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Saturday, 19 February 2011 00:00

How serious should modelers get with following their prototype?

My first layout, Donner Pass, was correct in that it had pines and a mountain, and the names of the towns matched. I ran SP equipment (from all eras) and really didn't worry about it.

But it started bugging me. The more I learned the railroad's history in that area, the more it chafed. I considered a change. Then, on a stop during a cross-nation train trip at the small Californian town of San Luis Obispo, I got out to walk the platform. And here I was hit with a sense of having been to this spot before. Eerie. That is, until I got home and realized much of the SP promotional photography I'd been looking at had been taken in this tiny, tidy railtown. We ended up visiting again - I got a million pictures, and I also read (and reread (and rereread)) John Signor's books on the Coast Route.

And then I knew.

That would be my place. And the early 1950s would be my time.

The station is to the lower right

Oh, I can't make it perfectly correct, not without a room 4,950 feet long to cover the distance from Watsonville to San Luis Obispo. In my small space, I have numerous compromises. The slope from Serrano to SLO is actually reversed. The towns are smaller. My turns are tighter.

But we run all the scheduled trains (and extras like PFE movements and beet hauls). And I've got recognizable places such as the SLO station complex, the Stenner Creek trestle, the horseshoe just beyond (complete with a horse who'd lived in the loop at that time), the Salinas packing sheds, and so on. Little touches here and there.

But that is all it takes. Had a visitor from "out west" come run with us once. How gratifying for him to stand in the doorway and say, "Oh yeah. You got it. Dead on."


Last Updated on Thursday, 17 March 2011 17:41
OpsLog - Pricthard & Charlotte - 2/15/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 15 February 2011 23:23

Nice to see the Pritchard & Charlotte up and running.

Our club mentored this club in the basic of ops, a very easy-going format. No waybills, just a list of trains and an agreed-upon route (their twice around becomes a double-loop mainline). Ran them under warrants for a few months. Now they took over and are setting up their own sessions.

A relief, just come in and run.

Got to take 111 west out of Charlotte, way underpowered with a single GP38 on the front. It didn't help matters that I pulled into Division Yard and sucked up another dozen. Kept up my speed to maintain way but eventually bogged down in the middle of nowhere. Shut the unit down and waited for Larry to come up in a handy set of Dash9s. With all that power, there was no hill too steep for us. Into Pritchard in good time.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 February 2011 23:33
OpsLog - Saluda Grade - 2/14/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 14 February 2011 22:47

Today I had to fix everyone's little work problems, putting out fires, taking three hours of process training, and researching another ill-conceived tool.

But tonight I worked the Marion local, pushing the cars into Dunn's and Tricky Dick's paints. The cars bang and clatter as they go together - just fine - because when I pull them out, they uncouple right at their docks, a satisfying trick. And now I'm done. I swing across the main, pick up my outbounds off the CSX interchange and roll out of town. I've even got two cars for Florida Chair at Old Fort behind the caboose, an easy drop. Ten fast minutes later I'm sweeping through the loop below Coleman, grinding towards Black Mountain. Once in Asheville, I dump the cut on track two then teleport over Spartanburg to run the chip train up Saluda Grade. But I've got to step lively; I've got to get the front section to the summit before 720 comes through. Natch!

Guess which effort was more satisfying.

Last Updated on Monday, 14 February 2011 23:01
OpsLog - SP Coast Line - 2/7/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 07 February 2011 23:44

In my last two blogs I went over the ass-aches I went through to drag this railroad into operations. Let's add one more - the cat got INTO the layout, crawling around inside the framework and walking along the hidden mainlines. I had to drag her out from under it - this stunt earned her a big squirt off the spray bottle. She's still sulking.

So there I was, bringing a new automated dispatching program online, unsure if I had track damage under the layout, wondering what was going to happen.

And what happened was wonders.

Lucky cuts in behind the sugarbeets.The trains ticked out of Watsonville right on time. Salinas purred through its reefer shifts. Me, I was over at King City, sitting behind the hot boiler of "Lucky" (Mikado 3304), working helper detail. Shoved freight 920 up the hill just as dawn broke. As we got to Serrano, I whistled a desperate call to stop up to the head units - we should have been in the siding but had blown past our meet with the Coast Mail who would be thundering down on us in 20 minutes. We got the train stopped on the main (wrong place). Ran a brakeman forward to flag the Mail into the siding. (this was like deja vu for me because I was helper on the same train last time and we skipped the meet and damn near took the Coast Mail in the face at the yard board). Anyway, pushed the freight into SLO, watered up, then dropped back down, pocketing into Serrano to catch the Noon Daylight hghstepping past behind a pretty GS4. Hoo hah.

The rest of the day was pretty easy. Pushed a second freight up, and also shoved a load of beets over the Santa Lucita Range.

The railroad wasn't running flawlessly - the dispatcher program tossed up some bugs, a turnout died and had to be manually shifted, and those couplers gave me fits. Worse, that engine with the bad wheels? His back unit started going offline on the last run.

But the crews ran like demons. Even with the difficulties, every car was getting snagged off every siding. The trains were checking the SLO platform on the damn dot. The SLO yard crews were working the yard exactly as designed, getting the stuff out with plenty of time. Great fun to watch Merchandiser West swap its trailers out in SLO and run down the hill, the Lark riding its silver caboose.

And... it was fun. Really a lot of fun.

Worth the pain.


No, it was.

Thanks, guys!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 February 2011 00:19

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