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OpsLog - SP Coast Line - 5/29/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 29 May 2011 20:34

I'm at the throttle of GP-9 5417, a brute of an engine in the early fifties, big and black and boxy, nothing like those bullet-like F units still working about the railroad. This is the shape of things to come, utility over form, but I'm glad for that. These monsters are blowing heat and smoke like a river boat, their dynamic brakes howling as I come down out of the Lucita Range with tons of beets bulging over to tops of their open hoppers.

The pressure is on - I departed San Luis Obispo with train 923 assembling in my wake - he'll be hot on me. In my hand is a train order - 923 and 922 have a meet in King City. I'd have liked to beat (no pun intended) him down there but that's two trains on two tracks, no room for an extra like me. This being said, I clamp on the brakes and bring the train squealing to a stop on the east Serrano turnout. The brakeman, knowing we've got hot iron somewhere behind us, hops down and tosses the switch lever. Then we are clunking into the siding, stopping neatly again so the rear crew can dismount and close the turnout behind us. Only after carefully pumping up do I allow my train to slowly ease down the siding to the west end switch, to sit there and let both trains pass. Once they are by, I can glide down to King City and spot a third of my beets at Monarch Sugar.

While watching 923 poke through the pocket tunnels on his way down (okay, I couldn't really see him from my train's vantage point but its very fun to watch), I slip into superintendent mode and think about how well the session is going. Yes, I had some pre-session fears. However, we got some quality operators (old sweats and enthusiastic newbies). We've got two trainees gaining experience (one of the freight desk, the other in SLO yard). And outside of an engine just suddenly running lousy and another wire in the haunted house we call "Salinas Turnout Control Box" giving way, its been a great session. No runaways. Nothing on the floor. And one of our very reluctant newbies is going to checkride on the Lark, which I'll ride conductor. The railroad is running like it's supposed to.

923 passes me, rumbling down the long grade to King City. Even though I know 922 has work to do after the two freights meet, getting down there now doesn't do me any good (I need that siding too). So I'll let him work and climb past me. I've got five hours until the Starlight comes at me, plenty of time to drop beets at King City and Salinas, then run PFE reefers home to Watsonville.

A good day, all told.

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 May 2011 21:08
Ugh PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 27 May 2011 10:27

Woke up on my free Friday with a sense of dread. I could only lay there hating today, wishing I'd gone to work. It's like I'm facing the gallows.

I guess it goes without saying that I hate hosting ops.

I'm like an actor who has performed King Lear hundreds of times but still gets hysterical before the curtain goes up.

I read of model railroader hosts who do a little set up, a little tinkering, and eagerly await their operators. Me? I just sit and slowly freak out.

And it's such a tempest in a teacup. After my shower, I started working at 9:30am. By 11:20am, I was done with the lower and middle decks (which have most of the engines). Other than a steam engine that needed a bit of coaxing to get it running (perhaps corrosion somewhere?), I got it all working.

Tomorrow I'll spend another hour or so fixing up San Luis Obispo (six engines to clean, and some dusting). Then I'll work the paperwork and test my computerized dispatcher.

So why am I climbing trees to get ready for ops?

Behind me, silent ranks of trains wait in Watsonville, ready to roll out.

Watch for the opslog.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 May 2011 10:47
OpsLog - LM&O - 5/25/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 25 May 2011 22:10

I'm running up the long hill towards Harris Glen, "66" glowing on my E-8's number boards, the cool air flowing down my passenger train's orange and red livery. It's a busy night on the line - lots of activity around Pittsburgh when I pulled out. People standing around the phones, waiting for warrants. The railroad is pretty jammed with numerous extras out on the iron. But that's Bob's problem. Tonight, the usual dispatcher gets to run!

Ahead of me, I can just make out the tight siding at Harris where the caboose of overdue 202 is just, only just getting into the clear. Jim T, one of the club's old sweats, a hogger whose been running with me over the two decades of ops we've hosted, is working his train, tossing the turnout toggle, setting the track back for the main. Good to know - I want to go past him, not smash his crummy into splinters. Rattling across the spindly Harris Glen trestle, I toggle my bell (aren't sound chips wonderful?). After all, I'll be sliding in next to him on the main along a tight left turn. I wouldn't want any inspecting crew to suddenly step out and make my bloody nose paint scheme literal. Jim's already around the peninsula and into the next aisle, seeing to the front end of his train now that the rear is clear. I give the horn a friendly honk as I pass his caboose and round the tight turn, bell ringing like Sunday.

That does it for the current warrant - I'm out of authority and will have to call for another. Time to go find a phone. Down to 20mph, I walk around the peninsula into the next aisle. Jim's already got the phone to his ear, getting ready to call for a warrant to continue.

He knows my train (passenger) is higher priority than his (freight).

With a wry smile, he hands me the phone without calling for his own warrant, deferring to the first class.

I can only spare the smallest of nods as I fetch up a warrant pad and pencil.

"Dispatcher, 66 is complete at Harris Glen, looking for a warrant..."


Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 22:33
OpsLog - Chicago & NorthWestern - 5/22/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 22 May 2011 17:27

I'm pretty down as I push the throttle to Run 3, getting the cut of colorful billboard reefers moving out of Chicago, my SP geeps clattering west over sunlit rails. I'm through Proviso, banging over the switch points, swinging onto the left-running main. As the train strings out, I sort through my waybills, not that it matters. I'm train 105 west, last train of the session, last session for this layout.

Richard's downsizing from this house, moving to an apartment. No room for this pike.

Helicopter shot - Mark McConaughyI'd like to say I was somber, that memories were flashing through my head as I passed each scene but that would just be over dramatic - I'm actually chatting anecdotes with the Chicago yard master, just running easy. I do take a moment to look at the rocky cut at the edge of the layout, one of my better rock-carving efforts. I rode over on the bike for a couple of cold nights, working to carve a neat cliff face on a curve that kept hooking long passenger cars. So I'd carve deeper clearances and accidently punch through the back. Add more plaster behind, let it sit, carve deeper. In the end, it really came out good. It looked like it was actually blasted through the rock, which, in a way, it was.

A couple of lazy loops of the mainline and then I toss the switch to enter Cheyenne. Though the ladder, slow, and roll it down to the end to clear the turnouts (not that it matters - everything in the yard is shortly going into storage boxes). Bring it up nice and easy, drop the loco from my throttle, fetch up my lunch box, open the door, climb out, and crunch away across the yard cinders. Don't look back.

I'll miss these runs. Thank's for the enjoyment, Richard.

Last Updated on Sunday, 22 May 2011 18:08

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