A visit from Ben, Chris and David

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:
X1560 West: Pulling ahead photo Tour-2013-01-005_zpsf382c963.jpg

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!

3 thoughts on “A visit from Ben, Chris and David

  1. Had a great time watching the crew at work. While I’m not an expert at the sequence and nuances of the Pt. Rowan layout, I’m slightly more familiar with these aspects than David, and Ben hadn’t seen the layout before except in photos. It was therefore instructive to see how other people interacted with the various mechanical elements and “process visual aids” that Trevor has installed on the fascia. A very good evening out (even if we didn’t make it to Harbord House afterwards).

  2. What, no Harbord House! What’s up with that? I always thought that was a major town on the layout. (grin)

    Anyway, it is always surprising to see how others will set out and pick up cars on a layout. One of my friends has a very simple town on his layout. It has a large coal mine, a team track, a run around and a wye. I have watched many folks do the work here and they all operate it different. It really does take a lot of “real time” to switch this area. But when planning a layout, you always want to keep adding tracks and industries to make things a little more complex. I’m really staring to lean more toward the smaller switching areas.

    Mike S

    • Hi Mike:

      There just wasn’t time to visit the favourite watering hole, alas…

      I agree – I enjoy watching how visitors switch my layout. I do offer a few hints, but try to keep those to a minimum.

      Port Rowan is very interesting to switch. During one of our earliest sessions, my friend Pierre Oliver observed that small towns can often be tricky because there’s only just enough room to do what you have to do – and no more. My friend Richard Chrysler – who was working on an HO scale exhibition layout of Port Rowan – noted that as a steam-era terminal it had everything it needed, but no more:
      – a combination passenger/freight station for people, express and LCL
      – a run-around track and turntable for turning trains
      – a team track and a couple of online customers, so freights would have something to switch


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