Joe's Rules

Bonus Elite Operator™ Content!

Joe's Rules for Elite Operators™

Over the years, I have assembled a list of sayings, truisms, witticisms, expletives, and tips from several of my train buddies. Most of these have come from Joe, so, in his honor, I have created this page to share these gathered gems of modeling with the world.
Most are opinion, some are fact, but all are useful.
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  1. No solid wire EVER! No exceptions.
  2. Solid wire can be used if it is large and not susceptible to flexure or movement.
  3. Your layout will never run as well after track painting and ballasting as it did before.
  4. When troubleshooting a malfunction, change only one variable at at time
  5. Op Session beverages must be chilled to such a degree that ice crystals form upon opening
  6. All tortimusses must be disassembled and reworked before installation
  7. Scenery and smooth operations do not mix on N-scale layouts
  8. Consider any trackside scenery or details as temporary, as it will be obliterated during track cleaning
  9. Turnout points are finger-slicing SOBs when cleaning track
  10. If the rail joiner shoves in easily, it is likely that it was just inserted into your fingertip
  11. Do not test the temperature of the soldering iron with your tongue, not even very quickly
  12. Fuse amperage ratings are only suggestions
  13. The greatest compliment you can pay to a model railroader is: “It’s OK…I guess” (tip o’ the hat to Mark Davidson)
  14. The two best shades of green are: 1) Sweet Green (BN), and 2) Semi-sweet Green (MKT)
  15. Soldered connections don’t need to be twisted together if you are sufficiently skillful and steady with the soldering iron
  16. Your track isn’t clean enough until your fingertips are bleeding from the bright boy abrasion.
  17. If you don’t glue the tortimus fulcrum in place, you are asking for trouble. Glue only one side so you can open it up for servicing later.
  18. Anything worth doing is worth doing awesomely
  19. No sound, no layout (classic snobby old-skool layout owner nonsense, included here for sarcastic purposes)
  20. Locomotive bells are loathsome.
  21. Never ballast track just before an op session. You will always find a turnout that is frozen in place with ballast and glue.
  22. After painting track, it takes three sessions before the locomotives run as well as they did prior to the track being painted.
  23. The smaller the scale, the more concentrated the fun (tip o' the hat to Sheldon Cooper).
  24. Don't build anything "temporarily". Take the time to build things correctly the first time (this applies to panels, track, scenery). - (tip o' the hat to Steve Priest)
  25. During a work session, you can't enjoy a refreshing ice-cold beverages until you earn it by accomplishing something
  26. You may have all the railroad knowledge in the world, but if you hoard it, and don’t share it with a generous spirit, you are just a schmuck
  27. All turnout frogs need to be powered if your goal is consistent operation. this is especially true for N-scale
  28. Get an NMRA gauge and learn to use it. All of it!
  29. The resistor can go on either side of an LED.
  30. When installing turnouts, you MUST install the extra ties between the turnout and the flex track. Don’t leave those blank sections of rail without ties.
  31. Get a multimeter and learn how to use it.
  32. Cheap soldering irons are EEEEEVILLLL!
  33. You can’t call yourself a Master Model Railroader until you can recite Ohm’s Law: I = V / R, where “I” is the current in amps, “V” is the voltage in units of volts, and “R” is the resistance in units of ohms.
  34. Only maroons and saps would lay track directly on plywood. Homosote is your friend. Really. Homosote. Find it. Pay for it. Cut it. Put up with the dust. Used by Elite Operators™ everywhere.
  35. Use rosin core silver solder to build turnouts. It makes a stronger joint.
  36. Local operators tend to peter out after three hours. Out-of-towners tend to stick with it a bit longer. Except for Sunday morning sessions, where everybody tends to be dragging.
  37. There is no better feeling than being on the receiving end of a Kasper MKVII Rev 2 turnout!!!
  38. If you don’t clear the plant, you can never get a favorable signal!
  39. You can have the best paperwork in the world, but the operators won’t read it.
  40. Glue EVERYTHING down. Foliage, cars, building, detail parts. That way you can used a vacuum to clean your layout without losing (too many) detail parts.
  41. Hide the seam where building foundations meet the ground. Steve, my magazine editor friend and Elite Operator™ par exellance, reviews several layout articles daily and often comments that you can see the foundation seams in many photos, which just SCREAMS “model scene”. Hide the seam with ground cover or bushes.
  42. Every tortoise turnout machine MUST be disassembled and the springy contacts bent to insure good electrical connections. Failure to do this results in immediate revocation of your Elite Operator™ status
  43. The Overholtzer Rule - During an operating session, for any given train run, the time spent running on the modeled portion of the layout must be at least twice the sum of time spent in a helix and/or in hidden staging.
  44. Make sure that your stranded wire is twisted for northern hemisphere use. If you get a batch of Australian or Argentinian southern hemisphere twisted wire, you are asking for trouble.
  45. If you are dispatching, and a crew asks how much longer they must stare at a red aspect, the correct reply is "Wait for signal…"
  46. Nothing beats a nice, sharp pencil when you are dispatching!
  47. The "Finkenbiner Maneuver" - basically the classic 0-5-0 method of reaching in to move or turn a locomotive or piece of rolling stock. A "Full Finkenbiner" is moving an entire train by hand (such as when restaging)
  48. If you need to shorten a rail just a teeny, tiny little bit, use a Dremel tool with a cutoff wheel rather than rail nippers. It is very easy to over-cut with the nippers.
  49. A fix doesn't count until it works during an operating session.
  50. The "Kasper Effect" - something that screws up during an op session, but then works perfectly after the crew departs

Rules of Special Note:

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The Finkenbiner Maneuver

The "Finkenbiner Maneuver" - basically the classic 0-5-0 method of reaching in to move or turn a locomotive or piece of rolling stock.

A "Full Finkenbiner" is moving an entire train by hand (such as when restaging)
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The Kasper Effect

Something that screws up during an op session, but then works perfectly after the crew departs.

The Inverse Kasper Effect Rule - A fix doesn't count until it works during an operating session.
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The Priest Paradigms

Don't build anything "temporarily". Take the time to build things correctly the first time (this applies to panels, track, scenery)

Glue EVERYTHING down. Foliage, cars, building, detail parts. That way you can used a vacuum to clean your layout without losing (too many) detail parts.

Some times, you just need to lay in the gutter and watch the traffic go by…