Allen Keller asks John Gray how he likes to operate the Union Pacific Cheyenne Division model railroad. The control system that John uses on the layout is a Linn Hanson Westcott “How to Model a Model Railroader 1959”. He tries to run it single-handed as much as he can, which means he can do only a limited amount of switching. So, he assembles trains and he runs them around the double loop so that he can see them from different points of view. This all means it is a single-handed running operation using toggle switches and blocks. A future project is to take advantage of some of the DCC control system technology that is out there to see if they can automate the layout.
John sees the layout as a way for him to capture warm memories. He thinks all model railroads are driven by nostalgia. He collects old cars and locomotives and it’s a way to remember things as they were or as he thinks they were, and that drives him. He has some very long trains on the layout. This increases the weight and he has some grades on the layout that approach 3%. This can cause some huge problems for his motive power. On freight trains it is a non-issue because a big boy, even on a 3% grade, will easily haul 40 to 50 brass cars with no helper. Union Pacific was very generous with motive power, so they often double head. By double-heading he can run 60-100 car trains. With four or five diesels on every train, it is not a problem. The real challenge is passenger trains. To learn more about basic model railroad operations or tips to improve your layout operations, visit the Model Railroad Academy archives.