get more of that done.
So, without any further ado, here are some photos I was able to take before and during the session (thanks to BillS, who took over as the Saybrook Tower Operator
|This is what operators first see as they come down the basement stairs - Saybrook Jct, and most importantly, the Crew Register which they must sign before going on-duty and getting their paperwork.|
|Speaking of paperwork(!) - this session I tried dividing it up between clipboards given to the operators that would hold their job card, locomotive/engine card, wheel report, etc (seen on the stairs) - and clipboards holding subsequent train orders that the agent would hold until needed (seen hanging on the side of the stairs). This experiment was a fail - way too confusing for everyone. So next time, I'll probably just put the orders in the bill boxes rather than have operators have to see the agent for them.|
|There's something strangely satisfying about seeing all the trains staged for an up-coming session, ready and rarin' to go. So much anticipation.... Here's the "west end" staging yard, representing New Haven and points west.|
|And here's "east end" staging, representing New London and points east. Note the debut of orange & green ("layer cake" scheme) DL-109s and PAs (thanks again Ted and Bill!)|
|Things are just a bit crowded at Saybrook Jct at the start of the session, with PDX-1 (eastbound Shoreline local, operated here by Bill Chapin and Bill Lupoli) and PDX-2 (westbound Shoreline local, operated here by Mike & Mel Redden) in town at the same time. Yet-another-Bill, Bill Schneider keeps things running smoothly at Saybrook Tower.|
|While PDX-1 is a fairly easy job ("all" it does is come from Cedar Hill Yard/New Haven, works Saybrook, and then terminates in Fort Yard/New London), it is responsible for handling cars swapped between it and PDX-2. The swapping tracks (tracks 5 & 7) are on the north side of the double-track main, next to the tower, so PDX-1 has to wait for windows of opportunity between mainline trains to get across the main to do its work on the swap tracks. Yup - that extends the time that PDX-1 is in town. Somtimes, by a lot.|
|Shot of one of the westbound Shoreline passenger jobs, powered here by "layer cake" DERS-1s (and their first time on the layout!)|
|Having completed their work in Saybrook, the PDX-2 crew works the town of Essex, just a few miles north on the Valley Line.|
|Meanwhile, Tom Derwin holds down the west end staging, operating the many Shoreline trains according to the actual prototype timetable (though on a 4:1 fast clock).|
|BillS takes a break from his tower duties to watch as a long freight passes through Saybrook westbound.|
|Meanwhile, "way up north" on the Valley Line, first-time Valley Line operator Ted Culotta and veteran Jim Fellows work the namesake Valley Local in Middletown.|
|The Two Bills - Lupoli & Chapin - work the Air Line local in Mill Hollow.|
|Randy takes a break from holding down the fort (Fort Yard, New London/staging, that is) to show Bill something on his phone.|
|Grab shot of an eastbound passenger job running through Saybrook, taken from the "bleacher seats" which provide an amazing vantage point (i.e. "the basement stairs).|
|The westbound continues on....|
Despite how stressful they can be (all of my own doing, frankly), I really enjoy hosting these ops sessions. It's great to be able to hang out with friends and take a little trip back in time to do some railroadin'. It's also the best way to make sure your layout stays in shape - lord knows that if there's gonna be any problems, they'll show up during an ops session!
They're also a good opportunity to experiment with different approaches. This time, I'd hoped folks would "visit the agent" to get subsequent train orders and such. So I prewrote those order and put them on clipboards, sorted by train, on the wall next to the tower operator. Success was spotty, so I think for the next few sessions I'll just put orders in the bill boxes at the proper towns until my crews get used to using them.
This time I also tried having one crew do two locals. PDX-1 is a fairly short job and I don't like giving that to folks that have traveled so far to operate. So this time I put our "New Jersey contingent" on the Air Line local (HDX-12) as well as PDX-1. Turned out, they completed both jobs in about the same time as it took our longest job - HDX-7/The Valley Local
- to finish. So that all timed out really well. Combining these jobs also reduces the number of folks needed to "fully staff" a session - and that means a little less crowding in the aisles.
One of the coolest - and, frankly, just lucky - aspect of my ops is that they're "scaleable." In other words, I can operate the railroad with as few as one or as many as 11 persons. I've only had 11 folks once and it was a bit crowded. And, admittedly, it takes a minimum of 7 people to operate ALL of the trains (including the Shoreline trains) - though I could get by with 6 if I continue to combine PDX-1 and HDX-12 (but I think I'd still want 7 - so the Valley Local/HDX-7 could have a two man crew. Otherwise, it gets pretty lonely). But even operating by myself, I could just do one of the locals and save the remainder for "the next day." That provides a LOT of flexibility - and means that I can have a session any time, without having to worry about crew call response.
So far though, I haven't had any problem getting folks to come have fun operating the Valley Line. But that may have something to do with the treats that the Missus
always manages to provide - though being able to adjourn to a local pizza restaurant located
, in all places, right in the old Saybrook freight house right next to the still-busy Shoreline (!and which has a huge operating layout) probably doesn't hurt either.
So, another great session. Things are running really well and, since my punch-list is thankfully getting smaller as a result, it looks like I can focus less on operations and more - much more - on scenery and structures, so these smooth-running trains have something more interesting to run through than plywood and foamboard!
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