October 6, 2019

Great Lakes Getaway 2019

Downhill ore train on Doug Tagsold's Colorado and Southern Railroad


I just returned from a fantastic long weekend of operating railroads at Great Lakes Getaway 2019.  I left Alexandria on Tuesday and picked up Steve King in Fayetteville, PA on the way.  I got to see Steve's new double deck N scale layout. I also dropped off a coal dock model that I had built for Steve.  This model was one of the N scale Handley coal docks I offered for sale over 10 years ago. Steve bought one and asked me to build it for him several years ago. I finally had a chance to deliver it to him! Some things can't be rushed.

We arrived in Dundee, Michigan in time on Tuesday night to have dinner with several other model railroaders in town for the Great Lakes Getaway.

On Wednesday, a group of us operated on Doug Tagsold's new Colorado and Southern narrow gauge railroad. To model this narrow railroad in an economical way, Doug used HO equipment modified to 1/72nd scale. This created a narrow gauge railroad that runs great, looks great, has long runs and was relatively inexpensive to build as he was able to reuse much of his existing HO scale track and structures. The railroad uses Time Table and Train Order with waybills and switchlists. Because the trains are short, the switching is fun and manageable.  But, oh those long runs between towns. I can't recall another railroad that I have operated that has such long runs between towns. It adds so much realism to the TT&TO operations.

Several Alkem Scale Models kits on display at
Mike Burgett's layout
The next day we operated on Mike Burgett's C&O Alleghany and James River Subdivision railroads. Mike's double decked layout is in my opinion one of the top 3 model railroads in the United States. If you want to run on a railroad that is as close to prototype as it can be, then this is the railroad for you. In addition to the exquisite railroad, Mike also has a full CTC machine with authentic equipment in its own room upstairs. And the icing on the cake, is that in his detached garage is a fully functional replica of the N&W tower at Lynchberg. The tower is staffed by an operator during op sessions. That operator watches the layout through the windows of the tower video closed circuit TV.  The layout is a museum as well as a model railroad.

John demonstrates his automated staging yard
After Mike's sessions, we stopped by John DePauw's EJ&E double deck layout. We didn't operate it, but we did admire his dense, heavy industrial focused layout. I had a chance to operate that railroad many years ago. It was nice to see it and John again.










Bruce Carpenter's new layout 
On Friday, a van load of us rode to Wapakoneta, OH (home of astronaut Neil Armstrong) to operate on Bruce Carpenter's 2-year old Milwaukee Road layout. I had visited Bruce's first layout, the BNSF Chillicote Sub, about 12 years ago. After 25 years with that railroad, Bruce decided to build a whole new double deck railroad depicting the Milwaukee Road in Idaho and Montana. The railroad is signaled with APB, and uses TT&TO. The layout design focuses on long trains (30-35 cars) and slow operations. He is trying to replicate operations as close to the prototype as possible. For example, trains must simulate setting retainers at the top of a grade by taking one minute per car. So a 30 car train would take 15 real minutes with the 2-1 fast clock he uses. The mainline is long, about 700 feet. But most jobs run from staging to the crew change in the middle of the layout.  It's an interesting concept. It will be interesting to see if the simple, yet highly prototypical operations remain interesting to Bruce and his operators.

On Saturday we headed to Saline Michigan to operate on the Wabash Operations Road Show layout. From their website,
"The Operations Road Show is an ongoing project to build and operate a large portable HO scale layout to demonstrate and teach prototypical timetable and train order operation in a friendly, low-pressure environment. We have taken it to the NMRA National Conventions in Toronto in 2003, Cincinnati in 2005, Hartford in 2009, Grand Rapids in 2012, Cleveland in 2014, Indianapolis in 2016, Kansas City in 2019, and brought out guests to the layout from the Great Lakes Express convention in Detroit in 2007. The 2019 trip to the NMRA National Convention in Kansas City was the last road trip we have planned for the layout, though we continue to hold sessions at our home base, near Ann Arbor, Michigan."
Steve and I teamed up to run two trains. A quick Monon interchange job, and a long way freight. The railroad is TT&TO based, but also has a complex blocking system for freight switching. I suspect it would take several op sessions to really get the hang of it.

Later that afternoon, we went back to Doug's Colorado and Southern for another session. This time I ran an ore extra. After making a serious error in reading the timetable, I decided to play it safe. On my return trip to the mines, I occupied a short siding on the up hill climb as I had three trains meeting me. After one double saw-by, and two single saw by's I was on my way back to the mine. What a hoot!

After seeing three double deck railroads with clean, uncluttered presentations, I am thinking about ways I could add a partial double deck to my railroad. The long runs on Doug's layout really demonstrate how they enhance realism.  My layout design thinking cap is on.
I like the clean uncluttered look of Doug's double deck construction. Travers Stravac approves too.


On Doug's layout, operators sit on rolling chairs to work the lower level, which is very effective.
Mike's layout also has a neat, uncluttered professional look to its construction

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