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ShowLog - Makers Faire (10/21-22/2017) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 22 October 2017 17:33

akers Faire is a big crazy thing down at the fairgrounds every year, a place for all the droid-hoppers, 3D-printers, steampunkers, and general kooks to show up at – it’s like a county fair for nerds (not that it’s a bad thing). And since we’ve “made” this massive layout of ours, 90 feet of distance from one end to the other, it’s only appropriate for us to display there.

Half of the monster train (Photo Credit: Frank Z)So we set up Friday and Saturday at 9am trains ran. And ran and ran and ran. At a minimum there were three out at any time, and occasionally you start hitting red signals once eight or more hit the high rail. And that’s pretty impressive when you think that it’s non-stop for us, ten hours Saturday and seven Sunday. People pull into Bowden Yard to break for lunch, or go see the sights, or just collapse in a heap on a chair. But still trains roll on. Think about it. You walk from one end of the layout, ninety feet around to the other end, then walk back. All this while watching your tiny signals, making sure your train is together, answering questions and keeping little fingers (and some bloody stupid big ones) off the layout.

I noticed that running a show like this is kinda like being a real engineer – not because you are running a wee little train, but because engineers are special and different. A real engineer rolls through towns, waving at people at crossing gates, but pretty much being above and beyond mere trackside mortals as they fly along. Same thing here. I’ll be strolling along, answering questions and nodding at people’s compliments over what we’ve achieved, the scenery and the trains and the scale modeling and all.  But they aren’t club members. It’s when I’m walking and I see distant headlights and there’s a black shirt, a club member, and as we pass we nod or exchange information – someone’s bollixed the line north, or there’s a pretty mallet coming up from the south, or there’s a kid who keeps touching things. You might think we’re just running trains, but no, we’re guys who know how this layout works, how real railroads work, how model trains work. We chat amongst ourselves and suffer your questions about how much it costs and how fast they go.

Like today – I think Bob K. ran out the most miles. I’d pass him over and over on my run between little Jacksonville and soon-to-be Folkston, just passing his UP PA unit, sharing a joke and a laugh as we moved down the line, keeping the show running.

Really, if Makers Faire wants to highlight making things, they should have us build and take down the layout with an audience. People would be amazed if they knew how slick this was. Tonight we struck the layout in sixteen minutes, pretty much a casual pace for us, but people in nearby booths (struggling to take their own displays down) marveled as teams of four would go around each modules, two on the sides, two on the legs, one, two, three, up. Legs are off, module into the rack, legs on the back and on to the next. It’s really amazing to watch.

I gotta admit that while there is a bit of bitching about people running long trains, I have to say that I enjoy it. I ran a forty car freight, about ten feet long. But Bill ran out a seventy car CN grain train with a midtrain helper that snaked back nearly twenty feet. It was amazing to see that thing just go by, and keep going by, and go by some more. Wow. That shows how well our modules work – doing that on a show layout.

Anyway, it was a good show with some very interesting (and tip-generous) watchers. Who knows – maybe we’ll pick up a member or two. They’d be fools not to. This is like nothing you ever get to do, a show like this.

Good show, you black-shirt guys.


Last Updated on Sunday, 22 October 2017 17:37
ShowLog – Deland – 10/7/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 08 October 2017 08:47

here is a line in HG Well’s War of the World that sticks with me – as the narrator’s brother attempts to flee London before the Martians overrun it, they find their carriage entering a flood of refugees, millions of them. And one of the women cries out, “What are you taking us into?”

That’s how Deland felt.

Showed up as I always do at 6:45am for setup, with donuts and trains in my car. Usually I just drop off the cruise control at the top of the ramp, swing down through the west entrance and  sweep across the empty fields, hooking up to the building where a few early risers wait to get in. But today? Had to brake for cars backed out onto 441. As I followed them through the curve, I saw a long line of taillights pearled across the dark fields. Cars were off to the side in the muddy fields and people streamed along the sides of the road. It took me about thirty minutes just to push to our building, only to find the gate locked (yet show trailers inside). Finally, using a combination of Bill’s crazy phone directions and those of a couple of embittered cops, I found the true show entrance and was able to park in mud near the building. Thankfully we could contact Bob with his eighteen foot trailer and keep him out of that mess.

So it turns out FEMA was giving away money, assistance, moolah and whatever to anyone who could claim they’d suffered losses in hurricane IRMA. And even though I’m an insufferable liberal type of guy, I had to note that many of the vehicles I saw were big new FUVs, and many of the people forming in the incredible line that snacked over a quarter mile had all sorts of bling, all sorts of obesity and lots of flashy new phones, and lacked any sense for bringing hats, umbrellas (for the sun) or bottled water. Apparently the ambulances were running all day as people keeled over in the heat, all this for some give-away cash. And this, after I listened to a piece on NPR on the way in about Chinese consumer debt. Looks like the ancient pharaohs were right – people can’t be trusted with income – it has to be managed for them. Overall, I understand that 10,000 people showed up that day.

Otherwise, the show worked pretty well. We were shorthanded (I’m sure that a number of our members simply couldn’t get to the event, given the mob that was still coming in as we left). And we managed to set up the Full Monty arrangement which gave the four or five trains that were pretty much perpetually running a lot of room. Everything worked will (but there is a little scenery damage we need to attend to Monday night). Overall, we made just over $160 for our efforts (as the joke went up and down the mainline between Jax and Folkston, we could have made more if we’d left the modules at home and stood outside for free money). But yes, a good effort in trying situations by the membership – we came and set up in the face of great adversity. Thanks, guys.


Last Updated on Sunday, 08 October 2017 08:52
OpsLog - FEC - 9/30/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 30 September 2017 20:52

ust got back from playing the biggest solitaire game you can play: Model Railroad Ops!

Oh yeah, there are some of you who will say it's a huge cooperative effort, a big multiplayer game railroaders have been playing for half a century. You work together to get the trains through the division and crews will cooperate in anything from throwing turnouts for each other to offering suggestions to pushing a car the final one hundred feet to the dock (saving another crew the hassle of a runaround).

And at Ken Farnham's FEC today, there were a whole bunch of people, maybe seven or so out on the road (in one shed) and four operators running the huge yard (in the other). And a dispatcher.

And that was me.

Miss Bev plays solitaire on the big green board!Unlike every other position, my attention is focused on the huge CTC panel. From where I'm sitting, I see trains as illuminated lights crossing the layout display. I'm focused on looking up from my train sheet to set turnouts and signals. Other than a glimpse of trains rolling past my office on the way in and out from Palm Bay and Titusville, everything I experiance is on the panel. That a dozen people are all working around me to keep the railroad running, the engines being fueled, run out to the head ends of assembled trains, of yardmasters contacting crews who take these trains across the division dropping and picking up cars, yes, that's a rumor I've heard. But I'm all on my panel, moving lights from one side of the board to the other.

As far as what goes on in the other room, it's only when off duty crews or the superintendent comes in to tell me what's up in their "real world of pretend". But now, I'm lining routes, setting signals, contacting disassociated voices to inquire about getting clear of my main - I've got dots to move.

It's my job, and it was way fun today.

Thanks to Ken and Bev for having us out. Always a pleasure to move the red lights across the board as quickly and cleanly as possible.


P.S. And if your flapjacks taste like propane, ask Bruce about it. smiley

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 September 2017 21:11
OpsLog - LM&O - 9/27/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 September 2017 22:32

just want you to know that I'm not to blame for this," the new dispatcher told me in the midst of the hectic shitshorm that was tonight’s ops session. And yes, it really wasn't all his fault, not when trains are departing yards in the wrong direction, ignoring their written, copied, and confirmed warrants, and running past frantic flagmen (why do you think they're waving that red flag at you - because they're communists?).

Toss into this mix the special rules I added - that Irma was breaking up against our eastern slopes, that every train would need helpers going up, and that trains down would require fifteen minutes to set retainers at the summit and fifteen minutes to clear them at the bottom. Ideas like this is all part of my don't-reelect-robert plan. So we'll see.

But the important thing was that while we ran all the trains with a newbie dispatcher, the layout was having an off-night. Too many derailments, too many problems. We keep fixing them but more pop up. I think, for Red Rock, that no downhill trains (Westbounds out of Harris) should ever use that siding. The thing is, with all the weight piling up on that steep slope, that divergent route is hard to get into.

But Dispatcher Cody (how that sounds like a character out of an old radio serial) did okay. Sure he was new and played catchup all night, but until you sit at that panel and run the trains we get through this pike (probably one of the most active DS panels in the state), you don't know what busy is. So maybe I can talk him into it again. That lets me get out on the railroad and run things like Mingo.

And yes, for the record, lugging that gondola cut around was a royal pain. Which is what railroading is some times.

Anyway, while it was a bitch of a session tonight, guys, we did get through it. And that's commendable. Nobody punched anyone, nobody stormed out (and if they do, believe me, I'll blog it, so don't) smiley


P.S. Crap. I was just writing this thing and I realized the best way to get those gons out of Patterson Quarry and back into the yard. So obvious!

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 September 2017 22:52

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