Saturday, September 18, 2010

First Operating Session

Today I hosted the first operating session on the layout.

The session ran for about an hour, and involved a high-priority long-distance InterCity train only stopping in Emsingen, a local passenger train stopping in both Talheim and Emsingen. In addition to the passenger trains a wayfreight dropped off and picked up cars in Emsingen, which were brought down to Talheim by a local freight, switching industries in Talheim, and bring the outbound cars to Emsingen for pick-up  by another wayfreight run.

Things that worked:
  • Wayfreight drop and pickup of cars in Emsingen, and use of the freight tracks in Emsingen
  • Local freight to Talheim, and switching in Talheim, including mostly keeping the through tracks available for passenger traffic
  • The long tunnel along the wall wasn't quite as annoying as I saw it recently, (at least for me) this might have been because I had two trains to look after in parallel.
  • JMRI/Withrottle/Android Engine Driver using my Android phone as a wireless throttle. This worked very well for me.
  • Mixing freight and passenger traffic, and keeping the single mainline track busy.
  • We had a lot of fun!

Things that didn't quite work as  well:
  • Some switches caused trouble with the IC2000 cars we used for the InterCity, so we had to run the InterCity in a loop on the upper two levels (and only in one direction). Thankfully, I do have a track on the upper level I can use for storing trains between appearances.
  • Some low-voltage situations. With at times 4 locomotives in operation (one of them with sound) concurrently, ocassionally there was a significant drop in voltage on the track and trains slowed down. Either the booster in the Intellibox was running hot, or the respective transformer was getting overloaded. Either way, this clearly showed, that I will need to upgrade power at the latest once I have automated staging.
  • Switching instructions, or more generally car routing and identification. While we wrote a switch list before the start of the session, and picked destinations for the various cars on the layout, once the wayfreight arrived in Emsingen, there was some chaos determining which cars go where. This is made worse by the habit of european railroads to use very small car numbers on the cars, so it's not nearly as easy to keep track of a given box car by its number as on most American layouts. I'm contemplating to use carcards with waybills, and include a photo of the car on the car card for easier identification. I've seen templates on a FREMO website that looked quite nice. However, this will make staging the railroad for operation more cumbersome.
  • I need more locomotives active, and I need the engine servicing facilities built. The locomotive of an arriving wayfreight should couple off and top off water and coal, while a switcher takes care of the car movements.
  • I need to activate the Schienenbus for local passenger service. A 151 with two coaches is a poor stand-in ...
  • Two person operations works reasonably well, but the job of running passenger trains becomes somewhat dull after a while. This can be made more interesting with an actual timetable and more variety in both passenger train types, as well as variations in routing.
Overall, this was a lot of fun, and it showed both strengths and weaknesses of the layout. Thanks Balasz, for coming over and putting up with all the little problems we ran into.

No comments: