Sunday, May 29, 2011

First Operating Session: Photos and Recap

I had hoped that the Ponderosa Lines would lend itself to some operations, and yesterday was the first big test. The typical spring wind here at 7,000 feet was the main obstacle, though once we dove into our respective jobs the gusts seemed to take a back seat. With battery power, we didn't need to worry about flying obstacles disrupting power, though I was wondering if those batteries were going to outlast the longest running time to date (they did). After explaining the Train Engineer Revolution controllers (Aristocraft) and the "geography" of the railroad, crews acquired their trains. The full session lasted 1.5 hours, about what I had planned. Two trains made their way from Paradise to Boulder Point and return, with various switching duties scattered throughout. A third "express" passenger train made the shorter run from Boulder Point to Viterbo (half-way point) and return. The following photos reveal some of the action.

The Day Tripper is the first to depart Paradise, shown here approaching Blumenthal.

Longest train to date behind the railroad's recently renovated Mogul, Engine #6, pulling the Peddler Mixed.

The Peddler Mixed rumbles over Palmer Gulch while the brakeman checks his train orders.

The mogul arrives at Viterbo passing siding to prepare for some switching.

The railroad's Baldwin ten-wheeler (a Bachmann "Annie") glides the Day Tripper down Angels Flight.

The crew of the mixed freight demonstrates a rare sight these days, that of "doubling the hill". If a grade is too steep for a longer train, the train is cut in half at the bottom, and the locomotive takes two trips over the hill. Here the Mogul is backing down into the second half of its train for the final trip up Baldwin Hill.

While the Peddler switches cars at Viterbo (background), the Day Tripper takes the reverse loop at Boulder Point.

A switching puzzle at Blumenthal. "Did we forget to drop the 'gon?"

While the Day Tripper rests at Boulder Point, the "Viterbo Express" awaits passengers. This train retrieves two combines (passenger cars with baggage area) at Blumenthal and Viterbo before making its return trip to Boulder Point at mid-day.

A highly technical approach to uncoupling - the plastic picnic knife. (Please see previous post for details.)

Uncoupling tool for hook-and-loop couplers

Necessity is "still" the mother of invention, I suppose. Knowing that our first full operating session was only a day away, I thought about the past year of struggling to uncouple those time-honored hook and loop couplers that adorn my equipment. I prefer having hooks on both ends of each car, primarily to strengthen the connection and prevent break-aways (again from experience). But uncoupling them manually can be a bear, without ripping both cars off the track in frustration. I also haven't been impressed with various track-based uncoupling gizmos that I've encountered (for my purposes, anyway). So, my first thought was that I needed something long and flat, to push down between the "loops," thereby releasing both hooks simultaneously. My first thought nearly solved the problem: Kitchen knives... long and flat.... but too expensive to bring outdoors. Plastic knives! A quick rummaging through a kitchen drawer revealed a pack of them. Only one test was necessary, as it worked perfectly. All crew members on Saturday were provided with uncoupling tools, one of which is seeing action in the accompanying photo. Perhaps somebody thought of this decades ago, but I'm still strutting around for finding a cheap, household solution. One crew member did notice a vital flaw on Saturday, however. He cautioned that because we were using knives as uncouplers, we could only use them once on each pair of cars!