Thursday, January 28, 2010

Milestone Met: First Operating Session.

Branchline goods trains 695 departs Narrabri for Wee Waa behind a 47 class. Just peeking into view in the background is the Narrabri shunter with a 49 Class EMD.

Well, that's done.

After 18 months of construction, I had the "Pie Night" guys over for a little operating session. It went about as good as could be expected, I guess, considering I'd immediately lost 30% of my "throttle capacity" due to some sort of issue with the radio throttles. This cascaded into tossing my "schedule" out the window, as I was unable to run the trains I'd planned in the sequence desired.

Our group of Norm Bruce, Frank Treadaway, Donovan Furin, Lance Lassen and Randy Nelson showed up anxious to take a throttle and run. Lance brought a throttle, to add to my three, as well as two NSWGR locomotives (allowing me to avoid the ignominity of using some Union Pacific Atlas locomotives to fill out the roster, thank God!). But clearly those 18 months without operating a model railway left me less than familar with the intricacies of EasyDCC and radio throttles. It was easy to run three throttles at a time, but couldn't acquire locomotives when a fourth throttle was turned on.

Randy switches the branchline goods at WeeWaa. Check out that snazzy new Holden--just arrived today from Casula!

Frank assured me that all my worries would vanish if I just opened up my wallet for a couple hundred dollars of software upgrades from CVP. I was hoping he wasn't going to say that! I'm hoping just re-reading the set-up documentation will help alleviate a recurrence. . .

Aside from the radio throttle problems and subsequent schedule snafus, the session went fairly well. Track was clean. No mysterious shorts appeared. The points did their things without derailing equipment. . .even the little S trucks stayed on the rails. These are all encouraging signs. I was honestly sweating the mechanical potential for disaster more than the electronic. Lance bailed me out by bringing along a nice Indian Red 49 Class and a "Red Terror" 44 Class, allowing me to avoid the ignominity of having to roster a pair of Atlas Union Pacific SD24's to fill the loco roster shortfall! And while we didn't have enough throttles to keep everyone running trains all the time, Lance's Aussie Railway Porn videos entertained those without trains to run--they seemed to enjoy, for example, watching the Ardglen Bankers almost as much as running the North-West mail.

I've got aways to go to feel comfortable with the layout. I'm still dealing with coming up with a good system for paperwork and dispatching the trains. And I've still got to more fully develop my roll during these session as Station Master/Controller/Benevolent Dictator.

But, it's a good start. And none of this would be possible, of course, without my fellow Pie Nighters, as well as model railway friends foreign and domestic who've helped me reach this point. I'm excited about what lies ahead.

While Lance and Norm grind away in Narrabri West, Frank, Randy and Donovan enjoy some Aussie Railway Porn Videos. . .

Thanks, Joe!

Only a few hours before my mates stopped by to run trains, a nice-sized box of stuff arrived overseas from Joe Callipari at Casula Hobbies. Joe really helped me out last April by putting together a sizeable order for me to be ready when I popped in his shop to pick up almost more stuff than I could fit into my suitcase. His assistance and service, and good-nature in fielding my inquiries, were much appreciated, and I certainly didn't hesitate last week to turn to Joe and Casula for fill another order. Once again--first rate. And the Casula website has a lot to do with why I turned to Casula in the first place: among the Australian model railroad shops I'm familiar with, the Casula website is the most complete and easiest to use. And that really helps from 10,000 miles away.

Railroading Back in the Day

My work e-mail filter apparently blocked a message from Ray Pilgrim the other day alerting me to a couple of amazing You Tube videos, from around 1974, showing "how it was done" shunting the goods sheds at Darling Harbour--back before it was condos and museums and other tourist attractions.

The movies are here and here.

This really is a wonderful film, not just for the enthusiast of New South Wales railroading, but for fans of railroading in general. Watching the group of 20-something shunters work as a team to bang cars around really reminded me of my own experiences watching railroaders work 30 years ago. That was back when railroading was a "craft" and one didn't come to work carrying a 20 lb. book of rules.

Most appropriate was this quote from one of the shunters, words that ring as true today as they did in 1974: It's okay, the railway will let you break every rule in the book, as long as you get the trains out on time--they'll let you break any bloody rule you want, until something goes wrong, then they'll hit you with the rules!

Thanks, Ray, for passing these links along. Thanks also to the film crew who deemed the daily routine of a shunting crew to be of sufficent interest to record this slice of life for all time. And thanks to the shunters, themselves--looking at their work from a 2010 perspective, it's amazing how loose and wild the work rules were (let along those long Barry Gibb-like hairdos!). No steel-shanked boots? No high visibility vests? No safety visors? No shirts? Oh, I guess thanks also to the railway for allowing the cameras on the property in the first place.


South Coast Rail said...

you should hogtie those mates into the lounge and only let them go home if they promise to model NSW.
Something like two gays getting together: you double your wardrobe.
Darling Harbour was where I started when I joined the railways in 1967.
Use to spend lunchtime watching the 19 class steamers shunting and also the odd garrett slip past on a coalie from Balmain. Dumb arse me never took pictures did I. Only a few 8mm movies of the place.

Ray P said...


Congratulations on your first operating session, they are always fun even when they don't go right, which is usually most of the time.

I found the links to the two videos on the Darling Harbour shunters on this blog:

Safety Offiers these days would have a fit!

Ray P