Saturday, March 27, 2021

SVL: March Ops

CabCams tested and ready to go

With Santa Clara County back in Red Tier we started to plan for an end of the month remote ops session. This week the county upgraded to Orange Tier and California announced availability of vaccinations for everyone in April, so things are definitely improving with regard to the pandemic.

This month's Ops was for club members, and became sort of a shake-down session. The layout hadn't run since the November Open House, and we wanted to try out using Zello Personal instead of FRS radios to facilitate remote operator communications with Dispatch and Yards, including the ability to have multiple sub-channels for focused communication.

Extra 200 is staged in Dodge Siding for a trip to Tracy

Somewhat to my surprise, we had a lot of problems with Zello. The app is very slick, and easy to use. It does project the feeling of being on a radio link, which I think adds to the realism of communication.

However, multiple participants reported problems with a significant delay of the microphone going live, as well as being throttled by Zello for sending too many messages. It's not a good situation when the dispatcher can't talk to the rest of the crew because Zello determined that he has been too active and repeatedly puts him into a "timeout box" for two minutes.

I spent a good part of the evening jumpstarting the session. When the crew settled into a rhythm and the session was running, I got to run train 443, which required a local operator due to the large amount of switching needed in Nowheres and Silicon. After being in a session facilitator role for most of last year, it was very nice to again run a train on the layout.

Train 443 (in the front) has suspended switching in Silicon to let Extra 200 pass. X200 is controlled by a club member in the UK.

With switching chores in Silicon completed, train 443 continues to Windsor

Overall, this was a good, but somewhat chaotic return to operating our layout. There is a Youtube Live recording with sound from the dispatcher channel which might be enjoyable to some of my readers.

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