ProRail, the national operations convention, is now in the bag. I was a little surprised how drawn the attendees were to running the BT layout. For the most part it ran well although some minor track tuning issues cropped up. Approaches to this entire “operations” thing varies from person to person and layout host to layout host. For my part, when I stage a session I put a lot of effort into trying to get the operators away from the natural tendency to fall into what I call a “check list” mentality when it comes to an operating session. By that I mean where the mindset becomes one of “give me a list so I can work through that list”. I want it to be of a case of “experiencing” what it would be like to be in a specific time and place and to be able to enjoy that experience without undo pressure or frustration. There are a few ways to help this along.
- One is to not overload the session with too many moves.
- Another is to avoid building in operational “gotchas”.
- The third is to let the operator know that it doesn’t matter if the switch list is completed or not. After a set time period, the session will be declared “done” and the power to the layout will be turned off.
- Encourage the crews to take real time coffee breaks during the session.
- For switching layouts, emphasize that you’d like the speed limit not exceed the third speed notch on a throttle.
This takes the pressure off so hopefully they can just relax and get a sense of what it would feel like to be in say 1945 Brooklyn. I staged the layout with only 13 cars and set up a simple switch list. Over the course of the event three operators ran the layout on successive days and to my surprise the relatively small 13 piece car count took about an hour and half to spot. The fact that only a dozen cars will fill out a session takes some pressure off me as it will be a lot easier to fine tune the rolling stock. I see the exceptional BLMA replacement trucks are back in stock so the focus in the next month will be on lowering the cars, tuning couplers, and adding weight. I’ll also be working on some track fine tuning.
I’ve never understood the hobby culture in terms of how smaller layouts are often viewed. It seems to be one of “settling”. One of making the best of a bad situation (limited space). During ProRail I had all three layouts running. They ranged in size from the Downtown Spur at 400 sf to the Brooklyn Terminal at 30 sf. Watching the guests run the layouts I really didn’t notice any difference in how much they enjoyed the larger vs. smaller railroads. Without feeling contrived, something like the Brooklyn Terminal will easily spin out a relatively long operating session and will serve up many, many years of construction enjoyment and it’s of a size attainable to anybody with any living situation.