Train Blog
OpsLog - FEC - 3/31/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 31 March 2018 23:52

ilot friend of mine told me about getting vertigo once. He was flying formation with another jet, looked down his wingtip at the other, saw his running lights and the lights of the city rotating beneath him as they orbited the field. And suddenly he lost it. He just rolled out (on instruments) and flew for a minute or two to center himself on his bank-n-turn, just getting everything squared away.

Same thing happened to me on Ken Farnham’s Florida East Coast today. I had the panel, dozens of lights and switches telling me a story, of indicators glowing and moving across a formalized diagram of the railroad. Under my hands and pencil, the train sheet with all those positions circled and marked. For three hours I’d been moving things with no problems. And thing – blink – lost it.

Just sat there and couldn’t figure out what I was looking at. I’d had in my mind that two locals were working City Point, a train was holding at Cocoa Yard while another pecked around him moving cars. Train was holding North at Frontenac . The coal drag out of the power plant was already through Titusville, running into the yard under a special order to run against traffic flow. Everything made perfect sense until it didn’t.

It was blood in the water as soon as I asked for “Trains in City Point, please call dispatcher.” I could hear the laughs in the crew room. I tried to rebuild the picture in my mind’s eye. This has happened before to me in dispatching, dozens of times. All dispatchers get it. Just happened a few weeks back on the LM&O. But this was a total shutdown.

To make matters worse, while trying to dig my way out, I forgot to align the primary yard turnout and sent a train the wrong way (into Palm Bay rather than Titusville, causing a near head-on in the tube (thankfully the crews spotted it and stopped the trains).

Just like my buddy, I eventually got my horizon leveled and trusted my mind and not my instincts. Everything was back to running again. But yes, it’s something to get a silver alert in the FEC headquarters on the panel.

Still, everything ended well. We got through the rest of the session fine and everything was running on the clock.

And on the good side, I managed the four-train meet at Titusville, no small trick in itself. But I’m looking forward to facing the green machine again and see if I can do even better.

Watch this space.


OpsLog – LM&O - 3/28/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 28 March 2018 22:43

s the forward trucks of 247 West rattled over the points of Bound Brook throat, I figured this was shaping up to be a strange run. I’d only just scrambled aboard ten minutes before – she was already four hours late (her original crew had been pulled for a coal run earlier). And strangely, 271 (not due out for two more hours) was running ahead. They were already nosing into Calypso Yard some distance ahead of me – heard it over the horn. The problem was, all our pickups were on a shared yard track, meaning they’d have to dig their cuts from behind my cuts, both there and Martin.

Was wondering how this would resolve as I pushed into the upper runs and gassed 247 through the beautiful spring midday, sending ballast over the side of the Lackawanna bridge to bounce off the roofs of the new housing below. Easing into Calypso, I was happy to see 271 was doing setup switching. They’d just gotten their own cut out and set mine aside. Even better, the crew was willing to let me run ahead. And even betterer, they’d work up my warrant while I cut in these pickups and run the air up. As we rolled past his cab, Sarge handed the paperwork across. Now built, I cracked the throttle to run 2 and took her out on the high rail, getting a short run over to Hellertown. After meeting 244 there, we had an uneventful run over the summit (well, uneventful other than relying on magic helpers to cross the top).

Martin Yard was a busy place. We came in and followed Yardmaster Frank’s instruction (does he ever use his own units?), pushing and fetching and backing. Just as we built our train up, 271 eased in next to us. It as actually pretty cool. With that, I cracked into run 3 and angled across the shiny new turnouts to departure track 1, watching the river flow past and noticing a yard flunky chasing my caboose furiously waving a red flag. Dumping air, we stopped. Turns out there was a local coming in on our departure track. Frank was reading the riot act to the dispatcher but finally I got a way to worm out of there. Worked up to Mingo Junction where the following occurred.

Took the main (as order) to meet a train (as ordered). Actually met two train, train 298 and train-X, a “special train” (three units just test running without dispatcher authority). Train-X held the siding and remained after 298 cleared. My new warrant said I was waiting for the Zanesville Local to arrive before running to Cincinnati. The Zanesville Local showed me his paper (technically a small operations cheat) and he was waiting for 271 (who was currently going into emergency after the nasty shock of emerging from Jackson Tunnel to find my caboose occupying the main.

So, see the problem? I was waiting on the train in front of me to come, but he couldn’t until he met the train behind me, who was blocked.

There comes that moment in operations when the dispatcher comes out of his room to fume and fluster at all us idiotic crews for following his orders. That was one of those moments.

We worked it out, of course. Train-X backed down into Mingo Industrial, freeing 271 to go around me and unlock the local, which unlocked me. I followed 271 (musing on how I’d passed him, only to be passed in return) and ease in beside him in Cincinnati. Came out of staging to return some engines, to see a crazy long train (lead units – 298 – midtrain units – 414 (coal drag) and helpers behind working their way over Harris Glen.

Yeah, one of those nights. But fun.

Final thoughts: I’m sure Bad Johnathan is pissed that he ran a solid session and dicked up the final meet in the eleventh hour. That’s railroading. But he did yeoman’s work through the balance of the session. So the club now has another trained dispatcher (meaning I can run even more). Good job!


OpsLog - LM&O - 2/28/2018 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 28 February 2018 23:21

razy night at the club. Not only were we a bit short-handed but we had VIPs, namely the superintendents for the FEC of who I’ve blogged about on this very train blog, Ken and Bev Farnham.

Figured it would be a good session – Cody on the panel (a firm hand) and Frank in the yard (rock solid). I rolled the Zanesville Turn out (or tried to – the DS pushed a long-range warrant against me so I idled in the yard for a bit). But once I hit the rails, everything was fine.

The switching was orderly but I was running twin four-axle units. Problem here was that we’ve been rotating turnouts out and haven’t gotten all the frogs powered so lots of stalling, lots and lots of it, second helping please, Mr. Scrooge. And of course, there are the visitors running with us and we’re coming off the rails or baulking or fussing. But Ken with the perfect guest – when he saw what we were going through, he just smiled. “It’s how it goes with Visitors”. Yeah, really.

Still, the moves were fun to get Zanesville sorted. Made a run back nice and smooth (other that a long hold while the Mingo turn picked through gons at Weirton). Then got to run 298, the last freight east. Had to tack on Sparkly Power (i.e. CPs) to get over the hill – the two geeps weren’t going to cut drag freight.

But long view – it was a fun session. We just need to keep working on those horrible turnouts.


Bob and Ken go for the run-around record while every train looks on


Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 February 2018 23:29
OpsLog – FEC – 2/24/2018 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 24 February 2018 19:30

t was a bit of a struggle getting over to Ken’s Florida East Coast– we fought through a pointless battle on the Beachline (five miles of bumper2bumper and no cause for it) (there, Bruce, I mentioned that). And Ken’s was understaffed – five people dropped the night before leaving him a little short. I posted the club list – last moment stuff – didn’t get any takers.

So, with Bev on the yard (one person doing the job for three), Ken on the panel, the shed  held only Me, Bruce, Andy, Monty and John. But we were the gold crew. Ken reduced his schedule and we just ran stuff pretty much back to back.

In a way, sometimes a short staff session is a better session. I took 915 out of the yard – the run to Buenaventura. Had a lot of switching to do, working around the packing sheds, spotting out at the ballast yards and over to the truss-maker (roof, not medical). Not a train went by, meaning I had more elbow room to work than normal.

Later I took a mainline train through the division. I thought it would be easy but when I got to Cocoa, I found myself wading through paperwork to make sure I only filled out my consist with MTs going my way. Happily I found a cut of six, perfect. Pulled the string, dropped a gon and was out the throat in ten minutes.

It was such a relaxing day that we all stood around afterwards in the glorious out-a-doors, just chatting about the session. And it was so easy we got on the road a little earlier (a gain Bruce squandered fussing outside the car with his sunglasses - cheeky (There, Bruce, I did find a negative comment for the session)).


Last Updated on Saturday, 24 February 2018 19:33

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