Train Blog
ConvLog - Open House - 7/30/2017 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 30 July 2017 15:59

kay, first thing - these entries are going to be short. We're facing a very busy week and I'm not going to use up all my vowels in the first few days.

So, first bus tour - I think that everyone who signed up to staff showed (thankee kindly, there). Mom Shawn came up with a platter of cookies, brownies and fruit. Everyone set up to run east, just parading for the masses (except one guy who didn't get the memo wink). A couple of hiccups and the booster maxed right before the bus showed, but we held our breath and ran things. Overall I think we did really well. Felt bad that one couple came because they heard we "modeled" Bound Brook. Told them, well, maybe not "modeled" (more like "acknowledged"). But overall, it was a lot of fun.

I heard we hosted forty-one (or three) people. They clean off our plates and signed our book. They even stole JW's bumbershoot (wait, strike that). Lots of fun.

Tomorrow, we've got ops at seven, five guests signed up. We do a quick chat at 7pm and roll after that. Dinner is at DQ at 5:30 - bolt your food and run for your engines. Remember, engines and throttles, guys!

One day down!


Last Updated on Sunday, 30 July 2017 16:10
ShowLog - Deland - 7/8/2017 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 09 July 2017 09:33

3’s idling on the Waycross siding, brakeman out at the forward turnout, waiting for the dispatcher to confirm me out. I’ve got a long line of PFE reefers, empty, but why I’m here aboard Southern Pacific units heading south in Southern Georgia*, I can’t say. I’m way off my preserve.

I’ve got a fleet of traffic heading south coming down behind me. Cody, Jeff and John each walk by with a train, their controllers held in the hands of their little engineers (we let any kid who asks run with us and at 2pm at the Deland Train Show, we’ve got the high iron humming with traffic). I decide that rather going out and dropping a signal on a kid, I’ll wait. Finally the last one rolls past. Okay, I tell my brakeman to toss the turnout over – we can roll soon as that last southbound clears the block.

“Scuse me,” a little kid says, tapping my arm. “Can I run a train?” He’s so soft-spoken, I nearly don’t hear him. “Why sure.” I proceed to explain the throttle and how the signals work and off we go, our short-version setup filled with trains and kids, just a lot of fun and run. And over next to us, that floor-poaching club who sprawled all over our space this morning and forced us to squeak in, they don’t have so much as a single person looking things over.

“It’s us they’ve been coming to see,” as the song roughly goes. This is confirmed when I run down the show organizer after the club has struck the layout and gone. “You guys get a lot of great feedback. We get emails and letters with people asking if you’re going to be here.” And we do – we recognize some of the kids and have seen them grow over the years. And that’s nice to know – people love our layout and the way we run things. So, man, if they’d give us more space for the full monty, and not give it over to those lame floor-sprawlers, we’d really give them a show.

There’s always the big two-day January show.

For now, see you in October!


* I just used the word “south” three times in the same sentence. A no-no in literary terms, but I’m leaving it.

OpsLog - L&N - 6/17/2017 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 17 June 2017 20:05

t’s been a while since I operated on John Wilkes’ L&N layout. It’s a double dispatcher delight – two DSers sitting shoulder to shoulder, one for the L&N, one for the Southern, working together to get trains over shared trackage across the dual division. Of course, as the Prince of Dispatching (let’s not think about that unfortunate event with two dozen dead passengers in a tunnel a few weeks back) I was expecting to be invited to dispatch. Walked into my usual place in the dining room – there was the magnetic board, the warrant pad, the train sheets. And…

A computer.

John sat down with Ken Farnham (my Southern counterpart) and me to go over it. Turns out that the heavy-use shared track through Goodbee, the Southern section with L&N Trackage rights, and two troublesome sidings had all been CTCed (meaning the turnouts were directly controlled by the dispatchers and not the crews on the ground).

Okay. So it’s a little weird – it’s like having to do certain things twice – some track is controlled by warrants AND CTC. Actually, as I write this, I now realize that I should handle those as if they have BEGIN/END CTC signs up and not worry about writing specific main/siding info for them. But hey, we found this new system in place so we were going to give it a try.

The first weird thing noticed was when one looked at the magnetic marker board, the two sections CTCed were in reverse order in their side-by-side presentation on the screen. In other words, the CTC piece on the left side of the magnetic board was on the right side of the monitor and vice-versa. This sounds like prima donna whining until you find yourself moving six trains from siding to siding, mentally keeping track of who has rights to what, who is going where, and there are three guys holding on the phone for you. Yeah, the L&N side can get pretty busy (wrote sixty-seven warrants and moved twenty-six trains over the road). Just looking at the wrong place is a momentary distraction that can mentally trip you.

But the real crazy thing was that the areas displayed were backwards in their presentation. On the board, left is north and right is south. In the CTC display, it is reversed. So that means that a train moving to the right on the board enters the CTC display on the right, moving left. Pat your head, rub your belly, you know? It turns out that the superintendent and chief programmer (railroad admin wonks) hadn’t looked at the magnetic board when laying this all out. I struggled with it for about five minutes and sent a train down the wrong line (weren’t those Southern stations surprised to see an L&N move rumbling down the line). After that, I averted my eyes from the magnetic panel and focused on the train sheets, running 100% off them. That seemed to help.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, and certainly not worth three whiny paragraphs. On the plus side, we didn’t have ANY overruns in Ramsey this time. Nobody took the wrong track or cinder-chinned on a turnout. And did I ever get a warm and fuzzy when I managed to get two trains to lap-siding past each other (virtually on the roll) through Goodbee (even better, since they were throttled by the superintendent and the Software Designer). Yeah, that’s one of those moves you dream of – I even got to watch it unfold on the monitor.

And what can I end this with? Next time, I’ll know how to use the remote monitors to clear turnouts behind trains (I wasn’t sure what I was looking at with that big bank of views). And I’ll have a better understanding of the panel (which, I have been assured, will be turned right-way-round by then).

But that’s the L&N for you – better and better, every session.


OpsLog - LM&O - 5/31/2017 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 31 May 2017 22:27

poiler alert!

I occasionally screw up while dispatching.

If you weren’t there or don't like bloodshed, you might not want to read further.

I burned twenty-five people alive in a fiery tangled holocaust inside a tunnel.

If you don't like unhappy endings, you might not want to continue.

I'm very sad.

Yeah, so it was a busy night on the LM&O. We've redone large sections of our layouts, some turnouts aren’t powered, others aren’t hooked up. Lots of work over the last month so everything was filthy (even with John L. paradropping in to soften the beach and pre-clean). It was a rainy night, the parking lot at the pizza place was being tarred, I'm tired from the audit. And I took a stupid chance.

All along the waterlevel section of the layout, from Carbon Hill to Weirton, everything was packed. I think I had a half-dozen trains through there (which is funny, because generally the bottleneck is up at the summit). I was writing orders in a flat heat but people were still stacking up on the phones. I hardly ever get people to try to cut over each other on the phones yet tonight there were lines.

And then I cut a corner. I took a chance.

95 was holding at Mingo Junction, picking up some passengers who evidently hadn't checked their horoscopes that morning. The line had just cleared, all locals were out of the way and I could let him rip. Cut a warrant for him to head down to Cincinnati, cutting into the station tracks for brief stops. Almost immediately after cutting time and authority, young Shawn on 244 calls in Cincinnati to come out.

"Make him wait," the little angel on one shoulder told me.

"Roll him," the little fireball demon on my other shoulder coaxed. I looked at the board. 95 was still a ways away. It should be do-able.

So I cut him paper, just out the portal, around the long curve to hold the main at Carbon Hill for his meet.

"Attaboy," the devil told me.

"Shawn, make sure you expedite. If anything goes wrong, call me. I need you in that next town."

Plenty of room.

What could go wrong?

Kids always run fast.

Rated PG for graphic content, violence and disturbing images.

Five minutes go by and I'm two warrants further along in the eighty-two I would write that night. And suddenly the window panes rattled. I looked out to see a mushroom cloud climbing over Der Sturnwald Ridge. The rumbling boom rolled over my dispatcher's office.

I don't know why Shawn dallied - it was just out the throat, six feet of unimpeded running, and right down the main to meet the passenger train. But they crashed in the yard throat.

Yeah, nice story but it was my fault. I should know never to lap authority like that and depend on a train to clippity-clop out of the way of another. I know better. So does that angel who should have made his damn case stronger.

Damn. I hate screwing up like that.

But it did give me something to write about, no?


Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 May 2017 22:53

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