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OpsLog - LM&O - 8/24/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 24 August 2016 22:21

razy night at the club house. First, after all the work we did on electrical things over the last month, another failure, this time caused (we think) by a bad toggle or turnout motor in Martin Yard. So, rain delay until Fearless Frank and Big Bob could root around in the catacombs and bypass it. If we had to lose a turnout out of the dozen in the throat, this was the best. So, lucky break for us.

I ended up on the dispatcher panel again. The night was fun but weird - trains weren't sequencing like I usually see. Harris Glen, the consummate bottleneck, ran hot with trains pacing through at a pretty even rate. But along the river route, Mingo Junction to Cincinnati, there were all sorts of snarls. I was moving trains in twos and threes, complementing myself on my efficiency, and that's when I killed 23 people, injured 41, and put several wrecked engines, three passenger cars and a dozen coal hoppers into the ditch.


This is a great example of why clear radio procedure is so critical.

So, running along our wending riverbank, in and out of the jutting Pennsylvania ridges ran three trains west for distant Cincinnati. In front was 95, a passenger train. Next, running at restricted speed, was 247, a general freight. And then behind him came Silver Bullet #1, our crack passenger train, also under restricted. Every siding was blocked with locals and there was no place to get 247 out from between them so I was resigned to run then through to Cincinnati in that order.

Meanwhile, at the mine just outside of the Cincinnati tunnel, 414 (an eastbound coal drag) was waiting in the lead for Champion Mine, seeking paper to run to Calypso. I knew that the first westbound, 95, had called off-division at Cinci. I was just getting ready to look to see where everyone was when the crew for 247 entered the dispatcher's office. Okay, so that was two down. I figured Silver Bullet had been riding the freight's ass and was probably in. With this in mind, I cut a warrant for the coal to run east. First mistake, I should have nailed down the end of the parade with a restriction for him to wait into Silver Bullet #1. I didn't think I needed that. The express should be in.

But then, looking at the board, I began to suffer doubts. What if the Silver Bullet wasn't past? I hit the mike button. "414, this is dispatcher. Stop immediately." Then I called Silver Bullet on the overhead for a callback. "Where are you at?" I asked when I raised him. "Going towards Cincinnati." Okay, so if he was past the Champion Mine cutoff, 414 could roll. I called the coal on the overhead again and told him he could release brakes and continue.

And, of course, 414 and Silver Bullet #1 collided about two minutes later, a nice big fat headon.

It turns out, as was learned in the inquest that followed, that Silver Bullet 1 was somewhere between Mingo Jct and Zanesville (and nowhere close to Cincinnati). But the engineer responded with what he was doing, i.e. going towards Cinci. And I heard what I thought was his location, i.e. going towards Cinci. It was all over except for the explosion.

I wanted to blame the crew of Silver Bullet for about a minute. But, no, it was my fault. I didn't confirm, I acted on assumptions, and I got sloppy with my warrants. It was a perfect storm of fat-headedness.

I haven't caused a cornfield in years. This leaves me a little older. And a little wiser.

And out of a railroad job.

Anyone hiring?


Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 23:00
OpsLog - LM&O - 8/3/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 05 August 2016 13:47

 promised I'd write this. As mentioned in our last thrilling adventure, the layout had gone down hard with electrical shorts knocking out the line from Calypso to Hellertown. Over the weekend (and right after this session - was I tired) we met at the club and figured out what the problem was (a broken turnout motor was the culprit). And so now we had a working layout and a half dozen trains blocking the main here and there. Kinda like if the rapture came and only locomotives went to heaven.

So after a long day at work, after dinner and a club meeting, after the superior clinic on (har har) turnout motors, we did a pickup ops session. No dispatcher. No yard master. Just get to a passing area and peek around the corner to see if it was clear. I picked up 298 (which I'd died in the yard throat with). And off I went.

It was actually a lot of fun. Restaging a grocery store sucks - did it every night when I was a clerk. Lumber yards, ditto. But restaging a layout by working it through its paces is kinda fun. No warrants. Not fuss. Getting helpers was easy - just yell, "Hey Bruce!" And as for Martin Yard - rolled in right behind anther train. A visitor was watching me work the switch list. I handed it to him. "Can you call out the tracks as I back each car in?" So he helped me with my pickups and setouts. When I left, the next train coming in handed his paper over. "Hey, help me too". Poor guy got put to work. When I looked over later, someone had loaned him an engine and he was shuffling cars with his own switcher. Who knows - maybe we got a new member.

So it was a lot of fun. We finished a local, ran four freights and a coal train, all in an hour. Its sure easier than backworking all those shipping orders.


Last Updated on Friday, 05 August 2016 14:08
OpsLog - FEC - 7/30/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 30 July 2016 20:45

itting in Palm Bay on a hot Florida day, up in the cab of 208 (a through freight with a sprinkling of setouts), looking at a red board.

Not going anywhere.

Turns out a train up the line in Melbourne has tripped the new automatic detector, identifying something dragging, hanging, or on fire. So his conductor is out walking the train. And for the thirty minutes that takes, we're waiting for the line to clear.

Finally, finally, finally I see blue boxy engines pushing through the heat simmer, running south towards me. I nod to the crew of the delayed train as it goes by. And then more waiting as a second delayed southbound comes through, running the yellows on the tail of the defect-thrower. Finally the line is clear. I notch up and start rolling, 45 minutes in the hole but making up time. A quick stop to pick up a reefer at Melbourne. Then I'm around the long curve, horning across the grade crossing and cutting under the detectors, heading for Eau Gallie and further, to the siding I'll drop some ballast cars on, to the red light ahead...

Wait, what?

I knock the throttle back to neutral and apply heavy brakes, bringing my train to a stop before the red board. A call to the dispatcher.

"You're dragging something. The detector picked it up."

"Oh, you gotta be kidding."

But he isn't. I start filling out the new paperwork with the train phone under my chin, telling Smitty in the caboose to get out in the superheated air and walk the train, looking for something hanging off. About thirty minutes later, he calls back.

"Looks like on of the timbers on the flat shook loose from its banding. We tucked it back aboard. Ready to go."

I call the DS back. I'm not happy that the new device actually found something wrong. Now I'm really running late and all down the line, I can hear trains north of Cocoa Yard bitching, wondering where I'm at.

And I still have work along the way to perform. And all because of that board shook loose. What a way to run a railroad.


p.s Ol' Bob, my buddy, managed to run a red signal, forgot to drop off one car, and nearly left half a train-length behind at Cocoa yard.

p.s.s. I did leave a turnout open by accident. And I did eat a donut. Somehow he thinks these are equivalent.

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 July 2016 21:02
OpsLog - LM&O - 7/27/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 July 2016 22:30

as shaping up to be a good night. Came in and the lot was filling in front of the clubhouse. Everyone cleaned. We had all sorts of improvements ready to try. A bunch of new people upshifted their jobs to more difficult ones. The crewcall sheet filled up. I set up in the office, got everything running, and we were off.

A good flow. The Harris Glen summit was packed and along the river route, a general freight, a passenger train and a coal drag chased each other along the winding route. The newbies picked up the warrants pretty well and were holding their own. Good session...

Matthew came back - it's his last run before heading off to university. I even managed to cut him a final hyperspace warrant for the run into Cincinnati. Once he finished, he came in and offered to take the panel. Fine, I could jump on that last freight. Helped a young guy get his train out of the yard after reviewing his switching instructions. Hooked my own lashup on and eased out of the yard. And bang - a quarter of the layout from Calypso to Hellertown went down.

We all worked on it for a while. Tried this. Tried that. Cut out the steel mill. Looked over the new end of the yard. The thing was - it was hard to point at anything - we'd gotten something like six-eight trains through that area without a single fault. And now this. Dead as a doornail.

Frank, myself and several others stayed a little late looking things over. The problem seems to either be the Calypso booster or the loconet though that area. We found as we cut it off, the system would come up. Plug it in and down it would go. We traced this weird trick all the way to to Champion Mine before we ran out of time.

We've had one session end prematurely before, and that was someone working on a live track in the office with a metal coupler gauge. Outside of that, this is the first time in two decades of ops that we DNFed. I can only be honest and say that was a disappointment. So apologies to the crews who took it in stride. I'm just annoyed that so many people were having fun when the system went down.

We'll continue to work this until we figure which component failed. Next month folks...!


Last Updated on Thursday, 28 July 2016 15:33

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