Monday, September 25, 2023

VanRail 2023

This year has seen the return of regional operating events.   We held WOOPS in early June.  Our friends to the north just held VanRail, an operating event in the greater Vancouver, BC, area.  Along with a couple of my regular operating crewmembers, I was fortunate to gain an invitation to this year’s event in Vancouver.  I seized upon that invitation rapidly and enthusiastically, as my prior excursions north found great operating model railroads mixed with superb hospitality and an enthusiastic group of fellow Boomer-operators.   

VanRail is organized as a three-day event, with Boomers such as myself scheduled to operate on a railroad a day.  This year I put bids in for two repeats (for me) and had one additional layout assigned.  All three provided great operating experiences.


My first layout operation was a repeat with Mike Chandler and his Western Midland Railroad.  Mike built his layout using a plan from an old Model Railroader.  His execution (construction and modelling) is superb, befitting his Master Model Railroader ® status.  Mike adds to this physical plant with a well-run Timetable and Train Order (TT&TO) operating scheme.  He uses a retired Dispatcher (Train Controller) working remotely from Calgary!  During my previous time on Mike’s railroad, I took a turn as a Train Order Operator—a different experience in Canada as there are different practices with transmitting and reading back train orders there.  This time, I drew the lowest-ranked card in the crew assignment draw for train crews.  That worked out well for me, as I still ran a pair of trains over the railroad and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 


Mike Chandler is on the Trainline (Dispatcher phone system) while Java Yardmaster Brian K. looks on.  The end point yards of Mike’s layout uses engine facilities and the roundhouse in common.  Aurora is in the foreground and Java is in the rear.


Neral on the Western Midland RR.  The level of modelling is very high!


My second day layout assignment was on Doug Hicks’ British Columbia Railway (BCR) Squamish Subdivision—the southern portion of the BCR.  Doug worked for BCR, so he has captured something in model form he knew well.  Doug has crammed an amazing amount of railroad onto two decks in a small space (about 14x16 feet).  Although it might appear crowded, our five-man crew (plus a separate Dispatcher) seemed to do well in the aisles.


Dave H. works the North Vancouver Yard as Dispatcher Victor G. looks on.  North Van juts out of the main layout space, providing more operating room for all.


Interior of the layout room.  Multiple levels are managed by putting operators on the lower level onto rolling stools.


Pemberton on the upper deck.  Doug posts photos of the actual locations modeled.  The model does justice to the prototype, albeit compressed to fit into the space available.


Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed my time on Doug Hicks’ railroad.  I also picked up an idea for showing the selected route through complex switch-work that will be applied to my own railroad.  Thanks Doug!


My final layout operation was on Scott Calvert’s Canadian Pacific Boundary Subdivision.  This also was a repeat operation for me, though each experience is unique.  Once again, I drew the low card in the train crew pool, but still had a great time.  My initial assignment had me run light pushers (helpers) down from their base at Farron to Castlegar—much of the completed mountain part of the railroad.  I tucked my locomotives out of the way and moved on to a new assignment working with the Great Northern Interchange run out of the big CP yard at Nelson, BC.  That took me off the Canadian Pacific to work a GN station on my way to staging (connection to the rest of the GN in Washington state).  Finally, I returned to my pushers at Castlegar to help a train up the mountain grade to Farron.  Scott’s railroad is similarly-sized to mine and we have shared construction ideas through the years.  It was great to have an opportunity to operate there again.


The pusher (helper) station at Farron—the top of the mountain grade.


Operations at Nelson.  Overhead is a continuation of the other side of the mountain grade, with Farron barely visible on the right


The GN station of Salmo is on the lower level at right.  Castlegar is in the distance, center.


Scott updates his operating plan for our session, using “available” space at Nelson.


A group photo with the Boomer operators and most of the local support crew at Scott Calvert’s layout.  The smiles reflect all of us after three days of wonderful model railroad operating and great collegiality.