veryone always talks about how to set up an op session, and what you need to do as a host. But what about the duties of each and every operator? I wouldn’t have even considered these points if I hadn’t been at sessions where they occurred.
- Be on time: It is critical to be on time for a session. Jobs are being assigned and the host needs to know where he can put valuable operators. Worse, coming in late means that you are now a major disruption to the flow of the pike. If you are honestly running late because of traffic (otherwise, dammit, start out earlier) then call the host and let him know. Perhaps you will be forgiven.
- Be attentive to the instructions: Whether it is your first time on a layout or you’ve helped design operations there, give the host the courtesy of listening to the pre-run instructions. Maybe something has changed. Maybe you don’t know jack. But it is pretty rude that, while the host is detailing things he feels you need to know, you are in the layout room, wandering around and taking pictures.
- Allow newbies to get the easy jobs: There are always days we don’t feel like taking on the hard tasks. Suddenly running a passenger train across the division looks appealing. After all, it’s been a hard week, right? But if there are first-timers there, give them the simple jobs. You’ll be helping the newbie and the host by yielding the simple runs and you might find yourself having a great deal of fun besides.
- Food: What can I say – unless the host permits it, do not stand in the layout room eating food. If you do eat food, wash your hands before handling equipment – your host does not want you to improve on his beautiful weathering efforts with your Cheetos fingerprints. And for goodness sake, if you think that setting a full can of soda on the layout is acceptable, go home now and save the host the effort of uninviting you in the future.
- Talking: Keep your stories and yarns in your lungs, not in the air and in our ears. We are there to exist in the world of the host’s layout, imagining that time and place, and not have to hear your day-to-day mundanities.
- Help others: If someone can’t reach something and you can, reach for it, partner. If someone derails a couple of cars, help them get it back on the rails. If someone is confused, help them figure it out. You might think “it’s not my job” but really, it is. Your job is to help the host have a successful session, and that includes it running smooth with a minimum of delays and confusion.
- Dealing with problems: Do it quietly. Make a mental note and bring it up to the host in the debrief. Don’t cuss and fume and ruin the session for those around you. I recently saw an operator make a complete and utter fool of himself, endlessly bitching about something small and silly. I mean, seriously?
- It’s not over until it’s over: Plan on staying to the end of the session. Lighting out early from a session is very, very rude. For one thing, many layouts can only accept a certain number of people. You leaving leaves the host short of crews. Having had to run two yard jobs simultaneously (and hurriedly) because some old guy sets down his throttle and says, “Welp, I think I’ll go see my grandkids” is very annoying. In this case, the host has locked him out of all future session. I agree.
- Quick and concise debriefs: Afterwards (and yes, you WILL stay for the debrief) let the host know what you experienced, good and bad. Suggestions, yes, but keep them short. And you aren’t in a court of law – don’t argue about how something should be done. Bring it up once and if the host declines to make the change, hey, it’s his railroad, not yours. Don’t be an ass about it.
- Have fun!
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