On Sheet – Sliver Linings

On Sheet – Sliver Linings

n our last On Sheet, I just hung out with you all and laughed about some of the funny things I’ve heard during operations. Well, a lot of people liked it and some people discussed aspects of it, but I did get one contact that said that it actually was counter-productive, and that that person might not be so keen to operate if that’s what it was about.

Ouch! Classic backfire!

So let’s take a step back, way back, and define model train operations. How about this?

Model Train Operations are the biggest, greatest co-operative game there is!

And that’s it in a nutshell. Where else can you see a roomful of people attempting to do a number of operations with model trains in limited space, interacting and simulating real world functions? If the internet has something like this, I’m not aware of it.

And notice that I didn’t use the word “successfully” anywhere. You can crater a session, blunder and run late and be in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can even do a Gomez. The worst that can happen is that everyone ribs you (or you end up in a blog). But really, success has little to do with the actual session – it’s more the personal measuring stick we use to view our advancement in skills and abilities.

When Covid first got going, I went to an outdoor Christmas party. And even though we distanced, one of the people there ended up getting it bad – it swept through his family and took one of them. So our ops was a week later, and I simply couldn’t go (heartbreaking). But since they use my secondary computer for the session, I went in early (masked) and booted it up for them (wiped it down, too). Then I came back after the session was concluding to fetch it.

I’ll still remember that night. It was a cold Central Florida night, the stars gleaming in that pre-Christmas way. The parking lot at the club was full – I could see they had good attendance. And then the boys were spilling out of the door, laughing at capering with each other. Standing well off, I asked them how the session went. To my surprise they told me that things got away from the dispatcher, there were goofs galore in spotting cars, and there was even a head-on crash. And you know what? They STILL had a great time. They just ran trains and did their best and had fun. And that’s what’s important in this hobby.

The thing is, our cooperative game gives you a chance to either hone your skills at a job you enjoy and are good at, or to advance into a job you’ve never tried. The first time I dispatched CTC (Centralized Traffic Control) I was so bad that the owner suggested at lunch that we “change out some jobs”.  Yes, I got the axe and ended up on a backwoods local. Two decades later, I run under one of the biggest CTC sessions in the state – the owner holds the dispatcher job for me.

And, same layout – I took on a switching job I’d never done before. Some guy I didn’t really get along with walked past just as I got into town and suggested I drop my caboose on a spur off to the side before getting started. I didn’t particularly like the guy so I tossed the baby out with the bath water. Yes, I took that caboose into the industrial trackage with my cut and regretted it the entire time – it was in the way and made a number of easy jobs step-heavy. I regretted it with every move. So the next time we operated I grabbed that job, left the crummy on the spur and switched everything elegantly. I even had to weather the knowing smirk the guy tossed me. Yes, he was right and I was wrong, but I know the trick of the thing now. I’m a better operator for it.

In an hour or two, I’m heading over to the TY&E, a local session where I run a Sand and Lumber job. I’ve made that run a number of times and have it down pat. I have it memorized and will do my best to run it to perfection. And I’ll have fun doing it. Because that is model train operations!