April 22, 2013

ProRail 2013 Test Operation Session

The live steam railroad uses 7 1/4 inch track to simulate a 2 foot narrow
gauge prototype. So it is about one third scale, big enough to ride in
the locos and cars.
This evening Paul Dolkos, John King, Chuck Hitchcock, Keith Jordan and Jack Ozanich visited the layout.  They are in town for  ProRail 2013. The actual ProRail is taking place in New Jersey next weekend, but a few folks came to Washington for preliminary operation sessions on some of our local layouts.   I will be heading to NJ on Wednesday to participate too.

All the visitors  but Jack Ozanich had been here before. It was Chuck Hitchcock's suggestion to use the magnetic pins in the couplers way back in April 2010.

All these men have extensive model railroads, most are nationally, perhaps internationally known.  Keith and Jack actually have two.  Keith has a website for one of his layouts, the Patch,  here/ The Patch is similar in scope to our Civil War RR Road Show.

Jack has a wonderful HO layout in his basement, and a magnificent live steam railroad outside on his fifty acre wooded lot.  The photos at the left, which I took in 2003,  show some scenes on his outdoor layout.

The round house is fully operational with elevated tracks for maintenance on the locos.  Jack has operating sessions on his outdoor layout where they use the railroad to haul fire wood to the house for heat.  Jack is a retired railroad locomotive engineer. He is also a civil war history enthusiast.

The turntable is fully operational, as are the engine house stalls.

This trestle is about 10 feet high at the deepest

Watching the intro video
Back in Virginia - After watching an introductory video on the Aquia line and a layout tour, I put them to work operating the Road Show Layout.

I had made up some paperwork earlier and pre-staged a five car train on Biscuit Run. The paperwork is based on actual USMRR documents.

The first paperwork used on the layout. We'll save it for prosperity.
Chuck took over as conductor, with Keith as the engineer, and Jack as the brakeman.

The three man crew worked quite well. The paper work was new to Chuck and it took him some time to get used to it. By acting as conductor he was able to study and concentrate on the paperwork and decide how to do the switching. I made the switch problem a little harder as they had some sorting to do and had to do a facing point pick up.
To set the stage, I provided some telegraph messages that annulled the schedule and told them to run extra from Biscuit Run to Columbus Landing.

The schedule was annulled due to notional enemy activity cutting a bridge further down the line. But the switching problem will be more interesting if we have scheduled trains to consider while working the terminal.

Jack did a great job as brakemen with the link and pins. He got the hang of it right away.

The Stanton throttle is a little quirky, but Keith got used to it quickly. After about 15 minutes they were operating like the real pros they are.  It was very entertaining for Paul, John and I to watch them work. All in all a good session. The layout provided these very experienced operators about 30 minutes of fun.  It bodes well for future op session on the road show.

The crew hard at work

A few other lessons learned from this session. The operators really need to reach into the layout to work the link and pin couplers. So it will not be a good idea to put delicate models between them and the tracks. The steamboat comes immediately to mind. If we do add the steamboat, it should be removable for operation sessions. A low lying barge may be a better model for that reason.  Before the session, we should give the operators a short lesson on how to use the various items. The link and pins, throttle, switch stands and even the paperwork are very different from what most model railroad operators are used to. Perhaps a short video might be a good way to avoid us having to say the same thing over and over as visitors try the layout. The three man crew worked well, but a two man crew could also work. Since you need two hands to do the link and pins, you need a place to put the paperwork, if you will be conductor and brakeman. The engineer should probably not take a second task. So a minimum crew will be an engineer and conductor/brakeman.

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