The Lake Town and Shire was built in1999-2000 and expanded in 2004 with a number of changes since. From the beginning, the goal in designing the layout was to provide opportunities for operations. The original layout was a single track loop-to-loop design with one passing siding between the loops and three industrial sidings. In 2013, the layout is still a single track loop-to-loop, but now the layout includes four passing sidings, a wye with a caboose track, a turn-table, thirteen industrial sidings, a separate loop, and a separate mining tram.. Before the 2004 expansion, we hosted one or two local garden clubs and other groups each year. Beginning in 2005, we began to host irregular operating sessions. This evolved into a monthly schedule of operating sessions from March through November each year. Our operating sessions are open to the public, and our operators are between 6 and about 14 years of age. Each operating session is also an open house, and both adults and children younger than 6 come to look at the layout and watch the operations. These operating sessions/open houses have turned the garden railroad into a major part of our lives. We spend the off-season repairing structures and building new structures. During the operating season, we spend many hours maintaining the garden and the layout and preparing for and hosting the sessions themselves. The purpose of these articles on operations is to share what we have learned from this experience. I don't think many people will want to open their layout to the public each month, but many garden railroaders, whether they have large or small layouts, can add to the enjoyment of their hobby by adding occasional operating sessions to their activities. These sessions are particularly attractive to children and offer a great way to share your railroad with children in your family and/or children of friends. Two or three people can easily keep themselves entertained for an hour or two picking up and dropping off cars on the railroadt. The emphasis in these articles will be on small to large operating sessions involving children.
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