March 21, 2017

Layout Design and Operations Meet Tulsa, OK

Vintage SD-60s in BN green on Tiger Hill
I just returned the the Layout Design and Operations Meet in Tulsa, OK.  It was a great weekend.  Special thanks to Jim Senese, Robert Simmons, Chris Atkins, Dan Salamon, Chris King, Cary Stevens, and Mark Montray for their taking time to shuttle me around to the various layout and venues. Special thanks to Mark for giving me a guided rail fan tour of Catoosa and Tiger Hill on the way to the airport on Sunday.

Ken, Robert, and Allan (l to r) operate the
Pandora and San Miguel
I got to operate on three layouts, Ken Ehlers's beautiful Sn3 Pandora  and San Miguel (a freelanced version of the RGS), Dan Salamon's  impressive N Scale Deep River Southern (a freelanced Pacific NW themed RR) and Jim Senese's Kansas City Terminal railroad.  All three featured great operations on excellent scenery.

On the Pandora and San Miguel, I ran a through freight across the railroad from Rico to Ridgeway.  The route crosses gorgeous scenery and impressive bridges. Once at Ridgeway, I was the yard switcher, building trains for subsequent sessions. The layout is a double deck design, but doesn't feel like it. The upper decks are set back in many places making the lower level very accessible.  It's a beautiful layout.

Dave's outdoor RR
When I got to the Deep River Southern I volunteered to be the branch line operator. This job entailed switching a town, a large lumber mill and a cement mill. The branch was located on an upper deck. To get trains between the decks, Dave uses a train "elevator." It can hold 13 cars, plus 2 engines and a caboose. It worked quite well. I had to make two round trips on the elevator during the session to handle the switching chores. Dan also has a 7.5 inch railroad in his backyard, that some others got to take for short rides.

Dave's N Scale Deep River Southern

Jim Senese uses a random lottery to assign layout poistions to operators. I teamed up with Rick Sester, whom I first met last year at Charlie Taylor's op session in Memphis. Jim asks that layout operators adopt the corporate persona of the railroads there are assigned. In each assignment packet there is a sheet describing the corporate character of the railroad you are assigned to operate.

One of several grain elevators on Jim's KC Terminal RR
We drew the KCS railroad with Rick as the conductor and I as the engineer.   Our packet said that the KSC are the "nice guys." So we tried to be very cooperative with the other operators as they came and went over our track.  We had lots and lots of switching to do over a large portion of the layout. In the three hours we were there, we had just finished making all the pulls and were starting the set-outs.  While we were doing our pulls, other crews dropped off two more trains worth of cars to switch. The yard was full. It probably would have taken another three hours to sort all the cars. Whew!

In addition to operating on three layouts, I got to see Tom Fauser's South Brooklyn Terminal RR and Steve Davis's KCS 3rd Sub layout.
Tom's South Brooklyn Terminal RR
Tom's layout was a what-if rendition of the terminal switching along the Brooklyn, New York waterfront.  I really liked the concept.  He has dozens of structures to finish, but the layout has a very clean, trim and professional looking appearance. It should be a lot of fun to operate. I suggested that he include a blue Plymouth sedan with two twin boys in it to simulate my dad, brother and I during my childhood in Brooklyn.

Steve and his automated staging yards

Steve's KCS 3rd sub is a massive project housed in its own outbuilding that was formerly a commercial business. Tom Vanden Bosch, Steve's step dad, built many of the structures on the layout. He also gave me a tour of the layout as Steve was losing his voice! It is hard to believe that Steve and his helpers have accomplished so much in just 4 years, including building finishing. Steve is a software engineer and his layout reflects that. It is loaded with automation and high-tech features including RFID car identification with automated switch lists, automated staging yards with detection and train movement, signals, Tom Vanden Bosch and CCTV. The design of the layout is prototype based and uses a partial mushroom. Yes, it's all very state-of-the art.

The talks on Saturday were very good. Chris Atkins talked about prototype research and his plans for a massive layout in a former RR section house. Riley Triggs explained his PoNY layout design and philosophy, which I can summarize as KISS. On the other side of the KISS spectrum, Gert "Speed" Muller described his RFID and artificial vision systems he is developing for his N Scale Namibian Railroad. My talks went very well. The short demo video of the working brakes on the Aquia Line flat car was especially well received.

Great ribs at Albert G's.
To top it all off, we got to see a few BNSF trains as we travelled from site to site. And we had some great BarBQ!

Tulsa is a hot bed of fantastic model and prototype railroad activity. I'd gladly go back if I get the chance.

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