We’re ready for our Fall 2017 Open House!

We’ve been busy getting our railroad ready for our next Open House, which takes place this coming weekend — Saturday, November 18th, Sunday, November 19th, and Tuesday evening, November 21st.

Here’s the Alhambra freight yard, stuffed full o’ trains:

Trains ready to roll out of Alhambra
Trains ready to roll out of Alhambra

So what goes into getting the Sierra Pacific Lines ready for an Open House?

Prepping the trains is one of the biggest (and, for the most part, enjoyable) tasks. For the Open Houses, we run trains from one end of the layout to the other (as opposed to an operating session, in which freight cars are delivered from industry to industry). Members will often bring in extra equipment for the shows, and since we want the smoothest experience possible, we test-run every train — and since it takes about an hour to get from one end of the layout to the other, this is a time-consuming process. Any locomotives or cars that misbehave are removed from the trains. (Why take a chance?)

We also need to prep the operators, especially now as we are getting used to running our layout under digital command control (DCC). All of our operators need to know the fouling points (ends) of each block by heart, so they can follow the dispatcher’s directions. Test-running the trains gives us an opportunity to practice as well.

Cleaning is also a big deal — especially now, as we’ve just had some dust-generating maintenance done on the building. Fortunately, our steel rail is pretty robust stuff. We hand-clean the yards and most of the turnouts, and run a track cleaning train with an abrasive cleaner, alcohol tank cars, and a magnet car to pick up the debris. It takes a lot of power to get the cleaning train up those 2% grades.

The track cleaning train at Vista
Mid-1960s New York Central power shoves the track cleaning train through Vista


The track isn’t all that gets cleaned; we’ve also done some clean-up and scenery repair on the layout, and the building itself gets a scrubbing. (Unfortunately, as we were dismayed to discover, our bathrooms don’t clean themselves.)

Our ongoing DCC conversion presents more challenges. Our mainline conversion is complete, but we’re still running analog turnouts and control panels in the yards, which has led to a few electrical glitches that need to be tracked down before the Big Day.

But most members will agree that all the work is worth it when we see a nice long freight train cross the Sierra-Upton bridge — and we love to see the looks on the faces of visitors who have never seen such a massive model railroad in action.

What will you see at the Pasadena Model Railroad Club? Here’s a quick preview of some SP power on the Sierra Pacific Lines:

We hope you can join us for our Open House this weekend. You’ll find dates and times on our Open House page and directions on this page. We look forward to seeing you!

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