Train Blog
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
The morning after PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 22:11

Photo: Ed Cantu (off the top of a truck trailer)It's a misty morning, the film of dew drifting over silent fields. In King City, things are waking up. The helper engine pops and hisses on the siding, its steam confusing the mists. The Coast Mail, Train 72, has just made its long stop at the nearby platform, the station help yawning as they heaved the bags up. Now it's gone, the wig-wags motionless now that their guarded rails are empty.

Over to the left, you can see the head end of the beet string I'd left on the sugar refinery spur the evening before. They've been unloading through the night. In an hour or two, a set of units will nose up from Watsonville and drag them off.

Far away in SLO, the yard crew completes work on the Lompoc local. Its bell ringing, 72 pulls into the station, greeting its sister, 71.

The railroad will pause, the clock will hesitate, weeks will pass in our world and then it will start again.

The next day.




Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 June 2011 22:31
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

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