The Latest Ops Session

We have been running Ops session now on the new HO layout for about a year or more.  Every month or so an intrepid group of Members get together and follow our Ops Manager’s instructions to deliver cars to various industries dotted around the layout. At least I thought they were following instructions until this last Ops session!! We now have around 13 people joining in the Ops session. The tasks involve a dispatcher, yardmaster, the yardmaster’s operator, two town’s switching engineers, 5 engineers that deliver/pick up cars and 2 or 3 engineers that run passenger trains to run interference. Its a busy session that typically lasts 90 minutes  or more.  Apart from the usual shorts that we get as a result of locos derailing and people going through turnouts that haven’t been thrown correctly, problems with throttles that wont work until the session is over ( very irritating) and turnouts that also wont work until the Ops session is over ( again very irritating), things usually go fairly smoothly.  But not this time! I decided to run a modern theme and told everyone a week before. Half the people turned up with  models of locos that were at least 70 years old.  Having recalibrated expectations after conversations like “you only told us yesterday about the modern era”, “no I told you a week ago”, and then after searching the emails, “oh yeah you are right”, we started the session. Here are a few of the occurrences that ensued:

1. Having waited patiently outside of a town for 15 minutes while 2 other engineers tried to figure out how to extract 12 cars from the car float and store them while other switching duties were going on, the way was finally clear for the Engineer to proceed on the main line. He started off round the corner, onto a siding and into the back of the switching engineer’s loco. There was then a blame storming session…

2. In order to protect the mainlines in two towns, we use decoder operated signals. The town switcher asked the dispatcher if he could go onto the mainline. The Dispatcher protected the mainline by turning the signals to red in both directions. Two minutes later a passenger train barreled into the town station and came to a halt. Much remonstrating with the passenger engineer about obeying signals came to pass…

3. Having designed the Ops session, I was familiar with the trains that needed to be made up and run. So it was with some consternation that I saw an engineer driving a train made up of 10 reefers and 10 brown box cars. The max length we use is 15 cars. I asked the engineer to check his train switch list and sure enough the train bore no resemblance to the intended train. Again after more blame storming, the yardmaster and operator were suitably embarrassed although I did note that one engineers defense of ” Oh I didn’t look at page 2 of the instructions” was not  what I wanted to hear.

4.One Engineer didn’t want to walk the 6 feet to the control panel to throw a turnout switch so asked another engineer that was by the control panel to switch the turnout for him.  “Switch turnout W6”. “What one is that, the panel isn’t labelled”, “this one here”, “is it this one?”, “no and you have just derailed my train”, ” what about this one”, “no and you have just derailed my train again” and so it went on ….

5.  I had spent some time placing clear car numbers on the car roofs so that they could be switched into the correct industries as per the switch list without people resorting to reading glasses and flash lights. In one town, I overheard the switching engineer say ” oh the car numbers are specific to an industry, I had better sort that out”. I checked and not one car was in the correct destination. Thinking this might be an issue at the other town, I check there as well. Again not one car was in the correct position. I received the response ” oh I wondered why those numbers were on the cars”…..

6. One engineer was tasked with retrieving and placing cars on a car float. He ended up running his loco onto the car float apron to place cars and then wondered why someone had placed 3 idler cars in the way on one of the spurs…..

7. One Engineer arrived at the yard with his train and had the task of waiting for the yard guys to place two flat cars on his train for delivery at a town.  The Yardmaster and Operator looked at one another and said “We don’t have any flat cars”, “But it says here I am to pick up two flat cars”. “yeah but we don’t have any”, “did you have some at the beginning of the session?”, “yeah but they went ages ago on someone else’s train”. Two minutes later I viewed the Operator sheepishly wandering around the layout looking for the missing cars…..

8. One of the Passenger Train Engineers had to emergency stop his train before it crashed into the train ahead having been distracted by looking at the scene of another accident…. one can only imagine how that scenario could multiply around the layout….

After we finished the session, I entertained a review session. The first comment was “If you all you guys had been working for UP, you would’ve all been fired by now”…..

No seriously, it was a fun session and I think everyone enjoyed themselves despite the faux pas.  Thanks to all who joined!

Cheers Keith