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ConvLog - Convention Show - 8/4-6/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 06 August 2017 20:02

ell, that's done. The convention is history.

I gotta say I'm totally beat, having be involved in every minute of every event over the last week. I opened the gate for Saturday club cleaning, and closed it for the module drop off. And I did everything in between.

So think of this - over the last three days, twenty-four hours of it was convention center activity. For each of those hours, and the minutes and seconds contained within, two to five trains were in motion around our 30x40 layout. At one point we were up to nine. And for each of those trains, an engineer was plodding along them, running them.

Yeah, I must have walked many long slow miles over the last three days.

But it was fun. Saw a lot of trains. And I was pleased that we picked up three awards for our club (two for individual modules, one for a set of them). I got to see a lot of old friends and maybe discovered new ones (I know of at least one membership application (with money) that was accepted).

I also got to see other modules, and frankly, our swinging the main through the scenes, back and forth, really makes a difference. You get to see trains from different angles doing more than racing in straight lines.

And when it was winding down, I had a lot of folks there to help. We lined all the carry-boxes up, all in their back-side rest-points. And when 5pm rolled around, we had teams removing the curtains, striking the sign and the electronics mast, dropping the clamps. Then we rolled the racks into place and started racking them up. I think we were doing it perhaps a little fast but people were just excited to be through and moving fast, like a team of horses on the verge of running away with a cart. I did all I could to slow them down but still, with all the help and everyone in their correct places, we broke our record - nine minutes from a train still moving to everything in the racks and ready to roll. Everyone gave a cheer when the final rack was locked up. Matthew and I went to find how we could get our truck in (frankly, the NMRA didn't believe that a "module" club could be ready to leave in ten minutes flat). When I was walking back, a member from another club was going the other way and said, "You and your fifteen minutes". "Nine," I smirked.

Rode over to the club and met the truck to stow everything away. And then I drove home. We pulled it off.

Next time, whoever proposes we do something like this will be in charge of it. Lesson learned.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 06 August 2017 20:21
 
ConvLog - LM&O Ops - 8/4/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 03 August 2017 23:13

can't speak for everyone else, but after Monday’s convention op session at the club, I wanted to do better. While it wasn't baaaaad  (in that condescending tone) we've had better. I wanted our guests to see what a good session is like, when a club which operates using the more difficult N-gauge really takes advantages of longer trains and high mountains, really giving the engineer a feel of place and scale, without leaving them sitting and waiting while six people yabble on the phone.

At dinner, that seemed to be the touch-n-go discussion, how we wanted to run well but, oh crap, we had at least fourteen guests showing up. With our folks as conductors, we were swelling the number of people in the aisles by a factor of two. Like Monday, it would be really easy to go off the rails again and bog down.

But we didn't.

We grabbed each newbie as they came in, assigning them to a train. At the start, I'd already prewritten six warrants (live and learn, Matthew). That way, when the bell went off, we were off and running and I was working on the next series of trains. Happily, the radio calls were sharp, everyone spoke quick and took their warrants like men, and we even got the potential tangle in Harris worked out (though I'm thinking I heard some doubters out there).

So get this - freights cleared the division in twelve hours each. We ran three of the four passenger trains, and those completed on time. We got three coal drags over the hill, two autoracks down the valley, an extra passenger train, an extra TOFC, and the four locals. The only reason we went over the midnight number was because the guests wanted to keep running.

We even figured a way to get the Harris Glen Local home in 12 hours. Two little pieces of red cloth is all it takes.

At the end, our visitors were happy, handshakes all around. The members were grinning as only a winning team can. We're really happy with Martin Yard and the new flexibilities we get (the double lead and Martin crossover are real blessings). We are now able to really take advantage of the double track (unlike before). Even Zanesville got a good workout, with autoracks being worked in the plant.

It must have been a good night since a lot of folks (guests and members alike) hung out and talked about it.

Mission accomplished. On to the convention center tomorrow!

Mingo Local works as a coal train rumbles past (Credit for train & photo: J Mathis)

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Last Updated on Thursday, 03 August 2017 23:41
 
ConvLog - Open House 2 - 8/1/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 01 August 2017 20:51

o how do you get ready for a visit from a busload of modelers at your club? In this case, John L. and I were up a ladder, replacing that troublesome light in the afternoon heat.

Bunch of the regulars showed up at DQ, where we had a chucklefest talking about the session the night before. Then we went over, set up trains and got ready for action.

This time, the bus driver evidently had not checked his route. First he missed the entrance and went touring down the street. Then he tried to hook a fifty-foot bus around a 90 degree turn on a two lane road. I couldn't watch - I was sure he was going to tip it into the ditch and there would be dozens injured and our club would look bad. But after all that he got onto the property, we got everyone in the door and the boys launched their trains (all eastbound this time, thankfully).

Not much to say. Everyone seemed to enjoy our ambiance, our modeling, and our effort. Lots of questions about how we got the building and how we don't owe money on it. Several people said they were looking forward to running with us Thursday (attention all members - respond to the ops session at the club!). So it's building up to that crescendo.

Tomorrow, we build a sectional layout in the convention center and then stage the railroad for our next session. Here we go. The shit just got real.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 August 2017 21:02
 
ConvLog - LM&O Ops - 7/31/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 31 July 2017 21:54

oly Chrome!

It was the first ops session (of two) that we're staging for the convention. Five newbies (though I think we had more) along with a couple of new club members. Every experienced man I had was conducting (i.e. writing warrants and assisting new engineers) in what had to be the craziest, busiest, and most intense ops session we've ever had!

Wall-to-wall operators! (Credit: Frank Zvonchenko)

At the start, I asked newbies what they wanted to do - Freight? Locals? Each guy I'd shove towards a conductor. "Give him Zanesville!" "Drag freight this guy!" Turns out visiting college-boy Matthew wanted the panel so I gave it to him and took to the road. Hooked up with Paul, a Brit from over yonder who brought (I drool as I type this) an LNER Flying Scotsman. Now, Silver Bullet One has been pulled by a lot of crazy motive power, but this one took the cake. It was a delight to watch.

With a 5:30 timetabled departure and a warrant in my back pocket, Paul and I sat on the green-flanked tender, probably eating Bangers and Mash and swapping stories until departure. When the time clicked through, we gave two sharp toots and rolled. Pounded down the long grade out of Bound Brook, cross a soaring viaduct, and drifted into Bethlehem Station crack on our 6:30 arrival time. Things were looking good.

You fool, Raymond!

We were out of Bethlehem and climbing through Robert's Run in a whirlwind of steam and litter, clattering into the mountains, making good time. Then, as I tended the firebox, I noticed burning flares on the track. A westbound freight (that was specifically ordered not to foul us) did. Slowed through the spiral tunnel, we crawled into Harris Glen just off the caboose of 223 which was sheepishly taking the siding. Unfortunately, Harris is short so we lost even more time for a saw by to win clear. With 223 behind us, we spanked down the long slope, popping through Burtnett Tunnel. I began to think that we might win back out time. And then we got to Pittsburgh.

Yeah, Pittsburgh.

A combination of badly spotted coaches, some out of service turnouts, the long-overdue Silver Bullet Two and an overlong coal reroute screwed us. We were two hours down before we could even shift off the platform (I figured the charm of the thing was wearing off for our inconvenienced passengers). With warrant in hand, we nearly ducked out in front of 202, a long-overdue freight that was just getting out of Martin. Regardless of what the dispatcher might think, he’d issued a lap order. Nearly killed us. Thank goodness LNER installed good brakes. I nearly went into the firebox.

Silver Bullets jammed in Pittsburgh (Credit: Cody Case)

Clear of these hijinks and goings-ons, we desperately tried to make up time but the dispatcher was bunny-hopping up along the river route, siding to siding. Finally we lugged into Cincinnati four hours late. We joked about which nation had the worst rail service.

While (like every club) we had our share of faults and failure, everyone seemed to have a good time. Was riding with Paul on helper extras (after helping to boost a westbound drag through Glen). Now on the siding at RedRock, we were verbally told to wait for the next eastbound and ride him back up to the summit helper pocket (I suspect the dispatcher didn't feel like cutting paper to get us home). And here it came, with Shawn the Kid conducting a gentleman guest. I flicked the red flag at him and explained that he'd have our company going up. I don't think I've seen a more overstaffed attempt - both drag and helpers had two-man crews, meaning four guys were all jammed together, trying to work things out. So we tacked things together, the engineers exchanged ideas on how they'd combine to take the hill, and off we went. And nobody noticed that Shawn had gone off to find a phone. Yes, as the conductor of the drag, he was the head man. Me, I thought we'd had clearance up the hill (given that I was told to tack on to the next eastbounder). Bad guess to make, in retrospect. Got to Glen and there was a long coal train getting ready to come down. No way to get around him, not with Harris Local working the sidings. So back we humped, tail between our legs, to derail getting into the siding (God, I hate backing long N-scale trains). And there was Shawn, waving a warrant at us. "We gotta meet a coal drag here!" Tell me something I don't know.

As a record of sorts, I saw Mr. T running 202, just clearing the division in twenty four hours. Yeah, normally he does it in half. If you think I was going to chip you, Dispatcher Matt, here it is.

But overall, it was a riot of fun and frustration and craziness. Great to meet so many modelers and to shake so many hands. After everyone left, there were some political/religious arguments about the finer points, but there is always a bit of that. Whatever. I'm just glad that we were able to entertain so many ops fans. I hope they had as much fun as we did.

And Thursday, we'll get even more! Looking forward to it.

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Last Updated on Monday, 31 July 2017 22:56
 
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