More Museum Fun!


Yesterday I went for the second day of training at the Bluegrass Railroad Museum.  After a morning of procedures, videos, and tests, we spent the afternoon on the train.

After “kicking the tires” (literally – you have to kick the brake shoes to make sure they’re tight when applied and loose when released), we climbed aboard and went over procedures.  I was first as “Conductor”, so I got to give the order “675, Highball Westbound!” that got us rolling out of the station.

We traveled west, with the locomotive in the lead till we reached Milner, about halfway down the line.  There, I stopped the train and we began practicing reverse operations.  These are tricky.  The last car on the train, CNJ #1314, is what is known as an “MU Car”, which means it has train controls built into the tail end.  Some of them are now inoperable, but the Conductor can still man the controls, and has the emergency brake, whistle, bell, and a radio.

On reverse moves (Eastbound), the Conductor must watch for trouble, and at crossings must ring the bell, sound the whistle, watch for cross traffic, and inform the Engineer of what is going on.  It’s quite a handful of work, but manageable once you get “the hang of it”.

We’re having a followup session again next weekend.  I hope to learn even more!

Fun at the Museum!

N&W (BGRM) #675, an EMD GP-9
N&W (BGRM) #675, an EMD GP-9

I spent the day Saturday at the Bluegrass Railroad Museum in Versailles, KY, taking safety training for volunteers.  I don’t know how much I’ll get to volunteer this summer, but it certainly has been fun taking the training.

We started the morning with a slide show history of the museum, followed by some railroad industry safety videos.  One of the videos emphasized rather graphically how important it is to keep personal safety a top priority when working around the large, heavy equipment on a railroad.

After that, we broke for lunch and then worked on some of the paperwork required to run a train.  Track Warrants, the BGRM’s chosen method of train control, provide specific permission for each train to operate, including where, when, and under what conditions.  Checklists provide an easy means to make sure everything is in order, and inspection reports make sure all the pre-run safety checks are completed.

Finally, we practiced proper radio communications techniques and the connection and disconnection of brake hoses.

There was a test, and I passed with 100%!

Next weekend we will be taking the train for a run.  Each of us will get to practice all the different roles on the train to make sure we understand what everyone is supposed to be doing.  Trainman, Brakeman, Conductor, and – I hope! – Engineer.

Sketchup is Cool!

I’ve been playing with a new tool in planning my layout – Google Sketchup.

Top view of Office Sketchup
Top view of the office.

I built a 3D model of the room, complete with the proposed layout and key furniture items.  It helps me see what it’s going to look like, where there might be access or safety problems (sharp corners!), and generally how workable the design is.

Sketchup has a lot of neat features, and once you “get it” can be used to do some amazing things.  One thing that was useful is Google’s extensive gallery of 3D models that can be downloaded and used.  That’s where I got the desk, chair, couch, cabinet, TV and computer monitor.  I also downloaded a locomotive and some track, scaled it to 1:160 and placed it on the layout to see how visible it would be from the couch.

Couch View with Train on layout
The view from the couch

You can change the viewing angle and position endlessly, and even animate walkthroughs.  One thing that you should be able to do (though I haven’t tried yet) is draw the track plan in 3D, including the ballast/track profile, grades, and scenic elements.

I think I’m going to find this to be a very useful planning and design tool, especially as I get better at using it.

You can see more Sketchup pictures of the layout design in my photo album at