Monday, June 11, 2012

Fifth Operations Session on the Welztalbahn

This session ended up being split over multiple days, because of time constraints and novice operators.

My Dad and Wolfram ran trains based on a light schedule, while I dispatched, and prepped staging on the fly. This wasn't a particularly fluid session, though I think everyone got the hang of it eventually. Wolfram commented later, that he always considered a freight train as one whole, and the act of breaking it up and sorting the cars was a new concept he really enjoyed.

Dad switching in Talheim
As always I learned a few things...
  • Make the control panels less confusing.
    Mixing route control and local controlled switches on the same panel is sub-optimal. In addition many first time operators have trouble correlating the panel schematic with the tracks. Still trying to decide if this is a fundamental problem when folks are unfamiliar with a layout, or if there's anything I can do to make this easier.
    I've seen this on other layouts that use panels, too. It takes a little bit time to map lines in a diagram to tracks, but I can likely improve on the presentation of the panels. E.g. I'm not sure how far I want to go with providing feedback on the hard panels. Switch positions: Definitely... Signals: Maybe... Occupancy: I don't think so.
    A bit more signage and track names/numbers on the panels should be helpful, too.
  • Build panels for hidden staging and make occupancy feedback more fluid
    Controlling the train room computer by Remote Desktop from a laptop is sub-optimal.
  • Better seating
    At least the Emsingen panel is hard to see in it's current location while the operator is standing. An unfortunate side-effect of the Emsingen "control pit".
  • When preparing a session I need to better take into account experience level of operators
    The last few sessions I had a very experienced operator running Emsingen Yard. I ignored how steep the learning curve for this actually is. Both in terms of concepts, as well as being efficient in switching moves.
  • When preparing a session I need to better take into account what operators are interested in.
    Not everyone enjoys switching operations as much as I do, and the layout has sufficient opportunities to keep train activity up (e.g. on operator might be running 2-3 passenger trains concurrently), while another operator might be doing light switching in between those "scheduled" trains.
  • There were a few mechanical problems
    Two dead spots on the down ramp to staging, as well as the pick-up shoe of one engine (BR24) getting stuck at the top of the ramp just before the curved cross-over. I experienced the latter problem around the same time last year with BR50, but then it disappeared and I was unable to track it down completely. I suspect this is related to wood expanding/contracting as the summer season heats up. This time I have a pretty good idea about the culprit and might build something from styrene to guide the pickup shoe over the trouble spot.
Over the course of 2 evenings we ran the 5 scheduled freights, as well as a few passenger trains. 

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