I’m not building my New NCR Layout to host a ton of people. Instead I’m building it for smaller “experiences”. I just got my chance to host my first one, and I am pretty happy with how it went.

My friend Eric, of “Ops every week” fame a few years ago, challenged me to have an ops session before he did on his rebuilt layout, and I was like “come over next week MFer”. I was in the middle of ballasting.  Uh oh, what had I just done?

Ok. So I got to work, as you can see above.

Getting ready for an ops session, even a small one, is a good bit of work. In my ops scheme, I’m not replicating a big slice of a transportation system, just a small one, but even in this, I’ve got plenty to think through and prep.

First, what was I going to make Eric do? Well, my Windsor St Yard is the most fleshed out and operational part of the layout, so that was the obvious choice. Next, what can I easily stage? I had a bunch of cars already on the layout, so I figured I’d start with what they could represent. What they could represent was the end of the first part of the day when all of the day’s locals had returned (as if that’d happen on time, but we’re doing what we can) and their cars needed to be sorted into outbound blocks for pickup by the evening’s road trains. I’m following the “kinda prototype, kinda not” idea that the NCR ends at Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor which restricts daytime freight movement. There’s a lot of “that’s the way it is today, not the way it was then” (you should definitely click on those links for a host of delicious Conrail porn).

Ok, so that means I needed to build out a bunch of “returned locals”. I’ve spent years thinking about these things, so I had ideas already. But I had to temper those ideas because I only had a few days to get things ready. So they were a mix of what’s on the layout already and what could I quickly pull out of boxes. That went pretty quickly.

Next it was time to work out the paperwork. Luckily I had plenty to start from with my old Ops Paperwork. I updated the Terminal Information Publication for the job Eric would be working with info for the new layout, including a new drawing of Windsor St Yard so that was good to go. If you want to see the document, here’s a copy of the PDF.

I use a “Car Location Report” spreadsheet to indicate where cars currently are on the layout and where they need to go. Of course I printed it out in dot matrix (and then mistakenly gave Eric the one in the typewritten font), but I’m sharing the good one here. This list shows the basics needed for the ops session: where a car is and where it needs to go. Since we’re just sorting cars it works well.

Creating this report was an interesting process. I needed a list of what was where so I just took photos and typed them in. Here are the photos if you want to be the virtual yard clerk.

I also wanted a copy of a NORAC Form D in case we needed one. Luckily my buddy Joe Desmond from Central Jersey Conrail in N Scale had a good one. I tuned it up in Photoshop and you can grab it here. I need to recreate this for better printing, like the Conrail Switch Lists, but this was good enough for now.

With everything ready to go it was time. I was getting excited.

Maybe too excited… this was my Spotify while identifying the appropriate background music.

I settled on “70s Country” since it seemed the most appropriate for York. The lengths we go for immersion…

It was great seeing Eric and really good having someone who knew what they were doing working on the layout. Things performed well with the only issues being ones that I knew were problems that I couldn’t get fixed in time.

I decided to give Eric minimal instructions, just “here’s the job, get to work”. It’s interesting the way that different people solve the same problems in their own way, so I let him go at it not realizing that I had forgotten to point out the issues with yard track #1 being out of service and that he could use the entire yard. I think that made his job a bit harder, but he enjoyed it nonetheless.

As per usual, my other friend Adam continued to be stuck at the Windsor St crossing. He might want to check the calibration on the time machine he used to bring his 2010s truck into 1978.

By the end of the evening, Eric had most of the cars switched out, but left one more cut (me, I guess) for the next crew to finish up. What a feather bedder.

I am incredibly excited with how well things went and am now feeling better about maybe making more scenery progress in the permanent section of the layout.

I can’t wait for the next one. Who’s up?