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OpsLog - SD&EA - 12/18/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 18 December 2016 19:02

thought my layout had been mothballed for a long time - a year. But Doc's, with his life-changes and learning to run Coast Guard cutters aground, has had the SD&EA down for a half-decade. But he started prairie-dogging the club again, paid some dues, and the next thing I knew his clinic-back-room layout was back in the rotation.

Yeah, rotation of one. Things have changed in the club.

But this is about him and his phoenix of a layout. It's still the same old layout you remember, but with the mainline stretched (through wormhole sidings and hyperspace bipasses) to Los Vegas - I still don't quiet understand how to do that efficiently. But the thing is, now the run is a lot longer, giving trains a chance to stretch out. And while the desert might be a lonely place, the part of the line between Market Street and San Ysidro is a jumping mainline. For the full two hour session we were threading trains through, every siding groaning with cars. I enjoyed the brisk pace - we were busy the entire session. Even Tom ran a couple of trains, which puts him above Bill White, who I don't think even owns a throttle.

Yes, I've run "first time" sessions and there is usually a lot of backing and confusion but the crew took that room over and ran everything through their paces - good running, guys. Nobody bowed out early and everyone did their parts. I was up and out of my dispatcher chair the entire time, calling orders through the open door, but hey, it worked. And in the end of things, I think we did a pretty good job, as did Doc. I'm glad to see this railroad up and running again.

Now, I gotta see to mine. New Years' Resolution.


Last Updated on Sunday, 18 December 2016 19:15
OpsLog - LM&O - 12/14/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 15 December 2016 10:05

agle Day – that day in 1940 when the Luftwaffe, desperate to end the ongoing areal Battle of Britain, threw everything it had at the Isle. And everything the English had, every fighter, was up. As Park replied to Churchill’s question of reserves, “There are none.”

So that was last night. Never has ops been such an impressive effort with so many trains running. Overall, we didn’t finish until after 10:30 (3:30am on the fast clock). And we ran everything. Every damn train we could run made it over Harris Glen. Six freights, four passengers, three coal drags, a cement train, and a TOFC. Additionally, there were a couple of helper moves and four locals. And through it all there were no serious failures of the system. The clock got an error shortly after the start but I cleared it on the fly. All in all, we burned through 103 warrants which is a new record.

I started the session in the dispatcher’s chair, knocking out seventy-five warrants by 1pm. My best move of the night was meeting the Silver Bullets at Harris Glen with two coal drags lugging in the wake of the eastbounder while the Harris Local standing by. Yeah, Harris was packed. The locals kept busy and out of trouble, the passengers ran about an hour behind (not bad, considering the traffic) and I was writing at a furious rate. Had a phone call come in from my cycle wingman in the middle of the heavy moment – was in mid-warrant and he was explaining why he couldn’t ride. Told him, “Understood” and hung up. Yeah, the DS office was busy.

But (and I know at least one person who is cringing at the B-word) the second half of the session had its own moments. That’s when our off-to-school-and-home-for-yule kid came back. We missed him, and it was good to see him again. But yes, while he has been scholastic and enthusiastic and dedicated and committed, he was also rusty. So I turned over the railroad to him, which was currently running like a mid-race greyhound, panting and eager to dash. Told him “This is here, this is going here, the helpers are on this train, this train has orders to expect them, and the locals are both active in their industrial parks.” Got out of the seat, coupled up a couple of woefully underpowered SD-9s on the front of heavy 271 (westbound freight), and found myself holding (next to westbound 97) for a train miles away. Uh oh.

Yes, uh oh indeed. Things went downhill from there (which always improves my stock as a dispatcher, so thanks for that). Long hold out of Bound Brook. Longer at Calypso. Got my first order voided. Finally made Harris and got three orders voided, one after the other. Found myself meeting another freight there (which is about the worst thing you can do in this little simulated worlds – because life is difficult, love is eternal, but freight trains are long and Harris Glen siding short). Watched a freight claw its way into the Glen and grind down the rails next to me. And finally they were in, with six (scale) feet to spare between the caboose handrails and the turnout fouling point. Then I was spanking down the long grade, happy to be rolling (and kidnapping the helpers, since the DS forgot to order them off). Carried them all the way down into Martin Yard where an angry yardlet got snappy with me because he wanted to shut down and go home and I was running late (like, what, you think it was my idea?). And in real life, what’s the bloody rush? You’re retired. You get to sleep in. I’ll be on a bike riding in to work in six short hours. But that’s beside the point, ya pain-in-the-butt Jarhead. And you spotted local cars on the wrong end of the yard anyway. So, piffle.

And something I’ve never seen before – a crew stuck on a siding went to beans. Literally. Well, not literal beans but the waiting (and hungry) engineer set down his throttle, went out to his car, drove over to Wendy’s, came back with his order and returned to the siding with his grub. And yes, the dispatcher didn’t even know he was gone. This translates to at least a three hour wait for paper.

And where would we be without reintroducing our old pal Doc to operations by incinerating him in a tunnel, when his intermodal train slammed into up-bound helpers (the helpers I’d carried off to Martin) in the dark. And their lapping warrants went up in the burning hell that ensued. So, yes, the perfect end to a perfect shift.

But overall, the layout ran smooth, the trains ran hot, and a lot of people had a lot of fun. Mission accomplished.


My 271 in the foreground, just fitting (photo:Matt Linder)

Last Updated on Friday, 16 December 2016 21:30
OpsLog - FEC - 11/11/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 19 November 2016 21:28

eah, Dog! Ken let me run the panel again! And it's the FEC holiday party - a full lunch followed by hours of mainline action. And everyone is there - open invitation - so we've got the cores, the casuals and the crazies in the cabs. And now we can really answer the Universal Question:

How many ways can you cut a caboose off?

Well, if you are a dispatcher, there are at least three ways. See, engines and cabooses light the block on the DS panel, letting you know where they are. Ken even said in the briefing - if you are going into a siding, leave the caboose on the main so we know where you are at. The last thing a DS wants to do is think a train has cleared a turnout and find out otherwise (by cutting it in half, like a samurai sword does an earthworm).

So, method one: Drag a string of cars out of a siding with the caboose at the head of the string coupled behind engine. SLICE!

Method two: Work with your entire train inside an industrial area. When you leave and cross a turnout, the front of your train has cleared the siding turnout, but the tail is still back in the unregistering industrial trackage. SLICE!

And method three: If you are the crew with the initials "BM", pick your caboose up with your hand while traveling towards the siding turnout. That's all I can say. One moment, the light was out. The next, just as I threw the turnout, the light came on. And "BM" is just sinister enough to do this. He's the best I can do for a "nemesis".

Anyway, outside of all those accidents (and the resulting form T's that I had to fill out) the session ran well. I did have a moment when I missed a meet at a siding and had to get two trains past at Cocoa. This is a big no-no but I was in a corner. I wanted one train in, nice and quick and quiet, and then I'd slip the other past and nobody would be the wiser. But the crew dipping into the yard were bulls in the china shop. Things broke. Trains went on the ground. Searchlights flashed across the sky and a band played. The Superintendent saw it and - if he'd been in the mood to dish out demerits along with all the chicken and pie, I'd have had a double serving, thanks. So yes, being sneaky didn't play well in Palm Bay.

I think my favorite moment came with the inaugural run of the Tropicana juice train, highstepping up the line, heading north. Such an auspicious occasion with hats in the air and cheers ringing. That is, until it got through Melbourne and a detector picked up a hot box. So much for that service. We had to explain to the shipper where a boxcar of orange sludge could be found. Makes me wonder if we'll see more Tropicana trucks on the highway. We shall see.

Anyway, great end-of-the-year session at the Farnham East Coast. Thanks, Ken, for making this happen!



Last Updated on Saturday, 19 November 2016 21:57
OpsLog - Tehachapi - 11/6/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 07 November 2016 00:41

o this was a long train day. Or a long day with trains. Or a day of long trains. I don't know. But I broke a personal record here.

Started off with a nice railroady breakfast (eggs and bacon) severed up by our hostess Andrea (such a sweetie). Then, the railroad belched to life. Crews reported in. John and I went onto the signup board, separate - my bird was ready to shake off its blood crusts and fly. And off he went to run helpers off Tehachapi. And there I sat.

And sat and sat. Last on the board.

Two hours later, at 10am, they came up with a train for me to run. Reported to Lancaster and picked up my power - bitching black widow F-units with sixty-three PFE reefer cars strung behind it - this train was something like 20-30 feet long! Ran it up to Mojave and waited for paper.

See, that's how this railroad runs. I report in. The station operator and the dispatcher discusses it. The dispatcher checks his paperwork and situation. He thinks about it. He works on several other issues. Hours later (two in this case), he comes to a decision.

During this time John and his engineer (he was a helper) pulled up in Santa Fe paintschemes, also dragging PFEs but 90+ cars in this case (this explains the helpers). Good Lord, but they were long. We chatted. We hung out. We waited. I looked at my schedule and saw one westbound passenger roll by (with a second section somewhere behind him). More time. And more. And then suddenly the operator handed by a wad of paper (six flimsies and a clearance card). I started to read through it, first of several times. Seems like there was a MOW train working the hills beyond Tehachapi who would be flagging for me. And I had rights over second 804 and anything to do with 806. And yeah, that overdue passenger train, he was running one hour and twenty minutes behind schedule. I kid you not - this order came to me one hour and eighteen minutes after his stated arrival time, and I could see his headlight approaching down the line. So thanks for that breaking news. Sure, here he was, just like you said.

As soon as the passenger rolled out, I thumped forward into run 3 and rolled out of the yard, 300 feet behind the rear coach and letting him outpace me on the climb out of the sink. Eventually lost sight of him. Reached Tehachapi and he was gone - and that was as far as I could go. I still hadn't seen First 804 so I was grounded. Broke in two across the westbound sidings and hung out.

Just about two hours rolled past. Got lunch. Talked to John when he, his front-end units and his 90-odd reefers rolled up. Took a nap. Got some more paper from the Tehachapi operator. And finally, after two long hours, the missing 804 arrived.

Now, this put me in a bind according to the timetable. Train 24 was running quickly towards me, thirty minutes out. And 30 minutes behind him, 52. I was about to his a wave of varnish and wanted to get as far down the tracks as I could. So I highballed out of Tehachapi, rumbling around the long corner towards Cable, picking up speed and calculating how far I could go against the hissing sands of time and damned in there wasn't that MOW train, poking up the hill, not flagging but in motion.

Luckily he was on the main at Cable when I found him, and I could drop a brakeman to throw the turnout and go around him. But all this get out, throw the bar, get in crap was burning away time, allowing the multiple passenger trains to get even closer. With my pocketwatch in one hand, my timetable in another, I held track speed as I punched through the series of tunnels past Cable. Came up on Marcel - all tracks open. Another time check. 24 would be in Walong (the beloved loop). in 10 minutes. I had to clear by 2, and it would take about 5 to get there. Really, really tight. Held track speed out of the slow waves of Marcel, through the approach tunnel and into the Walong valley. There was the loop, and there were the tracks that run up from Woodford. And no 24 - running late, like that never happens here. So I tucked in and waited.

24 did show up, fifteen minutes late. Turns out a westbound train didn't sign the Bakersfield registry book and everyone sat around waiting for a train already by. 24 also had a second section, so I waited for that. And finally the tag-along passenger train, 52, showed up, 45 minutes late. Bravo. So off we went, with rights over everything, a straight run to Bena and on to Bakersfield.

I'll mention that my absolute rights over second 804 eroded somewhat when I picked up new orders on the roll through Woodford. I'd be meeting a section of 804 in Caliente, something I wasn't crazy about (get out, thrown the bar, get in, and do it again at the exit turnout). But hey, the run was nice, a smooth slide down the long golden hills, around the freight in Caliente, down the river valley to Ilmon and into Bena where a local waited on the center siding. Then highball down the long dual to Bakersfield, picking up 806 just on the outskirts. Hissed out the brakes, got the train stopped, contacted the yardmaster, got directions to the icing deck. After that, took my engines to the servicing tracks, shut them down. Signed the register. Dusted myself off.

Seven and a half hours. That's how long I ran this train, and that's real hours, not make-believe fast hours. You could drive from Orlando to Atlanta in that time. I've never worked on job in model railroading for that long. But it was fun. That's railroading, real railroading, and not that stunted stuff we play out. Very enjoyable.

I really had a good time at this session with La Mesa. Next year, I need to push for more people to come. Great fun!


Last Updated on Monday, 07 November 2016 01:34

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