Thursday, October 27, 2022

Desert Ops 2022

Last week yet another well-known pre-pandemic operating weekend emerged into the light, the “Desert Ops” weekend in Phoenix. As always, it was well organized and ran smoothly. Better yet, I enjoyed a bunch of very nice layouts (more on that below). But I want to emphasize that this is an “open” event, not an invitational, and anyone can sign up. If you’d like to try one of these events, look for this one next year. 

The first of the six layout I visited (and there’s not space to show them all) was an “off-site” visit to Paul Chandler’s layout in Tucson, before the regular meet began. Paul models Southern Pacific’s Lathrop Subdivision in the late steam era.I’ve written before about this excellent layout (see this post: ). Once again, I really enjoyed the excellent scenic treatments as well as the flawless operation. Below is a very nicely and realistically done stockyard, with three loading chutes, justifying multiple stock cars loading here.

I must also admit that Paul has stolen a march on me.  After advocating for prototype-looking bill boxes, but not making them myself (see my post: ), Paul actually has done it. I gotta catch up on this. But thanks, Paul, for the prod.

Another nice layout is the Scottsdale Club, housed at Railroad Park in Scottsdale. I worked Phoenix yard on the layout, as yard goat, under the direction of Mark Schutzer as yardmaster. Here’s an overview of the yard, with Mark hard at work. It’s a big yard, and a pleasure to switch, with plenty of space to make up or break down full trains.

I also had the opportunity once again to operate on Rick Watson’s excellent layout (SP’s Exeter Branch), the primary quality of which is that it’s very switching-intensive. This layout also is one I’ve described before (see the link for Desert Ops 2018 in the second paragraph of the present post). Some might find it “primitive,” in that there are no scenic materials on the ground anywhere — it’s only painted — and many building are paper stand-ins. You can see a couple of them in the photo below.

But the switching here is demanding and requires careful planning if it’s to be done in a reasonable time. On the backdrop above you can see a schematic diagram of the town I was switching (in this case, Sanger, California). The work really holds your attention, and for someone like me, is great fun, because I enjoy switching assignments like this.

Lastly, David Doiron. His huge layout is always fun and interesting, and as time passes, he has added more and more Arizona scenery. Here’s a single example from the layout. Note how the foreground scenery colors blend nicely with the photo backdrop. This demonstrates an observant eye and the ability to reproduce on the layout, what is seen in the world. Can’t beat that.

This was a fun weekend. As always, it was worth the visit, and congrats again to the organizers, who once again did the good job on this event that we have come to expect.

Tony Thompson

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