2011 NMRA National Convention
July 3 to 9, 2011 - Sacramento, California
The Unconventional Convention

Students as Teachers

A special "two-fer" Operating Session on Monday, July 4th

This Op Session is FULL! Thank you for your interest. Jim Providenza

Over the last year OPSIG member Dave Clemens has been working with two Sacramento area layout owners whose layouts have yet to host an op session, encouraging them to "get into the game". OPSIG members Trevor Marshall and Doug Harding are currently working as mentors with layout owners Ken Draper and Mitch Valder (January, 2011, NMRA Magazine) to help them prepare to host one op session each at X2011.

Doug will be the master of ceremonies for this special "Students as Teachers" two-fer op session on Monday, July 4th. It will start at Ken's South Placer Lines at 9:30 AM. Lunch will follow, with a short trip to Mitch's Northwestern Pacific for a 1:30 PM start time there. Mitch's session will conclude by mid-afternoon.

If you decide you want to participate in the "Students as Teachers" two-fer, you, of course, get two more op sessions. But this is also an opportunity to give back to the hobby on a personal level. You will be asked to interact with Ken and Mitch with constructive suggestions for changes and improvements to their railroads and/or operations. You will help them shape future operations on their railroads in a truly significant way.

Layout Descriptions

Ken Draper's South Placer Lines (HO)

The South Placer Lines is set in Northern California, circa 1940, traveling north and south from Stockton, 187 miles through the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills to Oroville. The SPL is a prosperous railroad serving a great deal of on-line industry including agriculture, lumber, mining, and manufacturing. In addition, due to joint traffic agreements, of questionable origin, the SPL handles significant bridge traffic between the Santa Fe in Stockton and the Western Pacific in Oroville. A lucrative mail contract and a profitable passenger trade also provides consistent revenue.

Operating Theme

The South Placer Lines is operated as a point-to-point layout, with a branch line and staging tracks at each end. Ken's primary operating interest is yard switching, so the mainline freight trains are configured to add to the switching activity at the yards as there are always blocks of cars to be cut out. Online industry between Folsom and Colfax is serviced by two local freights, one Southbound and one Northbound. The two trains may or may not both operate in the same session. Because of the small and congested staging yards, operations have had to be more thoroughly “choreographed” than would otherwise be needed on a larger layout with more expansive mainline and staging capacity.

Car forwarding is done via car cards. As of now, mainline movements are scheduled via a sequential train list, in a sort of “Mother may I” arrangement. The mainline trains are released as needed, with yard operations at Folsom setting the pace for mainline operations. In the future, Ken may work towards TT&TO operations, but only after he gathers a crew and they get some experience with the layout. He generally has four freight trains, one passenger, one branch line, a mail train and one local freight staged and ready, and only seldomly completes all of them in a two-hour session. He also has about twenty stored refrigerator cars that will be released onto the layout during the late spring and early summer to simulate the fruit rush. There will likely be at least one hot reefer block to be run, with enough equipment available to run two, if desired. He uses a Digitrax DCC system that includes 3 wireless, 3 tethered, and one stationary throttle.

The South Placer Lines contains about 150 freight cars, 20 passenger cars, 12 cabooses and 26 locomotives. For many years, the SPL was all steam, except for one RS-1 and an NW-2, which technically fit the era that he models, but in recent years he's begun supplementing the steam roster with additional diesels, since they run so well, especially considering the 22-inch radius curves. The Soundtraxx Tsunami decoders has also rekindled his interest in first-generation EMD power.

Mitch Valder's NWP Photo
Photo by Mitch Valder

Mitch Valder's Northwestern Pacific (N)

The Northwestern Pacific RR is a Class 1 railroad with a short line feel. Located along California’s North Coast, the main industry is lumber. Two daily large drags leave Eureka, the subdivision yard, with a long train of mostly lumber products. Local extras work miscellaneous freight in small towns on either side of Eureka. The Pacific Lumber Co complex has its own switcher and has daily runs to pick up lumber from a branch line. The Redwood is the local passenger train; the daily trains pass each other about midday.

NWP 1958 replicates the 20 mile stretch between Eureka and the Pacific Lumber Company at Scotia. It’s N-scale, controlled by Easy DCC. Track is a mixture of code 40 and 55. All turnouts are Tortoise-controlled, except at Eureka, which are finger throws. The engines are good-running Atlas or Kato brand.

Six operators would be optimum, with a Eureka yard crew consisting of an engineer at the fixed panel near staging, with a switchman working the yard. The other four would be on wireless throttles.

This layout is also on the X2011 layout tour schedule as "NWP 1959". (Webmaster's note: Mitch's layout was featured in the January 2011 issue of NMRA Magazine, not July's. )

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