Monday, January 31, 2011

The Perils of Being a Layout Owner

One of the weird parts of being the owner of an operating layout is that I almost never run trains on the layout when anyone's there. During operating sessions, I'm generally doing troubleshooting, setting up the next trains, watching for problems, and sharing stories about the places on the railroad. If I do run trains, it's usually when I'm testing that everything's working, or another time when I'm the only one around.

This weekend's operating session as part of the Santa Clara LDSIG meet was typical; I had four model railroaders from outside the Bay Area happily switching boxcars while I watched and kept my fingers crossed that all the cleaning and locomotive tuning from the last week or two kept everything running well.

The locomotives ran well. That wasn't surprising because in the previous weeks, I'd had to rip one brass locomotive down to individual parts to get rid of a snag in the movement, and a stripped gear forced me to find a new mechanism for my Life-like Baldwin 2-8-0. I also spent one weekend just cleaning the track, and it all seemed to pay off. I also focused on some cosmetic, non-operations details, repainting scratched portions of the fascia and boxing off the helix.

My only problem during the session was that I started getting complacent. The crews switched, I ran the passenger train on the timetable to cause some interference, then I talked with several guests who'd stopped by to see the layout. Then there was a lull in the conversation, and I realized that the crews were stopped, and I wasn't hearing the engines moving. "Uh... what's up - is everything running okay?" "Oh, yeah, we're just waiting for the second passenger train on the timetable to come by."

Whoops. I'd forgotten to run the second passenger train, and my very prototypical crews conscientously got their trains off on sidings ahead of time to get out of the way of the Santa Cruz express.

Time to give myself an egg timer so I remember to break away in time to run the scheduled trains.

Here's some photos of the operating session, Bruce and Gary switching Campbell, and John and Matthew switching Plant 51. I'd like to use the excuse I was just trying to capture the "hurry up and wait" feeling of real railroading, but I was just being clueless. Hope y'all had a great time!

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