Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Starting the blog

After being involved in the operations there for 10 years, I can firmly say the following... 'If you don't work with Everyone there as a team the layout will take the bunch of you, chew you up, and spit you out.  But mastering the monster, even for a few hours is one of the best feelings in the world!" Jason Hill, sometime ago after yet another wild session with the "Magnificent Monster".

This blog is intended to explore how to make the sessions at the La Mesa Club's TT/TO (timetable & trainorder) sessions better and more enjoyable for all who attend.  This will also be a lesson in operating the La Mesa Model Railroad Club's exhibit in San Diego, CA.  What are we trying to achieve with the operations and hopefully help those that come from near and far to these sessions to get some preview of the challenges and intricacies of why we have the symbols set up a certain way.  While some have said, "I'm not sure Freight Forwarding can be taught."  I hope to be able to open a wider door into the 'how's and why's' of the movement of the cars on the Tehachapi Joint Line.  Often some of the model operations have to be somewhat compromised or manipulated to get the cars to come back with minimal real-time restaging of the layout during the sessions.  As we move toward the possibilities of a full 24-hour continuous operation, we need to teach more people how to do the critical jobs involved in the operation of the layout.  While we've done a good job in the last 4-6 years breaking in new people to the layout (not necessarily new people to operations in general), teaching of the art of the freight car forwarding scheme has not progressed very well.  It still seems limited to a few people who are depended on to get all of the switch lists and paperwork in order between sessions and who are getting burned out.  Continued success of the club's operating department will rely on the ability to transfer this knowledge to others who can share some of the work during the sessions to make the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone.  One of the key differences in the style of operation that is the Tehachapi Joint Line, is that we don't do this every day, day in and day out like the real railroaders of 60 years ago.  We come in and play an intense 'battle' for a weekend (24 hours over two days) and expect it to run like the real thing that had been running, by 1950,  for 80 odd years every day!  I strongly feel that anyone wanting to operate on the layout is going to have an insanely steep learning curve if they don't take a bit of time before hand and try to "break-in" to at least the operation style and some of the "Cliff notes" that other operators have learned over the years.

Please keep the comments civil, even if they are critical of the way things are done.  I believe that I can say that the operations dept of the club has tried to as closely as possible recreate the "way it was".  Sometimes in doing this there is the question "why do it that way" and often the answer is simply, "that's the way the real railroad did it.  So we do it the same way."  When the Ops. Dept. has responded that way in the past, it's almost always been because we have received first hand knowledge that it was "that way".  Also an opportunity to get some feedback from the operators at the layout, to see if the changes we're working on are actually having any effect. 

I will endeavor to explain any question of "why" we're doing it the way we are... and hopefully we can all learn new things.  I don't claim that my way is "THE right way", so please feel free to open discussions here.

Here are some topics that I hope to soon post, including;
General Operations
Bakersfield Yard Operations - How to use the yard the "prototypical way" (based on 1st hand accounts of a SP switchman that worked the yard in the early 1950's and various other data).
Mojave Yard Operations - Don't be bored out in the high desert!  There's LOTS to do.
Mountain Local and the Mojave Turn - Cat in a room full of rocking chairs!
The Arvin Branch - Like a Coal Turn... but our coal melts!
The "Jawbone" and the "Blitz" Locals - A nice tan for the desert rats.
Helper Service on the 'Hill' - Shoving the heavy tonnage.
 A shift as the "Chief" - Time for some hard choices.

I know that some people have expressed a "disinterest" in the operations of the club for various reasons.  I understand about coming a long way to operate and not having things turn out the way you "planned".  The operations at the club are not the run of the mill events.  The layout can take some of the finest operators and give them a real run for their money.  After being involved in the operations there for 10 years, I can firmly say the following... 'If you don't work with <b>Everyone</b> there as a <b>team</b> the layout will take the bunch of you, chew you up, and spit you out.  But mastering the monster, even for a few hours is one of the best feelings in the world!"  I'm still in the process of moving out of San Diego, so will soon feel what it's like to be traveling long distances to regularly attend the sessions on the Tehachapi Joint Line.

Jason Hill

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