Thursday, August 7, 2014

Prairie Rail 2014 - Part 3: Chuck Hitchcock's Santa Fe Argentine Industrial District Railway

Briefing and job selection in the crew lounge.
There are many generous and amazingly friendly people in the hobby of model railroading, and Chuck Hitchcock is one of the tops I've ever met. My first visit to his Santa Fe Argentine Industrial District Railway cemented this in my mind.

As people arrived in the basement of Chuck's cottage, we took a self guided tour of the layout to rail fan as much as possible before our work started. There were a couple of interesting items. One was a notch in the wall to facilitate emergency (and other) traversing between the two extreme ends of the layout. A nice feature. This was right below a professionally rendered map of the layout.

Emergency crawl space
I also stuck my head into the yard clerks office, which is another unique item to the layout. Instead of a dispatcher or yardmaster, the clerk handles the traffic and assignments.
A well-appointed clerk's desk complete with plenty of pencils, cards and boxes, and even a pair of reading glasses.
We then assembled  in a most comfortable crew area complete with hot coffee, assorted cold beverages, and comfy chairs. We all introduced ourselves and got a quick briefing of how the Industrial District was conceived and operated. The various jobs were discussed and then put out for volunteers. My traveling companion Tom and I volunteered for the signature job on the layout, Grain Elevator A at the East end of the main yard.

Santa Fe's Grain Elevator A on the Argentine Industrial Railway
The whole point behind the operation here was to pull loads and place empties in two shifts. This was an easy job, but it took a while to accomplish because our west lead kept getting blocked by the yardmaster. Next time we will try to use the East lead more. We also swapped being engineer and conductor so we could each experience the momentum/braking setup on the EasyDCC system.

This was the same setup that Kevin Leyerle uses (Prairie Rail Part 2), and it really sucks you into the movement and especially sound of the locomotive. In order to get the drifting/idling coordinated for smooth movements, one needs to really listen to the engine rev up in order to anticipate the momentum for starting and stopping. Nothing beats the feeling of a locomotive drifting along on momentum and then playing the brakes to get a gentle coupling action on your target car. Chuck also cut the ill-placed reset button off at the face plate to eliminate accidental throttle reassignment and general mayhem. The throttle should come from the manufacturer like this!

Grain Elevator A and surrounding layout. Nicely spacious, organized and comfortable surroundings make for a happy session. No tight aisles or clutter in this basement.

So between getting familiar with the throttle momentum/braking settings and a clogged lead, we didn't finish our work before it was time to quit. This bothered the competitive nature of Tom and me, but there is always tomorrow's crews to pick up where you left off, and we still got the same amount of pay for our shift.

Work desk
I am always interested in the fascia treatment and how the various tools are organized for the crews at a layout. These work stations were only as large as necessary and had a nice trim piece around the edge to keep the picks, pencils and penlights off of the floor. The angled sides are also nice to eliminate sharp corners and provide a bit more maneuvering space.

Yard board

Another nice work feature is the magnetic yard board that allows the yard master to assign cuts of cars to different tracks.
Yard view. The grain elevator is to the right.
Downtown is where most of the industries are. This particular switching job is probably the most fun on the layout because of the variety of industries.
You don't often see residential areas on layouts, but here is a nice neighborhood at the east end of the grain elevator.
The Kansas City Kicker that holds up a large section of layout. I am amazed it is so sturdy, but the box structure of the layout itself is a big help.
Chuck was a most gracious host, and I look forward to trying a different job next time I'm fortunate enough to be invited. After a great time on the layout and some quick conversation with other attendees, we headed out for lunch and the next layout. Stay tuned for Part 4!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That looks like a really nice layout. Would love to operate on something like that some time. Greetings from Norway, and thank you for adding my blog to your blog list.