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ShowOffLog – LM&O - 11/21/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 21 November 2017 21:48

buddy is in town for Thanksgiving. I originally thought that maybe we could get a little time to hang out (like we do frequently, once every other year). With five kids, time is certainly a luxury for him (to me, it’s a requirement). But then he caught me by surprise – “Show us your club!” What a cool idea.

So in our Monday night crew set, a couple of guys helped me clean tracks – that was really nice of them, to take time to help me with this. And my buddy Bill agreed to come out and run a train with me so the kids would have something to run. But then the group grew as another friend (and his wife and two kids) showed up. So now we had seven kids, two trains, and a lot going on.

But the kids were all cool – they listened attentively, they had fun with the trains and said nice things about us (always an egomaniac boost for me). Bill and I ran opposite directions for two hours, and with the kids running slow, it was funny – we met ONLY at Bethlehem station and Weirton, nowhere else (and this was like a dozen times around). We even had the kids setting turnouts at the end. And everyone had a great time.

You know, sometimes we can get a little jaded about the amazing thing we’ve created at the club. And sometimes we can see it afresh through the eyes of someone seeing it for the first time. And looking around the large room with the ranges of mountains marching into the distance, it stunned me about the amount of time and treasure we’ve put into this.

But a great time for everyone. BTW, Harris Glen was working much better. But that dead section at Weirton is still a pain in the ass!

 Thanks again, Bill, for hosting with me.


OpsLog – Wazu RR – 11/19/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 19 November 2017 19:25

nlike Doc’s last session where we piddled trains around and figured out where everything was, this time we had the dispatcher program on line, a train timetable, a fast clock and committed operators.

Usual interplay on the railroad hierarchy – Train 999, grinding west with a long heavy string of coal hoppers, was ordered into the siding at Aver Siding*. Opposing him was 156, an oil can train sloshing his way east. The meet was supposed to take place at Hinkle Yard but with 156 oozing along late, I moved the meet eastward to Aver to get some rails under the wheels and get us back on time. Of course, only after everyone got to Aver did we realize that both cuts were too long to fit. What to do?

Classic dispatcher move – a saw by. So 999 dropped his over-length cut off on the main just short of Aver, and eastbound 156 nosed it down the line until he got to the next siding (Wallula) where he shoved it into the clear. Then 999 backed up (as 156 bubbled east) and reclaimed his train. It was actually one of those cool railroad moves where the dispatcher leaves his office to see it go down.

But of course, the WAZU isn’t interested in actually running efficiently. There was a lot of screaming about environmental groups hounding the railroad for our “dangerous practice” of shifting coal back and forth. Well, maybe this sort of scardy-cat response is what the BNSF does. On my SP, we just tell people like that to go to the blazes. So I had to move trains and argue with the superintendent about trivial stuff. Just another day railroading.

Seriously, the railroad ran well and the ops group ran it hot. People rolled off one train and took the next. We probably need a little more tuning on the time table – I had sidings to spare (short sidings, but still) and we can probably move a denser load of trains through. But it was fun. So Doc, thanks for having us out!


*And why call a town “Aver Siding”? So what if I want someone to hold the main. “Hold the main at Aver Siding”? What could possibly go wrong here?

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 November 2017 19:28
OpsLog - Tehachapi - 11/5/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 06 November 2017 20:11

y second day started out slow. All the other kids got to play so I hung in the crew lounge with my tinytop, IMing my niece and working on two game designs. Had this been the actual 50's (which we are simulating) I'd be probably smoking a stubby cigar and nipping at a flask. And hacking. So, let's not go too far on this thing.

Eventually the crew caller gave me my ticket – third 23, part of Grand Canyon, moving west from Mojave to Bakersfield. Since this was the third (and final) section, I'd be running well behind the first. No problem.

Had a couple of shiny ATSF engines dragging every ratty coach ever made. It was actually a pretty long train, all things considered. Anyway, got up to Mojave and got my paperwork, with orders specifying I'd be running 90 minutes late. And, oddly, that put me dead on the time of 51 (the San Joaquin Daylight). When I got back to my idling engines, there was a pair of GS-4s leading a string of orange and red coaches sitting along-side my consist. Talk about being upstaged.

And this opened up all sorts of discussions – what happens when two trains run on the same schedule? Everyone had something to say on this, but since 51 was still getting their orders (actually, their orders were being stapled together) I dashed back to my engines, pumped off the brakes and headed out.

Thus began The Great Locomotive Chase, Western Edition. 51 clung right on me the entire way. I'd look back and either see the headlight gleaming off the rails have a mile back or the actual crew walking next to it (a father and his daughter (with improbably purple/green hair)). Once again I  was rounding down my timetable, hitting my stations dead on the mark, not daring to stop since 51 was pushing as close as ABS would let them. Passed a couple of 804s sitting here and there, blinking in surprise to see an ATSF job running through on the SP's time. At one point, the daughter got close enough to ask if I was going to pull in at Caliente and let them past. “Nope, sorry”. Not being mean – I was running right at track speed and we were equal priority. Besides, once we got to Kern I'd dive down the ATSF main and be out of their purple/green hair.

And that's what happened – clickity-clacked across Kern Jct and slipped clear of the SP main (and for all their tailgating, they still got a beet train slipping across the yard throat to block them).

I'd have been clean and clear myself, but it was one of those egalitarian yard clusterfarts where four guys stand around and argue what work they should do (is there a hierarchy in place here?). It took ten minutes before they figured where I should go and what they should do – and this is why I don't like working in yards. Finally pushed what was left of my train back together and set it in place for the valley crew to run it to Rosedale. Sharp run.

Followed this up with 24 (sigh, another passenger train). Ran first section this time, driving (again) dead on the dot, but had to pick my way through Caliente when a beet train (I think the same cut that screwed 51 earlier) was slow to get clear. I actually ran down the center siding, beets to the left of me, beets to the right of me. Once I got clear, I slowly clawed my way back to an on-time arrival at Mojave. Three out of four on the dot. Even if all they'll give me are passenger trains, I'll run them on-the-bounce.


p.s. Got the last train of the day. Train 4. Guess what it was. I don't even want to talk about it.


Last Updated on Monday, 06 November 2017 20:21
OpsLog - Tehachapi - 11/4/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 04 November 2017 23:36

he tale of two trains.


I found myself the sole crewmember of SP train 59, the Night Coast, rumbling in readiness in Lancaster at 11:08pm (which, when the clock sweep hit 12, I notched forward and started rolling). As a first class passenger movement, I've got explicit rights over everyone (unless the meddling dispatcher interferes). But he didn't – I hit Mojave with my black widows pausing at the station while I went inside to collect my clearance (no orders) and to jot my time through in the register book. And then I was off, flying up the Mojave Valley, slowing down for a quick pause at Tehachapi, and then a long dynamic whine down the gloomy slopes through Walong, Woodford and Rowen, just running without meets, an eye to the timetable, hitting the dots. Got my smile as I rolled through the manned stations, hearing the operators call my time in, dead match for what's on the timetable. I don't think I've even had a sweeter run, slipping down the long rails at Bakersfield dead at 12:15am, as advertized. Of course, as usual, there was a train (second 57) plugging my track and the station operator was talking to him as if he was a child (using short, slow words). And then there was the paper snafu, but I don't care – that's where I debark. I got 59 in on time.


My next run was conductor with an engineer named Chris, varnish east, 58, the Owl. This one was also a classic textbook run at the start. The train arrived on time, the swap out power was idling in the ready track, we got the heavy movers (two cab forwards) on the front end, ready to go. Out the yard on time, through Magunden and onto the high-speed arrow-straight flatland dual mainline. We hit 50, rattling along, everything good. Had a meet at Bena and there was 55, right on time. Rolled onto the mainline, with me telling Chris that now that the ranking varnish was past, it would be smooth sailing. Through Illmon and strange, there was a yellow signal. Wended up the valley towards Caliente and then it went to shit. At the head of the canyon, we saw a red signal and a guy on the tracks with a red flag. A local was – can you believe this – switching on the mainline, on my time and my track! I looked at the other operator and couldn't believe it. You couldn't wait in the clear for us to get by? This was just a horrible decision. And then, to top it, our lead cab forward crapped out – chip problems. We managed to limp into Caliente more dead than alive. While there, a couple of club techs cabbed in and worked with us. In the end we had to switch the order of the power. And they never ran well together after this. Holding our breaths, we dragged ourselves up the long hill to Summit, every siding filled with disgruntled traffic holding for us. We got in 40 minutes late.


Two runs. Two wildly different results.


More fun tomorrow.




Last Updated on Saturday, 04 November 2017 23:41

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