(The first train of the evening, CNR Extra 1532 East rolls past the tobacco kilns in St. Williams, Ontario)
(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 blog… Ryan 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)
(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.
(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…
(“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!