Are we moving too fast? I still like Lance Mindheim’s “short, frequent operating sessions” idea. A few years ago I shared a video, filmed on the Claremont-Concord. Not just paring down the scope of the session but then expanding or enriching it with actions that detail the experience by incorporating real life movements more than just the direction switch and throttle knob moves our controllers provide. I liked how the video documented a short, frequent session from real life showing the pace of the railroad and what it could do in those minutes.

More than ten minutes? Maybe a twenty minute operating session? Check out this video of a Depew, Lancaster & Western RS18 shunting:

It all happens in one location, with one engine. Clearly there’s purpose to their moves. You could do this in about twenty minutes using a track plan pretty much like an Inglenook and leave, content with the feeling that you’d played trains but satisfied that you moved at the “right” rate – if that matters.

The videos are a joy to watch even if not as planning tools for a model railway. Fun to watch while snuggled up on the couch with your cat and enjoying the first coffee of the day.

Categories: How I think

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5 replies

  1. Love these shortline? moves.. I’m building a playlist of just these things and totally agree with the operational side of it. I often get out the N scale, stick it on a bit of ply and shuffle the cars backwards and forwards.. imagination is the key ingredient. I’ve really come round to this mode of ops.. a new genre; slow switching/shunting. good post.

    • Watching a recording, like this one, I think about how there’s a kind of mindful presence this pace invites us to interpret: it’s not about how long we wait between moves or the pace we run the trains at but setting a rate that allows to present during the operating session, mindful of our movement, and conscious of our work. It might be a way for the pace of the session to feel “right” rather than running too fast and feeling exhausted not refreshed by the end or feeling like we might have been right by moving too slowly but still wondering if that was right. Plus, it gives us a chance to appreciate what it’s like to watch trains while we play trains.

  2. As a lone wolf, I’ve read about the MR-press sanctioned op sessions that require 5-15 operators driving in from all over and a 3-4 hour op session. Hanging around the crew lounge (fun!) waiting for their assignment, fighting the fast clock, yadda yadda.

    My 45-minute op session each night (between the CBS Evening News headlines and Jeopardy!) focuses me on one of four turns I can run on the Hanley Spur (3 CN and 1 CP). I might finish one, I might not. I can work in a maintenance project. I can also do some interchange/staging for a future turn.

    It’s achievable and fun, and not at all exhausting!
    Enjoyed that scrappy video, too, Chris!

    • It’s neat that you are able to divide the work as you describe: working one of four possible turns on the Spur. In that way enjoying the change not just in the work but the layout itself must take on a different personality too. Do you find that things happen during one session that create anticipation in the next?

      I love the pun. No scraps there and, for once, I think it’s good to recycle material.

      Puns aside and though I didn’t mention it those scrap cars themselves bring a kind of universality making a choice of prototype easier? Modern industrial parks are so similar and it’s neat how the same scrap hoppers appear in Halifax, Truro, and points west. Not formulaic at all and exciting in the ways we could customize it.



  1. Another RSC14 found (1752 in New York) – Prince Street

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