2016 in Review

In retrospect, I will remember 2016 as the year that I discovered operations.

I knew early on that I wanted to build the layout so that it would be more than a railfanning concept and could eventually grow (with me) into full operations. But I had no idea what that practically meant. Like most things, reading about it theoretically wasn’t doing it for me – I really needed to see it and experience it.

This year I got to operate on four very different layouts, each of which was a complete joy and all of them have informed my thinking and have contributed to the evolution of my trackplan.


First up, was the N scale Grand Trunk Southern layout of John Johnson (CARM founder and Canadian editor, above) in Hamilton, ON.  You can read all about it at the blog post here.


Then in  June, I was invited to operate on Sheldon Frankel’s fantastic Quebec & New England layout. I first discovered the Q&NE on Sheldon’s YouTube channel and was amazed to learn that this was a local layout. I have since become a regular monthly operator on the Q&NE and very much enjoy being part of an operating group.


Trevor Marshall, who I met at the Copetown Show this year, invited me over to operate on his S scale Port Rowan in 1:64 and blogged about it here. I had listened to Trevor on his podcast, The Model Railway Show, watched him on trainmasters.tv and was an avid follower of his blog. This was another layout that I was on my ‘TOP 10 to visit’ list!


Finally, I had the pleasure to be a guest operator on the Waterloo Region Model Railroad Club. I was invited by Chris van der Heide because he knew of my interest in learning more about OCS operations.


In addition to being a ton of fun, I learned something from each of these experiences. A little bit of each of these layouts will make it into my trackplan and operating concept.

Which beings me to the second theme of 2016… the year that I ‘finalized’ my trackplan. I was really struggling with the trackplan and had actually thought about soliciting some professional help and purchasing some design services. Like most things, a number of people/factors came together to break the logjam.

After watching Bill Beranek, The Track Planner’s excellent Operations presentation on the YouTube Model Builders channel, I became very interested in the AnyRail track planning software. It was fun, easy and finally I was able to try out ideas and really see what would work!

This got me to a trackplan – good but not great. Many thanks to Sheldon Frankel, who in addition to being the owner of the Q&NE is a professional civil engineer and happens to have worked for the railways. No better person to take my previous mess and clean it up with some good, practical, prototypical track design. You can view the revised track plan as a more detailed PDF here.

The final theme of 2016 is friendships. None of the above would have been possible without the friendship of some pretty incredible people.

Being located in Toronto, ON means that I am lucky to be surrounded by hundreds of fantastic modellers and their layouts. I’ve said it before, but I am constantly amazed how generous this community is with their time and encouragement and I have had the good fortune of learning from some of the best. Thank you.



Operating the Grand Trunk Southern



Saturday, I had the opportunity to visit the N scale layout of John Johnson (CARM founder and Canadian editor – pictured above) in Hamilton, ON. This was the much anticipated operating session on his Grand Trunk Southern layout and followed his excellent presentation last October on layout operations. The Grand Trunk Southern is a two level freelanced layout set in Central Pennsylvania in 1969. The layout is DCC powered with Digitrax and features early diesel power.


I was especially excited as this was only the second time that I had been invited to an operating session, and the first time that I had used car cards and waybills. My job was to run a local that switched the industries in Nathansville. Powered by two beautiful Rapido GMD-1s, I spent an enjoyable hour shunting cars between the interchange track, the builders supply, the propane dealership etc. and building the train to Clarion.


So some thoughts about my first ‘real’ OPs session…

Model railroad operations is work. Real, hard work. But man is it fun work! After an hour of thinking about how to achieve the tasks at hand, and constantly checking to make turn that the turnouts were properly aligned, I was ready to take a break. This gave me an appreciation for the real work done by the real railroads.

John was a gracious host and especially patient with a newbie like myself. I was very appreciative of his insights around operations and for his help in planning operations on my QGRY.

Thank you John for a wonderful Saturday afternoon!