Sunday, October 9, 2011

Train Orders on a Small Layout? Answer Hazy.

Thanks to the fortunate arrival of a coworker from out of town, I had my first operating session in months today, and it went well.  One fatality - a brakeman was brutally run over by the Santa Cruz Passenger.  Although all crews are warned to use flagmen on the broad curve between Campbell and San Jose, I need to warn folks to put the flagman far enough out so a crew in the aisle might see it.  All the trains also ran, even the San Jose Turn with its mixed freight that had twice as much to do because it didn't fully run last time.  The new track at Campbell for the Hyde Cannery and Sunsweet packing house worked well, though it would have worked better if the track didn't get filled with eight cars by session end.  (For those of you wishing that SwitchList would avoid sending cars to overflowing sidings, lets just say I feel your pain.

More importantly, I tried out my idea of simple train orders for trains going between Vasona Branch and Santa Cruz.  On the good side, I think it did encourage the crews to think a little bit about where they were going and where they'd have to meet those other trains, and it did encourage some of the typical railroader "oh, great, we're stuck at lowest priority."  I did make sure to write the orders at the last minute so no one ended up stuck on a siding for an hour because of bad planning.  On the bad side, there was still an awful lot of paper to write up, and for the crews going from San Jose to Los Gatos, the amount of interpretation they needed to go that last two feet from Vasona Junction to Los Gatos was a little annoying.

But a good time was had by all, and except for a couple balky cars, one unpowered frog, some dirty track, and a tree leaning into the right-of-way, things went well.


  1. I liked very much to be forced to think about what's going on around us, and figuring out how much time we have for switching operations. It adds a lot to the realism.
    Even if we ended up interpreting the paperwork as "nothing's going to come by the next 3 hours" and overlooking that 8:24am passenger train from Santa Cruz: "Hey look, there's a train coming our way ..."

  2. Oh, I should also note that the crew responsible for the fatality was... me. Hit the speed knob just as I was coming around the corner, and the momentum took me right into the poor brakie!