Saturday, January 06, 2018

FREMO Waldenburg americaN Winter 2018

While my family is flying home, I'm staying in Europe for business and have a couple extra days before going back to work. Conveniently, there is a FREMO americaN meet this weekend only 45 minutes of driving from my home. It turns out that Waldenburg used to be a fortified town on top of a hill with some of the fortifications still standing. I didn't take any photos of the town. It rained most of the time I was there. Next time.

I arrived at the meet just in time to catch the last 5 minutes of the intro speech. Yay! They are talking about block authority using DTC! I felt right at home. There was no clock. Train assignments were picked by operators in sequence.

There was no dispatcher on-duty. Instead the main line between towns with long sidings was divided into DTC blocks. Each block could only be occupied if an operator was in possession of the respective block permission card. This approach replaced the usual walkie-talkie communication and verbal dispatcher block authorizations in DTC territory. This worked quite well for the relatively loose train line-up and number of available operators.
Initially, the process was strictly followed. As a consequence some trains ended up waiting at block boundaries for a long time, until e.g. a local working an industry or town within a block finished their work. Later, the individual operators started to work together to determine whether the main line could be cleared to let the train pass. I.e. operators informally took on the roles of station agents and remote dispatcher.

A more formal variation of what we did might work as follows: When an operator holds the permission card for a block, they hold the ability to grant authority for track blocks in their permission block. I.e. such operator takes on the role of the dispatcher within the limits of the permission block to improve traffic flow if needed. In such scenario more extras and/or scheduled trains could run to provide operational interest. However, this might come at the cost of slowing down the work of locals even more, which is probably not desirable. Nevertheless, it might be nice to try that at a future meet.

The arrangement was on the smaller side with two staging yards, a main line run, and an industrial switching branch.

It turned out this setup contributed to a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of opportunity to chat with other attendees.

After settling in, my first assignment was the empty coal train from Luketown to Sarah Creek Yard via Fremont and Manaukee. With 30 cars from Luketown, this was the longest train on the layout and quite a sight. Here it is at MoPac Bridge, a nicely done module modeled after a prototype situation in Kansas.

I dropped cars in Fremont and ran around my train in Manaukee Yard to serve the local power station. But first I had to wait for the Transcon long-distance passenger train to run through Manaukee.

Back in Fremont, the coal train is passing the empty cars set out at the coal mine earlier.

The train lineup consisted of a good mix of manifest and local freights, as well as passenger trains. Here's a passenger local on the truss bridge at Speers Ferry.

The switching district was built from Florida-themed ST modules forming a long spindly branch off the main layout. I like the idea of such small standard-sized modules that can be set easily on shelves and tables, or on legs like it was done here. These modules look like a great option to try out ideas and get the satisfaction of completing a viable, good-looking module in relatively short time. 

I really enjoy local switching jobs. It often takes a little while to internalize how towns or industries can be switched effectively. When I took my second local to Cobie, I had a much better idea how I wanted to approach the job. Here's that local before I started switching.

A couple more detail shots in no particular order.

Both staging yards used movable track pieces on the far end to turn locomotives. This is a low-cost and space-saving approach and very functional.

The bridge gets power from the track it is attached to by way of sprung connectors that line up with the outside of the staging track rails.

I very much enjoyed the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of this meet, and the ample opportunities to get to know more model railroaders with an interest in prototype-oriented operations of American model railroads.


Anonymous said...

Though I could not attend the meeting myself it sounds like you had a lot of fun!
Glad that you could join our group and run some trains!

All the Best from Hamburg

Bernhard Beck said...

Hallo Dirk,

yup, ich hatte einen Riesenspass mit der Anlage, Betrieb, und der Gruppe. Gerne wieder.