January 25, 2019

Ten Year After Action Review

As the tenth year anniversary of the Aquia Line ticks by, I thought I'd take some time to record some of the thoughts from this project. The military is infatuated with the concept of After Action Review (AAR), so let's call it that. Here we go. There is no particular order to these points, they are just some thoughts that I have considered.

1. Operations. I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy watching the layout come to life in operating sessions. Furthermore, I have been pleased to see that the layout offers interesting operations despite its simplicity. As of today, we still haven't had a perfect session, but we've come really close. Two-man crews seem to work the best.

2. Link and Pin couplers have been a success for most people, but there are some folks that just can't do it. So when we set up crews, we try to get conductor/brakemen that feel comfortable and capable at that job. I have lost some operators because they have trouble with the links and pins, and that is a shame.

3. Switch stands and frog juicers. Both of these have been wonderful.  I highly recommend frog juicers.

4. Batteries versus keep-a-lives. I love the battery system for its robustness. I just wish the throttle response was better. With the antennas in the boilers tubes, which is basically a faraday cage that attenuates radio signals, the throttle response is not ideal. I suppose I should look into improving that.

5. Working brakes They have been fun to implement, but have-not been a factor in op sessions. I'm OK with that.

6. Pet peeves - some things that annoy me

  1. Gearbox noise from the locomotives.
  2. The florescent lights I used over Brooke and Potomac Creek - I'm gradually switching to LEDs
  3. Difficulties with programming DCC -aaarrrrg, luckily not much of an issue on the Aquia Line now.
  4. Lack of military figures in relaxed and working positions. I may have to do something about that with my spin caster.
  5. Not much rusty metal to weather in this era and no colorful graffiti to model
  6. Track kinks due to humidity changes
  7. Comments about destroying the layout during a visit. Yes, it's a wartime railroad, and you might have been raised south of the Mason Dixon line, but these type of comments have proven rude and tiresome to me.
7. Possible improvements. The things I would change to the layout to improve it are

  1. Remove the tight turn back curve at Falmouth
  2. Provide more aisle space at Falmouth as that is a busy switching location, especially when two trains are there at the same time
  3. Have longer sidings to support 10 car trains
  4. Longer runs between stations

The first three would be satisfied by an expansion of the layout into the crew lounge. That would also partially address the fourth point, though only at the southern end of the railroad.

8. Future plans. I have often wondered what will come next for my model railroad endeavors. Part of me wants to start a whole new project just for the fun of building. But, a bigger part of me wants to savor what I have done and perhaps expand it.
I really don't want to start another 10 year project. I think back to friends that were at my age when they started new layouts. Most never completed them. There have been some notable exceptions though.

9. Layout visitors and this blog. Hosting visitors and sharing the layout through this blog has been a source of major enjoyment for me.  Thank you for sticking with me. 

10. Sometimes, when I go into the basement and look at the layout, it almost surreal. I think, "I can't believe this is here."  But then I think about how much work and fun it was to build, and the good fortune I have had to have a supportive wife, family,  and friends, and the health and means to pursue it.  I realize I have been very lucky. Yes, there is much for which to be thankful. 

There you have it. Ten points, one for each year.  What do you think? 


  1. Congratulations on the railroad's anniversary! An impressive and inspirational effort.

  2. I think you have done a simply magnificent job Bernie. Everything is just superb to look at. I sure wish I lived close enough to join you in an Ops session or just to stop in to watch and explore this marvel.

  3. I really appreciate (and I'm sure many others do too) that you share the Aquia Line via thoughts, pictures, and videos. In other words, I heartily endorse point #9. Your effort and accomplishments are inspirational!

  4. It's been a long time Bernie, but I'm finding time to spend catching up on your progress over the years.....Outstanding!
    With two grandkids in Vienna, I may just have some time to visit or perhaps attend an ops session.
    BTW, I did a bit of spin-casting back in the day.....(Contenti)
    Best wishes on the next ten......tom

    1. Let me know when you are in town so we can set up a session

  5. Bernie, that was a very good review. I'm about a year behind you in my own endeavors and think I'll have it done at about the 10 year mark as well. I hope you keep this project going. Its iconic.
    Tom Ebert
    Auburn, Ca.

  6. I really enjoyed my visit and operations. Keep up the good work!