Tuesday, January 29, 2013

LD/Ops SIG weekend

The Layout Design / Operations SIG meet is a great event, usually on the last weekend of January. Saturday is the actual meet with talks and presentations. This year it was at Harry's Hofbrau, which worked out quite well as a venue. Lunch was included in the admission fee. It was that we didn't have to leave the venue to find a restaurant for lunch. Plenty of opportunity to chat and meet folks during the break.

The program was very diverse. Seth Neumann and Chris Drome presented a fascinating talk about using RFID in identifying cars (and locomotives) for operations, including a technology demonstration. I enjoyed Thomas Knapp's talk about about modeling the facilities of the Pacific Coast Railway at San Louis Obispo. Not only for its historical background and maps, but also because he recreated historical photos on his layout and photographed the model from the same location / angle. It also helps that his models and buildings are very well done. After lunch Dave Falkenburg gave a very entertaining talk about Free-moN, and the Silicon Valley group in particular. This really created some appetite to consider building a module. Dennis Drury's talk about using JMRI Ops to validate layout design was an interesting idea, though I didn't quite buy into it. Finally, Guy Cantwell talked about his Willoughby Line layout, and showed plenty of photos of his nice layout. The official part of the day ended with a panel discussion of how the era of a layout influences operations and vice versa. It was interesting to hear how various people arrived at the theme and setting for their layout and where they took it from there.

After dinner at Applebees, I spent the evening touring layouts with friends. Our first stop was Dave Adams' Durlin Branch of the D&RGW in On3, since it was near the dinner place and no-one in the group had seen it yet. What a surprise! That is one neat layout. Almost completely scenicked, and very well done.We spent almost an hour here, much longer than I anticipated.

Next up was Seth Neumann's Niles Canyon Layout in HO, which I also hadn't seen yet. What struck me about this layout was how the mood of the scenery changes between the industrial areas of Fremont/NUMMI and the Niles Canyon/Pleasanton side of the layout. And of course this layout is tricked out with all kinds of nifty electronics (including the RFID readers), signals, and lighting effects outside and inside buildings. We spent much longer here than I thought, too, not only because the layout was nice, but also chatting with people.
Both Seth's and Dave's layouts are built for operations and should be fun.

We finished the evening at Ed Loizeaux's New York Central, Valley Division. This S scale layout is really made for railfanning with a long double track main line run that winds through the room, a few switching areas, and a small yard (well, as much as things can be small in S scale ...) Several trains ran, and it's quite an experience to watch this long coal drag make its way across the stone arch bridge that forms much of the upper level.

For Sunday I was originally signed up to operate on Bill Kaufman's State Belt layout. That session got canceled on relatively short notice. Instead, I spent the day operating on Jim Radkey's BNSF Pink Lady, which is always a good and fun experience. The group was interesting, and I enjoyed both running trains (Sergeant Hill Local and others), and chatting with the other operators.

Overall, a great weekend. One thing that really struck me this time around was that there _is_ a strong social aspect to model railroading. Since this was the third time I went to this meet, and I'm active at Silicon Valley Lines as well, you get to reconnect with people you haven't seen for a while. ... and they recognize you as well!
Yes, you spent a lot of time in your train room, or the garage, by yourself or in a small group. However, with events like this, I got reminded that there are many others that share this same fascination, and these people are real, not just an email address. I've now met several people in person whose thoughts and advice I've read in mailing lists, or forum posts, for several years. A lot of this is about sharing what you're proud of. The solution to that tricky track geometry problem. This neat technique for scratch building. That awesome scenery effect. Do share and contribute. I'll do my part with this blog, showing my layout, and what I do with it.

No comments: