Sunday, February 1, 2015

More Operations

A couple of days after last weekend's shakedown op session on my layout, Dan Mackey sent out a text announcing a trial run on his huge, still under-construction WC layout. I snapped up the invite and planned for a fun evening with a group of like-minded model railroaders. 

I showed up last night to join an enthusiastic group looking forward to giving what Dan has built so far a good workout. Although I would estimate that much less than one quarter of the track is laid (probably safe to say less than 10%), there was plenty to keep four or five operators busy. One thing this tells me is that Dan is building a railroad that will accomodate lots of operators once it is complete. 

One of the locations Dan has been working on is the trackage for the Biron paper mill, seen in the photo below. Matt and Don are working the mill with a GP30, lining up a train for me to pick up after I drop another cut for them to sort and deliver.
My power set for the evening, as I lugged cars back and forth between Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids, was this stellar set of high-hood SD24's. While in real life, these units were not popular with all those asked to operate them (as I learned in exquisite detail from Kent Rengo-I got the impression they pulled like Yugos and smoked like Alcos), in Dan's model world they are great pullers in the hands of the right engineer (namely, me). At least until you try to bring 28 or so cars up the helix with them, at which point you will stall, end up doubling the hill, and clog up the mainline for an hour or so to the consternation of the Trainmaster. Live and learn, is one of the adages I live by. Although you wouldn't know it by the stupid expression on my face.
 Speaking of the Trainmaster, here he is. Most likely he is dreaming up some near-impossible mission for the haggard crews to carry out. Something like requiring us to swap ends on a long train, while making sure the tank cars meet all hazmat rules, but without providing a runaround track. Whatever the latest "Mission, Impossible" is, it's guaranteed to make your head hurt.
 Kent and I chatted about train length while I ran my final train down the helix. One nice thing about a helix-it gives you a moment to think as the train winds its way up or down. In my limited operations experience, any free time you can devote to thinking and planning on how you will get your work done, safely and efficiently, is precious. I don't do a good enough job using my thinking time, which can result in embarrassing events like when I ran through a switch that was lined wrong and shorted out half the railroad last night. Events like that will earn you a nickname. They should inspire a motto as well, something like "Slow down and double check the switch."
After the work was done, Dan sat us down to pick our brains about the layout and any suggested changes. The session really showed how his construction techniques result in a dependable and smoothly operating layout. Unlike my session last week, derailments were rare as hen's teeth. Everyone had a good time, although there was a moment when the lack of a runaround track did result in raised hackles, but with some professional railroading advice, we managed to work through it. 
I'm looking forward to doing it again. When this layout is done, Dan will have to bus in people to keep it all operating. It's gonna be a sight to see, that's for sure!

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