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June 15th- On the Shoulders of Giants- Part 11

posted Jun 16, 2017, 10:28 AM by Sue Line RailRoad   [ updated Jun 16, 2017, 10:43 AM ]

This time I want to discuss a “giant” who literally needs no introduction. Dr. Bruce Chubb, who along with his elegant wife, Janet, live in Grand Rapids, Michigan 


and have the world famous Sunset Valley Oregon System model railroad.


Bruce developed and produces the Computer Model Railroad Interface (C/MRI) used by numerous modelers.  He is also the author of the book “How to Operate Your Model Railroad’. 

It was this book that first stimulated me to enter to world of “operation” and leave the world of “running trains.” There were so many concepts in his book that encouraged me to move forward with what has become a very elaborate operating system on the Sue Line.  We operate with a few as four operators to as many as 15 operators. The gives us a great deal of flexibility in how we operate the Sue Line.  Every Thursday evening (Except Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years) the group assembles for an operating session.  Each member places his name on the call board as to where they want to operate (e.g. Maryville Operator, Sue City Operator, Shreveport Public Belt Operator, Riverfront Yard Master, Ginnings Yard Master, Union Street Yard Master, Sue Line Mainline engineer or NoLaCRA engineer). Each position requires specific skills and has different challenges. This allows the crew members to have as little or as a great a challenge they desire that evening.  The flexible staffing model introduces changes into the sessions each week.

I was fortunate enough to visit the previous version of the Sunset Valley railroad and given a chance to dispatch. It was only afterwards that I learned that Dr. Bruce Chubb audiotapes each operation session so that later he can review what occurred during the session. That railroad was packed into the basement of Bruce and Janet Chubb’s home and even ran through the bathroom! It was an amazing experience to see the operations of the Sunset Valley unfold. At one point, one of Bruce Chubb’s daughters was running a coal drag and came up to a red signal. She reported to the dispatcher (me) that she usually received a green signal at that location. I replied not tonight to the delight of Bruce Chubb. Sadly, that railroad no longer exists, but a new, larger, and more complex railroad has taken its place. Photo 2 shows the present tri-level Sunset Valley Oregon System in all its glory.  A truly marvelous accomplishment by a truly marvelous gentleman.

Not only is Bruce Chubb a master in the field of operations, he is also a master in the field of electronics. C/MRI (Computer/Model Railroad Interface) is a set of electronic modules that allow a computer to monitor and control real world devices, including those used in conjunction with model railroads. C/MRI was first introduced by Dr. Bruce Chubb in the February 1985 issue of the Model Railroader magazine. It appeared again with a four-part series starting with the January 2004 issue titled “Signaling Made Easier.” This series provides a good, concise introduction to the C/MRI and its application to signaling.

The backbone of the Sue Line is operations.  Everything else is window dressing.  We could have operating sessions without scenery, without CTC, without electrically thrown turnouts and yes, even without DCC.  It is the combination of prototypical operating practices combined with the concept that our scheme does not have to remain static that keeps the Sue Line fresh.  Thanks to Bruce Chubb for inspiring myself and countless others to operate so as not to stagnate in the hobby. 

In fact, the Sue Line stands on the shoulders of this giant with a few chapters added to the legendary book:  “How to Operate Your Model Railroad…..Weekly”.

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