Train Blog
Opslog LM&O - 06/22/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 21:33

With warrants (where a dispatcher reads checkbox orders to a crew, who reads them back) there is a handy little order for "Not in effect until arrival of train ____ ". With this, you can latch orders. If Train 101 is going from A to C, and train 102 is at B, wanting to go to A, you can cut an order to 102 that clears him but it isn't "in effect until arrival of 101". If a dispatcher is clever, he can latch orders ahead of time, letting the trains roll as events trigger them. It's really cool... when its done right.

The problem with tonight was that we had our top crews for trains 1 and 2 of the Sliver Bullet, the line's crack passenger trains. I really wanted to give them rights over everyone so I gave them mile-spanning warrants, throwing out "not in effect until" orders to all the moody frights laboring over the summit at Harris Glen. It came about that the professional crews of SB1 and 2 wanted to run on their timetables, something we've screwed around with for months and haven't really printed out yet. A copy was located (in the bottom of someone's op's apron pocket) and we went with that. So the Silver Bullets were out and I was clearing the mains well ahead of them, latching all sorts of orders on their passage.

Unfortunately, the version of the timetable was a really old one, with long, long stops at the stations. The next thing I know, I had the entire railroad latched up, waiting for a train sitting miles away, coaxing its passengers gently aboard. Grumbles and complaints rose from the railroad room. The natives were getting more restless by the minute.

Swallowing nervously, I cut an order to 202 on the west slope of Harris, giving him rights to run up from Red Rock. I knew he was waiting for the long overdue Silver Bullet 1, so I voided his prior order (with the wait) and got him up to the summit. Okay, things were finally moving.

I changed another order then another, trying to unsnarl my railroad. The problem was all the latched orders - as tangled as the alliances of pre-World-War-One Europe. And so that's how I got train 247 west sitting at Hellertown waiting for helpers, while the awaited helpers were at the summit behind train 202, who had "not in effect" orders for 247. Which meant both trains were sorta waiting for each other. And I couldn't get the helpers around and down the hill, because the Silver Bullet 1 was blocking the main at Harris, engaged its timeless activity of "passenger embarking".

Yessir, I'd locked the railroad up nice and tight.

Worked it out by voiding 202's prior order and ran him down past 247, with another order to the helpers to follow him down. But all this threw me off my game - I was making little dorky mistakes for the rest of the night.

Sometimes we dispatch. Sometimes we just push plastic back and forth.

Nobody died, nobody cried.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 June 2011 21:59
OpsLog - Florida East Coast - 6/18/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 19 June 2011 07:12

On the panel again on the FEC (as mentioned HERE). Always easier the second time around - I know what to expect. And now we're in the zone.

In the early days of programming (back before SOX and process and other such rubbish) I'd go into the zone a lot. Also, writing sometimes puts me there. This is when you are furiously working on multiple levels, with your brain seemingly running at capacity, fully engaged. In the zone, time doesn't pass, it doesn't even exist. You are fully focused, dealing with each issue as they come up.

I've got the sheet on the desk and the panel on the wall, all lit with yellow and green. I've got a local working Palm bay, a coal drag swapping out the power plant, and three trains nosing past each other at Titusville. For a moment or two, it feels like I'm about to tip under, that I can't remember who is where doing what. Deep breath. Look at the sheet. Remind myself. Keep everyone moving.

I'm told I chatter too much while I dispatch but honestly I can't remember it. I just know I'm moving trains across the division, one after another. The superintendent chides me twice for getting trains through too fast - I'm not checking the schedule and am overloading the yard. I try to correct this, even though it feels like a personal failure, a crew sitting motionless, looking at an inexplicable red board.

Eventually the superintendent calls the session - I exhale and look at the clock. It's after 4:30pm and we started just before 1pm. I sorta remember a thunderstorm, the lights blinking (when the [panel came back up, I had to reactivate all the signals). I remember laughing with the superintendent about the hash a local made of Palm Bay, of some issues with the new yardlette, of a short or two. But on the table before me are two sheets with my abominable handwriting, showing trains meeting and proceeding. The nearby arrivals box is packed full of train paperwork; did we move that much?

I get home an find I'm knackered. After dinner, I can hardly keep my eyes open. I'm asleep by 9:30pm.

Yeah, it was a blast.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 June 2011 07:40
Opslog - Saluda Grade - 6/13/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 13 June 2011 22:49

Observations from running ahead of a young fella with a short attention span.

In Knoxville, I climb aboard Train 172, which will hang down the W line to Spartanburg after car swapping in Asheville. A couple of tracks over, this young man is fumbling radio, cards and whatnot, trying to get train 162 onto the line. He's crestfallen when the dispatcher tells him to hold.

"Train 172, clear to enter the main," the dispatcher responds to my initial call. "Cross over to track 2 and call clear into Asheville Yard."

"Don't take it personally," I tell him. "I'm running an hour late - my cars are first on the setout track. It's quicker if we go into the yard in order." The kid frowns at my cut as it rattles past his nose, thumbing the radio. "Train 162 to dispatcher, can I go nooooow?"

The yardmaster lines me into the eastbound arrival track, plenty of room for 162 to fit in behind me. I check my train orders. Four cars off on track 5, then pull four from track-


My train lurches forward five scale feet. I look back to see the kid's engines nosing my caboose. He followed me into the yard, all right.

We fuss his lead unit off my crummy (nothing like trying to uncouple in the middle of a tight yard, on a curve). After we finally disconnect. I pull out my waybills and take a final confirming glance. "You might want to watch this," I tell him. "You gotta do the same thing."

He's watching a crew switch Fletcher.


My cars are off, the new ones added. As we pump the air, I thumb the mike. "Dispatch, Train 172, ready to depart Asheville for Spartanburg."

"Train 172, clear to Fletcher Main."

The kid's head snaps around. "Hey, wait! What did you do? What do I need to do?"

I can't help my smug smile. "Dispatcher, Train 172: Highball."

Last Updated on Monday, 13 June 2011 23:12
Fences make good nieghbors PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 03 June 2011 20:02

Okay, I'm putting together this special page so all the N-trakers (and others) can help me find the fence I need for the Jacksonville bridge area. We're trying to model the cribbing that lines the main channel and keeps the boats from smacking the pillars.

Here is the actual Jacksonville fence. Yes, someday I dream of mounting that tiny little manitee sign on the fence.

Here is my San Luis Obsipo corral, which I think would do a good job imposturing it. The thing is, I think I got this through Greg Wells, who got it from Alan Lerner. It's a plastic fence from a corral kit. Anyone know where we can get something like this?

Last Updated on Friday, 03 June 2011 20:14

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