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A day of operations

Don Irace's Providence & Worcester locomotive facility located adjacent to Worcester Yard is the hub of activity on his double deck layout.

On a recent trip to Florida I was able to operate on two layouts in one day. The layouts were Don Irace’s Providence & Worcester, and John Farrington’s new Sumerset Industrial layout. It worked out great as both live less than a mile apart from each other. It was a very enjoyable day and I had a fantastic time operating on both layouts.

The day began with operating on Don’s layout. I wrote a blog on my website back in January about my first visit to Don’s, and highlighted his layout, operations, and track plan. He had made a few upgrades and improvements to his layout since my last visit. The most notable change was the installation of signals that controlled blocks of track on his layout, and the use of a remote dispatcher. The ops crew consisted of Don Irace, John Farrington, Dick Irish, Mark Herrick, and myself. Mark dispatched the layout from his home in CT, and we communicated with an app on our cell phones that functioned like a walkie talkie. I downloaded the free Zello app for my phone prior to the ops session, and once Don added me to the group it worked great for communications with the dispatcher. Having a dispatcher and following the signals gave a very prototypical feel to the operations.

Spot specific locations at Univar located in the Port of Providence adds time to get all cars in the correct locations.

I worked a couple of jobs on the layout while the others worked theirs. The first job worked the industries on the upper deck of the layout from the Valley Falls Yard to Port of Providence, and involved switching several industries including Univar. The second job ran from the Worcester Yard on the lower level yard to the upper level Valley Falls Yard, then on to exchange hopper cars in the Port of Providence, and then returned to the lower level after picking up cars in the Valley Falls Yard. The ops session lasted about four hours and the time just flew by. Don ran his decoder equipped highrail truck from one end of the layout to the other and it added a unique aspect to the ops session with other trains having to clear the line for the highrail to pass.

Next, we went over to John Farrigton’s house to see and operate on his new layout. You can see more about John’s layout on his recent YouTube video with the link below;

A simple foam core mock-up of United Alloys helps crews visualize the facility that will eventually occupy the space and where cars need to be spotted.

Our operating session that day was the inaugural ops session on his layout and it went really well. It is always good to test out a layout with an ops session before you get too far along. John mocked up a couple of structures with foam board to give operators an idea of what the finished structure would be and added signs to indicate the industry. While you may know your layout and what the industries are it is helpful to have signs for guest operators so that they can figure out the switching without asking lots of questions.

The transload facility offers lots of switching in a compact space.

John wanted to check out how two crews could operate in the industrial area and see if they interfered with each other during the switching. I worked a job that “just” switched the transload facility. The transload facility consists of three sidings, two for unloading and one for off spots. While this may sound like a simple job, there was a lot of switching and shuffling involved in getting the cars in the right spots. It took about an hour to get all the cars spotted and head back to the yard. Since the industrial area is considered within yard limits, which requires crews to look out for each other, I was able to operate and not impact the operations of the other crew by coordinating use of the main and run around track. Don worked the other industries and finished up about the same time as I did. The layout operated flawlessly and it met all of John’s expectations for operations.

I really appreciated Don and John accommodating my schedule and setting up the operating sessions while I was in town. It was a great day operating on two outstanding layouts and seeing how each person designs their layout to fit their goals and space.

Until next time, stay safe and keep model railroading.

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