Train Blog
Signal Maintainer PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 26 March 2011 20:41

If you think you just build a layout and your work is done, think again.

Problems under the Salinas control panel (which controls turnouts through the fruit packing area). First off, crummy Radio Shack DPDT toggles, which must be being assembled in some hellhole factory in China. After a while, they stop working - you gotta wiggle them and try to coax a current through them. Perfect for engineers focusing on their timetable or waybills, a turnout that dosn't go over when you throw the control.

And second, somehow (and I curse the day it happened) I somehow got acid flux or solder, dunno which. I replaced some dying DPDTs, only to look in there are year or so later and find billowing green corrosion taking place (it looked like Brussels spouts - horrible!). Every so often, in the middle of a session, a green wire would pop off and half Salinas would go dead.

Tonight I replaced two of the toggles that have gone bad, tossing the corrupted wire and rotting (inside and out) toggles. Salinas is back on line.

Back onto the handcart. I've got two more toggles up at King City (including the critical mainline turnouts) that are giving me fits. But that's for another night...

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 March 2011 20:59
OpsLog - LM&O - 3/23/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 22:26

Harris Glen - a high bluff with scudding gray clouds, gloomy but for the occasional stabs of pure lightning. Circling vultures. Ominous.

A grim place in any occasion, but especially for this railroad. Either ascent is steep, and the Glen's only got a short passing siding. It's the bottleneck, no question. In every session, that's where the railroad balls up at.

This time we had two sections of varnish east, two expresses, the coal train, two freights, and a trailer train that popped out of a spur, all demanding rights. Worse, I'd been latching warrants, meaning I'd clear one guy across, then write anther warrant clearing an opposing train after the first went by, and then a third, and so on. It was the most logical way to do it. But the express I was hinging it all on ran late and was underpowered, struggling up the grade. More trains pushed into the mix. Every siding was filled.

So I got reckless. Cleared 202 east just to pry him out, and then cleared opposing 247 to dive clear at Calypso. But of course, 202 came steamrolling down the length of the Calypso platform and there on the main was half of 247, inchworming into the siding, not clear. Luckily he could stop in time, but a black eye for me.

One train across, then another, but then that trailer train stalled on the hill and the closest thing was the coal train (the usual helpers were in the shop). So everyone had to wait while the front units ran across the summit, down to the dead trailers, to pull them over. More waiting.

I finally cleared them out but I felt like I was shoveling wet concrete.

I suppose it was due to work. A lot of stress there, a lot of emotional weight. Tonight I simply couldn't get it to click and I was overwriting my warrants, taking chances. Stupid.

Even as I cleaned up Harris, way to the west, I dumped four trains into Mingo where maybe three would fit. God must have decided I suffered enough - the two sections of passengers were short enough to let their freights go by. Otherwise, we'd have had to cut the trains apart with a blowtorch.

On the good side, the new phone system worked wonderfully. I could hear the screams of doomed engineers like they were right in the room with me.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 March 2011 22:47
Opslog - Longwood & Sweetwater - 3/14/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 14 March 2011 21:04

My old consolidation is popping and hissing on the Altamonte industrial branch lead. Five inbound cars behind the tender, then the tracks fan out into dual and triple industry placement. The back car (car five, we'll agree) goes to the door of the Swift meat packing company. And that's down a spur behind a casket company.

What a combo that is.

It would be an easy trailing-switch/backup move, if not for the fact that the casket company has a shipment of casket handles in a box car plugging the spur. Okay. I whistle back, push car five past the turnout, and yell for the brakeman to go tell the undertakers we're going to be rolling their car around for a bit. With five off the back, I advance up past the turnout and down the spur, grab the knob car, whistle forward, clear the turnout, whistle back, clean couple on car five, whistle forward, watch the turnout target swing over, whistle back, in it goes, drop the Swift car, whistle forward, drop the casket car (on the roll, neatly done) and we're out on the lead again. So, next?

Car four is going somewhere or other. I'm getting ready to shove the cut around when something makes me look deeper into my paperwork.

Car three is going to Swift. Goddammit.

Okay, so what we did three paragraphs up, using the casket car again to get car three tucked into the siding at Swift. Okay.

Back on the spur. Time to get down to business. I look down the length of my train, now three cars long, the first one a stock car full of cattle.

And where do you think cattle would go?


Last Updated on Monday, 14 March 2011 21:30
OpsLog - Florida East Coast - 2/26/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 26 February 2011 20:51

Short haul out of Points North down to Cocoa, where I'll dump my four cars and shut down my unit. The main's clogging - past the restrictions at Jay Jay's, I find three freights holding at Titusville, watching their signals, eager to head home. Slip past that parade on the siding, then beg the dispatcher to give me a green, please!

Finally get to Frontenac, where I'd pushed coal about a power plant early this night-session. There is a detector there. In reality, it would sniff up a passing train's skirts, checking speed and hotboxes and such, then broadcast its findings over the air. Here, Ken does it with a pocket of cards. Low odds for something bad but I pull it, something dragging on the second car back. I gotta drop it for inspection. I try to talk the dispatcher into letting me run around at Frontenac and push it into the coal spur but he's not having it - I get to limp down the coast at 15mph and look for a siding. Citco's got one, with just enough room. Carefully, I edge the foreign UP box in with the FEC limestone haulers (looks so strange there), tuck the defect into the waybill and stick it in the off-spot slot. Link up, pump the air, hiss-hiss, we're good. Call the dispatcher and beg a green out of him. It's a long run down hidden trackage after this, ending at Cocoa where I'll bail. Two toots of the horn and we're rolling.

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 February 2011 21:08

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