The Little Guy Shows What Railroads Are Actually Supposed to Do
October 21, 2009 - Our five-year-old grandson was here to visit and he decided we needed to run the garden trains. Grandpa is always up for that, so we went into the garage to see what was on the locomotive and freight car active duty roster. Some ideal equipment was found, but first, some track cleaning was needed.
As shown above, without any instruction at all, he jumped right in and was quickly buffing the tops of the rails with the drywall sander (an excellent track-cleaning tool, by the way).
The equipment was selected for the local freight train and included a (made in Indiana) Hartland 4-wheel switcher and two Hartland four-wheel side dump cars (excellent choices because they are all very easy to put on the rails). After a couple of rounds to find out where the gravel and mulch was fouling the flanges, operations could begin.
Without endless rounds of just watching the train circulate, and with no coaching from Grandpa, the engineer on the local threw the manual switches and moved the train to the maintenance siding. He saw the scrap plastic wheel sets sitting by the maintenance building and decided they needed to be delivered to various facilities down the line. But first, some splashed on dirt from recent rains was discovered on the side of the buildings, so........
.....the cleanup equipment, a big ol' (dry) paint brush, was put into action and the buildings cleaned. (And just to be sure that the bragging stays at a high level, the proud grandpa would like to confirm that all the action so far has been planned and implemented solely by the five-year-old. Grandpa was there to coach and help with difficult tasks, but I never made an operational decision.)
After the maintenance session was finished, he decided that the local switching train didn't have enough cars to deliver all the wheels, so a big combination caboose and flat car was added to the train.
With the track clean and clear, the proper train equipment in place and the load on board, the train began doing what the railroads have been doing for centuries, delivering the goods. Wheelsets were delivered to........
...... the passenger/freight station (different day but same idea) and.................
..................the farm and some other miscellaneous locations.
And when the session was over, everything was put back in its proper place.
Some final observations by a proud grandfather - being a longtime indoor model railroad builder, but new to railroading outside, it has been interesting to me to see how others in the outdoor railroading hobby build and run their layouts. Because maintenance is a constant challenge with an outdoor railroad, and for other reasons too, many in the group keep their railroads very simple and entertain themselves and their visitors by running trains continuously through beautiful landscape and through interesting model towns and scenes. The variety of these railroads is endless and many are incredible combinations of mechanical and botanical art.
The minority build their railroad to represent the actual pickup and delivery of goods and people in a fashion that would create imaginary profit for the enterprise. It was astounding to me that a five-year-old, who has watched garden trains run a few times but never really been in charge of a session, immediately grasped and executed, from beginning to end, the concept of why railroads exist. What an excellent day!!