I‘ve got my train orders and am climbing into my idling Florida East Coast engine in Hialeah Yard. Everything’s coupled up and I’m ready to call the dispatcher and highball onto the main.
Except that I’m 20 feet away, behind two doors and across a patio.
But it works.
Ken Farnham, the owner of this HO pike, had a bit of a problem – he wanted to put an HO layout in a structure in his back yard but zoning would not permit anything save a smaller shed. Even if he chose two small sheds, they couldn’t be joined together. They had to be separated.
So, to get around this, he’s got one shed as his Hialeah yard (where you have a hostler, two yard workers, a yard master and a dispatcher. In the other shed is the two decker layout, all full of switching and signals and railroad fun. The deal is, after Hialeah builds your train (it in one shed, you in the other), the dispatcher calls you to get ready. You dial up your chip in the engine, and check the video monitor to see it. Then the repeater signal on the wall goes green – time to roll. In the video image, you can see how fast you are going and set your speed to something comfortable. Then you wait as the train runs down a long two-track pipe between the sheds, emerging out in your shed. After you’ve run his lengthy main (around the room, both top deck and bottom), it’s back down the pipe and into the yard. As you get close, a wall signal will go yellow – slow down. When red comes up – stop. Shut off your throttle. In the yard shed, the crews will take over your engine and drive it from the arrival track to the yard for breakdown.
When I first heard this plan, I wasn’t sure. Seemed like a lot of trickery. And dialing up engines from another room and running them over seemed crazy. But it works. It works so well, I don’t notice the gimmick of it. It’s just part of the business of running the FEC, a fun, fun railroad.
It’s true, in this case, that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Much greater.