Last Sunday afternoon I had four friends over, to actually run trains in Liberty Village. My friends Dan, Lance, Nigel and Thomas came from across the GTA to be the first brave souls to try and run my layout. On Saturday I spend the day cleaning and prepping the layout, trying to have it so it would hopefully operate reasonably well for my guests.
And the layout is all set for its first true operating session, four friends running trains on the layout to see how it goes.
I prepared two sets of work for both CN and CP, not being sure how long it would take people to run a job, and whether people would want to run a second job. Lance and Thomas braved the first job (I only have one throttle, so while two distinct crew jobs exist, only one can work at a time). It was, really remarkable to listen two them act like railroaders in my layout room, Thomas acting as engineer, and Lance as conductor, calling moves to couple, or clear switches. Instantly the layout felt like it was that little bit more alive. The Yardmaster who prepped their switch lists was reasonably magnanimous. All the cars they needed were in a single cut in staging…I just maybe didn’t have them in an order that would make their life easy. It was very interesting to see the decisions they made about how to order cars and which moves they would make first. One thing I learned from both crews, is that they seemed quite happy to drag around more cars to reduce the number of trips into the village, at the risk of blocking crossings and annoying the workers blocking roads while they switched.
After Lance and Thomas finished up a CN job, Dan and Nigel stepped up to run a CP job. I think the CP job list was easier than the CN one. I didn’t really keep close track of time, but based on the photos, it took about an hour for the CN job to run, and somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes for the CP. In terms of operational issues, some things I expected, there are a few cars where couplers don’t centre nicely, a few spots where track angles make coupling hard, and it is very easy to bump the staging traversers and misalign tracks while crossing. The CP staging is also right off a curve, and some of the tracks are not aligned it seems when they look good, and work when they look misaligned. This was a known issue, and one I can work on. We had a few small electrical stalls, which seemed to be resolved be a quick re-graphite of the track. A couple of cars sounded like they might have been catching on guardrails at crossings, but overall, no unexpected problems were encountered. Unlike some, I am not worried if people need to reach in with a bit of “hand of god” action. It happens, none of my equipment is so fragile it can’t handle being held from time to time. I’ll strive to get to bulletproof operations, but the occasional issue isn’t going to phase me.
Scenes from an Ops Session. Two crews, first Lance and Thomas ran a CN Job, then Dan and Nigel a CP one.
The feedback I got was that people enjoyed the opportunity. It was nerve wracking to have people, even friends who I knew would be kind if things went very sideways operate, but as I said above, it was such a good feeling to hear and see it come alive. I understand now what some of my friends must have felt over the years when I operated their layouts and brought their work to life. Operating is fun, I’m sad I went so many years before I had friends where I would get invites to operate. I hope in the years to come as Liberty Village progresses, that I will have many more friends old and new over to see the layout and to run trains.
Revelstoke BC WebCam running on the TV for entertainment, real life crews blocking crossings as we did on the layout, though this was some varnish as the Rocky Mountaineer Railtour passed through!
I am going away for a few days on Friday morning, but I have two more switch lists set, I am going to try and run them either before I head off, or after I get back. There were no problems that occurred that generated major immediate repairs to the layout, so I can carry on with structures and scenery, and look forward to the next chance to invite some different friends over and see what else I can learn about operating my layout.