Prep for an Op Session

I often field question on how I prepare my layout for an operating session. The Wheeling Freight Terminal hosts a session nearly every month and I’ve fallen into a work pattern that minimizes the time to bring the layout ready for a session. The tasks fall into three basic categories; clean and lube, inbound and outbound car inventory, and fix previous problems. Let’s take a closer look at each category.

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First Op Session of 2017

Mike Weiss watches as a crew switches Avalon on his HO scale Kingston Southern railroad.

Operating model railroads with friends is one of my favorite aspects of the hobby. The holidays can be a tough time for crew to attend so there is a lag between sessions. I did host a December session on my Wheeling Freight Terminal but I hadn’t been to Mike Weiss’ Kingston Southern layout for a couple of months. It was great to kick off the New Year operating his layout.

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August 2016 Op Session

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The Wheeling Freight Terminal has monthly operating sessions. A message is sent to several interested modelers and operators in the area about a week beforehand. I’ve typically been operating on the fourth Thursday of the month and a layout in nearby Las Cruces hosts a session on the second Thursday. August was busy for the usual crew and only Robbie was able to attend the recent session.

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Blue Flags

Delano, Jack, photographer. General view of part of the South Water Street freight depot of the Illinois Central Railroad, Chicago, Ill. May 1, 1943. Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, . The original image has been cropped slightly. The original can be viewed through the link provided.
Delano, Jack, photographer. General view of part of the South Water Street freight depot of the Illinois Central Railroad, Chicago, Ill. May 1, 1943. Image retrieved from the Library of Congress. The original image has been cropped slightly. The original can be viewed through the link provided.

A recent discussion in a Yahoo email group centered on using prototype elements to slow down the pace of model railroad operations. I had a Wheeling Freight Terminal operating session on the calendar and wanted to add a twist for operating crews to work around. I recalled the above Jack Delano image that featured blue flag protection on several freight house tracks. A few of these markers were constructed and installed on the layout for the operating session.

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Operating Tags

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Freight cars in service during an operating session.

Nearly one hundred freight cars are in service on the Wheeling Freight Terminal. Several of these are undecorated cars, or painted cars that have not had decals applied. To use these models in an operating session, they need a unique tag so crews can identify the specific car on the inventory lists.

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