Friday, September 24, 2010

Operations at Silicon Valley Lines

After living in the valley for over 12 years, I finally made it to Silicon Valley Lines today. This layout is clearly made for operations. The state of scenery varies a lot, from naked plywood in some places over areas in varying stages of construction, to nicely finished scenes. However, this should be somewhat expected as the layout is HUGE. While it takes a train on my own layout about 90 seconds to make one loop through all three levels and back, at SVL it took me a good 10 minutes to run a passenger train from one end of the layout to the other end. That includes station stops, but excludes time we had to wait for opposing traffic.

There are two main yards and several staging areas on the layout. The picture on the right is Bayshore Yard with Winston staging above, and Bakersfield staging below (bad quality due to cell phone camera).

Today was operations night, which means quite a few trains ran, a dispatcher was directing traffic, and the various train crews used FRS radios to communicate with the dispatcher who is sitting in a separate room. One of the freight assignments I ran was a super-long train traversing about two thirds of the layout. This run took us the better part of an hour due to some opposing traffic, but also because this train wouldn't move that fast. I quickly learned that it is easy to pull a long train off curved track if you accelerate too quickly. Overall, I ran 4 scheduled trains and an extra passenger train over the course of 4 hours. The people are very friendly, and I had a blast. I'll definitely be back for more.

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