I had my first ever operations session on someone else’s layout today! I was invited to an operating session on William Brillinger’s BNSF Manitoba Limited (BNML). After driving the icy highway 75 south around noon, I arrived at Bill’s house and saw the BNML for the first time in person. Bill’s layout occupies the top floor of his house and has a nice long main line run (track plan). The layout models the CN Letellier subdivision from Morris to the US border at Emerson, and the BNSF Noyes subdivision from Noyes on the other side of the border south.
Bill and I were the two operators today, as a third operator wasn’t able to make it. He gave me the choice of running CN 532 or the BNSF train, and I chose 532 because I was familiar with the area he was modeling (Morris). I’ve never been to Noyes, MN.
We started with CN 532 in staging just north of Morris.
CN 4775 and CN 4805 were the power on this long train.
Bill uses the RailPro system to control his trains. It’s a radio control system (not DCC) with its own controllers and locomotive modules. This was my first experience with it but it was very easy to understand and use.
I had to lay a bit of sand to get 532 up the grade into Morris as it was a long train [aka Bill gave it a bit of a push].
We had some work to do in Morris to sort the train to make it easier to service the customers farther down the line. At first I tried to be the engineer and the conductor but I found it a bit much so I asked Bill to be the conductor. I ran 4775 back and forth as we drilled the small yard in Morris, blowing horns at the crossings and trying not to block the crossings for too long (sorry, model car drivers). At one point we had a 22 car train and it was taking a bit of time to run around it!
Bill uses a car card system to track the cars on his layout. I haven’t decided what to use on my layout yet, as I wanted some experience with car cards to decide if they were right for me. So far so good! The car cards are pretty clear and Bill has made some attractive cards for his cars. He’s made some great looking card boxes, too – and I understand he’ll be offering them for sale soon. Watch his web site for details!
That FGEX car was a red herring – there was no car card for it so it wasn’t clear to me what needed to be done. Fortunately, Bill has developed a clear employee timetable and other documentation, so a quick consult showed this phrase “Improperly billed equipment: contact Car Control for instructions.” Since Car Control aka Bill was standing right beside me, the answer was quick – take it back to Winnipeg. Since 532 was heading south, we stuck it in the yard at Morris for pickup by 533 when it came back through.
Here’s an example of Bill’s excellent documentation. This chart shows where each location is on the layout as well as the siding capacities. The blocking code is shown on each car card so you can match them up.
One industry we didn’t switch in Morris was the Paterson elevator. It was to be serviced by a light engine BNSF run but that didn’t happen this time.
We finished switching Morris and headed out on the main toward Letellier. At this point I ran out of time, as I had to be back in Winnipeg so my wife and daughter could go see the latest Hunger Games movie.
Fortunately I did have time to enjoy a piece of Allagash Lemon Cake with Bill’s family before heading out.
I swiped Bill’s photo of me operating the layout.
Check out the rocking Movember moustache I have! (feel free to support Movember and men’s health)
Thank you very much, Bill! It was great to get to know you better and to operate on your layout. I look forward to operating there again.