Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Time, Space & Money: Managing a Locomotive Fleet

Well, it seems I finally reached that point in my life where I have no space or time to waste on fruitless endeavours aka useless stuff.

After three decades of train collecting – I started when I was 4 years old in 1987 – the lack of space is now dire. I’ve always went by the good old principle that you never know when you’ll need it. Well, many years later, I must admit a lot of things have been of no use for me and I can’t see it happen in the near future.

Among the many useless things is an ever growing collection of locomotives. Most of them were bought in the expectative of building specific layouts. Not so long ago, I had this nasty habit of buying locomotives before starting the project thinking it would drive me to work on the project. I can now honestly tell you this train of thoughts is going nowhere except wasting resources on failed attempts. Artificially boosting your morale with such short term incentives never pays off when dealing with long term project like layout building. A fad is a fad and nobody should take important decisions based solely on that.

It thus means I have to appraise the worth of my collection. Not only in monetary value, but rather in term of pertinence and effective pay off. I’m not someone who takes delight in looking at locomotives sitting on shelves. I loved them when they are in term environment. It means even if I absolutely love a prototype, I don’t feel the urge to own it and display it if I have no layout use for it. For this reason, except a few items with a sentimental connection, I can’t say I have a lot of fun with these boxed models.

One could say I should keep them to visit clubs and operate with my own locomotives, but I must admit the chances are quite low; I’m not a social type and know this is not my cup of tea thought I don’t hate it when I have the opportunity.

For this reason, I’m actually updating our needs in rolling stock and locomotives for the layout and comparing that data with my own collection and what I like to use.

At this point, I can safely say that we have enough material to run the layout. If we add something, we must take out something. Yes, we reached that level. The only reason to buy more cars or locomotives would be to replace the existing models with better ones.

As far I can tell, we officially rule out to run passenger trains: not prototypical, look silly on our layout and not fun to operate on a rural branchline. Anyway, rebuilding the iconic Tortillard du Saint-Laurent touristic train would cost an arm and a leg and be of little interest on the layout. In fact, it couldn’t run or be efficiently reversed!

As a matter of fact, 6-axle locomotives are also out of the picture. They don’t fit the bill in term of operation and some can’t negotiate the tight peninsula curve. And to be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of them. CN is actually replacing its old 4-axle locomotives with the bigger ones in Limoilou and they the charm of old GP9 and GP40.

Another type of locomotives out of the picture is cowl units which were seldom seen on Murray Bay. Also, while I find them attractive, they aren’t the kind of locomotives that I fancy as models.

What it leaves us with is a manageable roster of locomotives which has enough diversity to not feel boring and yet represent well the diversity of power that ran over the line. I’m not saying it is a prototypical roster, but rather a pragmatic one. I’ve often written in this blog the hardship of a line defined by a very specific locomotive that isn’t produced for the mass market (MLW M420). Maybe I’m less dogmatic as the project evolve, but I’m rather seeking to get the feeling right rather than die over details. Yes, it may sounds quite contradictory given my advocacy for prototypicalness, however, everybody in this hobby must draw a line to make sure the project moves forward. And if suitable models are available in the future, there will be room for improvement.

As it stand, the actual roster for our CN Murray Bay subdivision will be made of about 10 Canadian national locomotives and 2 industrial switchers. To be honest, this number could be reduced in half without impacting the operation. So much for collecting

Seen from that angle, it seems improving a very small fleet to high standard is a very achievable goal within a modest financial frame. As I often said in the past, I prefer to use only a few select engine which I care about rather then waste my time managing a monster fleet that do little in making me happy with my hobby. I can see, and Jérôme thinks the same, a day when our layout will be very simple and counter intuititive to mainstream model railroading practice. And now I know someone who will be busy pruning off excess motive power to other fellow modellers!

1 comment:

  1. I understand your situation. I collected until I got my layout up and running. Then I realized I had 4 times as many engines as I needed and 2 times the freight cars. I kept my focus, sold the extra equipment and I haven't looked back.