Author Topic: Ops session, where to learn?  (Read 1271 times)

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MK

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Ops session, where to learn?
« on: February 07, 2017, 08:33:28 AM »
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Ops sessions have always fascinated me and I have always wanted to try it out.  However, as a lone wolf operator, I really can't try it myself.  :)  Finding one shouldn't be a problem and I may want to attend the NER NMRA convention this year (Rhode Island) or next year (Northern NJ - much more convenient) and they have ops sessions that you can sign up for.

My dilemma is how do I learn these things?  Is it "just by doing"?  I really don't know how real railroads operate and the last thing I want is to attend a session and mess things up and destroy people's fun.  Are fellow modelers patient enough to show a newbie the ropes?  I have been in the hobby a couple or years and I do have a small layout in the basement (I run Digitrax) so I'm not new to MRR.

The one thing going for me is I do pick up things fast, being a mechanical engineering and having worked in a variety of industries.

Is there something I can read up on, a book or a website that might give me some insight and prepare me without going in cold?  :D  I tried searching on the internet and most of the hits I get is about a particular or specific ops sessions that someone has detailed.

Cajonpassfan

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2017, 09:35:55 AM »
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Www.opsig.org/

Great resource for just the things you're asking about.
Otto K.

Philip H

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2017, 09:39:52 AM »
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Generally, newbies who are humble are welcome in all the ops sessions I have attended.  Most MRR guys who host ops sessions will pair a newbie with an old hand and generally it works well.

Tony Koester and Lance Mindheim have books on Ops of various types that you can get from the internet.  Koester's are published by Kalmbach (the Modelr Railroader Magazine guys).

There are also a ton of ops videos on Youtube.  They are generally shot during a session, and some are better then other at explaining whats going on.

A quick search of the term "operations" on MRH returned over 8,000 hits for articles, blog posts, etc. 

Finally, As Otto notes above, there's  Special Interest Group (SIG) of the NMRA focused on operations:  http://www.opsig.org/
Philip H.
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wm3798

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2017, 10:05:24 AM »
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If you have a layout with an industry track or two, a run around track, and a couple of stub end yard tracks, you can do simple ops by yourself.

Grab 5 freight cars, decide which cars should go to which sidings and put them in your yard, stage a couple of cars on those sidings, and decide where they might be heading to.

Write it all down on a switch list, pull the cars out, set them out where they go, pick up the cars going back to the yard, and bring them back to the yard.

In the yard, you can designate one track as "outbound west" and "outbound east" then sort the newly arrived cars to send them in the right direction.

If you have a loop track, pull the eastbound cars and send them eastbound (you can decide which direction is which on your loop) and get another engine and pull the westbound cars west.  If you have a double track loop, make sure you have a crossover in each direction (this can form your run-around track) and if you have a single track, make sure you have a siding long enough to stop the longest train you'll run (5-10 cars is usually adequate) so you can do a meet.

While the trains are orbiting, write up a new switch list for the cars that will be "arriving" and create new destinations for the cars you spotted at the industries.

Lather, rinse, repeat...

Lee
Route of the Alpha Jets

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

jpwisc

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2017, 10:20:24 AM »
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Come on down to Vegas, I'll give you a full tutorial in person.

Some of the variables are era and local (TT&TO vs CTC Dispatch vs TWC). They are all fun.
Karl
CEO of the Skally Line, an Eastern MN Shortline.

Blazeman

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2017, 10:28:54 AM »
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I've been dipping my toe in the ops world now and then for a couple years. Depending on the layout, it can be intimidating when you handle that first train and you hear your orders and get given a manifest or a stack of car cards.

Just last night, attended the first one in a couple years. Got paired with the friend who arranged the invite. We ran two length of the layout passenger trains to get me familiar with the track plan and all the place names. This is a layout depicting Erie/DLW and CNJ across NJ into PA circa mid-50's, but minus the commuter traffic.

I got my orders in small bites so I could focus on running the train to where I had to stop. Having a way freight, not much for me to do while the yards I entered removed and added cars to my train. Unfamiliar with the throttle features, that slowed me down and background noise from so many operators communicating made hearing my instructions difficult. But with some guidance along the way from the other operators, saying thanks, asking questions before making a move (OK to throw the switch, do you want it thrown back, how far in do you need me to be), I was assisted in completing the run. Put it this way: I never had to go in reverse other than to back up to spot a bad order car.

So, if you arrange to be invited, find out what DCC and throttles are utilized. If you have compatible equipment, bring it along. It is appreciated. Take a pen, have a shirt with a pocket to stuff your cards in. Many layouts have you carry a little radio for communication, so you'll need to have a hand free for that as the throttle is in the other.

But you're more concerned about getting an invite. Let us know your general area of residence. From there, you'll get some guidance by members here concerning contacts and such. The person I lean on is a former president of the opsig group, so he would have a wide reach.

I could not believe all the guys present at the session last night in Paoli, Pa. But we got through it although it was physically challenging at times to keep your train in view and access ports.

MK

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2017, 02:08:43 PM »
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Lee:

Good suggestions!  I do believe I have a double track loop plus some industries and a yard.  Here's the last picture I took of the layout before it went into mothballs 6 years ago.  It's a 3' x (almost) 6' layout and the mountain on the upper right has been built but not finished.



Think I can do a self ops session just to try it out and practice?

Blazeman:

Excellent suggestion of posting a "Want Ad" to try an ops session near by.  I'm in Northern NJ and I run Digitrax, having an older DT400.  I just reached out the Northern N-Trak guys and lucky me they are having a club meeting this Friday so I'm going to sit in.  I have always been a lone wolf.  :)

chicken45

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2017, 03:34:37 PM »
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You should swing by @seusscaboose 's layout. He even has a Digitrax primer before each of his ops sessions.
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MK

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2017, 08:42:16 PM »
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Is he near Northern NJ?

wm3798

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2017, 09:06:47 AM »
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Yes.  If you have an airplane.  He lives a few blocks from BWI... :lol:

Nice compact little plan you have there.  Looks like you have most of the necessary elements, but here's a few suggestions...

A good exercise would be to imagine a straight line run from the yard to the end of the industrial track there in the middle.  Unwind the track plan on paper, and see what you have.  It looks like both of the larger industries end up being "trailing point" moves, which should be easy to switch by simply backing up the spur track and dropping off the cars.  Now the tricky part...  put the outbound cars on one leg of the run around, then run the engine around (hence the name!) and pull the train back to the yard the same way you came. 

It looks like when you get back to the yard, you'll have no choice but to bury the engine at the end of a stub track, requiring an 0-5-0 switcher (your hand) to put it back right.  Adding another run around in or close to the yard will correct that.  It looks like there might be room to do a run around on the line that goes to the tunnel, but that will be more useful for staging your "through" train... more on that in a minute...

The length of your industrial run around looks to be about 3 or 4 car lengths, which for this size layout, is reasonable.  If you're running modern and don't use cabooses, that leaves more room for revenue (which explains why the 1:1 scale guys dispensed with them).   You want to make sure you have enough room to switch the cars in and out and still be able to run around to pull the train back.

Once you've worked out how you want the railroad to work, you can adjust your infrastructure accordingly.  add a crossover here, extend a siding spur there...

Lee

Route of the Alpha Jets

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

MK

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2017, 11:11:01 AM »
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Lee, THANK YOU!  I will have to print it out and slowly digest what you wrote.  But one thing is for sure, it looks like I can dome some simple op session by myself to try things out.  I'm glad back then I had to foresight to play the layout accordingly...not!  I just winged it and did a little thinking of what made sense and not designed for op sessions.  More for running trains with my son.

wm3798

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2017, 11:39:01 AM »
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The bit that's on the right side, where you have a long siding through the tunnel, that second track can be where you stage a "through" train (for roundy roundy running while you enjoy a cocktail) which can also pause at the yard and set out the next cut of cars to be worked by the local, as well as pick up the ones ready to move on to the wider world.

Once you establish what the flow is, then you can start refining your switch lists, and maybe move on to car cards and waybills.  On a small layout like this, that wouldn't take long to set up at all.

One important note, remember that the yard is NOT for storage of cars you're not using.  The yard is a living, breathing part of the railroad, really, the heart beat.  Cars coming in are there to be sorted and readied for their next destination.  It's important to keep the yard as clear as possible so you can do that sorting efficiently.  Consider how well your body would work if your heart just sat there storing all the blood... :scared:

So, now, after just a couple of posts, you have three jobs on your little layout.
1.  Yard switcher - responsible for setting blocks of cars to be distributed locally, and blocks to be picked up and sent along the main
2. Local Freight - responsible for moving cars from the yard to the industries, and likewise collecting up the cars from the industries and returning them to the yard to be sorted.
3.  Through freight - running the main, pausing to set out and pick up cars that need to be sorted in the yard.

On the through freight, you don't have to drop off the whole train to be worked.  You could have a 10 car train that's running through, but only drop off 3-4 cars for the local.  This makes for a fun switching job for the road guy, and keeps a fresh mix of cars coming and going from the yard.

Once you've mastered these few simple railroading concepts, you'll be ready to expand your experience with working at a larger club layout.  As noted previously, newbies will usually be given a passenger train so they can run around the layout and get familiar with the lay of the land.  Next you'd probably get a peddler freight, with lots of stops, again, helpful to learn locations.  I find these peddler jobs to be the most fun, but I'm funny that way. :D

Let us know how your adventure at the club goes!
Lee
Route of the Alpha Jets

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

ncbqguy

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2017, 02:30:04 AM »
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There is a Yahoo Groups OpSig List.  Sign up and indicate that you want to become involved in ops sessions in your area.   If you have a local hobby shop you might try networking there.  Also try your local NTRAK group and NMRA Division.
When I was still planning on building a layout that would use about 20 operators I joined several different groups (easy in the Chicago area) and pretty much went to a session almosst evert weekend to learn.
Go with an open mind.  First, most of the layouts you'll encounter will be HO.   Some will be out of your era.  Many will have rudimentary scenery.
You'll encounter railroads that have a very well thought out operations scheme with great documentation/user aides...and some that don't. 
If you think about all aspects of each session you attend you can develop ideas for you own railroad based on positive and negatives you experienced. 
When you offer ops sessions on your railroad you'll want people to have a positive experience and want to come back for the next session.  So observe things that made you feel welcome, a part of the "game", and what interested you about your assignment and how others were encouraged to interact with all the participants.   These aspects are as important if not more so as having a well designed layout and equipment that works smoothly.
Along the way you'll also pick up ideas on all aspects of having a railroad set up for operations. 
Hopefully you'll find a couple of people who will be willing to work on your railroad and have you work on theirs.   I can't think of any successful operating railroads were there wasn't at least a couple of regulars helping the owner build and maintain the railroad and hep at sessions.
I hope others will add their thoughts on the subject....
Charlie Vlk
Nashville, TN area

MK

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2017, 08:51:55 AM »
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Hi Charlie,

Thanks for your reply.  I'm in Northern NJ right across the river from NYC.  Alas, hobby stores are non-existent but there are several clubs around (almost all HO).  I have been a lone wolf so network is nil.  But last Friday I decided to stop by the local N-Trak club and attended their meeting.  It just happened to be that I caught this month's so I don't have to wait.

Wow, it sure opened up a lot of possibilities.  Most likely I will join the club as it's fairly inexpensive and they do exhibit at train shows around the area and I'm hoping they may do some op sessions when they are displaying to the public.  They are also N.   Win!  :D :D :D :D

MVW

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Re: Ops session, where to learn?
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2017, 11:42:41 AM »
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MK, I've been in kind of the same boat. Ops have always fascinated me, but I'd never taken part in a session. About a year ago, I put the layout I'm building through its first ops session. The session is designed for at least two people, but as (primarily) a lone wolf I filled both roles. You can follow along on that initial ops session on  my build thread, https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=34780.30

That may give you some ideas for your own layout, or how a session elsewhere may play out.

Have fun!

Jim