Express car mods via Photoshop

As noted in a previous post, I ordered a model of an SP baggage car with the intent of creating a stand-in for a CNR express car in the 8775-8799 number range. These CNR cars had a “turtle roof”, plus six-foot and eight-foot doors.

 photo CNR-Baggage-ProtoPhoto_zpsnncvs0eg.jpg
(Click on the image to read more about why I decided to model this series of cars)

The car arrived this week, and – for my purposes – it’s an excellent start. The discrepancies that are most immediately apparent are the vents on the roof and the baggage doors. There should be fewer vents, of a different style, and the doors should be larger and taller – almost touching the roof line.

I did a quick bit of Photoshop work to see if I could get the SP car to look more like the CNR series I’m trying to represent. I built each image out of several photographs so I could take close-up pictures of the car to capture the detail. Click on each image to see a larger version:

 photo SP-Baggage-Stock_zpsh3r08mdk.jpg
(Stock SP car)

 photo SP-Baggage-Mods_zpsnhi7aifp.jpg
(Photoshop modifications)

Based on this virtual kit bash, I think the modifications will be worth the effort.

Modifying the doors should be fairly easy: I can simply cut larger openings, square them with a file, add some strip to the interior if needed, and build new doors. They don’t even need to be built out of brass – I’m happy to use styrene for the doors. (The larger of the two openings should have two equal-sized doors with two lights each – not the 3+2 arrangement shown in the photo.)

The vents will be a little trickier – only in that I’ll have a lot to remove, and then a lot of holes to fill in a very visible part of the car. I will think about the vents issue some more before I start unsoldering castings.

Trailers for CNR D-1

In other passenger-carrying news, Shapeways has delivered my 3D Printed shells for C-1 and C-2 – the two trailers that completed the train set hauled by D-1:

 photo CNR-C1-C2-01_zpsd8llo5dd.jpg

These were designed by my friend Stephen Gardiner. Regular readers will recall that he’s done these for himself in HO – and has kindly re-sized and tweaked the plans for printing in S scale. (You can find all of my posts about this project in the CNR D-1 category.)

Like the power unit, the trailers are a great start but will need a fair bit of finishing to complete. First up, I’ll have to wash the bodies to remove the waxes used in the printing process, glue the roofs in place, then spray everything with an automotive filler/primer so that I can see what work needs to be done. I’ll also need to cut some floors for the two trailers.

Meantime, I’ve ordered NWSL wheels and bearings for the 6′-6″ truck kits I picked up from William Flatt.

I’m also looking to order a Helicoils starter kit for 2-56 machine screws: I borrowed one from a friend to mount the D-1 body to the frame and this is a marvellous system to use in 3D Printed materials when one expects to fasten and unfasten parts regularly. (I’ll write more about Helicoils in a future post.) As the photo below shows, Stephen designed in mounting posts with pilot holes, designed so that I could use Helicoils and 2-56 machine screws:

 photo CNR-C1-C2-02_zpslva38j4l.jpg

I continue to gather the parts I need for this project, but once I have what I need I suspect the assembly will go quite quickly.

Stand-in CNR express car

 photo Tour-201405-04_zpsf6eddb57.jpg
(This mixed train is missing something: a CNR express car. The proper one is not available, but I’ve found a suitable, temporary stand-in)

Good things come to those who wait. But in the meantime, “close enough” is better than “none at all”…

I’ve decided I need to compromise – at least, temporarily – in order to fill out my 1957 version of the mixed train to Port Rowan. There are two significant differences in this train, when compared to its 1953 version: CNR 10-wheelers had replaced the Moguls on the head end and – with the demise of the postal contract – the baggage-mail car had disappeared, to be replaced with a simple express (baggage) car.

My 1953 train accurately reflects its consist…

 photo M233-CNR86-StWilliams_zps55169f21.jpg

… but my attempts to model the 1957 version have been stymied by the lack of an accurate CNR express car in S scale. Fellow S scale enthusiast David Clubine and I have badgered our mutual friend Andy Malette at MLW Services to fill this gap, preferably with a four-axle NSC steel car – like this:

 photo cn9269_zpslyxohzfg.jpg
(Jim Parker photo from the Canadian Freight Car Gallery. Click on the image to learn more.)

Andy has “expressed” interest (see what I did there?), and he’s done a great job on some other CNR passenger car kits in S scale, including the combines that bring up the rear of my mixed trains. But I also appreciate that Andy has other projects he wants to tackle, and that a market of “Dave and I” isn’t a very good reason to devote the best part of a year to developing a kit. So while the NSC car is on his “someday” list, I’ll content myself with being thrilled when (or even if) he does this car.

In the meantime, however, my modern mixed train falls short. It doesn’t look right, and operating sessions with this train suffer without the express car and its associated activity. My choices are either to build my own NSC four-axle express car or find a suitable stand-in.

Building my own isn’t beyond consideration, but I have other projects that are more of a priority. For starters, there are still a number of structures to build and trees to create. If I decide to build the NSC car, it will be a few (several?) years before I can tackle the project – and that leaves me with the same unsatisfying situation I’m in today.

So, I prefer the second option – the suitable stand-in. The next task was to determine whether any such model exists.

For this, I combined two sources.

First, the National Association of S Gaugers has an online Product Gallery, in which the organization is trying to collect and share information about every locomotive and piece of rolling stock ever produced for 1:64. It’s a tall order, but the Product Gallery is remarkably complete – and most of the entries include photographs of the models.

 photo nasglogo_zpspqafzgcq.jpg
(Click on the logo to visit the NASG Product Gallery)

I searched through the gallery’s “baggage car” section, and compared the photographs to pictures in the Canadian National Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment Volume 1, written by John Riddell and published by Morning Sun Books. And, I found a match – or, at least, a model that’s a close-enough stand in for my purposes:

 photo CNR-Baggage-ProtoPhoto_zpsnncvs0eg.jpg

The prototype is a series of 25 cars built by National Steel Car in 1940. They’re almost 65 feet long and have a distinctive “turtle roof”. And, while they’re not dead-on matches, they sure look close to the Southern Pacific baggage cars imported by SouthWind Models – an example of which is shown below:

 photo SP-Brass-Baggage_zpsfw7bjqup.jpg

Yes, there are discrepancies – some pretty big ones. Notably, the baggage doors on the CNR cars extend almost to the roof, whereas they stop at the letter board on the SP cars. Also, the roof vents are all wrong. But for a stand-in car, until Andy produces (or I build) the NSC baggage car that should be on my 1957 mixed train? I can live with that. Dan Navarre at River Raisin Models had an unpainted example in stock, which is current en route to me.

I’m looking forward to having a more accurate mixed train: More accurate, because “wrong express car” is better than “no express car”…

Telegraph article in June 2016 RMC

 photo StW-Trackside_zps8c19ec9d.jpg
(The station at St. Williams includes a sign for the CNR’s telegraph service)

The June 2016 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine includes “Dots and Dashes”, a feature I wrote about the working telegraph network I’ve installed on my layout. Railway telegraph systems are rarely modelled, but were in use throughout the steam era. They were long-lived on lightly-trafficked lines such as my one-train-per-day operation to Port Rowan.

This article details how I set up the network, where I found the telegraphy equipment, and how I have created “cheat sheets” for operators to use when OS-ing their trains. It should provide any reader with enough information to set up such a system on their own layout.

I’ve seen a proof of this four-page article, and I’m really pleased with how the team at RMC has presented the work. (Thanks, guys!) If you get a chance to read the feature, I hope you’ll agree…

Click on the cover, below, to visit the RMC website:

 photo RMC-2016-06_zpszzdjm2tb.jpg

Hand Signals: Lunch and Ops with Steve

 photo HandSignals_zps9u574gyf.jpg
(Doesn’t he look like he’s having fun? Figure 100 is like an ice dancing move. We did not do this – but we did something similar…)

On Thursday, I was fortunate to entertain Steve Lucas, a modeller from Ingersol, Ontario who also happens to make his living on the rails as a locomotive engineer.

It’s always interesting to see how those who work on the real railways react to my little slice of the long gone Simcoe Sub. As such, I’ve wanted to have Steve over for a while to show him the layout – and this week, work and other commitments allowed us to do just that.

Steve and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Harbord House, then worked a freight extra along the line. Steve opted to wear the conductor’s hat, and took the opportunity to give me some lessons on switching using hand signals. Steve did NOT wear a jaunty conductor’s uniform or sport a handlebar moustache like the gentleman in the lead image – and the signals were not quite what’s illustrated either.

Instead, a lot of our discussion was about the hand signals used to convey distances (e.g. “Six cars”… “Four cars”… and so on). I only remember a few of these, as it was a lot to take in, but I certainly appreciated how elegant they were to use while switching.

Steve and I also talked about sight lines from engineer to brakeman – important because if the engineer cannot see the brakeman he’s required to stop moving.

Scale brakeman photo OpsAid-Brakeman-01.jpg
(Having scale brakemen to position on the layout helps to understand where the people need to be when switching cars. To read about the ones I use, click on the image.)

And I learned that one reason all the prototype photos at Port Rowan show the locomotive facing westbound (towards the end of track) is that this would allow the engineer to switch the sidings without having to look over his shoulder – a consideration that had never occurred to me.

So, lessons big and little. I have that much more to think about, and more information to make my layout come alive. Thanks Steve: We’ll do this again when our schedules allow!

I’ve been able to give back something, too:

At this year’s Toronto RPM, I did a presentation on my layout and as part of that I discussed the benefits of blogging. (I’ve summarized that information in a separate post, for those who are interested.)

I’m pleased that Steve has taken some of that presentation to heart and has started a blog about his layout, the Midland Railway. Drop by and have a look around…

“CN Lines” back issues on DVD

The latest issues of CN Lines magazine arrived last week, and it included a notice that the CNR Historical Association is now offering a a set of all previous back issues, as PDFs, on DVD. This disc includes 65 issues of CN Lines – from Volume 1 Number 1 to Volume 17 Number 4.

I didn’t start reading CN Lines until just a few years ago, so I’ve ordered my copy and I look forward to exploring more about The People’s Railway.

For more information about this collection, click on the cover of CN Lines 18-1, below. It’ll send you to the relevant page on the CNRHA website:

 photo CNLines-18-1_zpsmnvny1mk.jpg

In related news, my copy of the complete collection of Mainline Modeler on DVD also arrived last week. I ordered this at the end of April, and service was prompt. I must confess I haven’t had a chance to load it on my computer and look through it. Maybe I’ll do that now…

(Small update: I’ve just done that, and it’s wonderful. It does require “Acrobat” to view – it doesn’t appear to work with other PDF readers such as “Preview” on a Mac. I’ve looked through the very first issue. Now, it’s time to go back and read it in more detail. I was also able to successfully copy the entire DVD to my hard drive – for my personal use! This has greatly improved the time to navigate the menus and turn the pages.)

It has never been easier to get quality information about prototypes and how to model them. I’m grateful to the organizations that are compiling and distributing DVDs such as these!

What’s Next? The Millennial Makers

 photo WhatsNext-Deck-ScreenGrab_zps1zujkteu.jpg

Saturday night, I was the guest speaker at the banquet for Algonquin Turn 2016 – the convention for members of the Niagara Frontier Region NMRA. This was held in Ottawa – a place I lived for much of the 1990s – and it was great to reconnect with a number of fellow hobbyists that I hadn’t seen in many years. Ottawa is only 4.5-5 hours away by highway, but it seems like another world sometimes, and I haven’t been to the nation’s capital in many years.

When I was asked to speak, I spent a lot of time thinking about what to say. A banquet speech needs to be special. I wasn’t going to stand in front of the crowd and give a how-to clinic, and I certainly didn’t want to make it “all about me” (and boy am I glad that I did not, as I’ll relate*). Fortunately, I have done many things in this hobby. I have worked in several scale/gauge combinations, attended conventions, operations weekends, RPM meets, narrow gauge gatherings, SIG events, train shows, exhibitions in which trains are displayed to the general public, and more. I’ve given speeches, written articles, produced and co-hosted a podcast, and been both a guest and a host on TrainMasters TV. And, of course, I’ve blogged.

But most of all, because of this exposure, I’ve had brilliant conversations with many, many people about our hobby. That includes people who have been railway modelling enthusiasts for decades… those who have just started… and those who have never heard of the hobby.

 photo Man-EarTrumpet_zpscingqzws.jpg

And one thing that I’ve learned is that for many of us in the hobby, this is more than a way to kill some time. It’s been a lifelong journey of friendships and learning. We love this hobby – and many of us wonder how we encourage more people to join us as railway modelling enthusiasts. In particular, we wonder how we’re going to reach young people.

I run into similar questions in my professional life as a speech writer. I’ve worked with many clients who are trying to connect their businesses – and the products and services they provide – with customers, and one demographic that everybody is trying to figure out is the Millennials. Broadly described, the Millennials are the cohort of young people born in the 1990s or later.

One of the biggest factors that sets Millennials apart from the rest of us is that this is a group that has never known a world in which the Internet did not exist. That has had a huge influence on how the Millennials think and act.

I won’t get into detail here – I had an hour for my speech, and I filled it – but I shared a number of insights about the Millennials, including:

1 – The world in which they’re living. Millennials gravitate to urban cores for a variety of reasons related to lifestyle and employment. And those are expensive places to live. That means dedicated space for a layout is limited, or non-existent.

2 – The economic reality they face: For a variety of reasons related to cost of living and the changing nature of employment, it’s expected that the members of this generation will be the first who are financially worse off than their parents.

3 – The relevance – or, more to the point, irrelevance – of real railroads in their daily lives.

Those are challenges, but there are some positive things to be said, too. Specifically, there’s a group of Millennials – call them The Makers – who love to build things. They are the future of our hobby.

4 – The Makers are building battle bots, steampunk accessories, LEGO machines, and more. They speak Arduino and Raspberry Pi. They’re comfortable with designing on computer, to run a machine (such as a 3D Printer) that does the construction. They develop apps to integrate their smart phones with their devices. And so on. Our challenge is not “How do we get young people to build things?” but “How do we identify those who do – and convince them to give our hobby a try?”

5 – Our hobby embodies many characteristics that appeal to Millennial Makers – including the collaborative nature of the “operations” game that we play, in which there are no winners or losers.

6 – I’ve run into many examples in our hobby where our interests, and those of The Makers – overlap. So we’re not as far apart as we think.

However, to engage with The Millenial Makers, we have to take a different approach. For them, trains are not the gateway into our hobby. I believe we need to back them into becoming railway modellers by emphasizing those things that appeal to the Millennial Makers – such as electronics, interactivity, collaborative work, and social media. For example:

7 – If a Millennial is doing something with servos and controllers, ask them how they would tackle a semaphore signalling system or train order boards.
 
8 – If they’re doing something with RFID, ask how they’d apply it to tracking freight cars on a layout.

9 – If they’re creating designs for a 3D Printer, ask how they would replicate a diesel control stand, in miniature, to hold the electronics found in a DCC throttle.
 
10 – If they’re interested in APP development, ask how they would create an APP to turn a smart watch into a fast clock.

And yes, these are ideas that are already being tackled by hobbyists, but so what? These are the places where our hobbies meet. Let’s take advantage of that. And let’s recognize that there are many ways to approach a problem – a fresh, non-hobby set of eyes may be just what we need.

That said, reaching Millennial Makers will require changes to how many of us do things in the hobby. For example:

11 – We can’t do this if we’re preaching to younger people, because that will just drive them away. To encourage more people to join our hobby, we need to do more listening – to find out what fires a person’s interests, and then relate that to what we do. We enjoy a hobby unlike any other in terms of the depth and breadth of what can be done in it. No matter what a person says they’re interested in, I am confident we can find examples in our hobby to which they can relate. But we have to know what they like, first – and I’m as guilty of that as anyone else.

12 – We also can’t engage Millennial Makers – or anybody else for that matter – if our only public presence is the Train Show. That’s because at train shows, we’re mostly talking to ourselves. Say the words “Train Show” and an image comes to mind that, frankly, many people outside of the hobby would not consider interesting. To reach Millennial Makers, I think we need to do more to take our hobby to where they are – to events such as Maker Faires, and meetings at Maker Spaces. (If you’re not sure what those are, Google them.) And we need to do more to put our efforts online where younger, connected people can find them. Starting a blog is a good example of how we can do that, and in a previous post I’ve offered some thoughts on doing that, as well as some reasons why your hobby might benefit from one.

I hope I left the banquet attendees – about 80 people, I’m told – with some useful information and some ideas for further discussions. If you were in the room, thanks for letting me speak – and do share your thoughts on this via the comments section on this post (or start your own blog!), because it would be great to hear from you.

Unfortunately, other commitments prevented me from attending anything beyond the banquet portion of the convention. But I did get to take a quick spin through the convention’s contest room and model display area. The photos below show off some of the creative and accomplished work on display:

 photo AlgonquinTurn-2016-01_zpstj19bam1.jpg

 photo AlgonquinTurn-2016-02_zps092icccd.jpg

 photo AlgonquinTurn-2016-03_zpsitrx7ftu.jpg

 photo AlgonquinTurn-2016-04_zpsjuruxxo5.jpg

 photo AlgonquinTurn-2016-05_zpsfbagqdpc.jpg

I also treated myself to a nice room overnight – at the Chateau Laurier. This is one of Canada’s legendary “Railway Hotels”. Originally owned by Canadian Pacific, they are located in major cities, near the station (or, as is the case in Ottawa, where the station used to be). I always enjoy the rooms and the lobbies, which are from a different era. And the Sunday morning brunch was a terrific way to start my journey home.

 photo AlgonquinTurn-2016-Chateau_zpsukihmhki.jpg
(The view from my room of the interior of the U-shaped hotel)

 photo Chat-Laurier-Mail-01_zpsazruhizd.jpg
(Mailbox in the lobby)

 photo Chat-Laurier-Mail-02_zpsuob3odmk.jpg
(Mail chute in the elevator lobby)

 photo Chat-Laurier-Mail-03_zpsa9uud375.jpg
(Close up of the mail chute)

*On a technical note, I had a moment of panic when my PowerPoint presentation refused to launch on the NMRA’s laptop. In the end, I gave my speech without the support of pretty pictures. Fortunately, I was delivering a philosophical talk – a subject that does not rely upon visuals.

I had joked with a couple of friends before dinner about how PowerPoint presentations can be deadly dull and that instead of subjecting everyone to a slide show, I was going to describe my layout via an Interpretive Dance. Little did I know it almost came to that…

 photo Dance-Script_zps3aumhccr.jpg

When the CNR built “Iron Man”

 photo CNR-D1-Shell-Frame-01_zpsymt5ejjz.jpg
(It sure looks like Tony Stark in a suit, doesn’t it? Not a beautiful example of streamlined self-propelled railway equipment…)

The CNR D-1 project is coming together nicely. My friend Stephen Gardiner did a terrific job of resizing his HO scale 3D print files for the body and roof to S scale, and the print I ordered arrived late last month from Shapeways. Last week, I visited my friend Ryan Mendell, who cut the brass frame for me, and we modified the frame to make it fit into the body:

 photo CNR-D1-Shell-Frame-02_zps3gjojtj0.jpg

Thanks, guys!

My next step will be to wash the shell, then apply a coat of primer. I’m finding that the translucent material in which it’s printed is almost impossible to see properly, because of how light passes through it and reflects about. I certainly can’t do any work on detailing the shell until I can see the thing. A coat of primer will – I hope – smooth the already mostly-smooth finish on the print. If not, it will show me where I have to sand.

Based on the success of this print, Stephen has released – and I have ordered – the S scale prints for D-1’s two trailers. Those should arrive by the end of the month. Stay tuned…

Tips for blogging about our hobby

 photo Blog-Barking_zpst1ssdrx0.jpg

On Saturday night, I was honoured to be the guest speaker at the banquet for Algonquin Turn 2016, the annual convention for members of the Niagara Frontier Region of the NMRA.

I’ve shared more on that in another post, but one thing I spoke about was how, for me, this blog has become a powerful modelling tool.

Despite the sentiment in the cartoon at the top of this post, I consider this blog to be as important to my Port Rowan layout as the ties and rail and I will continue to “bark” on it. Here’s why:

I started my blog in August, 2011. I had never before blogged and I had no idea what to expect. As of right now…

– I have made 1,126 posts (including this one).

– The blog has generated 5,856 comments. Of those, 1,950 are mine as I respond to the 3,906 comments from my readers (and thanks for those!)

– The blog has generated more than 505,000 page views. (It’s actually a bit more than that, because I did not track stats for the first year of blogging. I simply didn’t know I could.)

In addition to making new friends online, the value of this blog has been in its ability to generate information that helps me become a better railway modeller. For example:

– Readers have offered information about the prototype (CNR Simcoe Sub) and the area (St. Williams and Port Rowan) that I model.

– Readers have shared information about traffic sources and commodities to enhance the freight, LCL and express operations on my layout.

– Those readers who are also professional railroaders have shared information about prototype practices that have improved my operating sessions.

– Readers who know more about S scale (because I’m still relatively new to working in 1:64) have given me leads everything from small detail parts to locomotives, and from manufacturers to suppliers (whether they are distributors, retailers or individuals).

Interestingly, in a number of cases, information came my way that I did not even know I “needed”. For example, I’ve had many people become readers who are not railway modellers: They’re historians, or residents of one of the communities I model, or have another interest that overlaps something I’m doing on the layout, such as installing the working telegraphy system.

In the past, I might have had to do extensive research, including trips to archives, to find much of this information. Today, thanks to this blog, much of it has come my way – simply because I shared.

Finally, another important role for this blog is to remind me how I did something. For example, I often return to the blog to look up detail parts I used on a specific type of freight car so I can order more for another model.

In my talk on Saturday night, I encouraged everyone in the room to start a blog – and offered some tips, based on my experience, for getting started. For those who are interested, here are my thoughts on blogging in no particular order:

– Make regular postings: I suggest one per week on average (and I know that I’ve been remiss at that since the home renovation and Roy the Puppy (see below) took over my life, but I hope to rectify that going forward). They don’t have to be “War and Peace” – they can be as brief as a photo and a caption. But to generate the traffic that will start paying off in terms of information gathering, regular postings are a must.

– Write about what you’ve done – not what about your thinking of doing. Unless, of course, you want every expert on the Internet to tell you what to do.

– Give newcomers a place to find their feet. Remember that readers may land on your blog at any post – rarely the first one. On this blog, I’ve included a “First Time Here?” page, into which I’ve gathered some basic information and links to key posts that describe what I’m doing in more detail. I’ve also included lots of photos of the layout on this page, so that people can see what I’m doing and assess whether they want to read more. (Not everybody will, and that’s cool!)

– I’ve also included an “About the Author” page, so people can find out who I am. It’s always more comfortable to have a conversation with somebody if you know who they are, I find. I’ve also included information about how to contact me on this page.

– Make it easy for interested readers to follow you. This blog includes the “Follow this Blog” page to describe the options. And I post the occasional reminder to my blog that new readers should check it out. (This post counts, so if you’re new to my blog – Welcome! Please have a look at how you can follow along.)

– Back up your blog. I didn’t, at first – I didn’t know I could. And then I lost the entire thing. Fortunately, a reader was able to access the XML file (the programming language that creates the blog) for my posts on his own computer and share it with me, so I was able to re-post all of the posts. But I lost many of the early comments. Blogs reside online, and the engine that drive them – such as WordPress – have an export tool that allows you save your blog to your local computer drive. Use it.

– A promising blog that hasn’t been updated in months is a sad thing to find on the Internet. I sometimes wonder if the blogger has unexpectedly passed away. So if you started a blog that you don’t intend to maintain and you read this, do your readers a favour and write a final post saying that you’ve decided to no longer maintain the blog because you’re doing other things. (The reasons are none of our businesses, but we like to know that you’re still alive.)

If you have not yet started a blog, I hope that this post will encourage you to consider doing so. I use WordPress and recommend it – I like the user interface and I think the resulting blogs look elegant. But there are other engines – such as Blogger – that may suit you better. I encourage you to look at each and then if you’re interested, register a name (it’s free to do so) and start sharing!

Since I started this post with a dog cartoon, I thought I’d bookend it with a dog photo. Here’s one of Roy, taken this morning:

 photo Roy-2016-V-09_zpshbbsow0d.jpg

Full crew ops

 photo OPS-2016IV29-05_zps0zr1pyrb.jpg
(The first train of the evening, CNR Extra 1532 East rolls past the tobacco kilns in St. Williams, Ontario)

 photo OPS-2016IV29-01_zpsearw6syl.jpg
(3/4 of my visiting crew for an ops session: Ryan, Bob and Barry plan their moves in Port Rowan. Hunter would join us later…)

Last night, I had four friends over for an operating session. I emphasize “four” because that’s a big deal on a one-train-at-a-time layout…

Recently, Bob Fallowfield and I spent the afternoon together and he mentioned that he hadn’t yet had an opportunity to run trains on my layout. I’ve known Bob for several months now and I’d been to operate on his excellent CP Rail layout a couple of times, so I was well overdue to return the favour.

We did a whip-round of regulars, looking for a third person to join us, and we ended up with three more friends: Hunter Hughson, who writes about his layout on his Niagara Branch blogRyan Mendell, who blogs about his Algonquin Railway… and Barry Silverthorn of TrainMasters TV.

(This was a great combination for many reasons, including that I’ve wanted to get Bob, Hunter and Ryan together with Barry for a while now to talk about doing various projects for Trainmasters. We now have a schedule for some shooting days, and ideas for more…)

I was a little worried about having so many people over at once for an operating session. Previous experience has demonstrate that my layout works well with one to three people (including me as host). Five in the room can get a little crowded, and with only one train on the line I worried that I wouldn’t have enough for everyone to do.

I need not have worried: The guys all enjoyed each other’s company and we managed to run a pair of freight extras. In fact, since my 1950s prototype would have run with five-person crews, we qualified as a full crew and divided the work accordingly:

1 – Conductor (managing paperwork, making decisions)
2 – Engineer (running the locomotive)
3 – Two brakemen (aligning switches, coupling and uncoupling cars)
4 – Fireman (well, nothing for him to do since that role is combined with the engineer, so I did that. I guess as the layout owner, I was the “put out the fires” man)

 photo OPS-2016IV29-03_zps162z4gco.jpg
(Ryan, Bob and Barry at work. Having dropped cars in St. Williams, CNR Extra 1532 West – at this point a van hop – is just arriving in Port Rowan)

The division of labour worked well for a Friday night. Operations was low-key and gave everyone plenty of time to socialize without disrupting the session. Barry, Bob and Ryan ran a freight extra behind ten-wheeler 1532 before dinner. Then my wife joined us and we met up with Hunter at (where else?) Harbord House. After food, drink and many laughs we returned to the layout for a five-person ops session, working another freight extra behind 2-6-0 Number 80.

 photo OPS-2016IV29-04_zpsl1vuaens.jpg
(The last train of the session heads home, behind 2-6-0 Number 80 at St. Williams)

A good time was had by all. I know I’d had a long week and needed a few laughs with friends while running trains – and the guys did not disappoint…

 photo OPS-2016IV29-02_zpseydmc9nv.jpg
(“Luke: I am your father!”: Hunter and Silent Bob.)

It’s also gratifying that people are keen to join me for operating sessions: All of them gave up their Friday nights and for most of them, the visit involved an hour or two of travel in each direction. Thanks for making the trip, guys: I’m looking forward to the next time!