My friend, Colin Dover, intimated to me last night that he builds layouts purely so he can have a place to switch. A couple of years ago, he tore out his representation of Vancouver Waterfront to build his “much simpler” Central Park line of BC Hydro.
I put “much simpler” in quotes because, well, it is not a simple layout by my reckoning. There are surely well over a hundred turnouts — all handlaid — and several crossovers. He reckons there is just over a mile and a half of mainline, although it is all in yard limits. Five switchers were busy for the evening.
I think Colin has been operational on the new layout for about a year, but last night’s test session for VanRail was my first time seeing it. I was impressed by the prototypical operations, but also by his cunning and sometimes subtle ideas to facilitate our visit.
The fascia incorporates a continuous shelf, which ensures that operating materials do not go on the layout itself. Everyone remarks that this is the place where Colin has installed his G-scale switch stands to drive the turnouts, but it also provides a number of other benefits. Below, you can see his clipboard holder, of which there are several spread around the layout, as well as a white loop in the background to keep throttles from careening onto concrete. Note that the switch stands are labelled; the high red ones are for the main track.
I always find the skewers that so many of us use for uncoupling are about as easy to pick up as buttered eels. Colin has made little cradles for them, which coral the blighters and present them for use.
The white lever pulls up uncoupling magnets to open knuckles for those who like to use them. It is pinned in the active position here, but is meant to mimic a cut lever on a real car.
The Hand Brake is a piece of eraser, cut to fit between the rails. It is a simple solution to a common problem.
Speaking of common problems, how many of us have asked what the mystery switch does on the fascia. Colin has ensured not only that we know what it is, but that we don’t accidentally touch it by covering it up.
Overall, despite our host’s concerns, I think we all had a fun evening of operating trains. The amount of activity on this line was staggering, but it all appears to have been prototypical. It’s neat to operate on a railroad that is right in your town, crossing familiar streets and neighbourhoods. More photos on the VanRail site.