This weekend was the annual Santa Clara mini-convention on layout design and operation -- a weekend of presentations on layout design, operating sessions at nearby layouts, design critiques, and layout tours. I opened my layout for viewing on Saturday night, and probably got a good thirty or so people visiting during the evening. This was the first time I'd ever showed my layout to more than just friends, and the comments and suggestions made it all worthwhile.
It's also been a great kick-in-the-pants for the last few weeks as I put in minimal scenery, got the layout operating much better, and in general dealt with all the little niggling details that made the layout that much more viewable.
Some of the particularly helpful projects:
* A couple of stretches of empty space were replaced with flat fields of plaster. Though the area wasn't scenicked, some hastily planted buildings and fences hinted at where a farm would soon be placed.
* My lovely wife spent a good part of a weekend sewing minimal drapes to hide the underside of the layout; while the 15 yards of good fabric was a bit pricey (even on sale), the cost of the velcro to attach it to the layout was equally bad. Luckily, I now have some nice heavy denim drapes in pullman green -- a good color for the SP, and a great color to complement the scenery.
* I spent several days just cleaning track. A battery-powered Dremel tool with a wire brush did fast work of lingering dirt on wheels and track. I also found the foolproof way to test the track was set a balky 0-6-0 switcher at one end of the layout and see how far I could get before it stalled.
* A non-railroad friend kindly kept the trains running all evening as I talked with visitors. With a single-tracked mainline terminated with a pair of reverse loops, operation really requires someone observing what's going on.