Carload from Baltic

When was the last time this summarized your last operating session?

Mr. Reid further added that he had received an order to have a car loaded at Baltic on the Elmira line and the car was being loaded today (Wednesday) but it could not be shipped out until next Tuesday.

He stated that he wanted the car for immediate shipment to a boat at Halifax but had to substitute a car from Hunter River in its place. He added that this seemed like discrimination against the farmer who lived on a line which did not have daily freight service.

In my blog post yesterday evening, I included the above excerpt from an article printed in The Guardian newspaper in June 1955. In terms of design, here’s an opportunity to focus one’s model railway on either end of this contrast in service levels. Personally, I’m leaning heavily toward the Baltic end of the discussion since it’s a story not unlike the one that was unfolding at Lake Verde. I’m fascinated with the question of trying to use a model railway to tell the story Mr. Reid is telling above. As I review the plan for my layout through this optic, I want to make sure I provide elements that further this story and reflect his sense of frustration. Where we design for yard operators, dispatchers, or engineers, how do we design a railroad for the shipper? Can you imagine Mr. Reid trying to get that carload of potatoes moved through a Timesaver track plan? No wonder they all started using trucks!

Could we design an operating session from the potato buyer’s perspective?

What if the plan for the next operating session was an exercise in mapping from the farm to the railhead instead of just redistributing the cars on the layout? Our layout might already have planned or scheduled trains and, just as Mr. Reid did, we need to find a car we can move to the farm and one we can turn around as quickly as possible. Car routing shifts from moving the car the siding to moving its load to market. In terms of roles on the layout our focus shifts toward reflecting the relationship of the customers with the railroad.

In terms of the shorter operating session, the twenty minute ones, I think this shift in perspective has something to offer as a driver for what will happen in these twenty minutes and why this is happening. Instead of just finding something to do in that twenty minutes, you realise that the car at Baltic is loaded and ready to pick up. You climb into the cab of your model locomotive and head out onto the road. Sipping from your tea while you enjoy watching those models working their way across the layout to Baltic you are afforded a chance to enjoy watching your layout in action. On arriving at Baltic, your work is described by that customer need. You tie onto that car and your work is done. This describes a relaxed operating session that could easily be completed in a short period of time but it avoids the sense of busy work since it’s still driven by a real railroad activity and need. Your sense of accomplishment was forged in doing something that needed to be done.

The next operating session is “Reid’s need a car at Baltic. I know we have a few still at Harmony (just before Baltic). When you pass Harmony, can you pick up one car and place at Baltic on your way through?” It’s all semantics but at the same time a way to immerse the operator into the model by investing in an understanding of what we’re doing here and going beyond that being just moving train cars around.

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7 comments

  1. In my personal experiences, I’ve found that it is exactly this type of thinking that makes model railroad operating sessions more enjoyable. Sure, excellent scenery helps, but nothing gives operators — either a basement full of them or the lone wolf on a shelf layout — the ability to connect with the model more than “why are we doing this?”. Adding dynamic elements such as the one described here to an operating session makes it different — we’re not just moving another plastic freight car over here because some piece of paper says to…we’re moving this potato box car over here because it is Tuesday and Mr. Reid ordered one.

    1. Exactly

      I think it could have real potential as a method to communicate our story to others seeing the layout who are not familiar with the prototype.

      It also offers a chance to relate to the railroad, via the model, as people did on their scale.

      Thanks

      Chris

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