Last night I hosted a couple of friends and a guest from out of town for a layout tour and operating session. David Woodhead and Chris Abbott set up the get-together with Ben Rechel, a modeller and musician from the United States who is in town for a couple of weeks. (Some readers may recognize the name, as he’s a regular voice on the Model Rail Radio podcast.)
I had a freight extra set up behind Mogul 80, with work in St. Williams and Port Rowan. David jumped into the cab (in reality, grabbed the throttle) while Ben stepped into the daunting role of conductor – daunting because it involves a fair bit of paperwork in addition to learning the ropes of a layout that was completely new to him.
Chris and I offered advice from the sidelines – but not too much advice. Ben and David did a fine job and almost nobody was killed – although one of my brakemen did get run over by the Mogul. No harm done, though, and he was back on the job this morning:
I think people are often surprised at just how involved the switching can be on a layout that looks so simple on paper. The thing is, Port Rowan has enough track to do the job – but only just. There are no extra sidings sprinkled about, just in case one needs a spot to park a car temporarily. And with every spur serving multiple spots, there can be a fair bit of juggling to get cars into the proper order, especially if one has to pull and re-spot a car that’s not coming back with the train when it leaves town.
So it’s not too surprising that the session lasted more than two hours, when one takes into account a brief introduction to the layout and pauses for railfan photography. The layout ran well – with no derailments or finger-poking required. (Just as it should be, I know – and frankly, the layout has never really let me down in this regard. But I’m still relieved – and pleasantly surprised that I’ve built a layout that has proven itself to be as reliable as it has. I guess I don’t ask too much of it, given that trains operate very slowly, the track plan is not too complex, and the switches have fairly high frog numbers (7 to 10)… but still: I’m pleased!)
Chris, as always, is a great sounding board for ideas and we discussed several things I’d like to do next on the layout – including adding a valance. Chris also wants to tackle a mechanism to move the sector plate, which I do right now by grabbing the end and sliding it by hand. So, there’s plenty to do.
I sent Chris home with a project, too – but more on that in good time…
Great to see you, Chris and David – and well met, Ben!