The ORS News pages are updated periodically to report on the progress we have
made on the development and construction of the Operations Road Show
layout. This page covers the years 2009-2014.
Owing to the scope of this project, these reports do not necessarily
contain everything which is going on or has been accomplished at a
December 31, 2014
We closed out 2014 by starting work to replace the trackage at CW Tower, the Wabash-C&O crossing west of Peru. Our goal is to more closely represent the movement of freight traffic at this interchange as it existed in 1964. To that end, we have torn out the existing track and laid down a new sub-base for the reconfigured track. When this is complete, we plan to change the existing C&O interchange track in Peru to be an interchange with the Nickel Plate.
The new interchange will consist of a two track yard located to the southeast of the crossing, connecting at its ends to the Wabash and the C&O. The Wabash mainline will be moved back toward the skyboard to make room.
November 15, 2014
On November 15 we hosted the North Central Region NMRA Board of Directors for an operating session in conjunction with their Board meeting. As always, it was fun having a new group of guests, and they had a good time.
Members of the North Central Region NMRA Board of Directors enjoy an operating session on the ORS layout.
October 18, 2014
We held another operating session on the 11th. While the crew turn-out was reduced due to coinciding with the NMRA Division 5 monthly meeting and other regular crew members having conflicts, we found a way to run a reduced schedule. Based on our success doing this, we're considering ways to hold shorter (three-hour) operating sessions on a weeknight on occasion.
October 4, 2014
We held our first post-Convention operating session on Sunday, September 28. The layout performed very well, and the newly-installed suspended ceiling brightened up the layout room considerably.
For the most part, the session was mishap-free.
The webmaster demonstrates why Rule 104 states that you must always close main track switches
when you are done switching. Photo, and perpetrator-anonymization, by Bob Milhaupt
We're starting to see charging failures among the Maha PowerEx 9.6V NiMH batteries we started using four years ago, but we pretty much expected that they would be reaching the end of their life spans about now. About 30% have failed over the past three months. Given that they hold more than enough charge to keep our radio throttles running through our typical five-hour operating sessions at our home base, they have served us well and we plan to replace them in-kind with similar batteries.
August 9, 2014
Mainly through long hours of hard work by Bob Milhaupt, the modules are now all up and the layout is very nearly operable again.
July 30, 2014
In the past, it has been unusual for us to get the layout back together at our home base following a Convention trip much before Halloween. To say that this year has been different might be an understatement; After taking only one week off from work sessions following our return, we now have all but nine modules back up on their feet in the basement.
July 24, 2014
Matt Goodman has posted an engineer's-eye view of the Operations Road Show layout to YouTube. He recorded it during the Cleveland Convention using an iPhone mounted on a Minuteman Scale Models iCar. Jeff Fryman provided narration. We've never had this view of the layout before-- thanks, Matt!
In addition, Model Railroader magazine included a visit to our layout in the Convention Center in their July 23 "MR Insider" video coverage of the Convention. Neil Besougloff toured the Wabash layout and talked with John Young, starting about ten minutes into the video.
We've added a general photo gallery to the web site, available from the menu at the left. It gives us a place to put photos of the layout that don't necessarily tie in to news and update items.
More updates on the Convention, with photos, will follow as time permits.
July 20, 2014 (with updates August 1)
The ORS layout was a fantastic success at the Cleveland 2014 NMRA National Convention!
We returned from Cleveland July 19, positively exhausted, but very happy with how the layout and the operating sessions were received. The response seems to get better every time we take the layout out.
We'd like to thank the Cleveland 2014 Convention Committee for making this all possible, and all of the people who turned out to help us pack, haul, set up and tear down the layout. This was a huge undertaking, and while we proved mostly equal to the task, we couldn't have done it without a lot of volunteer help!
We got better media coverage during the Convention than we have before. Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine posted a very nice layout tour video on its discussion forum on Wednesday morning, and, as described above, Model Railroader magazine and Matt Goodman have posted video of the layout as well.
Arriving back at home base, we got our first look at the suspended ceiling that had been installed in our absence, making the layout room much brighter. The plan is to set up the layout sooner than we have in past years, so that we can resume operating sessions and work on projects that we have planned.
Our core crew during the week consisted of Brian Everett, Jeff Fryman, Bob and Fritz Milhaupt, Al Robertson, Walt Trancygier, John and Cindy Young and Chuck White. This was Walt's first NMRA Convention, and he did so much work (including pulling one of the trailers) that some of us were concerned that it might scare him away from attending future Conventions. Similarly, Brian Everett has spent much of his Convention time supporting the Operations Road Show effort since our first outing in 2003, with very little recognition. Thanks, guys!
As I mentioned above, none of this would have been possible without the help of numerous volunteers from among our local cadre of friends and regular operators, and generous Convention attendees. Back at the home base, we'd like to thank Paul Anderson, Dave Bowman, Josh and Ray Feldkamp, David Pickell and Dave Simmons for help with packing up and loading up, as well as unloading trailers upon our return.
At the site, we had help with set-up and/or tear-down from Pete Colston, Bill Ferry, Billy Ferry, Chris Ibbotson, Doug Krahn, Marty LaForte, Dave Schneider, Tim Scott and Dave Thornton.
During the operating sessions, Steve Benezra, Will Jordan and Steve Lemonds pitched in to help our guests when we were running short of docents, and when we needed a couple of additional hands mid-week back in the Fiddle Yard, Michael Mamlok and Nancy Campbell jumped in with both feet.
This was an awful lot of work, and we really appreciate everyone's help! We hope that we have not missed anyone's name here- if we did, it is entirely unintentional.
June 23, 2014
Tear-down and packing continues. We're working at a good pace that ensures that we'll be ready for load-out to the trailers by July 12. And another module has been scenicked.
A new gas station, at a grade crossing between Burrows and Rockfield
June 5, 2014
Tear-down to pack for the 2014 NMRA National in Cleveland began in early May. Given the evolving nature of the layout and the changing availability of specific vehicles to move the layout over the years, this part of the process is never exactly the same between layout outings.
Most of the modules are already racked, freight cars are still being packed, and we're now packing up the various odds and ends. Last-minute repairs and scenery touch-ups continue.
April 28, 2014
While the operating session we had planned for the Maumee Express 2014 NCR NMRA Regional Convention on the 27th didn't happen (due to insufficient sign-up for our layout), we did spend the day holding a work session and making some decisions on work to be performed before we take the layout to Cleveland in July.
April 20, 2014
Tony Koester's article on "trees in 60 seconds" in the May issue of Model Railroader magazine has helped us put a big dent in the pile of SuperTrees armatures that we've had stockpiled for quite a while. Better still, those armatures, in the form of trees, are finally making their way onto the layout.
We've also been tying up loose ends in preparation for the operating session we are holding for the Maumee Express 2014 NCR NMRA Regional Convention the weekend of April 25-27.
March 31, 2014
Considerably more work has been done at France Stone as we simplify the track around the loader and add a track scale.
January 25, 2014
We have updated and cleaned up the track plan to reflect the recent track changes.
January 1, 2014
Track work continues at France Stone. New switches have been built using Fast Tracks tools and are being installed.
Jeff spent a couple of days simplifying the trackwork in the Fiddle Yard, as the original layout was a bit complicated and reflected an operating model involving more flat switching than we ever had time to do. The old arrangement didn't use the space as well for how we actually operate.
The most recent plans for the Convention in Cleveland have us setting up and operating in one of the Junior Ballrooms at the St. Clair Avenue end of the Convention Center.
November 24, 2013
We are continuing to make progress on the track work at France Stone at Keesport/Danes, with temporary track in place to permit switching it while we build the new handlaid switches that will replace the earlier ones. The "old" switches at France Stone were among the first ones we laid when building the layout over ten years ago.
Planning is under way for significant changes around CW Tower to more accurately represent the actual interchange trackage that was there and to accommodate a greater volume of interchange traffic.
In past years, our pattern has been to have a burst of intense scenery and trackwork activity over the holidays. 2013 should be no different.
October 6, 2013
During the first weekend in October, we met with organizers of the 2014 Cleveland NMRA Convention and visited the New Cleveland Convention Center, where most of the Convention, including the clinics, will be held. This shiny, new complex has over two dozen meeting rooms, an enormous exhibit hall (of which over 180,000 square feet will be used for the National Train Show), and a view of the lakefront.
The room that has been assigned for the Operations Road Show layout sessions looks like it will meet our needs perfectly.
September 22, 2013
Work continued over the summer, with major track work under way at the France Stone quarry to correct some problems with the turnouts on the crusher lead. Ground cover enhancements have continued at New Waverly.
On September 21, we held a well-attended open house for the members of the Ann Arbor Railroad Technical and Historical Association attending the Association's annual meeting, which was held in Saline this year. We held a three-hour operating session afterward.
June 6, 2013
We have received confirmation that we will have space at the NMRA's Cleveland 2014 National Convention, July 13-19, 2014. Come operate with us!
January 13, 2013
We resumed holding operating sessions in Saline in early December. With the layout back in running trim, we have begun work to repair minor travel damage from the trip to Grand Rapids and to address trackwork issues we'd previously decided to "live with" until we could take the tracks out of service without affecting operation at a Convention. The sometimes troublesome lead at France Stone is seeing some attention.
Additionally, we are continuing scenery work (New Waverly is shown at right) and have been working on standardizing the lighting features in our locomotives.
November 18, 2012
The layout is finally going back up at its home base
in Saline! Over the weekend of Nov. 17-18, we stood all of the modules
up on their legs and have aligned and bolted together about a quarter
of the layout. It's nice not being under the pressure of having to
assemble the whole thing in a single day, like we do at conventions.
We plan to have the layout back in service and hosting
operating sessions well before the first of the year.
October 28, 2012
The Operations Road Show's project was featured in a
three-page article in the National Model Railroad Association's magazine's
October issue. Gerry Leone recounted his experience at one of our
operating sessions mid-week at the National Convention in Grand Rapids
in a very nicely written and complimentary article..
The layout is still out of commission, sitting in its
transport racks as its accustomed space is being lent to Rails on
Wheels so they can work on their display layout modules in the weeks
leading up to their annual train
show and sale on November 25.
While the Road Show layout is stored, we are taking advantage of
the time to go over the locomotives to perform maintenance and to
ensure that all of them have our base set of lighting functions working.
So far, 25% of the fleet is complete.
August 11, 2012
have returned from a successful week of operating sessions/clinics
at Grand Rails 2012!
We began setting up the layout about 9am Sunday morning.
With lots of help from local model railroaders and other volunteers,
we had the entire layout's modules standing on legs by noon. Within
the next nine hours, we had the modules lined up, the bridge tracks
installed, and the wiring and structures in place.
Sign-ups were brisk, with most of the sessions filled by noon on
Monday. We held operating sessions at 9am, 2pm and 7pm Monday through
Thursday. Despite having only 144 operating slots, after back-filling
slots that became available when some participants were called away
during sessions we had 158 participate over the four days. A number
of people who had run on the layout at previous Conventions returned
to run again, and three attendees took the opportunity to try out
the Operator and Dispatcher roles.
The layout ran well, and the sessions were well-received. The most
notable mechanical issue was with some of the passenger cars that
we use for the Purdue-University of Michigan football special, which
did not run as well as we would have liked. At least now we have a
couple of years to tune them up before we run the special again!
Tear-down commenced right after the 7pm session concluded on Thursday
night. It took nearly two hours to collect and pack the rolling stock,
while at the same time taking down the command control and phone systems.
Following a few hours at the National Train Show on Friday, we took
down the modules and mounted them into their transport racks.
We loaded a couple of the trailers Friday, then finished loading
one more trailer and the box truck Saturday morning. After another
hour at the National Train Show, we departed for home, reaching Saline
by 4:45. We unloaded the box truck and the first trailer within an
hour of arriving and headed off to our homes, wrapping up our trip
to Grand Rapids.
We received a lot of help with taking the layout to Grand Rapids,
and a lot of "thank yous" are in order. Thanks go out to
Bill Abraham, George Barry, Dave Bowman, Mark Davis, Brian Everett,
Ray, Josh and Jacob Feldkamp, Al Godfrey, Ken Harris, David Pickell,
Dave and Carol Simmons, Chuck White and Tim Young. We're certain that
we're missing several more names and it's not our intention to leave
anyone out, so if you helped out with our setup at Grand Rapids, let
us know when it was and we'll be sure to add your name here!
The layout will remain in its racks for the next few months while
Rails on Wheels uses the space normally occupied by the ORS layout
to work on their display layout modules.
We have a preliminary agreement to take the layout to the Cleveland
2014 NMRA National Convention.
July 29, 2012
We have finished packing and are on our way across the
state to Grand Rapids for Grand Rails 2012. This year, the layout
is packed into three trailers and a box truck.
July 26, 2012
Packing is nearly complete. Over the coming weekend
we will load up the last trailer and the box truck, head up to Grand
Rapids and set up the layout at the Convention. Our first operating
session is scheduled for 9:00am Monday.
July 8, 2012
Packing up the layout for Grand Rapids is well under
way. Over 3/4 of the layout has been taken off its legs and mounted
to transport racks.
Two more work sessions and we should be ready to load
up trailers and go!
The Operations Road Show is the topic of a conversation
between Fritz Milhaupt and Trevor Marshall in the second segment on
Episode 37 of The Model
Railway Show podcast, released on April 30. In this piece, Fritz
and Trevor discuss the history of the ORS project and its underlying
April 3, 2012
We successfully tested WiThrottle during our operating
session on March 25. A decision has not been made yet as to whether
we will support it as an option at Grand Rails 2012. We have, however,
decided that using JMRI's built-in throttles via its web server will
not be a supported option, due to its providing access to the layout
power button function.
The schedule for clinic/operating sessions at the Grand
Rails 2012 NMRA National Convention has been announced.
Three-hour clinic sessions will be held Monday through
Thursday, starting at 9:00am, 2:00pm and 7:00pm. Sessions are open
to any Convention Registrant who wishes to sign up, except for the
7:00pm sessions on Monday and Tuesday nights, which are being reserved
for OpSIG members.
Sign-up for the open sessions will be available at the
Pantlind Ballroom starting Monday morning (July 30). There are twelve
operating slots available per session and sign-up is on a first-come
February 24, 2012
The scenery work under way at New Waverly.
February 2, 2012
Scenery work continues at New Waverly, and John Young has been working
on completing scenery at Rockfield. We have put the necessary equipment
in place so that at an upcoming operating session, we can try out the
Driver (Android) applications on some smartphones to evaluate whether
to support them.
December 28, 2011
Jackie Kashian has posted the
Dork Forest Expedition podcast
she recorded at the ORS layout earlier this month on her Dork
Forest web site. We are Dork Forest Episode #91!
December 3, 2011
We hosted comedian Jackie Kashian
on a Dork Forest Expedition for her podcast while she was in town for
the weekend performing her stand-up act at the Ann
Arbor Comedy Showcase. During the podcast, we describe the ORS layout
and the model railroad operations hobby in detail. Look for it both
on her Dork Forest web site
and on iTunes some time after the first of the year!
July 17, 2011
We held a "planning commission" meeting on the 13th to lay
out the work we wish to do before the 2012 NMRA National Convention
in Grand Rapids. Most of the work will involve finishing up projects
we've already started and fixing some nagging track issues. If time
allows, there is the possibility that we will rebuild the area around
CW Tower to make it look more like the prototype and improve the interchange
Initial contact with the Cleveland
2014 NMRA National Convention committee has been encouraging, so
it's possible that would be our next outing with the layout after Grand
New Waverly remains in ruins while a small retaining wall and new structures
February 5, 2011
Work has been completed on adding another double-ended siding to Logansport
by modifying the spur that runs back to the industry tracks along the
backdrop. This should help ease the congestion that occasionally occurs
New Waverly is still pretty well torn apart as a coal
trestle and other structures are being installed there.
December 22, 2010
We held several operating sessions through the Fall, and completed
work on the Delphi track rearrangement project. In the past two weeks
we began work on adding another double-ended siding to Logansport and
performing scenery and track work at New Waverly.
July 24, 2010
The ORS core team attended the 2010 NMRA National Convention in Milwaukee,
Wisconsin. While we did not bring the ORS layout this year, Jeff Fryman
presented his clinic on setting up paperwork for operations twice to
receptive audiences. John Young presented a new clinic on the planning
process for his future N scale layout based on the C&O's Toledo
Subdivision in 1968 to a very engaged audience. At the convention we
all registered for Grand Rails 2012, the
2012 NMRA National Convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rails
2012 is our next planned trip out with the ORS layout.
Scenery work continues, but at a slower pace, as freight car maintenance
has begun (mostly matching up broken ladders and stirrups with the appropriate
rolling stock). David Pickell and Bill Abraham constructed a 208-tree
capacity drying rack for Supertrees. We picked up a number of cartons
of the raw materials for these trees at the National Train Show. Our
next operating session is scheduled for early August.
March 26, 2010
Having reached the point where we've used some of our turnouts enough
that they are showing signs of wear, we've started work on fixing the
ones that aren't aging gracefully. So far, we've used PC board ties
to reinforce three that were going out of gauge, and replaced the throw
bars on a couple where the solder joints holding the points in place
were failing. Given the amount of use these have gotten over six years
of frequent operation, we're neither surprised nor especially concerned
Rockfield is the focus of current scenery efforts, but a manually-activated
set of crossing flashers has been put in place at the west end of the
siding at Buck Creek, too.
Feburary 13, 2010
We've held one operating session so far in 2010. Some trackwork projects
are under way to fix finicky turnouts, and the trackage at the farm
co-op and supply at the east end of Delphi has been rearranged to try
to get the locals through town a little quicker. An additional siding
at Logansport is under consideration to help relieve yard congestion
December 29, 2009
layout was back up and operating shortly after Thanksgiving, and we've
held our first post-Hartford operating session. During that session
and on subsequent worknights, we've identified a number of minor things
that were damaged in transit and will need to be repaired. We've also
realized that we've been neglecting some basic maintenance on our motive
power. Over the next few months we will be taking apart each locomotive
and putting its drive train through a cleaning and lubrication process.
This will be a good opportunity to weed out any remaining "fringe"
DCC decoders that may still be out in our fleet, that don't play well
October 12, 2009
Following the installation of additional lighting in the layout room,
we have begun standing modules back up on their feet as we reassemble
the layout this Fall. While we do not have an official timetable for
resuming operating sessions at this time, we expect that we should be
back up and running within a few weeks.
The recent theft
of the Rails on Wheels club trailer containing nearly all of the
club's display layout modules will have little immediate impact on the
Operations Road Show project. Very little of the small amount of equipment
used in common between the ORS layout and the Rails on Wheels display
layout was in the trailer at the time.
July 3-12, 2009
trip to the NMRA National Convention in Hartford, Connecticut was our
longest expedition ever with the Operations Road Show layout, racking
up over 1,400 miles in the course of the round trip.
After a quick breakfast at our usual Saline dining spot, we hit the
road pretty much right on schedule, about 9:15am, with two pickup trucks
and a large SUV pulling three trailers, ranging in length from 14 to
18 feet. We made it nearly twenty miles before a loose screw on
the rental trailer dislodged itself and punctured a tire while traveling
at speed down the freeway. Replacing it with one of our spares set us
back about half an hour. The rest of our day's travel, to Hazelton,
Pennsylvania, was uneventful, if a bit long.
We started the Fourth of July with a quick run up I-81 to the Steamtown
National Historic Site in Scranton. After a five hour visit and a thorough
viewing of the Site's exhibits and collection, we continued on to Hartford,
arriving in the early evening.
We spent the fifth of July unloading the trailers, setting up the layout
and preparing it for operation, with the help of assistants provided
by the OpSIG. The Hartford Convention Center staff were also very helpful.
That night, Jeff Fryman gave the first of two presentations of his clinic
on developing paperwork for your model railroad operations.
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, we ran three, three-hour-long operating
sessions for Convention attendees. On Wednesday, we held only one, scheduled
so as minimize conflict with the Layout Design SIG's self-guided layout
tour. The time went by quickly: even though nine hours of operation
each day is a lot of work, it is also a lot of fun.
The sessions were well attended, with only one or two operating positions
going vacant out of the 120 we offered. We met many enthusiastic crews,
many of whom were operating for the first time, and many experienced
operators who were interested in seeing how we do it. We renewed acquaintances
with crews who had run with us at previous conventions and met plenty
of new folks, a number of whom left expressing interest in taking up
operation after never having tried it before. A particularly fortuitous
find was Rich, a 12 year-old from New York who attended one of the Monday
sessions and stayed around to assist with several more. He picked up
our operating methods quickly and was running like a pro in minutes.
This guy is a natural.
It is the people that really make this rewarding, and we met a lot
of really neat people this week.
On Monday afternoon, a crew from WTIC television (channel 61 in Hartford)
stopped by to film activity on the layout. Footage of our layout was
used behind the interviews and in the station's coverage of the NMRA
National Convention that evening. During our sessions later in the week,
we were visited by the film crew from Model
Railroad Hobbyist magazine, a new online model railroading magazine.
We hope that some of the footage will appear in their coverage of the
During the week, we tested out the new Digitrax DT402D duplex radio
throttle and UR92 transceiver, mainly in the Fiddle Yard where we make
and break consists while building outbound trains and breaking down
inbound ones. It worked flawlessly, and played well with our existing
UR91/DT400R/UT4R simplex radio system.
Thursday morning, Fritz Milhaupt participated in a panel discussing
the merits of an active fiddle yard over passive staging, sponsored
by the Layout Design SIG. Following the Thursday evening operation session,
we spent two hours packing up parts of the layout and preparing for
the big tear-down.
Our merry band Thursday night,
Friday dawned with two hours of tear-down and packing before heading
off to the National Train Show at 9:00am. About 1:00pm we reconvened
and finished loading the trailers, again with help from OpSIG volunteers,
Saturday morning, after allowing ourselves some time to sleep in, we
hit the train show again for a few hours. The rental trailer had sustained
some damage to its roof vent while we were in Hartford, and the weather
forecast promised rain across most of Pennsylvania, so John Young, Al
Robertson, Jeff Fryman and Bob Milhaupt spent a couple of hours working
on a repair. Many thanks are due the staff of the Hartford Convention
Center for their assistance with our repairs in our hour of need. We
were out by about 2:00. After a long afternoon and evening of travel,
which included several hours of mountainous driving through north-central
Pennsylvania in a heavy thunderstorm, we tied up for the night in DuBois.
Sunday morning we got an early start. A quick check showed that our
repair work in Hartford had been successful- no water had infiltrated
the rental trailer. We took our time crossing Pennsylvania and Ohio,
arriving back in Saline at approximately 4:25pm.
Without question, this was the best set-up we have had. The support
from the OpSIG and the Hartford National 2009 Convention Committee far
exceeded any that we have received before. The additional manpower provided
by the OpSIG helped to take a good deal of the pressure off of us, and
was greatly appreciated. Their assistance in turn helped us to contribute
to making the Hartford National 2009 Convention the thoroughly enjoyable
experience we felt it to be.
After getting home, several of us immediately set to work to prepare
to take another layout, Rails on Wheels' display layout, to Train
Festival 2009 in Owosso, Michigan over the weekend of July
We have some room improvements planned for this summer, so the layout
is not likely to go back up before mid-September, with operating sessions
resuming a few weeks after that.
July 3, 2009
We departed for the NMRA National Convention in Hartford, Connecticut
at approximately 9:15am.
June 29, 2009
The trailers have been packed, and we're almost ready to head east!
June 21, 2009
Over the past week, we have begun dismantling the layout and packing
equpment. The trailers are back from being inspected, and both received
a clean bill of health for our trip out East.
May 19, 2009
On May 3, we held our final operating session prior to starting the
tear-down and packing process for our trip to the NMRA
Hartford National Convention in July. A significant reason for allowing
so much time for tear-down and packing is that we will be building new
racking for the modules, since we now have to provide clearance for
scenery that we have added since our trip to Cincinnati in 2005.
February 1, 2009
The Operations Road Show layout is featured as the cover story in the
February 2009 issue of Scale Rails, the National Model
Railroad Association's monthly magazine.
this issue is an eight-page article describing the philosophy, history
and mechanical details on this project, and promoting its upcoming appearance
at the NMRA National Convention in Hartford, Connecticut this summer.
We feel that the editorial and production staff did a very nice job
with the material that we provided for this article.
We are counting down the last operating sessions we will hold this
Winter and Spring before we begin teardown and packing for the National
Convention this summer. Plenty of scenery work remains to be done as
and progress reports for years prior to 2009
can be found on the next page.