Tuesday, January 28, 2020

AML Ops Session & Open House

Whew! I had a great (but exhausting) time attending the largest train show in the country (and probably the world) and having good friends stay with us for the weekend. Unfortunately, I don't have much in the way of photos of the show itself, but I DO have a few of the Valley Line Ops Session I hosted to kick off the 3 day festival. And I'm so glad I remembered to take them - especially since this was by far the session with the most geographically diverse operators I've ever had . . .

I finished up all the last-minute prep the morning of the session, powered by strong coffee in a New Haven RR mug. Note the panel is lit up since trains are test-running in the background, and all the paperwork is laid out ready to go.

Speaking of paperwork, I had my guinea pigs operators try out some new forms I added for this session. While I use switchlists rather than car cards and waybills, that system doesn't work well when you have to transfer a car from one local freight to another. I'd been using a made-up "Car Transfer Form" that conductors had to use to transcribe car info from the list to the card that he would then leave with the car. But that was a lot of work for the conductors, and not prototypical. So, at much more work for the host (me), I decided to make up bills for just the cars being transferred - "Empty Car" bills for, um, empty cars, and "Freight Waybills" for loaded cars. They seemed to work well on first-time Valley Line operators. We'll see how my regular crew likes them.

Tom Jacobs (PA) and Seth Gartner (NC) operated the flagship train - HDX-7/The Valley Local. Here they are switching at Middletown. They got there much quicker than I'd expected, but then the volume of Middletown switching hit - as well as a First Revenue Run up the branch (click here for a video of the first test run....)

One downside of a much-larger-than-usual session is that my aisles can get crowded (typical sessions have 8 operators), but folks didn't seem to mind (at least they didn't say so....) Here, James Mattern (PA) operates PDX-2 (aka the westbound Shoreline local, aka The Haddam Local) in Essex, while Kaylee Zheng (CT) takes care of West End Staging. First time operators Rod Diery (all the way from Australia!) and Christina Zambri (NJ) operate the Air Line local in Somerset. Speaking of Rod and Christina - I was super psyched not only that they wanted to jump right in to operations, not having operated much at all before, but that they had such a good time. And did so well!
I had 13 folks attending this session, but fortunately a few of them decided they'd rather railfan than operate (much to my relief since I didn't have enough jobs for everybody and I didn't want anybody to be bored). Gordy Robinson (all the way from Scotland!) was able to do a little of both. Here he's operating PDX-1 (aka the eastbound Shoreline local) switching Old Saybrook. It's the shortest job on the layout, but since it does all the work in Saybrook and has to go back and forth across the mainline while dodging heavy traffic, it's one of the more complicated jobs.

Speaking of railfans - here's Neill Horton (all the way from England!) doing some 'fanning while Kaylee checks the Shoreline script. Jerry Britton (PA) is taking a break from taking pictures and video to check out the west end staging box.

I'm always pleasantly surprised when the layout works just like the prototype.... Here the crews of the Air Line local and Valley Local are in Middletown at the same time, trying to stay out of each other's way while coordinating switching.

Not last and not least, Arry Dodd (also from Scotland!) is here holding down the "right hand seat" on PDX-2 along with James in Essex.
Last, but certainly not least, Mike and Mel Redden (MD) held down duties at East End Staging. Unfortunately, they were - literally - behind a curtain so they didn't get their picture taken :^(

Speaking of the staging operations, it's unfortunately become fairly typical that there were some problems with derailing while exiting west end staging. But what should I expect? I'm having the east end operator run the train, which s/he can't see, through an S-curve and multiple turnouts, around a 24" radius, using full-length passenger cars. Ugh! Other than that everybody seemed to have a good time and the rest of the layout ran really well. Considering the high number of folks, with a diverse range of experience, I call that a success!

The next day was a lot more laid back. No formal ops session planned (though Mike and I did have some fun running an extra - but I'll post about that later), just an open house for a contingent of folks from the Syracuse, NY area (including AML Superfan #12) and some additional AML-ers later in the day. Unfortunately, despite having made brownies especially for the occasion, The Evil Overlord wasn't able to make an appearance. But, as they say, "there's always next year!"

So ended Friday. I felt like I'd already had a pretty big RR weekend, and the Big Springfield Show hadn't even started yet!

Heading off to the Big Shew . . .

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