It seems like ages since I went for an operating weekend anywhere. However, there are some trips that you simply can’t pass up, and the last opportunity to operate on Al Frasch’s Pilchuck Division was one of those.
So this Saturday, seven of us stole across the border at 7:30 AM, counting our blessings that border security is an essential service, unaffected by the US government shutdown. We went straight to Al’s, where we passed an extremely congenial day running his N scale layout.
This being close to his 100th operating session, Al has a pretty slick operation, with many ideas that are worth stealing. I thought his markers in front of trains staged or dead on the line was brilliant, having often been found looking for my train in staging. I also liked his stringline diagrams of the railroad at each town with the town clearly called out. Finally, his peg board, carrying train instructions and car cards for every train yet to run is also an excellent idea.
We stayed overnight, and on Sunday, we operated on Burr Stewart’s HO scale rendition of the same division. Where Al’s gets all the way to Vancouver, Burr stops in Bellingham. While Al leaves Seattle to staging, Burr takes it on with elan.
I had a fantastic time operating Seattle’s Stacey yard. As Burr has not been operating formally as long as Al, he didn’t have as many ideas to steal, although as yardmaster, I appreciated his rainbow-ordered colour coding of waybills – warm colours to the south, cool colours to the north. I especially enjoyed the many quirky features of Burr’s layout. The flip down turnback loop that is a rainbow, and the incorporation of Legotown at the foot of a four per cent grade were my favourites.
Burr and his wife, Barbara, are wonderful hosts, and we had to pull ourselves away in order to get back to the Great White North ahead of pumpkin time. As the kids get older, and want me less on weekends, I hope to get out to more of these operating weekends. They’re great fun.