I recently held some 'open days' at my loft layout (my wife was away in France with a party of 12 year old school kids!).
Pictures start at
Having visitors shares the experience and provides some valuable advice from those who see your layout from a different perspective to yours. There were a number of things I learned during the week.
There was a short period where the locos seemed to be running at less than their best. Cleaning the tracks (again) didn't seem to make any difference. Then I remembered I had some Isopropyl Alcohol. I found a piece of cloth, put the alcohol on the cloth and then ran one truck of the loco over it at full speed. You should have seen the crud that came off - but what a difference it made. After that there was a programme of sending the locos to 'the works' for wheel cleaning (even some of the visiting locos got the treatment). After that everything went very smoothly.
The full 50 car hopper train came out a couple of times, (photos of this start at
I discovered that trying to keep two passenger trains in constant opposing motion required a lot of concentration for them to negotiate the single line section without a head on meet. But we did (just) manage it!
The visit of an 'old timer' (and you can take that any way you like) brought a 2-8-0 steam loco with two hand built coaches. When we discovered that you had to ring the bell and sound the horn first before it would move it made a wonderful sight. It was interesting to see the Budd rail car keeping out of the way of the kettle.
The Wye and loco shed area got quite a bit of use. It was surprising to find that the Budd rail car and a long observation car would go round it easily but that one or two 4 axle locos would not. It's all to do with the swing of the trucks it seems.
We discovered that sending small trains to shunt some of the 'industry' areas can be really interesting. It can even occupy the time of two people per train. What's more it leaves them independent of the main dispatcher. It also gets really interesting when there is a 21 car grain train slowly trundling around the main line. Shunting around the movement of this train was more challenging - but great fun.
Visiting locos included the steamer, Budd Rail car, BNSF locos MKT, Rock Island. Visiting rolling stock included a rake of armour yellow Pullman coaches plus a couple I've forgotten for the moment
I've received some great ideas and suggestions from all my visitors. Watch for further progress and see which ideas I've incorporated as the layout progresses.