We just held a highly successful regular operating session, the twenty-second one using the full mainline. I was trying to cut back on posting too many of my operating session reports, but this one was so enjoyable—successful—that it begs reporting. I have been reflecting upon what makes for a “successful” session and thought readers might want to see my thoughts.
Greg P. guides the 01-RVEUY over the new bridge at Westfir while Richard C. works the Oakridge Turn in the background. Concentration and smiles are indicators of an enjoyable operating session.
Seventeen folk joined me for this regular October operating session. This was a few less folk than often show up, but that lower number was one of the contributors to the session success. Three of those operators were either new to the layout or had been away for quite some time. We formed four two-man road crews and had two single-man helper engineers. The Eugene yard complex was staffed fully and we had a Trick Dispatcher and an Assistant Chief Dispatcher. I had one “observer”—a fellow layout owner who wanted to observe and take note of my maturing operating scheme. He picked a great session to observe!
The four road crews were a couple of crews less than we often run. A consequence was that we did not run as many trains. Similarly, we had two helper crews instead of three, but with the lower traffic level, the two helper crews were sufficient for the traffic. A major positive result of less train crews was reduced radio traffic. This contributed mightily to a more relaxed atmosphere for everyone. Sure, we did not run all the trains I had set-up on the Line-Up—we rarely do—but that is not the measure of “success.” Instead, I look for the quality of the experience for all. I would rate that as very high for this session. Comments from many of my crew for this session were similarly positive. “More” is not necessarily “better.” The road crews ran at least two trains each, each with good trips. Similarly, the helper crews each had two or more runs up the Hill and back. I need to consider this carefully as I construct future operating sessions.
We had an experienced crew running the Eugene Yard complex, although one former switch crew member became the Santa Clara Tower Operator—a new position for him. The yard work proceeded logically and without a rushed sense often associated with heavy yard activity. Both the Classification Yard and the Arrival-Departure Yard activity were well-paced, which kept up the paperwork to go with the car movements. The crew found two car cards that had gone missing for a couple of sessions and several other clerical errors. With five hundred or so cars on the layout, a few such paperwork errors are expected. It was great to have them found and easily corrected.
Eugene Yardmaster Rick A. works between his two switch crews, Jim M. (far end) and Pete J. (near).
RR-West Switcher Jim M. uncouples a car as he works at Eugene.
Santa Clara Tower Operator Scott B. uncouples a caboose as he works the Arrival-Departure Yard. The teamwork between the Classification Yard and Arrival-Departure Yard was very smooth—a tribute to the experienced crew.
Train dispatching and overall management were handled well by experienced crew members. The Assistant Chief Dispatcher (and Crew Caller) position professional railroader Rick Kang introduced to my railroad has contributed greatly to efficient use of train crews and timely crew calls. This relieves a task for me as layout owner. My job is that of trouble-shooter (fortunately very little of that) and overall manager and host. Both operating roles are important. With a large crew, having another person managing the tactical operating level—the Assistant Chief Dispatcher—is a huge help, as that person stays focused on the information flow and timely crew calling. This relieves both me (layout owner) and the Trick Dispatcher.
Conductor John B-1. (near) and Engineer Richard C. (green shirt) guide the Oakridge Turn around Marcola. Assistant Chief Dispatcher Rick K. is walking toward the main layout area, likely on his way to the Crew Call Board on the wall out of sight to the left.
Radio communication was a lot more relaxed for this session. As noted, the lower traffic volume on the railroad contributed to lower voice communication over the radio. In addition, we have been emphasizing radio procedure, including the vital use of “over” and “out” at the end of transmissions. Radio is not like a telephone. Only one person can be talking—transmitting—at a time. Telephone (including cell phones) allows both parties to talk at the same time. We have to retrain for radio use.
Trick Dispatcher Dave H. enters data onto the Block Authorization Sheet. This is a prime document for the Dispatcher when using Direct Traffic Control.
The more relaxed traffic level on the railroad (and radio!) allowed everyone time to railfan the railroad. I saw a number of cell phone cameras come out during this session. Indeed, an early such use prompted me to grab my camera to record images for this session. This was a very good sign. I also had the chance to talk with the crewmembers and reflect on a number of aspects of model railroading. In particular, both the crew and I were able to enjoy a layout designed and built to be a representation of a real piece of railroad.
The constant struggle for model railroaders between adherence to a specific prototype versus broader railroad interests creates its own tension and second-guessing. I am happy to have landed in the prototype camp, even though it theoretically constrains some of my modeling efforts. Not to worry, I have a huge empire to render into four dimensions (time included). Modeling a prototype actually makes some of the model choices easier. I just need to research a given topic for the solution. Fortunately for me, there are good research resources available for the SP Cascade Line, augmented by my relative proximity (a couple hours away) to that line and, even more, access to railroaders who worked or are now working that line.
A meet underway at Cruzatte. Helper Engineer Mike Y. (on the platform to the right) looks on as Bill M. and Anthony O. watch from the main floor.
The other Helper Engineer, Craig P. chats as the meet goes on behind him, with Anthony O. and Mike Y. watching over the Eastbound train in motion down-grade.
Another Westbound train headed up hill at Cruzatte, with Engineer Dave C. (his former real job, as well!) and Helper Mike Y. watching.
Action on the railroad! John B-1. (right) is working the Oakridge Turn. Greg P. (green shirt) is guiding his train through Oakridge. Bill M. (seated in the distance) is awaiting his next Helper assignment. Up above, on the Cascade Summit platform are Dick E. (left) Conductor on the Westbound train at the Summit, Helper Mike Y., and Engineer Dave C. The helper is about to be cut out at Cascade Summit.
John B-2. works the Marcola Turn. In the background, Mike Y. and Dick E. watch their train at Cruzatte.
The Oakridge Turn rounds the bend at Westfir, about to cross the North Fork of the Willamette River as it passes the Western Lumber sawmill. This scene is rapidly becoming another railfan favorite. I need to keep working to flesh out this scene to make it worthy of those photos!
We had a great time for this operating session. This is what this layout owner has worked hard to create. My vision is becoming real.