Train Blog
OpsLog - Tehachapi - 11/4/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 04 November 2017 23:36

he tale of two trains.


I found myself the sole crewmember of SP train 59, the Night Coast, rumbling in readiness in Lancaster at 11:08pm (which, when the clock sweep hit 12, I notched forward and started rolling). As a first class passenger movement, I've got explicit rights over everyone (unless the meddling dispatcher interferes). But he didn't – I hit Mojave with my black widows pausing at the station while I went inside to collect my clearance (no orders) and to jot my time through in the register book. And then I was off, flying up the Mojave Valley, slowing down for a quick pause at Tehachapi, and then a long dynamic whine down the gloomy slopes through Walong, Woodford and Rowen, just running without meets, an eye to the timetable, hitting the dots. Got my smile as I rolled through the manned stations, hearing the operators call my time in, dead match for what's on the timetable. I don't think I've even had a sweeter run, slipping down the long rails at Bakersfield dead at 12:15am, as advertized. Of course, as usual, there was a train (second 57) plugging my track and the station operator was talking to him as if he was a child (using short, slow words). And then there was the paper snafu, but I don't care – that's where I debark. I got 59 in on time.


My next run was conductor with an engineer named Chris, varnish east, 58, the Owl. This one was also a classic textbook run at the start. The train arrived on time, the swap out power was idling in the ready track, we got the heavy movers (two cab forwards) on the front end, ready to go. Out the yard on time, through Magunden and onto the high-speed arrow-straight flatland dual mainline. We hit 50, rattling along, everything good. Had a meet at Bena and there was 55, right on time. Rolled onto the mainline, with me telling Chris that now that the ranking varnish was past, it would be smooth sailing. Through Illmon and strange, there was a yellow signal. Wended up the valley towards Caliente and then it went to shit. At the head of the canyon, we saw a red signal and a guy on the tracks with a red flag. A local was – can you believe this – switching on the mainline, on my time and my track! I looked at the other operator and couldn't believe it. You couldn't wait in the clear for us to get by? This was just a horrible decision. And then, to top it, our lead cab forward crapped out – chip problems. We managed to limp into Caliente more dead than alive. While there, a couple of club techs cabbed in and worked with us. In the end we had to switch the order of the power. And they never ran well together after this. Holding our breaths, we dragged ourselves up the long hill to Summit, every siding filled with disgruntled traffic holding for us. We got in 40 minutes late.


Two runs. Two wildly different results.


More fun tomorrow.




Last Updated on Saturday, 04 November 2017 23:41
TestLog – WAZU – 10/29/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 29 October 2017 18:11

y weekend of too-many-trains continues with a test run over at Doc Andy’s clinic, running the new Wazu Lines (where Wazu comes from or what it means is anyone’s guess). The Doc has moved mountains, installing solid benchwork and a great point-to-point run with a lot of sidings along the way for meets galore. Trains ran pretty smooth (that Kato track is hard to beat for operations). But there were more turnout controls than the inside of a C-130 and without markings, we were knocking each other off our trucks, tossing and listening for the throws. Easily correctable and already underway.

I’m glad to see that a number of members came out for the test run. These things are always critical for getting a layout worked for future ops. I even sat in the outer room for a half-hour, setting up a dispatcher panel. Next time we’ll run this thing live, full go. That should be a lot of fun.

I got to run three long trains, and outside of some clearance problems, we ran pretty smoothly. Watch this space for more on this up-and-coming epic!

Oh, and nice painting, Doc. smiley


Last Updated on Sunday, 29 October 2017 18:41
OpsLog – FEC – 10/28/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 29 October 2017 18:09

rains running at night are very mysterious. They boom in the moonlight, the details are lost in shadows, the signals glow like stark binaries of red and green, and beyond the headlamps all is lost in gloom. And that’s why running the Florida East Coast in the simulated darkness (lit by streetlights, building windows and pocket flashlights) is a lot of fun. And a lot of challenges, too. I ended up working the Buenaventura industrial yard (I suspect the fact that I got lost on my well-traveled way over, missing an obvious exit, and also confusing the Wendy’s order-drone might have had something to getting tossed off the DS panel), swapping out FEC hoppers at MacPhault’s. And this is tricky enough to do when you can see. Under penlights, trying to work out your paperwork, that’s a real load of eye-squinting effort. Fortunately I got all the cars in and out (though, to be truthful, I nearly left a tank car behind – caught that at the absolute last second). But it was a load of fun, which is the point of the thing, day or night.

Second train was an empty rock train (my lot in life, it seems) out of City Point. Got stuck behind one train working the team track opposite, and with other trains eagerly waiting for use of that main (and another guy needing to switch around me) I wasn’t going anywhere. Turns out that by the time the knotted traffic unraveled, I was a couple of hours late. Not like MT hoppers are perishable in any sense, but still.

Unfortunately we had some electrical difficulties with the DCC system (the same sort of thing we had at our club the other night, a full register). But we got most of the session knocked out and I got a couple of smooth runs in so I’ll take that as a win. I need to start bringing my red astronomy light in my throttle bag for future sessions – it sounds like the FEC will be running more night jobs. Gotta be ready for anything.

Maybe we’ll do Florida downpours by setting a sprinkler off in the shed. Who knows?


Last Updated on Sunday, 29 October 2017 18:15
OpsLog – LM&O - 10/25/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 25 October 2017 22:29

o I’m rolling out of Calypso Yard on the head end of 271. I didn’t bring enough power to run a westbound freight so I’ve got loaned Funits on the head end, ATSF units as round and yellow as a jar of mustard. And I’m rolling slowly, mainly because a turnout in front of me broke a while ago and I’m having to tip-toe a forty car train over it. And this is made worse by the fact that, instead of helpers, I’ve got a turn coupled on the back, pushing. My caboose crew is screaming as their frame groans, I’m twelve hours late and the dispatcher is looped out on pain meds. Can it get any worse?

Can it get any more like real railroading?

So, yeah, rough session tonight. I already built up my fears; one guy at dinner. Everyone else late. Nobody at the club. Then people started showing. More people and more. Cub scouts. Visitors. Old members. And suddenly where there was famine, there is feast – too many! - and I’m tour guiding while my Weirton to Carbon Hill run idles unrun. And we’ve got a new dispatcher, and if he wasn’t on meds when he started, I’m sure he’s dropping meth now. Trains were crazy late and I was running with a kid who’d never even heard of ops (but he got really into it as I let him figure out the moves). Total chaos.

Westbound at Harris with helpers (Photo: Frank Z)

But you know, you hit a point (especially when you’re grinding up the hill with this Frankenstein monster – two trains grafted together. Sure, it’s weird, but it was also fun. I glided down that long hill from Harris Glen, just an absolute delight. And the new yard was a pleasure – Sparky was switching down one lead while I did my setouts on the other. And then the river level route, winding along those pretty hills on my way to Cincinnati. Sure, I didn’t get in until 6am the next day (eighteen hours after I started) but the running was fun.

And we’ll keep working on this massive layout to make it better.

We’ll get it right eventually.

For now, DS, hand me a couple of pills.



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