Train Blog
OpsLog – LM&O – 6/27/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 June 2018 22:33

just spent today at work doing Agile planning. This “event” takes rooms packed with people in Memphis, Orlando and Bangalore three days to do. There are meeting, roving meetings, phone calls, meetings, planning, sticky-notes on board, and, of course, talktalktalktalktalk. By the time I got out in the car this evening to run out to the club, my head was throbbing and I felt like I just wanted to go home and lie down in a dark room.

Flying over Harris Falls (Photo: J. Mathis)Dinner with the guys was good. Then we got out to the club for ops. And guess what. Everyone started cleaning the layout, calling out the sections they were working. One or two clusters formed as people chatted over what jobs they wanted but there is an unwritten seniority in place. No matter. Everyone signed up for something. It’s all seamless.

But don’t think this isn’t complex. The layout is hot. The fast clocks are running. The paperwork is placed. I’ve got six freight trains through, each with one or two dozen cars to shift about. There is an issued bulletin for Hellertown. The helpers are only crewing the East flank of the mountains tonight. But everyone knows what needs doing and they do it. When the clock starts, the opening trains call for their warrants. I jot them off and get them moving. It’s how it works, how it really works, without windy meetings and timid hierarchies and overpaid administrators. We get things done on this line, we move freight and adjust the flow around failing passenger trains and unexpected coal movements.

We aren’t playing at success. We’re dealing it out.

Good run tonight, guys. I can face tomorrow’s meetings now.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 June 2018 22:38
OpsLog - WBRR - 6/23/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 23 June 2018 19:48

y boots are centered on the warped boards of the Delores platform, my hat jammed over my head as thunder crashes around the high Colorado peaks, spooking the cattle in the nearby pen. A small engine is just chuffing along a distant curve, its headlamp shimmering down the long rails. Suddenly the rain is smoking down and I neatly step back into my tobacco-stuffy station office, touching the telegraph key without fishing the chair forward.


A delay.


The windows rattle, causing a small avalanche of fly corpses from the sill as 243 East rolls past. With my finger poised on the key, I note the fading numbers off his cab flank, then cast a glace at the station clock. I rattle this information down the line, getting an acknowledge as the crummy’s marker lights swing around the corner, brakes humming as the train slides to a stop. There comes a crashing of couplers as the crew jumps to their jobs, just trying to get their Delores cuts tossed off and retreat back into their dry caboose. Distantly I see Rob moving down the line of his train, his slicker yellow in the muddy gray deluge.

Not much to do inside my dry station. I know we’ve got a through freight west at 2:20 or so, so I need these guys clear. Rob knows this. I don’t have to tell him. But thirty minutes later, when his pufferbelly pushes back down the siding to work 243’s tail end, I call up him as they pass.

“Clear by 2:10!”

He tosses me a thumbs up, every bit the drowned rat, his slicker oily and old.

I stand in the doorway and alternately watch his crew fuss a couple of cars off the back on their train, all while the rains fall. I check my pocket watch. They’re running out of time. I can see the crew standing around the engine’s drivers on the west end turnouts, then regrouping around the forward coupler. My pocket watch clicks through 2:08. I start thinking of my own slicker (also oily and old), and the red flag I’m going to have to run up the line to stop that through freight. Then two things happen – they are rolling forward into the siding, clear. And I hear the distant whistle of the westbound, dragging up the long grade east of town.

And, thankfully, I’m still dry.


OpsLog – LM&O – 5/23/2018 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 23 May 2018 22:38

new it was going to be strange ops tonight – could feel it in my gut. Wore the club shirt to work today (since I went directly over following my employment). A puffy little millennial scored off me right before a staff meeting – looked across the table and said, “Nice shirt” in that sneery playground way.  Told him, “You know, this club is 31 years old. Older than you, eh?”

So, ops was a smooth like ice cream with nutty walnuts thrown all through it. A rocky road, indeed. Crews hitting turnouts and blaming others for the shorts. The radio throttles seemingly not working. Rolling stock hitting the floor. Even I bungled an order. Some sessions are like that.

I remember pausing to meet another freight at Red Rock passing track. We pulled next to each other, as pretty as you please. And while we were sitting there, Jeff ran through the Mt Jackson Tunnel, curling under us, his engines passing under us (on one end) while his caboose passed under us (at the other end). I just stood there and exclaimed how amazing that was – the scene, the trains, the operations – it all came together for that moment. The club is like that.

And regardless of the crazy hijinks on the main (mechanical and mental), we had some rising stars increase our overall skill level. Bruce and Chris both took locals and handled them well for a first go-round, which is good to see. Cody did really well on the panel (even with the haunted ghost train prowling his rails, as lost as the Flying Dutchman). And most amazingly, Shaun did really well in the yard. Crazy to be bumping and pushing through adults in a packed ops session, only to come around the corner into the yard and see a young kid running things (and ordering people four and five times his age around), clipboard in one hand, throttle in the other. I’ve hope for the future, having seen that.

So, yes, there are some things to fix and some things to look into. But we ran great (what with all the crashing and burning). Great session, guys. Thanks for coming out!


Last Updated on Thursday, 24 May 2018 21:04
OpsLog - FEC - 5/19/2018 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 19 May 2018 19:12

kay, so when that general freight rumbled north into Bowden Yard in Jacksonville and I missed setting the primary turnout correctly, it rolled up the departure track and slammed into a freight sitting in position for departure. Of course, it’s the perfect storm because the engineers are in the other shed, running blind on repeater signals. So crumbled diesels, even more crumpled crews, ruptured gas tanks, explosions, six o’clock news.

As a dispatcher, I’d have been out of that seat before the shockwave rolled overhead. The NTSB would have had me in a chair, isolated, grilling me about that total F-up.

Terrible, terrible.

But really, there were other accidents on the FEC today that were not as bad but impacted the session more. Like a local that, given a green light, backed out of Palm Bay, through a red signal and a locked turnout, derailing itself and causing its slow passage to even become slower (perhaps the detectors that triggered down the line were because of the damage taken in the prior derailment?). And there were crews that advanced through reds. And crews that apparently went into Cocoa Yard, went for beans, went on the law, and possibly vacation (how long can it take to pick up a car?). I even watched a train roll through a red and couple onto the back (‘couple’ being a euphemism for ‘rear end collision’) of another train. No cups got filled there.

If only the superintendent hadn’t been at the throttle of my train. I might have gotten away with it. Anyone else, I could have convinced them they’d run a signal or not followed procedure. Oh well.

Life lessons in model railroading.


Last Updated on Saturday, 19 May 2018 19:15

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