A side. B side.

cassette 20180611

Last winter I built a set of three turnouts. It was mostly an exercise in “just do something” fueled by some lengths of rail and a few mugs of tea. I built them with the above layout’s track plan in mind. Well, that plan and thinking I could create a home for an Austerity tank engine that I sort of bought in a moment of National Coal Board in the 1970’s, steam-inspired weakness.

There’s no novelty in this plan. Why I wanted to share it was for the vision of how it’s played with (Sorry, “operated”). Play is based on two operators. One at A and one at B. There’s only one engine. The number of cars is irrelevant.

  1. When play starts, the engine is “on set” already.
  2. A and B flip a coin to see who starts. The result of this coin toss determines who drives the engine first and who calls the first play to execute.
  3. A takes the engine to move those cars.
  4. Once A is finished with his shenanigans he hands the throttle to B. A’s turn is done and the roles switch.

Cars can remain between plays on A2, AB, or B2. I mentioned being able to ferry stock around by using the cassettes at each point. The cassettes can be used to move the engine from one track to another. This would be useful if you had to pick up cars at A1 and deliver them to B1. You’d need to runaround from one end of the train to the other so you could place the cars on A2, then move the engine from A2 to AB to complete the runaround move. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t cheat and move the engine from one end of the layout to the other but then, what would be the fun in that anyway?

Where we might typically add operators to a model railway to expand the diversity of roles I liked the idea, here, of instead exchanging their roles in determining what happens next. Equally, seated opposite each other and sharing equally in the play it sort of feels like sharing a meal together. Hosted on tabletop maybe completes the metaphor in my imagination.

As for inspiration, I can’t add words that would communicate the vision better than this wonderful video from Gandy Dancer Productions.


Categories: How I think

3 replies

  1. I’m sorry Chris I just can’t get the image of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee out of my mind :) but I think it would be a great layout for show operation involving the public possibly particularly for a younger audience. I think the idea of play is very overlooked and is essentially what we’re doing imo. I like the tabletop analogy as most of us started out on a kitchen table with an oval of track moving into grown up shared meals on it. Great post.

    • Show operation. That’s a neat application for this plan.

      Typically for shows it seems the layout is some sort of timed switching puzzle. In my head, despite its quirky foundation, this layout for me is still supposed to be finished and operated as it if were a junction on an industrial railway. In this way, it could be shared with another at a show as a chance to invite someone to realistic operation perhaps?

      As for how it all looks I kept envisioning something like those views of the mid-century modellers studiously considering the scene before them. Pipes in hand and a sole hand built tank engine on some P4 track. Queue the narrator.


      • Ooo timed aye, bit like a chess match where operators punch a clock when they’ve completed a move? I think it would be a great way to interact with viewing public as you could operate and chat or let two strangers run it whilst you chat to other viewers? Anyway I think I’m getting a bit carried away! But I like the imagery you conjure up. I like the idea of P4 but don’t think I would have the patience for it, EM on the other hand..

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