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September 28th- On the Shoulders of Giants- Part 16

posted Sep 26, 2017, 6:22 PM by Sue Line RailRoad   [ updated Sep 29, 2017, 5:27 PM ]

This “giant” is once again a local giant and a member of the Sue Line Crew. This giant is a soft spoken, jovial, hard worker who is equally at home dispatching seven trains over the Sue Line, plumbing the bathroom toilet or carrying out the trash.   He would never consider himself to be included in the class of the other 15 mentioned.  But what he doesn’t always appreciate is how much of a push he can be to keep myself inspired to add to my own skills and conquer steep grades of learning as new techniques and ideas come along.

Photo 1- David Colvin at the Sue Line Dispatcher's Panel.

David Colvin has had a lifelong affinity for trains.  He started with a 4 x 8-foot layout built by another person and TYCO equipment. After a many year stint in N Scale, he returned to HO.

This giant has been in such projects as synchronizing digital fast clocks with room lighting, designing and implementing operations on the Sue Line using RailOp, installing LED lighting in structures and towns, a scenery person extraordinaire as well as an extremely good model builder.

He is almost always the first one here on Thursday and generally one of the last to leave. I can truly say that the Sue Line would not be what it is today without the help of this giant, my friend and my mentor, David Colvin.

David Colvin is the kind of person who will teach you how to do something rather than just do it for you. I have seen him work endlessly to help myself or other Sue Line crew members solve a problem which he could probably have solved in mere minutes. He is non-judgmental and appreciates the effort of the individual facing a challenge as well as the outcome.

He has worked tirelessly on multiple scenery projects for the Sue Line. From dirt to grass to shrubs, to trees and from water scenes to docks and ships, he has completed numerous mini-scenes and inspired other members to complete other mini-scenes.

The room lighting has been another of David Colvin’s contributions to the Sue Line. He has installed LED replacement lighting for fluorescent light fixtures as well as red/green/blue/white LED light strips which he has under remote control and is working on having them synchronized to a digital fast clock. He has spent countless hours on this project and has supplied almost all of the equipment needs for the project.


Photo 2- LED lighting in Brandon on the Sue Line

For the last two years, he has been methodically and tirelessly adding LED lights to the towns, the structures, and the signs on the Sue Line. This has added tremendously to the effect of each mini-scene on the Sue Line.


Photo 3- David Colvin at work in Shreveport on the Sue Line

His real forte is in operations.  He has utilized a commercial program (RailOp) to do so much more than it was originally designed for.  He currently has trains from the Sue Line operating alongside trains from various North Louisiana Connecting Railroad Association (NoLaCRA) member trains in a seamless and entertaining manor that allows for crew variations like I have never seen.  On average, about every 2 years, he will revise the operating scheme of the Sue Line to help keep things fresh for the weekly sessions and push the limits on contemporary thinking of what an operating session should be.  He has broken a lot of conventional “rules” on how to operate a model railroad over the years.  As one example, we operated over 4 years with just 2 six foot long staging tracks that handled over 40 trains per 24 hours and it ran smooth as silk.  The only reason we stopped was to freshen the scheme and introduce new challenges for the operators.  He has traveled the country operating on different layouts and has an analytical approach to both the good, the bad, and even the ugly that he has seen, but always can find a kind word to say about each session.  You can always learn from someone else no matter where they are in the hobby.  He, along with Mose Crews from the last edition of this column, can analyze an operating scheme and suggest improvements in ways many of us never see.

His starting point always asks the same question:  “What is the story you are trying to tell”?  We’ve now had multiple editions of the Sue Line operating scheme over the years thanks to this giant.  Just when you think the story couldn’t get any better, along comes the latest installment.

He can be a patient listener which is becoming unfortunately increasingly rare in this hobby.  Just recently, I had worked for several hours on two projects which did not work. I discussed the projects with David Colvin and demonstrated what I had done and what did not work. After several minutes of consideration, he offered the helpful suggestion “Perhaps you should connect the battery.” Lo and behold after connecting the battery both projects worked just fine.


Photo 4 - David Colvin at work under the Sue Line

After working as part of the regular Sue Line crew for over 25 years now, he reports “I enjoy the many opportunities that the Sue Line has provided to interact with like-minded individuals on a regular basis.  A railroad this size with an aggressive operating paradigm requires a group to not only be committed but also be talented operators.  We come from a diverse set of backgrounds.  I love the fact that social status and cultures are left at the front door and for a few hours each week we become railroaders on the same team.  The Sue Line has also afforded me an opportunity to really work on several skill sets from electrical to scenery to operations that I will carry with me.”

In short, almost every railroad the size of the Sue Line has an integral friend in the background helping to keep things running. He is certainly one of those special friends for me.

I am extremely fortunate to have him as one of my “giants” but is also one of the reasons this hobby brings us all so much pleasure.  It is the people that we meet and get to know personally that follow us down the tracks we lay.  We all can get to a point where we need a helper pushing us up the grade.

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