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ShowLog – Deland – 4/14/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 14 April 2018 20:36

his show was the best of times, and the worst of times.

Originally I only had three people besides myself scheduled for set-up. That’s a pretty tall order. But something like seven or so showed. It was like a Hallmark Christmas Special. “Why, it’s Christmas and angry Uncle Pete came, bearing gifts and goodwill. Hooray!”

On the other hand, by about 2pm, we only had two trains running (with an occasional third nosing out). Bob Klauck hung in there with me, passing each other in our slow circuits, over and over. So thanks, Bob, for running above and beyond.

And my sister, who’s never really seen the layout, she came out. It was just wonderful to show her everything and explain stuff. We were looking at Folkston and suddenly this guy with his son stopped and he says, “Hey, there’s Folkston!” Looked at my sister and smiled. See!

And yet we saw about the worst behaved child I’ve ever seen at a show, a disaster that went on and on, totally cringeworthy. If you know your child is that out-of-control, then why bring him to a place like that where he’ll run around for over and hour, screaming at dealers and handing our rolling stock? You need to be able to pull him out if he gets like that. And if you know he gets like that, he should never be brought to something like that.

I guess I’m just nackered from the show. On the good side, we picked up $200 for the event, $70 in donations and a hundred or so from the table, so we brought in some green.

Time for bed. Goodnight, trains.


OpsLog – WAZU RR – 4/8/3018 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 08 April 2018 18:09


According to our host Doc Andy, it’s a little nowhere place whose only reason for existence is to get Portland-Seattle rail traffic by each other. But I like it.

People with kids (tired people, with no money and sleep) will tell you that having kids is a way for you to gain posthumous fame. My one answer to that is “Name your four grandparents.” I guess that matters to some, that you are remembered and made a difference.

Well, for me, it’s Ayers. See, on the WAZU RR, it was jammed right next to another town. It wasn’t rare to have trains miles apart look like they were passing. As the usual dispatcher on the line, that was a common ghost story I’d be told. So, one debrief I told Doc:

“You should bump up Ayers a quarter inch.”

Oh, an I also told him that the original name, “Ayers Siding”, was a disaster waiting to happen. It becomes a who’s-on-first sort of thing, with me ordering a train to Ayres Siding. “Ayres siding-siding?” “No, Ayers siding main.”

So we came into the session today and Ayers (only Ayers, nothing more) was elevated above the other track. Trains still passed within six scale feet, but suddenly they were miles apart.

And that’s important to me, saying something and making a change in the world. And I’m not talking about something as small as a wiggling poop-squirter; I’m talking model railroading here.

Anyway, thanks for all the solids for showing up for Docs session, and especially Bruce Metcalf for dispatching. When I was giving the chance to “simply run trains”, I “reluctantly” took it, all while mentally throwing my hat in the air. I dispatch enough (read yesterday’s piece). I wanted to run. Through Ayers. A little higher up.

Great fun!


Last Updated on Sunday, 08 April 2018 20:29
OpsLog – 4/7/2018 – L&N PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 07 April 2018 21:17

Lightning boomed outside the windows. Hunched in their seats, the two men struggled to keep a mulit-engine explosion from happening. They fought with their controls, the switches on their consoles unresponsive, even haywire, their radios filled with static, the voices on the other end indistinctive against the ether. Sweat plopped onto their crumpled working diagrams. Suddenly came a total power failure, the screens black, the drone of the distant engines winding down.

Then the host entered the room. “I shut off power to fix a broken turnout. Lunchtime.”

A cockpit view (Photo: M. Anderson)

Yeah, it was that sort of an ops session. I wasn’t talking airplanes above, no. This was what was going on in the two-man dispatcher office where Tom Wilson ran the Southern Railroad and I the L&N. The radios had issues, the room was full of chatter, there was a thunderstorm. Tom’s radio volume kept fading out. We were both running things off a shared switch panel that still has, um, features. We’d activate one turnout and another (usually under a train) would throw. And we were both trying to keep track of all our movements, not on the unrealistic magnetic board but on time sheets (where you track trains across your division and keep them from ramming others (if you remember my piece on vertigo from last week, it’s far greater here. Eventually you have a wide sheet filled with times, lines, arrowheads and expletives – it looks like something crazy people in crime dramas fill the walls of crummy apartments with)).

But nobody crashed (at least none the L&N side). I moved twenty-two trains under sixty something warrants under a four-hour session. And we had fun. With all this going on, we kept two intertwined railroads running. Even when we plugged the yard. Even when a train passed a fouling point and got scraped by another in Ramsey Tunnel. That railroad moved. And we have a lot of fun doing it.

Great time with a great crew. Thanks to the host, John, for having us and the engineers for putting up with us.

Can’t wait until next time!


Last Updated on Saturday, 07 April 2018 21:22
OpsLog - FEC - 3/31/2018 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 31 March 2018 23:52

ilot friend of mine told me about getting vertigo once. He was flying formation with another jet, looked down his wingtip at the other, saw his running lights and the lights of the city rotating beneath him as they orbited the field. And suddenly he lost it. He just rolled out (on instruments) and flew for a minute or two to center himself on his bank-n-turn, just getting everything squared away.

Same thing happened to me on Ken Farnham’s Florida East Coast today. I had the panel, dozens of lights and switches telling me a story, of indicators glowing and moving across a formalized diagram of the railroad. Under my hands and pencil, the train sheet with all those positions circled and marked. For three hours I’d been moving things with no problems. And thing – blink – lost it.

Just sat there and couldn’t figure out what I was looking at. I’d had in my mind that two locals were working City Point, a train was holding at Cocoa Yard while another pecked around him moving cars. Train was holding North at Frontenac . The coal drag out of the power plant was already through Titusville, running into the yard under a special order to run against traffic flow. Everything made perfect sense until it didn’t.

It was blood in the water as soon as I asked for “Trains in City Point, please call dispatcher.” I could hear the laughs in the crew room. I tried to rebuild the picture in my mind’s eye. This has happened before to me in dispatching, dozens of times. All dispatchers get it. Just happened a few weeks back on the LM&O. But this was a total shutdown.

To make matters worse, while trying to dig my way out, I forgot to align the primary yard turnout and sent a train the wrong way (into Palm Bay rather than Titusville, causing a near head-on in the tube (thankfully the crews spotted it and stopped the trains).

Just like my buddy, I eventually got my horizon leveled and trusted my mind and not my instincts. Everything was back to running again. But yes, it’s something to get a silver alert in the FEC headquarters on the panel.

Still, everything ended well. We got through the rest of the session fine and everything was running on the clock.

And on the good side, I managed the four-train meet at Titusville, no small trick in itself. But I’m looking forward to facing the green machine again and see if I can do even better.

Watch this space.



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