I still consider myself to be a novice when it comes to operating layouts. I haven’t done it a lot, and by not a lot, I can still count my number of ops sessions on two hands, and the number of different layouts I’ve operated on one hand. That said, the quality of the layouts I am fortunate enough to get the chance to operate on is incredible. And the latest is one that I’ve seen in photographs and in print, but never in person until last weekend.
Overview of the Filmore Avenue Roundhouse layout. The whole layout is terminal, operations are taking locomotives from arriving for servicing, through timed servicing, to be ready to be sent back out to work.
Getting to visit amazing layouts like Rick DeCandido’s “Filmore Avenue Roundhouse” and operate them gives me inspiration for my own layout, that it can operate as well and look as good as the layouts I’ve gotten to see do. Rick’s layout is a “proto-freelanced” layout, that is a layout based on a prototype and realistic operations, but which never actually existed. It is based on a proposed new engine terminal adjacent to the Buffalo Central Terminal that the New York Central was planning in 1929. Work hadn’t started when the stock market crashed in October 1929, and by the time World War 2 was over in 1945, the writing was on the wall for steam locomotives, and the NYC never revisited the proposal to build a new facility to service passenger locomotives. As such, the buildings are all based on NYC prototype practices (other than the gorgeous Canadian Pacific 2 road coaling tower based on John Street in Toronto, modelling it is on my to do list and Rick’s is drop dead gorgeous!). Rick’s modelling skill and attention to detail is second to none. Everything has that perfect life worn and used feel, with the right amount of weathering and grime to look like buildings that are out in the environment where work and steam locomotives are around constantly.
Some examples of Rick’s fabulous modelling. His coaling tower (a model of the CPR John Street tower at the Toronto Railway Museum as it fit his space), and a view into the stalls of the roundhouse to see locomotives being serviced.
The layout is operated in real-time, with each session about 2.5 hours long. While that may on the face of it sound like not a lot is happening. It takes three active operators and a dispatcher updating the digital “chalkboard” of the shop for incoming, under service and outgoing locomotives, plus service trains delivering supplies and coal. The session started out with a half hour or so introduction to the layout and the operator jobs. I think Rick was maybe a bit worried it is too much, but I have to say it was just perfect. He was able to clearly lay out everything we’d be doing and tie that to why the railroad did things so it all made sense, and the three of us could figure out how we were working together. Along with my friends Ryan and Doug, we’d have a lot of movements to coordinate between the Staging (me, bringing locomotives in for servicing and departing after, as well as aligning the staging for service trains), the Assistant Holster (taking over from staging after entry to the layout, running service extras, and helping the lead as needed), and the Lead Holster (taking locomotives from assistant, onto turntable and into stalls, then back out to the ready tracks for departure).
Doug has a laugh while I focus on something working the staging yard. Ryan focuses on bringing a switcher off the turntable onto the ready tracks.
I had a wonderful time. Rick was a great host, and his layout operated perfectly. The only things that went wrong were operators like yours truly putting locomotives in the dirt by failing to check that switches had been set for where they were driving!! I hope some time I can invite Rick to my house to repay the favour of an operating session in Liberty Village and that it runs half as well as his layout did!