Donnie at the Throttle!

Years ago, before I started my own business, I worked for a large telecom company. And another guy on the team with me – Don (“Donnie”) Blair – was one of the best colleagues anybody could have at work. Hardworking yet easy going… creative… and funny as hell. (And he still is.)

Don is not, however, a model railway enthusiast. He likes trains – just not in the same way as those of us in the hobby do.

But Don recently got in touch and wanted to see the layout, so we arranged a time. He came over last night after work. I gave him a tour of the layout with help from Ian Wilson’s book on the line. Then we ran a freight extra to Port Rowan – and we had a blast:

Don Blair at the Throttle

Don has never run a train on a “serious” model railway, much less taken part in an operating session. I can’t imagine the learning curve involved with that.

I gave him a quick lesson on using DCC – not much more than “This makes it go faster, this makes it go slower, this changes direction, this is the brake, this is the bell, this is the whistle” – and then set him loose in the engineer’s seat. I worked as conductor. We switched St. Williams and then headed to Port Rowan – then decided to break for dinner.

It was tremendous fun. Don did a great job at the throttle, and I think the look on his face in the photo collage above says it all.

After our session, my wife joined us for a trip to (need I say it?) Harbord House, for pints and dinner. Harbord House is as much a part of my ops sessions as a throttle and a switch list. It’s a great chance to sit down, away from the trains, and talk about life (which may or may not include the hobby). And last night was a perfect example.

Thanks for coming over, Donnie! Come again soon…

5 thoughts on “Donnie at the Throttle!

  1. He sounds like a great guy and what you have sounds like one heck of a terrific friendship. It just feels good to read stories like this.

    You never really hear stories of non-model railroaders seeing, let alone, involving themselves in our hobby. Since Donnie isn’t a modeler but sounds like one heck of a great friend what was it like to operate with him?

    Thinking that: Sharing the work with someone else sometimes can provide us with those fresh eyes to help us understand our work. Everyone new adds a question we might not have thought about. Model railroaders have become experts at the typical perspective and those obvious questions. I’d love to hear Donnie’s account of the session.


    • Hey Chris – Thanks for your interest in my perspective.

      I think the first word that came to mind when I saw Trevor’s layout was ‘art’ and I told him as much. I was also overwhelmed by the thought of how much work and dedication had gone into the layout – the detail is so impressive.

      I had no idea about how Trevor’s layout operated. I had always assumed it was just about making the train go back and forth. It was an eye-opener and also lots of fun to learn about operating the layout. And after the session I could really appreciate why it’s such a passion and fun past-time for so many.

      In addition to loving trains, I’ve always had an interest in, and been fascinated by miniatures and scale models – I think a lot of people are and I think places like this are proving that. I really enjoyed hearing about how Trevor has trouble-shooted and built parts of the layout.

      Trevor was really generous with his time and I plan to capitalize on that! After describing the session to a friend, he asked if I could get him an invite. Of course Trevor immediately agreed, so perhaps there’ll be another post about our next visit later this summer!

      And hey, I’ll be in PEI at the end of August so expect a knock at the door!

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