Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Another family op

 My granddaughter was back in town last weekend, and I had set up an operating session for her. This time, we operated at my layout towns of Ballard and Santa Rosalia, and the plan was for her to do more of the conductor’s job, setting up the switching moves. Accordingly, she handled the waybills for all the cars.

But this time, I acted as “trainer” and helped her understand and plan the switching, instead of my wife Mary, the usual conductor in these sessions. When we started, the layout room was a little cool, and she had on her hoodie, as you see below, with me in the foreground (Mary took the photo).

The engineer is standing on a step-stool — she’s not really as tall as me. And you can see in the foreground that she has arranged some of the waybills on the J-strip along the fascia, organized in the pattern that made sense to her.

Things went well in the session, and we steadily got all the switching done. In fact, we did more than usual, even doing a pickup and spot over at Santa Rosalia and some other locations previously regarded as too complicated. And as the room warmed up, the hoodie came off. Here she is doing a run-around move.

Once we had done all the moves, and made sure the waybills had all been followed and the agent’s message obeyed, the train could be made up for departure, to run from Ballard back down the branch to the mainline interchange at Shumala. Here is the train at that point:

With the photograph above taken, the engineer could complete the job. And as you can see here, she always makes sure the headlight is lit.

As in every session, she was enthused about the chance to operate and as always, she was a very careful engineer, no excess speed at any time! I can think of some regular operators who I’d like to assign for training with her. 

It is of course a bonding experience for me and my granddaughter, operating on the layout, but she genuinely is interested in understanding what is called for in a session. She has learned to match up the waybills with the freight cars, and to plan ahead in switching to avoid repetitive moves. 

In fact, I would say that she has reached the point where I think she could hold her own in a session with adult operators — at least on the engineer job. She is still learning the planning needed when working as the conductor. That of course just gives us a goal for future sessions!

And speaking of adult operators, I  note that the CDC has released its guidelines for those who have been vaccinated for Covid-19 (including the post-second-shot waiting period), as follows: "People who are fully vaccinated may safely gather with small groups from other households without wearing masks or social distancing." I will be planning sessions on my layout in the fairly near future.

Tony Thompson


  1. Tony, I would be happy to operate with your granddaughter any time. I am doing same with my 14 year old grandson. And, yes, the kids are better operators than more than a few "experienced" crew members!

    I enjoy your updates about your granddaughter. Now the question is what was the reaction of your spouse when you sent her to the extra board?

  2. Nice. Maybe I’ll try an op session on my layout with my niece sometime. She’s sat with me several times while I built things and she always likes to come see what’s new.