Train Blog
OpsLog - FEC - 9/30/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 30 September 2017 20:52

ust got back from playing the biggest solitaire game you can play: Model Railroad Ops!

Oh yeah, there are some of you who will say it's a huge cooperative effort, a big multiplayer game railroaders have been playing for half a century. You work together to get the trains through the division and crews will cooperate in anything from throwing turnouts for each other to offering suggestions to pushing a car the final one hundred feet to the dock (saving another crew the hassle of a runaround).

And at Ken Farnham's FEC today, there were a whole bunch of people, maybe seven or so out on the road (in one shed) and four operators running the huge yard (in the other). And a dispatcher.

And that was me.

Miss Bev plays solitaire on the big green board!Unlike every other position, my attention is focused on the huge CTC panel. From where I'm sitting, I see trains as illuminated lights crossing the layout display. I'm focused on looking up from my train sheet to set turnouts and signals. Other than a glimpse of trains rolling past my office on the way in and out from Palm Bay and Titusville, everything I experiance is on the panel. That a dozen people are all working around me to keep the railroad running, the engines being fueled, run out to the head ends of assembled trains, of yardmasters contacting crews who take these trains across the division dropping and picking up cars, yes, that's a rumor I've heard. But I'm all on my panel, moving lights from one side of the board to the other.

As far as what goes on in the other room, it's only when off duty crews or the superintendent comes in to tell me what's up in their "real world of pretend". But now, I'm lining routes, setting signals, contacting disassociated voices to inquire about getting clear of my main - I've got dots to move.

It's my job, and it was way fun today.

Thanks to Ken and Bev for having us out. Always a pleasure to move the red lights across the board as quickly and cleanly as possible.


P.S. And if your flapjacks taste like propane, ask Bruce about it. smiley

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 September 2017 21:11
OpsLog - LM&O - 9/27/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 September 2017 22:32

just want you to know that I'm not to blame for this," the new dispatcher told me in the midst of the hectic shitshorm that was tonight’s ops session. And yes, it really wasn't all his fault, not when trains are departing yards in the wrong direction, ignoring their written, copied, and confirmed warrants, and running past frantic flagmen (why do you think they're waving that red flag at you - because they're communists?).

Toss into this mix the special rules I added - that Irma was breaking up against our eastern slopes, that every train would need helpers going up, and that trains down would require fifteen minutes to set retainers at the summit and fifteen minutes to clear them at the bottom. Ideas like this is all part of my don't-reelect-robert plan. So we'll see.

But the important thing was that while we ran all the trains with a newbie dispatcher, the layout was having an off-night. Too many derailments, too many problems. We keep fixing them but more pop up. I think, for Red Rock, that no downhill trains (Westbounds out of Harris) should ever use that siding. The thing is, with all the weight piling up on that steep slope, that divergent route is hard to get into.

But Dispatcher Cody (how that sounds like a character out of an old radio serial) did okay. Sure he was new and played catchup all night, but until you sit at that panel and run the trains we get through this pike (probably one of the most active DS panels in the state), you don't know what busy is. So maybe I can talk him into it again. That lets me get out on the railroad and run things like Mingo.

And yes, for the record, lugging that gondola cut around was a royal pain. Which is what railroading is some times.

Anyway, while it was a bitch of a session tonight, guys, we did get through it. And that's commendable. Nobody punched anyone, nobody stormed out (and if they do, believe me, I'll blog it, so don't) smiley


P.S. Crap. I was just writing this thing and I realized the best way to get those gons out of Patterson Quarry and back into the yard. So obvious!

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 September 2017 22:52
OpsLog – WBRR – 9/16/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 16 September 2017 20:19

ur club does a lot of ops. We started with Mother-May-I on our N-trak modules a quarter century ago. Since then, we’ve built an empire at our clubhouse which we’ve run every month for years and years. And back in the day we ran ops every Monday at various members' houses in round-robin fashion. Yeah, so we’re good. We’re really good.

And that’s why we get invited to go halfway across the state (that’s longways, too) to run on Al Sohl’s Western Bay. It’s a cool 1930’s narrow gauge with scenery that will make your eyes bleed, it’s that good. You can see for yourself in the attached below…

So today I’m rear gunner in the Dispatcher’s office, helping Dispatcher Marty get his certificate and keeping him from blowing his brains out. Pretty much I’m running interference, reminding him what he’s got to do next, nothing what he should and shouldn’t say, moving the markers and running out in the room to boot sleeping engineers awake. And yeah, people who know me know I’m doing my best not to shove him out of the chair and shout, “Let me do it!” Bruce, my ride-companion down here, is out on Train 2, the first class passenger that’s wending west out of Denver. When he gets to Alpine, he calls crisp to tell us he’s in (I only got OSes only from Bruce pretty much the entire afternoon). And while he’s waiting for the overdue #1 (overdue because it took a wrong turn a Ute and nearly ended up in Placerville). But Bruce doesn’t cry and ask why he has to wait at Alpine – he knows he’s got a meet and knows that we’re doing all we can to advance him. For tea kettles on wheels, this railroad is class one action all the way. Soon as he calls the meet we send him on his way, clear all the way to Alamosa.

So Marty’s doing pretty good – I can leave him more and more. And Bruce is running 122 out of Denver to work towards Navajo and turn. I’m browsing the aisles (so much to see in Al’s layout – look, there’s a woman with a low cut dress on the Placerville platform!) and notice Bruce and Richard hanging in Dulce, looking blasé about things. “You call for orders?” I ask. Maybe we missed a phone call. I’m told they’re waiting for their departure time like professional engineers.

“Oh. Carry on, men.” (Hey, I didn’t actually say that but I should have).

So yeah, it’s always nice to be able to bring your skills to the game of railroading. But these guys are getting better and better too. We might be in for some serious competency competition in the coming sessions. And I’m fine with that.


Last Updated on Saturday, 16 September 2017 20:24
OpsLog – LM&O – 8/23/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 25 August 2017 07:57

’ve gassed long and loud about all the physical improvements across the division (Calypso Yard, Martin Yard, the Zanesville alignments). I’ve also talked about our increasing membership and how new (and returned) club members are filling our ranks. What I haven’t mentioned is how everyone is expanding their roles on the pike.

This session, I was really happy with seeing members pushing their abilities and learning new things. Bruce (after getting slugged down in Mingo a few months ago) rattled out of the yard with the Mingo cut again, off to slay dragons. Both Dwaine and Craig rose from the figurative dead to pick up ops after several years away – I didn’t even know they were out running without conductors (i.e. guides) until Dwaine went past me on a passenger train (with pretty Santa Fe F’s on the head end, all flashing yellow and silver (you drab N&S guys could learn something here)). Loved seeing Craig try to take Harris Glen with a drag freight behind a steam engine (with helpers assisting helpers) (yes, we run LONG freights now). Even Doc was back, still raw-new but actually conducting for a guy even rawer, running a train that was almost more engines than cuts. Cool. But everyone was moving up in the ranks, leaving people like Sparky and me to run the dustup jobs (the little runs that move stuff off-the-timetable from point A to B).

To wit: I found myself on the tip end of a bunch of coal cars in Carbon Hill, my two SD-7s so unsuited for the task that I had to pull them out in sections (my request to the tired dispatcher were met with confusion, so I just got some “use all track” paperwork and did it anyway). Once I got both cuts out, I rumbled over to Weirton, one of the nicest-sceniced and little-used areas) where I spotted everything on the coal docks. Then I drove over to Martin Yard to pick up the last of the racks (the cars now unloaded) and moved them back (under new management – see below) to the GM plant. There, I found another cut that Bill had left me (plugging the industrial track – Sparky, put yer toys away next time). So I finished my night pushing racks up in groups of three, spotting them into the plant, so nice with those new turnouts and new panel. All done.

Back on the topic of new blood – Cody’s been asking for a shot at the DS board for a time so we agreed that if he ran on the road in the AM, he could learn the trade from Bob (the dispatcher this time) in the PM. Well, Bob sounded exhausted (as exhausted as a man who’s been welding in a hot shop all day can). We were on a 45rpm railroad, listening to orders dictated at 33rpm (google it, kiddies). Apparently, and as I heard it, Cody’s familiarization at the desk was one warrant before being left (like a baby on a doorstep) by Bob. That’s it – throw him in the river to see if he could swim. But not only did Cody work it just fine (having practiced with the DS software the week before (thank God)), but he actually complained that all the traffic was westbounds and he didn’t get any real meets to set up. So, yes, good for him – looks like I’ll running in the cab more in the future.

And as if my position of skill (i.e. head office) could not be made any more tenuous, a limping bruised Crash (formerly known as Bad) dragged in after the session finished, noting that he’d like a shot at the panel as well. So now I see if this DS job gets poached (i.e. people signing up a month early). Look for more on-the-road reporting from me.

Overall, a great session from guys who’d already run the layout with a million guests twice earlier this month.


Mike works Harris Glen (photo by the engineer)


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