Summer Evening and the ML401

Summer Evening and the ML401
Conrail ML401 rolls west through Central New York farm country in Onondaga County, September 1994.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

After the Pouring Rain

Thunder rumbles into the distance as the setting sun jumps out beneath the thunderheads at CP280, Onondaga NY.

Everything is soaked and it is still drizzling, but the worst is east of us now.  Just as the sun shines through, the Mohawk Dispatcher lines up the last and most important of the afternoon's westbound trains, super-hot TVLA, through the interlocking.


With all the rain we have had in NJ in the last twelve months, and capped by the rainiest spring I can remember, I was inspired to play with the iPhone camera and see if I could create a shot that looked as though it had just rained on the Onondaga Cutoff.  It is always a good challenge to try and create atmosphere in model shots; it helps trick the eye in to seeing more than is there.

Fun for a quick grab shot!

~RGDave

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Developing Interest

Operations just isn't as much fun when you are by yourself.  While construction has a time for collaboration, it is a balance between working with others or working by yourself.  Operations, though, is just more prototypical and more fun when others are involved.  Lately, due to a variety of local layouts hosting sessions, and due to 3-4 guys from the regular pool of operators moving out of state, owners have been struggling to fill slots for their sessions.  In fact, several sessions have been cancelled account lack of crews.

Some locals have said "We're getting to a point where there are too many layouts!"   Well, I couldn't disagree more.  Having more quality layouts in the area is a great thing.  The issue isn't too many layouts, it is that we need to cultivate more operators.

To me, it is clear that the operations aspect of model railroading is a rather unique niche and offers a different take than do other hobbies.  The camaraderie aspect is important, although I'd argue that the 'action' aspect is a driving force.  From an outside view, many people make models.  Some actually fly, sail, or roll.  But few hobbies involve groups of working, moving models coordinating their movement together to accomplish a goal.  Model railroad operations is all of this.

And so, I consider it a duty to share the layout through friends and operating sessions, reaching out to railfan photographers or train-watchers, and thorough occasional open houses.  Of course, we can start right at home, too.


I like to focus on younger folks, with children of family and friends, and with my own kids.  Their interest can be encouraged as a catalyst for future involvement.  In the shot above, Teddy is thrilled by the passage of a recent purchase - a NYC 4-8-2 Mohawk steam engine, one that certainly would have worked the Onondaga Cutoff in the 1930's and 1940's.


A STEAM engine?  Regular readers will know that these are not my standard fare; by 1994 they were long gone and especially from any sort of regular revenue freight service.  But, my sons have fallen in love with steam engines through their toys and shows, as well as YouTube videos of big steam on the move.  When I came across a deal on ebay on this engine, I sprang on it, and the kids have been thrilled!  It lives on the layout between operating sessions at this point and the kids ask about it daily.  And, I'll admit a soft spot for this one myself!  For Teddy's interest it matters little that the cars behind it are 'too modern' - for him, excitement outweighs any questions.

Regular operating sessions too have a place in exposing younger or newer people to the hobby.  Seeing the railroad come alive is fun for me, of course, and the kids have enjoyed watching too, being too young yet to join in to the role playing effort.  A recent project was to add a phone line from the Mohawk DS to the Onondaga Yardmaster, allowing them to coordinate moves over the phone.  The kids noticed and after the past session, wanted to try the phone.


Here we have 2-1/2 year old Pete, and 4-1/2 year old Teddy, talking on the phone and having a ball.

None of this guarantees anything, besides some quality time between my sons and I.  That alone is worth it.  But it provides an opportunity for the seed of interest to grow, which to me is a responsibility of every layout owner. 

More operators help everyone and help the hobby grow.  We can all work a little harder to get some new people involved.

~RGDave