Train Blog
ShowLog – Deland – 7/14/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 14 July 2018 22:04

ood show today. Lots of people came in for setup (we had enough that when we had to move 2/3rds of the layout after some mis-surveying, we got it moved in three huge chunks). Anyway, there were trains running and kids giggling and feet hurting and food over-charging, everything that makes these things a Deland event.

The interesting thing came after the show, when we had to take down. We waiting until the venders were wrapping up and still went down progressively (for my angry-political friends, this means we slowly took down things while leaving trains running, so when we did our final knock down, most of the labor-intensive parts and skirts were already stowed, so save me your editorials). The layout when down clean (the G-scale guys sighing as we put it all away like a Swiss army knife). It was about a million and five degrees outside and I asked around if someone could meet Bob at the club for our usual ten minutes put-away. No takers (that I knew of) so I told him I’d spot for him. Jumped in the mini and off I went, swinging down I-4, working up through the gearbox until… I came to a total bumper to bumper stop.

Yeah, this is the sort of thing I got my folding bike to avoid.

I inched along with nothing to show for it. The distant sign was showing two miles to an incident, right lanes closed (so everyone was merging right to run down the faster lanes) (remember that when you let people in). Finally I pulled out my tiny steam powered phone and started the calls.

Reached Bob and found out he was already rolling with the truck, going an easterly route.

Looked through my phone – could find nobody in my contact lists I could call.

Called my wife – asked her to see if she could find an old club roster and find Jerry’s number. I told her to call back – phones and pitching bumpers and shifting make me nervous.

Got a call from Terry. He’d agreed to get Bob in the gate (I thought that was my job). Turns out he was even further back than me.

Got a call from the wife. She’d gotten Jerry. He said he’d run over and let Bob in. Great.

More bumper to bumper. Finally we got to rolling again and from that point down to my drop off, it was scary hot heavy traffic, a level of hell not described by Dante.

Limped into the house, tired and worn. Just dropped my stuff in the corner when the phone rang.

“Where’s Jerry?” Bob demanded.

Oh shit. I half turned and called out, “JANE!” I thought she’d told me….

“WHAT?!?” she snapped back, ready to go to wet-ferret fighting with me over whatever this was about.

“No, I’m joking. He’s here. It’s all put away,” Bob laughed.

I put the phone down and turned to deal with my angry hackle-raised wife. Yeah, just another day at the show.


OpsLog – FEC – 6/30/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 30 June 2018 21:06

ell, this one was one for the record books.

I’m working a dispatcher’s panel that is as big as a coffin lid. We have a full crew – the yard behind me is “manned” (bad joke) by four wives (including my own JB). Ken has loaded up his line so trains are running hot and heavy. I’m trying to get three by at Palm Bay, two more around each other in Titusville, and two locals are futzing around near Pinetta. And over towards City Point, a rock train is shifting loads about. And that’s when I get the call from the latter.

“I’m on the ground.”

What do I care about model trains on the ground. Put it back on the rails. Do I have to solve every little thing?

“There’s two hopper loads of ballast on the tracks. Superintendent says to look on the right side of your panel. There’s an envelope.”

There is an envelope.

I open it up like the Captain of a nuclear sub opening his coded orders.

Information about the form 19s I need to issue. And more orders for dispatching a wreck train from the yard to the spill. And I’m just getting my head around that when the detector alarm goes off. And then my wife hands me another outbound train card – another is ready to go.

Now would be a good time to tumble out of my chair in fetal position, screaming.


“Pull that ready train back. We need to get that wreck train out…”

The rest of the session was like digging yourself out of your own grave. That pretty little schedule became a fond dream of a better world. I was pretty much winging to movements after that, just keeping track of positions and carefully trying to avoid deadlocking the railroad. I think, at one point, Cocoa Yard and every siding had trains in them.

Anyway, we got it handled and were back on track by the end of the session. The ballast was up, all trains were to their end points, the yard was staged up for the next shift. Thanks to all our crews for their patience. And my wife told me, on the way home, to thank Bev and Benita for helping her find her way around the yard. She said it was totally confusing and hard to understand what was happening (we had trains in and out every five minutes). But she had a good enough time that I think she’ll come back.

But she chatted about it on the ride home and seemed to like it. But let’s not think she’d getting an NMRA membership.

Not just yet.


OpsLog – LM&O – 6/27/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 June 2018 22:33

just spent today at work doing Agile planning. This “event” takes rooms packed with people in Memphis, Orlando and Bangalore three days to do. There are meeting, roving meetings, phone calls, meetings, planning, sticky-notes on board, and, of course, talktalktalktalktalk. By the time I got out in the car this evening to run out to the club, my head was throbbing and I felt like I just wanted to go home and lie down in a dark room.

Flying over Harris Falls (Photo: J. Mathis)Dinner with the guys was good. Then we got out to the club for ops. And guess what. Everyone started cleaning the layout, calling out the sections they were working. One or two clusters formed as people chatted over what jobs they wanted but there is an unwritten seniority in place. No matter. Everyone signed up for something. It’s all seamless.

But don’t think this isn’t complex. The layout is hot. The fast clocks are running. The paperwork is placed. I’ve got six freight trains through, each with one or two dozen cars to shift about. There is an issued bulletin for Hellertown. The helpers are only crewing the East flank of the mountains tonight. But everyone knows what needs doing and they do it. When the clock starts, the opening trains call for their warrants. I jot them off and get them moving. It’s how it works, how it really works, without windy meetings and timid hierarchies and overpaid administrators. We get things done on this line, we move freight and adjust the flow around failing passenger trains and unexpected coal movements.

We aren’t playing at success. We’re dealing it out.

Good run tonight, guys. I can face tomorrow’s meetings now.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 June 2018 22:38
OpsLog - WBRR - 6/23/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 23 June 2018 19:48

y boots are centered on the warped boards of the Delores platform, my hat jammed over my head as thunder crashes around the high Colorado peaks, spooking the cattle in the nearby pen. A small engine is just chuffing along a distant curve, its headlamp shimmering down the long rails. Suddenly the rain is smoking down and I neatly step back into my tobacco-stuffy station office, touching the telegraph key without fishing the chair forward.


A delay.


The windows rattle, causing a small avalanche of fly corpses from the sill as 243 East rolls past. With my finger poised on the key, I note the fading numbers off his cab flank, then cast a glace at the station clock. I rattle this information down the line, getting an acknowledge as the crummy’s marker lights swing around the corner, brakes humming as the train slides to a stop. There comes a crashing of couplers as the crew jumps to their jobs, just trying to get their Delores cuts tossed off and retreat back into their dry caboose. Distantly I see Rob moving down the line of his train, his slicker yellow in the muddy gray deluge.

Not much to do inside my dry station. I know we’ve got a through freight west at 2:20 or so, so I need these guys clear. Rob knows this. I don’t have to tell him. But thirty minutes later, when his pufferbelly pushes back down the siding to work 243’s tail end, I call up him as they pass.

“Clear by 2:10!”

He tosses me a thumbs up, every bit the drowned rat, his slicker oily and old.

I stand in the doorway and alternately watch his crew fuss a couple of cars off the back on their train, all while the rains fall. I check my pocket watch. They’re running out of time. I can see the crew standing around the engine’s drivers on the west end turnouts, then regrouping around the forward coupler. My pocket watch clicks through 2:08. I start thinking of my own slicker (also oily and old), and the red flag I’m going to have to run up the line to stop that through freight. Then two things happen – they are rolling forward into the siding, clear. And I hear the distant whistle of the westbound, dragging up the long grade east of town.

And, thankfully, I’m still dry.



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