omething we do on our club layout.
Look, it’s an old layout – been around for thirty years or more. And it’s N-scale, so it has it’s problems. And the original construction team was in a rush. So yes, it does have issues.
Trains will derail. Sections might drop out. Things won’t work.
So we designate someone – for the session – as the Superintendent. His job is to answer all questions. He also assists members who derail, get confused, need help. In this, it helps if he’s physically fit enough to climb under the railroad when needed to fetch cars out of tunnels or check turnout wiring. Also, they need to know all the tricks of the layout, as well as how to put cars back on the rails quickly.
This really seems to help the session. For the membership, when they get totally stuck they can call out to the Superintendent for help. It means they don’t feel abandoned by the club, and there is always someone they can go to.
Of course, for the Superintendent, it sucks. Sometimes Superintendents decide not to run trains (running down all these problems can be a full-time job). I ran last night on the LM&O but yes, I was interrupted a lot. But I still managed to run two jobs with a newbie engineer (and gain my seniority points). It’s all in how much bandwidth you have.
Of course, while I was helping rerail someone and checking to make sure newbie was holding on the siding like I’d asked, one of our new members came in – he’d put his car into the ditch in the rain outside. Did he have a phone? No. Did he have AAA? He didn’t know. What about his wife? No, she was out without a phone either. He just stood there dripping, asking what he should do. Thankfully two other members called him a wrecker (that is, they phoned for a wrecker, not that they called him a wrecker of ops sessions). Really, looking around our large layout with 20-30 guys all pushing their trains from siding to siding, I didn’t have time to stand outside for thirty minutes for this.
I remember once dispatching, when a member couldn’t get an old drum motor to engage. I had to leave the desk, run eighty feet down to staging, throw it for him (five seconds) and then run back. So much for focus on operations. This is when we started assigning the Superintendent out, to keep the DS in his seat and to keep the railroad running.
So decide if your club might institute a Superintendent position. It tends to smooth things out for the operators. It might put the Superintendent into a sanitarium but overall, it helps a lot.