Train Blog
OpsLog – B&M – 3/5/2019 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 06 March 2019 21:34

ispatching. I’ve dispatched railroads with twenty or thirty movements, moving trains in and out of sidings along a fifteen-mile mainline. This would be the LM&O, which is like air traffic control. And then there is the FEC, which is less trains but more involved.

On the Boston and Maine tonight, I ran only four trains.

And I was totally busy.

The B&M is a neat little HO layout set in a spare bedroom. It’s neat and tidy and runs like a watch. Dispatching is done out in the living room on a computer simulating a CTC panel. But what makes things really busy is the workload assigned. No only are you working a panel, you are also doing the train sheet (the huge columned record of movements). And you are recording all details of each train: crew, engines, car totals, lengths. You even calculate tonnage. It’s very busy. Just working a meet is a major achievement.

I had a blast.

My buddy sat behind me while I worked, so we chatted about what I was doing, both of us learning the railroad as we moved each train along. It was busy, not frantic, just busy. And after a day in the office, it’s the perfect thing.

Of course, we had Stab-the-Varnish Martin working the Bellows Falls local (he was supposed to pop out and swap cars). Every time he did this, I had to issue track and time and unlock his switches. We agreed on a completion time. Then we extended it. Then, with the railroad locking up around us, he wouldn’t even answer my call-lights. Essentially, he violated rights on the railroad for forty-five long, silent minutes.

So since we are talking about how cool railroads are when you simulate the actual prototypical operations of said companies, I’d like us to add in the discipline and termination aspects. I mean, you really don’t go home without your locker dumped in a cardboard box when you take over a section of mainline and run up and down it (knowingly!) without rights. But that’s Bob – he even stabbed highball specials on his own railroad.

But it was a bucket of fun and a cloud of pencil graphite. I’m all ready for the next session. The writer’s cramp should be fading by then!


OpsLog – LM&O - 2/27/2019 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 February 2019 23:24

ight feet. Two inches. That’s all it took.

Okay, so the session started off well. Really well. I was running the dispatcher panel again (evidently, there wasn’t a dispatcher within fifty miles of the place). And I had this session down cold. I don’t think I’ve ever had it running so smooth – I had warrants written five minutes ahead of issue time. The railroad was running tighter than it ever had. Even with delays from Silver Bullet 2 gasping to a shuddering death on my main, I was able to get 202 pretty much back on schedule. Things were knocking back and forth pretty smoothly.

I know we were having some problems. Besides Silver Bullet, I know that the new helper kid was a bit rough, causing some derailments. And Greg’s back – I could hear him from the rear office. And we had some track difficulties.  But overall, things were still moving, trains weren’t waiting for hardly every time, and I was patting myself on the back so much I was about to dislocate my arm.

And then it happened.

The first mistake was running 244 out while Silver Bullet 1 was exiting Pittsburgh. No wreck – it was within yard limits so everyone was going slow. But it was a LAP, it would have been reportable, and the news of this goof went through the club like an electrical charge through a bucket of shit. But then, on the heels of this, something worse happened. 244 was climbing out of Stone Bridge, running up eight feet of track, gaining two inches of elevation. An easy two percent grade. All he needed to do was get into the siding at Red Rock and all my westbound movements would run down and then the eastbound parade would begin. But then the bottom fell out of what was presumably an NS chug-lugger, one of four engines, which locked a truck. 244 stalled on the hill. The railroad ground to a halt. Helpers had to be called.

What a nightmare this was. I cut paper for a helper out of Martin, only to find out the crew had reported for duty at Harris. This made me void paper and rewrite another warrant, just to get the helpers down to lug the helpless onto the siding. Finally we could get the overdue 66 up and the delayed 97 down. What a shameful performance. It was like we were Amtrak or something.

I came out expecting everyone to be cross with the layout, the club and each other but, no, it seemed that even with this debacle, everyone had a great time. And that’s why we do it, so everyone had a great time.

But really – you couldn’t get that freight train eight short feet further up the hill?


OpsLog – FEC – 2/16/2019 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 16 February 2019 20:36

here are three things Dispatchers love in model railroad operations.

The first is the chance to dispatch a large and active railroad, which the FEC is. It’s got full CTC, a massive panel that’s great fun, and a lot of traffic up and down the line. So when Ken asks me, “You wanna dispatch?”, yeah, I’ll nod and say “Sure” but inside I’m clicking my heels and throwing my hat in the air. “Sure, I suppose I could.”

The second thing a dispatcher loves is when the operations and yard folks run their trains well. In this case, we were clicking through the trains, making the layout run as advertised. Once or twice we were running so smooth that I had to hold trains (which goes against my nature). Someone would be at the signal stand at 1pm and I’d have to hold them forty-five minutes for a meet. Overall, our running was as smooth as fine bourbon easing down my throat. “Ahhh, yes”.

But the best thing a dispatcher loves is when the entire train group thinks he’s messed up and is going to have egg on his face. Oh yes, I could hear the crews on an open phone, laughing that I’d messed up at the end of the session. In one stretch around the Pinetta siding, I had a local in the industrial weeds at Bonaventure, three southbound freights rattling out of Cocoa Yard, and two more trains coming north. Total disaster. But while they’d been twisting their throttle knobs, I’d been looking this over for ten minutes. So, yes, think I’m dead? Well, this dispatcher has nine lives. First, I held the local on the low Bonaventure iron. So he’s clear. Of the three southies, the first rolled into Pinetta main, signals protecting his ass from his two shadows. The northbound, routed into Pinetta siding. Speaking over the catcalls, I directed the second northbound (940, running as an extra) to duck in at Eau Gallie (which was where he would tie up for the morning). With him confirmed clear, I opened up signals south and the three trains rumbled through. As they cleared Bonaventure, that local emerged to run north back to Cocoa. And suddenly we had three trains running south, one north, and one tied down at Pinetta for a crew change. I felt like a magician at a birthday party. Alakazam, you doubters!

Yeah, great session. Still smiling.

Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.


Last Updated on Saturday, 16 February 2019 20:46
OpsLog – TY&E – 2/10/2019 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 10 February 2019 22:24

kay, I can approach this several ways. There’s spending a fun Sunday with friends in an open garage as the rain comes down, just running trains.

And there’s the angle where we ran on a layout where everything ran on time, every train passed as per their timetable, that it went off like virtual clockwork.

Or there is the telling where I visualize the Sand and Log run down from Tipton to Staffordtown, of running a train constructed with heavy covered gons on front, flats behind, of slipping into Meadville to make my meet to rocking along in that swaying cab as I eased into the industrial yard to deliver everything.

The TY&E was all of those things.

We got up a team and put the boys behind the throttles for a great session. There is a lot of casual running under the confines of a fast clock (which sounds counterintuitive, I know, but there it is). The guys had it wired and everyone figured their moves. I saw slow running and careful switching and some laughs, with even a moment of silence for a departed crewmember. So yes, no better way to spend a Sunday.

I’ll admit (because JW will badger me if I don’t) that the only mistake in the session was mine. Yes, my mistake, that of thinking a northbound local should build itself to face north, when really it builds south and chugs around a loop to face the other way. I mean, thanks to JW for not embarrassing me in front of everyone by pointing this out before my departure. Also, it was nice of him to let me struggle that damn caboose around to the opposite end of the train (which meant shifting cars all around Staffordtown to make this work). I wouldn’t want to miss out on that move, even if it meant a lot of back-n-forthing to no gain. But I messed up, and for that, I am sorry.

Seriously, though, a fantastic session, one of the best on this Frankenstein railroad (and I mean this in the best of ways).

Thanks again, JW, for hosting!



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