Shaking down the Boundary Sub

My friend Scott invited a bunch of us over today for an informal operating session. This was the first session on the new Boundary Sub.  I’ve been helping Scott out with construction occasionally for many years, and it was great to finally see trains running. 

There are some important lessons from Scott’s first session. Perhaps the most important was about expectation-setting.  Even though the first layout was full-on formal operations with dispatcher, train order and  timetable, Scott was very clear that we were aiming for something a lot less formal today.  Here is Scott setting up the session with Mark, John and Mike in the audience.   

Scott explained that the goal of the day was to shake out physical gremlins, and so, we would dispense with the timetable and run a sequence of trains.  The specific work done by the trains wasn’t terribly important, but we were each given semi-realistic tasks.

So it was that when the DCC system started to act up, nobody was surprised or disappointed. If anything, we were pleased to have found this issue for Scott, which was the sort of thing he couldn’t have found by testing alone, or even with his regular small construction crew.   We even happily took a break to test the theory that the system was overheating (John Green, Brian Pate, Brian Clogg and Mike Chandler are testing  below).


The second important thing that Scott did for this operating shakedown was to invite close friends who have a shared interest in getting the layout up to snuff. In our case, it is because Scott is hosting operating sessions for VanRail in September.  We are all involved in the event, and want our friends who will be coming from across the continent to have a great time. 

While the session was far from trouble-free, it was highly successful, and I congratulate Scott for hosting his first op session on the new layout.

2 thoughts on “Shaking down the Boundary Sub

  1. There’s a lot to like about this.

    I remember the first time I attended an operating session where the layout owner began the session with an overview of the plan for the evening. That time, the mix of operators included veteran operators, on the railway, and folks like me who were participating for the first time on his railway. That preamble included a brief introduction to the layout’s theme. It then described the general flow of traffic. The complete preamble didn’t take very long but I feel it was powerful in terms of how it gathered us all together and focussed our attention on the evening’s goals. It was also a great opportunity to engage us in the story of the layout.

    I like the idea of hosting these shakedown sessions. This is a great stage in design where the focus is on the implmentation of the idea into practice. I think that hosting a small group of like-minded individuals reinforces the test yet would allow the builder to step back just far enough to gain a broader understanding of how things are working; of the user experience.

    This sounds like one heck of a pile of fun.

    Thanks for sharing it with us.


    1. Thanks, Chris. Scott has always been a believer in starting operations early. Indeed, most of the track is not even laid yet. All we had was a couple of staging yards and a few sidings.

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