On December 6, 2014, I attempted my first true operating session.
It has been a long time coming and ended up much different than the session described in an earlier post http://spsbsub.blogspot.com/2009/06/first-operating-session.html when all I had was a bench with a long track and one turnout.
After posting the video of a train running on the layout, my friend Al suggested it was time for an op session. I said I wanted to get "closer" and he argued that I was there and I needed to host. I agreed and set the date about a month out and worked hard to get "closer".
Over the next few weeks, a certain Mr. Murphy, of Murphy's Law fame, came to visit me on numerous occasions. Every time things got resolved or I felt like I was making progress, he would show up leading to frustration and stress over the upcoming event. I felt like going into the layout room to work was taking me in the wrong direction with the layout further from operational each time I attacked a problem.
One day, with less than a week before the scheduled session, I became seriously frustrated. A short appeared in the morning which affected the entire upper deck because of the way I have wired the layout. I finally found and resolved that problem early that evening but then another problem cropped up which put the Lompoc Branch and White Hills out of commission. No power seemed to be getting by the PSX-AR on the wye. I still had over 10 turnouts that were not reliable meaning any train that tried to go over them would derail.
In an effort to resolve the issues with the shorts, I installed 5 circuit breakers for different districts so that I can easily see where the problem area is and it no longer affects the entire layout. Some progress was being made in the midst of the problems.
I finally resolved the other power issue and concentrated on the turnouts but ran out of time.
I was not the only person Mr Murphy was visiting. One of the crew managed to get water in the fuel tank of his truck and was not sure he was going to have transportation to the session. Fortunately, he fixed the problem and arrived that morning ready to give the layout its first real test.
Eight very supportive friends came over and attempted to run trains for close to two hours. Paul C was Santa Barbara yardmaster, assisted by Bill M. Jon C took the Carpinteria local and Bob L took the Lompoc local. Al D, Chris B, and Mike L ran the road trains. John R operated the "critter" job running both the 45-ton Vandenberg switcher and the SW1500 in-plant White Hills switcher.
There ended up being too little work for the yard guys. One manifest made it all the way. One Amtrak made its run. One local made it to the turn then had a major derailment on the way back.
The other local made it to the turn point and had finished switching ready to return.
Biggest problem was everyone experience issues with track work. I have been fighting it for a while. Some of the crews even did work during their run.
Jon C working on the west switch of the Carpinteria House Track
General recommendations were to replace all the turnout with commercially built turnouts.
While I did not invite him, Mr. Murphy did show up for the session. One of the road trains was the BACIT running East across the layout. This is an empty intermodal train. Mike L was engineer and ably took the train from east staging all the way up the inner helix and onto the upper deck. One car kept giving him problems. When he examined the car more closely, he found a wheel with one of the flanges on the outside! None of us had ever seen this before and were amazed Mike had managed to get the train so far.
Wheel set with one flange (left) on the outside.
Taken from a car on the BACIT train after somehow successfully managing the inner helix to the upper level.
I appreciated all the encouragement that the group gave me. Al is correct that I have gotten more done in less time than I would have if I had not invited them all over for an operating session. Everyone seemed to have a reasonable time even with the frustrating track work. I had some light lunch and everyone stayed. Thanks again to my initial crew for a good test. Now it is back to work on the track work.
Here are some additional photos from the session.
Jon C and Mike L with the BACIT train crossing the Santa Ynez River into Surf
|Yard crew, Bill M and Paul C, relaxing with not enough to do!|
|Jon C and Chris B at Santa Barbara|
|Al D with west bound manifest train approaching DeVon|
|Crew enjoying snacks and discussion after the session|