Last week I was invited to operate on Sheldon Frankel’s fantastic Quebec & New England layout. The Q&NE layout is 19′ x 29′ HO layout based on the southern end of a regional railroad that runs between Montreal and Boston circa 1990. The focus of the layout is the interchange with Conrail and the many industries served by the QNE.
I had originally discovered the Q&NE on its youtube channel and have been enjoying the 50+ videos over the years. Recently I met Sheldon at a train show and was thrilled when he emailed with the news that he was celebrating one of his regular operator’s retirement and relocation. Bill’s punishment for abandoning his post was that he had to train a replacement operator. Did I want to apply for the job? I warned the gang that my operations experienced was limited, but was welcomed to ‘apprentice’ with Bill.
Operating sessions began in 2012 with a crew of four. Car and train movements are governed by a home-made XL program that assigns and tracks all car locations and train consists. A daily QNE train arrives from staging with local traffic as well as cars for interchange with eastbound and westbound Conrail trains. The QNE crew and power lay over and return northbound during the following operating session. There are two separate staging loops so that westbound departures are automatically turned to become eastbound arrivals (and vice versa) in a later operating session. The same trains do not show up on the layout more often than every third operating session.
The OPS session lasted around four hours and was HARD WORK. We were moving freight! This was a very realistic working session and I felt an appreciation for the very hard work done every day by real railroaders.
I was honoured to be a part of the gang, and as you can see by the photo at the top of the post, I passed the initiation. Not sure it was my skill or my thick skin but I got to take the T-Shirt home. Looking forward to the next session, and a big thank you to Sheldon and his crew for showing me the rails to and for making the evening so much fun!