As I wrote about at the end of June, I am starting to think about what Operating Sessions will look like on my layout as construction progresses, and as things in the world open up to possibly have visitors again to invite friends over to run trains.
Layout all set for the first attempt at a full Operating Session
This first real operations session was a solo effort, and I had to gird myself for frustrations as gremlins were no doubt going to appear as I operated, but this was about learning, seeing what works, and what doesn’t. I expected to find some electrical issues, as it hasn’t been run and the track in spots almost certainly wasn’t properly cleaned after doing scenery work nearby. As well, only four switches have bullfrogs installed, which means a lot of switches don’t stay set the way you want and equipment can force them to move instead of the switches staying put and making the wheels follow the rails.
Part of this, was to look at what things look like for an operator. You can’t run long trains on my layout, because of how the staging traversers are designed, they do allow a crew to run around cars in staging, to change between pushing or pulling cars onto the layout, but there is not a lot of spare space. The layout has separate CPR and CNR staging and operating crews. In theory, both could work at the same time, but there would be conflicts. I set the session up where every car on the layout would be moved, and new cars placed from staging (but not necessarily in the same places). I pre-staged my CPR trains in the order I thought the cars needed to be to make bringing cars from staging easier, and didn’t on CNR to see if I could actually live shunt the cars into useful order on the layout. I am not sure which option is better, other than to say that on the CPR side, the low clearance from the closet shelf makes uncoupling cars nearly impossible if they are on a track behind other equipment.
The first to run for me was CPR. My Atlas S2 seems to be my most reliable performer electrically over dirty track, the keep alive in it seems to do as it should and give it a seconds life when it wants to cut out. I don’t recall having any shorts outs while running this side. I did have some derailments from switches not staying lined, or cars that clearly need wheels cleaned/gauged or more weight added. These are all things that can be fixed. It took about an hour to switch the CPR side and move 13 cars on and off the layout.
The CNR operation, took longer, and caused more frustrations. My current pair of working CNR locomotives, a Rapido Trains SW1200RS and a Rapido Trains GMD-1, both are, to be polite, sensitive performers. They work fine for a bit, then just short out constantly, even on the same track they just worked fine on. I have installed a keep alive in the SW1200RS, though I am not entirely sure my solder joints are good enough and it may not be working. Neither of these are really appropriate CNR motive power for Liberty Village (the SW1200RS is closest), but they are what I have. Between them shorting out, derailments and finding another clearance issue with the GMD-1 that necessitated moving another hydro pole, the CNR side took about an hour and a half to run 14 cars on and off. Neither of these times are bad, and will improve when the electrical and switches become more reliable, and when there are not moments of me steaming and debating throwing trains vs. keeping calm over it being a test session and knowing it would have issues.
Scenes from an Ops Session, things that worked and look good, things that didn’t (like trying to uncouple cars in the constricted CPR staging when you have other cars in front), and what is that 8 hatch hopper doing in the last photo?
Overall, it was a success. I learned some things about my layout that will help me to create better operating sessions, things about where cars can and can’t be set before a session to allow the operators to successfully operate, and I found a bunch of little things to fix. Its also motivated me to look to get a move on with some things like getting the bullfrog controls installed on more turnouts to make operating better for me, and hopefully guests sooner than later.