Saturday, June 27, 2015

Operating Session Report - June 27, 2015

UPDATE: Bernie Kempinski posted his report on the op session on his blog (CLICK HERE). He has better photos than the ones the crew took. Of course he wasn't doing anything but talking, reading my books, and eating our food. (Only kidding…he didn't eat ALL the food….;<).

One of my favorite locomotives - Iain Rice built this model from a Bachmann 2-8-0 - but her old Soundtraxx DSD is simply not up to snuff. After failing her "preflight" she spent today's session in one of the house tracks. 
Sorry if it seems as if I've gone silent for the last week but between work at the office and getting ready for today's operating session I've not even looked at the computer at home most nights until now!
To summarize, thanks to an outstanding crew today's session was an unqualified success!
Train 303, the northbound Vermonter, pauses at the Waterbury station as the crew of X481N Rich Steinmann and John Paganoni (right) look on. 
I rearranged the operating scheme to reflect more of the reality of the layout and less of the prototype timetable. What I was finding was the prototype timetable simply doesn't scale down to provide an engaging operating scheme on the model railroad. The following positions were staffed today:
1. Dispatcher
2. White River Yardmaster
3. White River Ass't Master
4. Southern Division operator/Crew 
5. Three road crews (two of the road crews were two man crews) for a total of nine crew members. 
The road crews didn't HAVE To be two man crews, but since both the north- and south-bound locals were operated in today's schedule, and since two people had never done much operating, it seemed helpful to put them under the tutelage of a more experienced crew member. 
I think it also helped that several of the crew have been to a number of previous sessions, which meant I had fewer "basic" type questions to answer. 
One of two Rapido FPA-4s premiered at this session to rave reviews. Yes, I know they post-dated steam on the CV. They run so well I don't care. 

Couple of things I noted from the session:
1. Some of the locomotives are older engines with a lot of hours that are starting to have "issues."And frankly some have never worked all that well. In the several months since the last session I've made a concerted effort to repair or replace those bad actors. This session showed few, if any of the motive power issues that have plagued earlier sessions. Does it suck to have to admit a locomotive that you paid a decent amount of coin for is worthless? Yes it does. But a session with top-performers makes that pill much less painful to swallow. 
2. To date I've played the role of "Southern Division Operator/Crew since most of it takes place in the utility room. I'd like to train some other people to do this job so I can do other things from time to time but it's hardly an appealing position in its current state. It was suggested the job which to date has been part station switcher, part fiddle yard "mole" could be recast to add specific WRJ hostler functions - I need to look into this. 
3. I don't NEED nine operators (8+me) but no one spend an inordinate amount of time waiting around. Honestly, the layout can readily be operated with six. One thing I think I'm getting better at is crew management. As a project manager in my professional life I have no problem telling people what to do but model railroad "people management" has proven to be an interesting challenge. This time I arranged the train schedule and crewing assignments so that once one crew finished a run they would have a short break (10-15 minutes max) - before running another train. And I based the train schedule on that approach - not simply the prototype timetables. The result paid off in a great session. 
4. The "paperwork" - timetable, Yardmaster instructions, and the like seem to have enough maturity that I don't feel the need to alter them before the next session. (For example, I've hosted 11 sessions and today we used Timetable No. 10…. You do the math!) I did get some questions on "Is this town north or south?" a few times - I think a linear map showing the towns with a "You are here" highlight on the town you're standing in front of may help. Easy enough to do. Thought of doing it at one point. For some reason I never did. 
In any event, a good time was had by all (lunch was outstanding, thanks to Christine's efforts!) and I'm very pleased with how the layout performed. 
Now I'd like to get some of the scenery finished. 
One of the new SNE RS-3s in action. Kind of reminds me of the rail fan photos I used to take with my Kodak Insta-matic!


Bernie said...

Does this mean I was the company photographer?

Mike McNamara said...

"the prototype timetable simply doesn't scale down to provide an engaging operating scheme on the model railroad"

Wow, having just had my first op session last week, you really hit the nail on the head there. I too found the same thing an issue. Things like switching take real time and what the prototype might do in 8 hours we need to do in about 20 minutes or so on our layouts, otherwise people will start waiting around too long for the next "thing" to happen.

Glad to hear things like paperwork are reaching maturity. Stuff like this it would seem just need to have op sessions under the belt to know exactly what is needed.