Train Blog
OpsLog - LM&O - 4/27/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 April 2011 21:48

The problem with operations on a huge model railroad is, well, operations on a huge model railroad.

It takes 15 people to run this thing. We might be able to double a couple of jobs but it takes some juggling. So I was already feeling like we might be understaffed when my dispatcher called in sick. Then another guy canceled. Got to dinner tonight and there were only three other guys at the table (some ops night there are a dozen). I was figuring we might manage a reduced session, or mother-may-I, or just sit around and yack.

So the four of us walk into the club and look over this huge room-filling layout.

"Okay, so?" someone said.

"So," I answered, "we clean."

So we started, just because. Came out from doing staging and a couple more guys came in. Working around a curve and there was another guy. A couple of old members I hadn't expected. A drift by the sign-up sheet showed the jobs filling up fast. Heartened, I went back to the office and fired up my dispatching software, put on the headsets and brought the fast-clock up. Checked the phones. Check. Check. Everything in order.

"Are we ready to go?" I phoned.

"We're waiting on you."

"Clock is hot."

And the thing is, with guys who have been operating for years, with a fun train-control system, with a clean layout, with everyone on the ball and happy to be there, it was a delight. The passenger trains hummed across the division on time. The coal train ran down to Calypso and turned for the run back. The yard was sharp as a tack. Crews finished one job and jumped on the next. At the end, we all just looked at each other, smiling like dopes.

Great session. Thanks, guys.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 22:08
OpsLog - Nebraska Division - 4/25/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 25 April 2011 21:27

Good to be in the dispatcher's seat after a month away. I had the dual line Nebraska Division; UP trains on the low line, BNSF on the high. Things were running hot. My usual trouble spots weren't. Most of the locals were on their way back. I figured the rest of the session was smooth sailing.

How a cork can sneak up on us.

Two BNSF freights coming down the long hill from Denver, nose to tail. I gave them clearance to Holeridge, no problem. Then a fast passenger train pops up on the grade approaching Denver. Hmmm.

I duck the freights into the sidings at Holderidge and Hastings, clearing the line for the varnish.

Then I get greedy.

One freight I can send onwards - he can run clear quick enough. The other one can get clear too.. wait, he's got a quick little station stop at Lincoln. Shouldn't be a problem. He'll be gone before the passenger train runs up against him.

Should be clear...

Soon as I forward him, I get a squawk out of the Lincoln yard - he's plugged, everything's a mess, and how's he supposed to take this freight?

"Do your best". And to the varnish,"SantaFe 24. Um. Proceed slowly."

"We're dropping seven cars," the freight advises. "It's going to be a while."

Had to get greedy...

Last Updated on Monday, 25 April 2011 21:50
Signal Maintainer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
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
Written by Administrator   
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

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