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ConvLog - LM&O Ops - 7/31/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 31 July 2017 21:54

oly Chrome!

It was the first ops session (of two) that we're staging for the convention. Five newbies (though I think we had more) along with a couple of new club members. Every experienced man I had was conducting (i.e. writing warrants and assisting new engineers) in what had to be the craziest, busiest, and most intense ops session we've ever had!

Wall-to-wall operators! (Credit: Frank Zvonchenko)

At the start, I asked newbies what they wanted to do - Freight? Locals? Each guy I'd shove towards a conductor. "Give him Zanesville!" "Drag freight this guy!" Turns out visiting college-boy Matthew wanted the panel so I gave it to him and took to the road. Hooked up with Paul, a Brit from over yonder who brought (I drool as I type this) an LNER Flying Scotsman. Now, Silver Bullet One has been pulled by a lot of crazy motive power, but this one took the cake. It was a delight to watch.

With a 5:30 timetabled departure and a warrant in my back pocket, Paul and I sat on the green-flanked tender, probably eating Bangers and Mash and swapping stories until departure. When the time clicked through, we gave two sharp toots and rolled. Pounded down the long grade out of Bound Brook, cross a soaring viaduct, and drifted into Bethlehem Station crack on our 6:30 arrival time. Things were looking good.

You fool, Raymond!

We were out of Bethlehem and climbing through Robert's Run in a whirlwind of steam and litter, clattering into the mountains, making good time. Then, as I tended the firebox, I noticed burning flares on the track. A westbound freight (that was specifically ordered not to foul us) did. Slowed through the spiral tunnel, we crawled into Harris Glen just off the caboose of 223 which was sheepishly taking the siding. Unfortunately, Harris is short so we lost even more time for a saw by to win clear. With 223 behind us, we spanked down the long slope, popping through Burtnett Tunnel. I began to think that we might win back out time. And then we got to Pittsburgh.

Yeah, Pittsburgh.

A combination of badly spotted coaches, some out of service turnouts, the long-overdue Silver Bullet Two and an overlong coal reroute screwed us. We were two hours down before we could even shift off the platform (I figured the charm of the thing was wearing off for our inconvenienced passengers). With warrant in hand, we nearly ducked out in front of 202, a long-overdue freight that was just getting out of Martin. Regardless of what the dispatcher might think, he’d issued a lap order. Nearly killed us. Thank goodness LNER installed good brakes. I nearly went into the firebox.

Silver Bullets jammed in Pittsburgh (Credit: Cody Case)

Clear of these hijinks and goings-ons, we desperately tried to make up time but the dispatcher was bunny-hopping up along the river route, siding to siding. Finally we lugged into Cincinnati four hours late. We joked about which nation had the worst rail service.

While (like every club) we had our share of faults and failure, everyone seemed to have a good time. Was riding with Paul on helper extras (after helping to boost a westbound drag through Glen). Now on the siding at RedRock, we were verbally told to wait for the next eastbound and ride him back up to the summit helper pocket (I suspect the dispatcher didn't feel like cutting paper to get us home). And here it came, with Shawn the Kid conducting a gentleman guest. I flicked the red flag at him and explained that he'd have our company going up. I don't think I've seen a more overstaffed attempt - both drag and helpers had two-man crews, meaning four guys were all jammed together, trying to work things out. So we tacked things together, the engineers exchanged ideas on how they'd combine to take the hill, and off we went. And nobody noticed that Shawn had gone off to find a phone. Yes, as the conductor of the drag, he was the head man. Me, I thought we'd had clearance up the hill (given that I was told to tack on to the next eastbounder). Bad guess to make, in retrospect. Got to Glen and there was a long coal train getting ready to come down. No way to get around him, not with Harris Local working the sidings. So back we humped, tail between our legs, to derail getting into the siding (God, I hate backing long N-scale trains). And there was Shawn, waving a warrant at us. "We gotta meet a coal drag here!" Tell me something I don't know.

As a record of sorts, I saw Mr. T running 202, just clearing the division in twenty four hours. Yeah, normally he does it in half. If you think I was going to chip you, Dispatcher Matt, here it is.

But overall, it was a riot of fun and frustration and craziness. Great to meet so many modelers and to shake so many hands. After everyone left, there were some political/religious arguments about the finer points, but there is always a bit of that. Whatever. I'm just glad that we were able to entertain so many ops fans. I hope they had as much fun as we did.

And Thursday, we'll get even more! Looking forward to it.


Last Updated on Monday, 31 July 2017 22:56
ConvLog - Open House - 7/30/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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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
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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
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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.



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