Train Blog
OpsLog - FEC - 10/29/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 30 October 2016 12:11

ight trains.

Outside of the interesting imagery that phase produces, it can make for some interesting running potential as well. And even more interesting since my entire day (and all the hobbies that filled it) involved night stuff. See my astronomy blog for the connection.

In this case, the Florida East Coast was going to try something new. We ran the first half of the session, 1pm to 6pm, under daylight conditions. I'd agreed to splitting the shift with Ken for this - we'd swap out the DS job half-way through. And we had a good front-end run - a lot of the more experienced members were there, the yard ladies were not saddled with any nuggets, so trains were ready on time and came back ahead of time. Really, the superintendent was mad because we were running the railroad fast - what could I do? Outside of a hitch here and there we worked around, trains were going through their paces like the well-oiled machines they were. As it came out, that was the most routine run I've ever had on this line.

Then the lights went out.

Actually, that story-break is pretty worthless since nothing really changed. Sure, Ken was in the DS seat and I was out on the road, and sure, the layout lights were extinguished, replaced by the blue bulbs of a moonlit night, casting a low lunar hue over the east Florida scenery. But trains rumbled through the night, passing small lit windows of night-owls (though it was only 8pm, so outside of the old folks, everyone should still have been awake). But it was a fun experience. Had to stop train 210 to swap cars at Eau Gallie, which was slightly complex as it involved using a small flashlight to check my orders and uncouple the cars (I sat my flash handle-up on a nearby stool, then realized that was a dangerous idea - if another crew member plunked down on it, he'd ruin the session by running around like some sort of screaming firefly). But nothing bad happened - 210 went on to make a brief stop at Cocoa to carry off some of the cars filling the yard, hitting green boards all the way through to Titusville and home.

Session ended, came out and looked up into the hazy afternoon sky, wondering if our astronomy event was still going on. And I had to get moving; I had 90 minutes to Orlando then another 45 or so out to Geneva and the sun was already going down.

Part two of my day continues HERE.


Last Updated on Sunday, 30 October 2016 12:58
OpsLog - LM&O - 10/26/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 26 October 2016 22:30

rom: Rufus Biggest, President, LM&O

c/o Union Station Hotel, Penthouse Suite, Cincinnati, Ohio

To: Board & Division Officers, Harris Division, LM&O

Subject: The State of the Railroad



I stood on the drafty platform of Pittsburg Station, watching Bithlo (my private business car) being tacked on the tail of train 66, an eastbound passenger express. Little that I know that the true state of our bridge route would be revealed by this overlong, overdue passage.

First, we came nowhere close to meeting out published 11:30am departure time. In fact, the station workers seemed curious about 66 in that it is annulled virtually every day. Would that have happened today. I'd have been a safer, smoother trip if I'd tacked Bithlo to the back of an log truck and gone via the interstate.

The roadbed through the Pittsburgh throat was appalling - it threw me clean off my trollop. But to make matters worse, we only got as far as Red Rock when the true, dangerous nature of this line became apparent.

We'd come to a stop on the Red Rock main, holding for what, who could say. An opposing freight moved into the siding; the way should have now been clear but still we stood as motionless as a toad on hot concrete. And then, squeals and screams (and not just from my trollop). Suddenly Bithlo was flooded with light - the headlight of a freight which was following us with no restrictive orders, and had been lapped into our siding to co-occupy it with us. I could tell it was train 244 - it was close enough to read the number boards clearly. So there we sat, three trains idling in the middle of nowhere. A hell of a way to run a railroad, gentlemen. A hell of a way.

I'll admit I am now reconsidering of our practice of hiring boomer-dispatchers away from the NS. I'm beginning to suspect we get all their low-grade warrant-pushers, boys not competent enough to push-broom a platform much less run a hot division. This was confirmed when we finally reached Harris Glen (three hours late!). I dismounted from Bithlo to check my messages in the office. After de-training, I was forced to cross two tracks just to reach the platform (doesn't our dispatcher know our passenger preferences of placing coaches on the station track? How could he not know??). It was there I overheard several crewmembers discussing the "crash pool" which had been organized to predict the next accident on the line. Evidently there were reports of near-cornfields all across the division. Good lord, what sort of chicken outfit are we running? I even saw our new Dash-9 set, which should be pushing manifests over Harris Summit, schlepping log cars around the local Harris mill tracks. Do you know how much this lashup cost? We have a perfectly good handcart, designated "Harris Glen Local", to take care of this work.

Somehow I made it to Cincinnati, four hours late and delayed behind every local, stooge-move and bun-wagon through Calypso. At this point, we need a real dispatcher to get this division moving again. I suggest that we ask the Southern Pacific for help. Good Lord - if we don't do something, that competing HO route might offer us a serious challenge. If they ever get it built...

Actually, the session was a smashing (snort) success. Outside of Silver Bullet 2, we ran ALL the trains and a bunch of extras, our dispatcher knocking out 89 warrants (bunny-hopping will do that laugh). But seriously, great fun on a great big layout with my great group of friends. Thanks to all who came our and ran that layout at booster-crackling levels!


Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 October 2016 23:09
OpsLog - Makers Faire - 10/22-23/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 23 October 2016 21:05

eople always talk about the romance of trains, of rails humming and whistles blowing long into the night. Well, that was us at the local Makers Faire, an event held at the Orange Country Fairgrounds. We ran and ran and ran trains. Saturday, 10am to 7pm, Sunday 10am to 5pm. And these are long hours when you spend them slowly walking along your train (like sentry duty in a way), answering questions, watching your signals and gripping the throttle.

But we did it. We were placed square in the opening area in the main hall where most people came in, meaning we were the first thing people saw. And once they saw us, what could they say about everything else? The 3-D printers, the wooden telescopes, the steampunk costuming, the stormtroopers, the comic artists, all nice in their own way, but we were a grand railroad, stretching all the way across the hall. Kids ran with us, old folks chatted with us, and everyone seemed to have a great time seeing the little jokes sprinkled through our scenery.

The guys hung in there, running long hours (longer then me, in some cases). Jerry, Bill, Don, Steve and John (and Ben - my fault for forgetting) were the two-day wonders, running both days, pretty much beginning to end. We got enough positive vibe off this event that we might have even picked up some future visitors and even a new member or two, so mission completed there. So here I am, dead tired but happy that we put on such an excellent show without a hitch (well, other than the small scenery item Mr. "Don''t rush - take your time" Martin broke).

So yes, the layout's home. I'm home. And the rails have finally stilled.

Until the next show.


Last Updated on Monday, 24 October 2016 15:02
OpsLog – B&B – 10/2/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 06 October 2016 16:53

f there is a grand finale for the weekend, it would be the Brandywine & Benedictine, a beautifully massive railroad that sprawls all over. Sadly, progress has overcome this fine line – it is no longer Time Table & Train Order controlled, and now runs on CTC. Traffic lights aside, it’s still a delight to operate with two dozen engineers to make this all work. And my part in this drama begins at 2:30pm, rolling downslope from Sulphur Springs to the town of Allegany at the controls of a massive articulated steam engine, a long string of black coal hoppers pressuring me down the long grade as I went right and left along the topographical map lines. The engine is hissing and rumbling, I’m blowing the whistle at every tiny crossing (long long short long) and watching for signals. Pass my buddy Bob who is holding on a siding with a similar cut of empties. Down through Natural Tunnel and then a sweeping descent into Paulson (where I’ll swap out some cars). Later in the run, I go into the main yard further down the line, switching more cars out (the paperwork here is a little rushed, the Superintendent having worked overnight to get things sorted from the last batch of hoggers). But that’s fine – the yard’s gets the cut off in quick order, my steam engine is swapped out for diesels (the B&B is growing up too fast – cold inhuman signaling systems and misuse of F-units, all since my last time). But it’s fine – I was out of the yard and throbbing south, heading towards the final terminus where a buddy of mine was sprawled all over the yard lead (woops). But all in all, a great run.

I could have opted to dispatch this one but I’d already done some desk time – I wanted open running through full scenery and I got it. Just a blast, an absolute blast!

Thanks to all who made DixieRails a success!


Last Updated on Thursday, 06 October 2016 16:57

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