On Scope – Learning Curve

On Scope – Learning Curve

‘ve been dreaming of operating since I was about six. And I’ve been doing it since I was 28 or so (in retrospect, I’m 64 now). So I’ve operated a lot.

I remember my first ops session on my home layout – I invited my father and one of his friends over. I had some sort of sequential thing set up. But they just sat on their train room stools, drank coffee and told Navy yarns.

I didn’t have a lot of luck at the club until one or two other members gave it a try. Yes, there were a couple of us running trains under mother-may-I fashion with hand-written switch lists. Everyone else either watched or just ignored us.

But then another guy and then another joined us, and soon the balance tipped. Either people had to learn how to operate or they just stayed home on the fourth Wednesday of the month. And now our club will have fifteen to twenty (with guests tossed in) to run.

I was sitting in the dispatchers office the other night for our Time Table and Train Order session, thinking about all this. Out in the room, guys were calling their OS reports and coming back for orders. Some of them had run at La Mesa Club in San Diego (a massive TT&TO effort). Others had paid attention in my clinics and in my quick pre-session chat. Overall, the two young guys who were the most inexperienced at it found another train with their front end. I’ll sit with them and go over it again – it’s worth having two more crews for a session.

But that’s how it goes. The entire group has gotten better and better. When we carpool over to boomer on another railroad, I can trust my guys to work it out and smooth it down – they usually help the home crew out. We guest to five other layouts now, and usually our offers to participate are granted. So we’re experienced in TT&TO, Warrants and CTC.

When I look at us now, and then back thirty-six years (longer than most railroad hoggers work), I can see how we’ve really come a long way. And yes, I can feel proud for all my efforts (including dragging the club into TT&TO, which is quickly gaining favor). Now I have to mint out some new dispatchers so I’ll be able to run more.

And a local layout we enjoy that has been stuck on Mother-May-I forever has finally agreed to let us try warrants. I think we can pull this off and sell him over to it.

Not all the stories are successes. I did drive quite a ways to another layout to give them a TT&TO clinic, but they still grip their timetable as if it is a script, not an actual operational document. After the last session (where we were doing all sorts of crazy home rules and procedures, and not giving the crew the  freedom that comes with TT&TO) I’ve kinda accepted it. Yes, I’ll go play trains with them but it’s really nothing groundbreaking. I won’t believe it until I see  dispatcher move a meet point.

But over these years, it’s been a lot of fun and a lot of stories. If only I was in the blogging business back in 1990 – I’d love to read some of our early adventure.

But there was a point to grandpa’s reminiscence. And it is this: If you want operations, really fun, well attended operations, you’ll have to fight for it. You’ll need to find as many people as you can, get invited to as many sessions as you can (because you really learn the ropes that way). And you have to face the setbacks.

But really, nothing is better than sitting in the dispatchers chair, checking with the critical crews that we’re ready to go, check my warrant pads and my sharpened pencil, then hit the button and call overhead: Clock’s hot!


My home layout is in a 10×14 foot room, and we packed them in. This is from 2013.