Second Virtual Open House a Resounding Success

Amtrak 161 enters the Kalamazoo Loopat Kaos Junction while Extra 285 leaves the Loop on its way towards Jacksonville

The Second Virtual Open House was a big success. We applied the learnings from last time, and relaxed our schedule a bit to allow the crew in the layout room some breathing room. We still had 40 operator slots during the Open House and all available slots were full a week before the event. A few last minute cancelations allowed club members to run trains remotely, too, and keep the main line busy.

Extra 911 runs southbound through Jericho, while Extra 695 is headed towards the Loop. Both trains are controlled by remote operators.

Once again we used a modified JMRI Web Throttle to enable remote operators to control trains with no need for any software installs. This approach worked very well and minimizes potential technical problems. We prepared a tutorial video to explain how to use the throttle. Since operators knew what to expect they also could tell us when things didn’t work as advertised. Case in point: The Web Throttle Stop button becomes non-responsive if there isn’t operator activity for a while. Adjusting the locomotive speed with the slider always worked, so remote operators could always regain control over their respective trains, but this bug caused a few run red signals and will need to be addressed.

Extra 695 is stopped at a red signal in Fryton

All our guests paid extra attention to run their trains carefully and with appropriate speed. We have found that remote operators run their trains slower than in-person operators. The cab view camera contributes to a more immersive operator experience and naturally leads to running trains more at scale speeds that “feel” right.

Nighttime operations during the Open House

During one session we ran the layout in nighttime mode with the work lights in the room turned off and the layout lighting set to a blue tone that resembles a pale moon at night. Remote operators enjoyed this change in atmosphere immensely, and reported good video picture quality despite the reduced light.

Amtrak 161 is passing a flashing Yellow in Jacksonville

While remote operators enjoyed the view from their personal cab camera within their throttle as they were running their train, we also streamed the cab view camera feeds from all 4 active trains, plus additional rail fan cameras, on Youtube Live during the event. A recording is linked below.

Everyone had a great time today: The support team in the layout room, the online SVL crew, and of course our virtual guests from all over the world. Thank you for joining us, and while we have not picked a date yet, we are planning to offer a similar event again later this year.

Mark your Calendars for April 17, 2021: SVL’s Second Virtual Open House!

Hi everyone!

Update 4/12: All of our available openings to virtually run a train are now full. If you’re interested in running a train virtually, look for future events announced here and on our Facebook page. You are also welcome to follow along with our Virtual Open House once the link is uploaded to our Youtube page at https://www.youtube.com/user/siliconvalleylines

Now that the Bay Area is opening back up again, as well as the success from our Virtual Fall Open House, we’re planning to conduct another virtual open house for the Spring time! On April 17, 2021, you’ll again be able to take a train for a spin around our lower level loop at SVL, all from the comfort of your home!s

Note: As mentioned above – this is a remote Open House. Our layout is still closed to the general public due to Covid-19 restrictions. Only a limited number of members will be allowed into the building to help monitor trains, so please do not come down to the club.

Hibernating

Night Time in Tracy

Well, … Covid is still here and Santa Clara County continues to be in Purple Tier, so indoor operations at the club are still closed as required by the local health authorities.

Once Santa Clara County moves to Red Tier and allows for indoor operations, we will restart with remote operations sessions.