Monday, March 2, 2015

An eye opening experience

In the 25 years that I can call myself a model railroader, I've never had the opportunity to participate in any sort of a real operating session. I was a member of a local model railroad club in my teens where this could have been a possibility, but they just "ran" trains and bickered with one another mostly. I've read plenty of magazines, books, online forum posts and watched videos about op sessions, but I know its one thing to read about it and another to actually do it.

Well, a couple of Fridays ago I finally got my chance. My friend Tim Moran got me invited to a operating session of Jerry Jordak's Penn Central E&P Branch set in 1969.

More info can be found at

I was broken in as the engineer on a two man crew with Tim with a short switch job out of Moravia Yard to a near by concrete/aggregate plant. After that we took a local job to switch an industrial area in New Castle, PA on the Houston secondary track, we would later return with another local to work this area again.

Switching in New Castle, PA
Our power for those trips was a nice little Bowser sound equipped Pennsylvania S-12 (I think) renumbered for Penn Central as 8161. Here we are back at Moravia Yard with our PRR cabin.
PC ex PRR S-12 8161 at Moravia Yard engine terminal
Later I would run a few hot auto part freights across the layout out of and back into staging yards and a large coal train with some impressive Alco six axle power.

I didn't have much time to chat while working but I found everyone to be very nice and welcoming. Jerry, the host, was great and took time to show me around the layout and explain his vision and enough of the procedures before I joined in. I'm glad things were a bit more informal than I anticipated as the signaling system isn't in place yet and movements were mostly controlled verbally with a central dispatcher/tower operator. All these factors made my first operating session very relaxed and a complete blast!

Aside from learning a lot about running trains in an operating environment I tried to absorb all I could about the environment I was operating in and how that translates to layout design and the things I want to accomplish on my Adena Railroad plan.
  1. I was very shocked to see how much time was spent working that industrial area in New Castle. I think Tim and I were there for almost and hour or so moving maybe 6 or 7 cars around. Initially looking at that area I would not have thought that could be possible. Sure having a two man crew slowed things down but I was still surprised at the passage of time doing what seemed to be a little job.
  2. While Jerry's layout isn't large in it's current state (phase 1) it's size worked nicely for the 7 people that were there and kept everybody in what seemed to be the right amount of busy.
  3. I felt a little longer mainline run would make running though freights not feel like a quick drive-by. I can't blame the layout completely for that as phase 2 will take care of that issue. I also did not have any of the through freights that made car drops at Moravia Yard which would have extended the run time feeling.
  4.  An isolated operators aisle can be tricky to enter and exit and something I would try to avoid in my plans, although I understand why it was necessary in Jerry's plans. I'm still young and can stoop down to get under benchwork now but who knows in another 10 or 15 years.
  5. My first experience with Digitrax wasn't as bad (I use NCE), but it was the wireless control that got my attention. It was really cool to not have to plug in your controller and worry about the cord. Definitely the way to go on a layout were walking around is required, even "small/medium" layouts.
  6. Hidden staging didn't seem to be an inconvenience or problematic. I should say well built hidden staging like Jerry's didn't seem to be an inconvenience or problematic.
  7. As I've seen on other layouts in my reading, small work areas are handy for the operators.
Hidden staging and operator work space.

I took a lot from my first operating session, most important that it really doesn't take that much railroad to entertain a small group of people.

One thing for sure, it has me taking a hard look at my plans.

Thanks again to everybody for having me that night.

No comments:

Post a Comment