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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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Operating the QGRY… and a revised track plan!

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First, the revised track plan. Many thanks to Sheldon Frankel, the owner of the Q&NE, and a professional civil engineer who 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.

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Now for some thoughts on Operations…

Thanks to the wonder of Facebook I was able to connect with some kind (and very knowledgable) folks on the Genesee & Wyoming RR Fan Page who shared the current QGRY schedule with me. This has led me to the beginning thoughts for a proto-freelance operations plan:

Eastbound mains
Train 1. Train 726: Ste-Therese (Montreal staging) to Trois-Rivieres Yard
Train 2. Train 728: Trois-Rivières Yard to Triage Henri IV (Quebec staging)

Westbound mains
Train 3. Train 729: Triage Henri IV (Quebec staging) to Trois-Rivières Yard
Train 4. Train 727: Trois-Rivieres Yard to Ste-Therese (Montreal staging)

Locals (turns)
Train 5. Train 28: Trois-Rivières – Joliette and back to switch Bell-Gaz
Train 6. Train 33: Trois-Rivières – Shawinigan and back (to Quebec staging to simulate CN interchange)
Train 7. NOT a prototypical train BUT I will create a local that runs Trois-Rivières – Paper Mill and back to switch the Paper Mill and other industries
Train 8. NOT a prototypical train BUT I will create a local that runs Trois-Rivières – Ciment Quebec and back to switch Ciment Quebec and Marmen

While this train list makes sense to me, I have NO IDEA what order to run the trains. For example, should the local trains run before or after the east/westbound mains? Not even sure how to determine this… any thoughts are very welcome!

Still pondering JMRI computer ops vs. car cards and waybills, but think that I will try JMRI first and then move to CC & WBs if I don’t like the computer-generated switchlists.

One of the things that I’m targeting is more frequent but less time consuming operating sessions. I want to be able to pop down to the basement and run a couple of trains either by myself or with a couple of people. Partly this is because I have two young boys who want to ‘play’ and partly because I just enjoy frequent sessions that last no longer than two – three hours.

That’s my current thinking for now and no doubt that it will change/evolve as I learn more about the real QGRY, meet new people, ask more questions and continue this fun and fascinating journey!

 

 

And finally…a track plan!

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For the last 2 years I have been really struggling with my track plan.

As I am on a Mac, I never did find a CAD/layout design program that I liked and that had a complete track library. There was one that I played around with, but honestly I couldn’t get it to work properly (and I am trained as a graphic designer!). Maybe that was the problem as I am used to more sophisticated layout and design programs.

In any case, the lack of good design software meant that every idea in my head and then roughly sketched on paper had to be manually tried (and tested) with turnouts on the benchwork. What looked good ‘on paper’ never really fit together the way I intended and I never could get it all quite ‘right’.

After watching Bill Beranek, The Track Planner’s excellent Operations presentation (above) on the YouTube Model Builders channel, and visiting his website, I became very interested in the AnyRail track planning software . Also happily, I just bought my 10 year old son his first computer – a PC. I purchased a full version of AnyRail and started playing around. It was fun, easy and finally I was able to try out ideas and really see what would work!

The result is my track plan (downloadable PDF file). I am still soliciting feedback from friends in the hobby that know more than I do about operations; however, I feel very close to having a track plan that works.

I can recommend the AnyRail track planning software and there is a fully functional free trial. Any thoughts or comments on my track plan are greatly appreciated.