Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Another family operating session

Though for obvious reasons few if any operating sessions are taking place on most layouts, and haven’t taken place for some months, I did devise a way to do at least a little operating on my layout. That took place because our granddaughter was visiting for two weeks in mid-July. I wrote about those sessions in an earlier post (see it at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2020/07/pandemic-operating-sessions.html ).
     After a few weeks back at home, the granddaughter returned for two more weeks with us (also providing a change of scene for her parents, both of whom are working). Once again, as we did in the first round, the goal of the operating sessions in part was to include one of the Accurail models I had helped her build, a Santa Fe box car, that naturally she was delighted to see in service.

The model, of course, is very much a stand-in, having almost nothing in common with the prototype Santa Fe Class FE-15 “whalebelly” cars for which it’s lettered, except double doors and 40-foot length. But naturally that’s not of interest to the owner.
     I mentioned in my previous post about operating with her, that though she is eight and a half, she is pretty skillful with an NCE throttle, so it was natural to assign her as the engineer for a session. But she had paid close attention in that previous pair of sessions, and was clearly beginning to understand switching and waybills.
    So once again, I devised a simplified, cut-down range of work for a session, just as I had done before, but now I added a little complexity. In fact, the two of them, my wife Mary (as conductor), along with the young engineer, were both getting better, so further challenge should be a good addition.
     This went well in the first new session, taking place entirely on the side of the layout where the town of Shumala is located. They had more run-around moves to figure out and carry out, but handled them pretty well. Here you see the engineer (standing on a step-stool) and Mary at work.

     This all went so well, in fact, that I proposed we have a further session a few days later, and that we promote the engineer to conductor. (I think Mary did not love the conductor’s job, though I tried to offer constructive suggestions.) So once again, I set up a simplified session, this time on the other side of the layout at Ballard, but with distinctly more switching than the first time they had worked there, including running around and some car-sorting challenges. Looks like the engineer is still getting the hang of that throttle.

This went well, but I think the newly promoted conductor found that doing the entire job of planning the switching was a little bigger than she expected. But she very clearly understood what she was doing, and rarely made a false move.
     Again, as before, I believe fun was had by all. I found it interesting to work through what was needed for an interesting but not too complex session, and Mary and I helped our granddaughter have fun on the layout (and of course seeing and switching her own box car in service). Maybe this fall we will do more of these sessions!
Tony Thompson


  1. Great to get your granddaughter involved. A few years ago when I had a much larger layout, my 7 and 10 yr old granddaughters learned how to control a loco with a Digitrax throttle, throw switch points properly, spot cars and complete a run around move. They were better than some of my regular crew!

  2. Hi Tony- I think your Grand Daughter would get a lot out of operating your layout - certainly far more education than say a video game. Great work. Regards. KEV.

  3. Hi Tony,
    For Thanksgiving I had my 14 year old grandson Noah act as engineer and I as conductor. We ran an entire session, about 90 minutes. Noah thinks Papa's trains are cool. Other than cranking the throttle once to see how fast my old RS-1 would go, it was smooth operation. So much fun with our grandkids, right? Lou Adler

  4. Full agreement, Lou. I know kids may not "take" the hobby when grown (I have a son who loved to operate when in his early teens, no interest since). But it's still a fun way to have some quality time with a grandchild.
    Tony Thompson