Train Blog
OpsLog - UP Chicago - 1/24/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 24 January 2011 22:56

I love going to Dick's ops. Its been down for a while, but its a handy little railroad with a casual session. Best thing is that its a mile or so from my house, an easy bike ride.

Good group showed for the Grand Reopening. Took a job footplating in Cheyenne yard, cleaning up the paperwork and getting the crew rolling. But Don's clever so I leave him to it, hooking a freight out of the yard, a flat run to Chicago. The layout's live around me and I'm enjoying the nice scenery, passing trains and watching for open turnouts (these newbies are leaving every barn door open).

At Chicago, I hop another train back, this one with fun 'n games at North Platte. I drop off the main, thread over to the industrial track, and only then find out that the Chicago yardmaster filled my consist with through loads. Nothing's going off and since I'm at maximum tonnage I can't pick anything up. Still, a new engineer following me up did have to work Platte and since I knew the place, I dropped onto a siding to clear following traffic and slipped onto his crew to help spot cars (God, I loooove switching). Rattled my freight into Cheyenne, last freight home. Dropped the cut and ran the units over to the house. Great fun with great friends.

Afterwards, I rode home on my bike on the quiet streets, pleased at the fun we'd had. But there was still one more pickup I had to make, this one a fuzzy highball, a nine-pound Unstoppable, as detailed HERE.

Last Updated on Monday, 24 January 2011 23:18
 
Toys or Else PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 23 January 2011 12:59

You know you are a Model Railroader when...

Look, I'm kitbashing up the bunker-like building between the CSX HQ and the Jacksonville terminal for the traveling layout. Gray, slablike, etc. Got lots of pictures outside (dull pictures because it's a dull building). And then I looked on LiveSeachMaps to see what the roof looked like.

The concrete slabwork, I can do. The AC boxes, I can buy. But there is a big circular skylight that had me stumped.

I went through Colonial's Walther's catalog - nothing. Looked all over the house. Nothing. Looking at it again, I realized how much it looked like a spoked wheel. Drove over to Toys r' Us and looked about.

Nothing will get you on Florida's perv list like walking around the toys, looking at nothing in particular but thinking hard. Three clerks asked if "everything was alright."

Anyway, I found a $10 bucket of cowboy's and indians. And in it is a wagon. And on that are four round, spoked wheels.

POP!

I'm set.

(The rest of the toys in the bucket go to Goodwill)

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 January 2011 13:20
 
Night Probe PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 21 January 2011 22:19

This tale has a number of possible starting points.

It could possibly start years back when I read some Clive Cussle yarn about an old steam engine missing for years in a river. Where could it possibly be?

A more likely start was back in November when I dropped my own Mikado steam engine from my layout to the hard, hard floor. Unlike Cussler's story, my engine's location was obvious - it was all over the place!

Another start could be where Tiny, with his jewelers' fingers, rebuilt it from scratch. All it was missing was the forward truck set (the wheel housing) under the tender.

Could we start the tale where Kato, the manufacturer, told me they no longer made them? Or ebay, where they just weren't? Or the train bases, the membership moaning the unavailability of parts?

Or perhaps when my train-club pal Jerry who brought me a ruin of a mikado in a Ziploc bag, parts and all. To me it was the key to El Dorado, the City of Gold. Now I had that truck I needed! My steam engine would live to push freights up the Cuesta Grade once again!

I got home from the club that night and couldn't find it. Nowhere. Noplace. Looked at the club next week, asked around. Couldn't find it at all.

At what point I began looking suspiciously at club members, I can't tell you. That Ziploc contained a treasure trove of spare parts. Could one of my buddies not be the buddy I took them for? Was this a Poirot story, where lies and thievery lay just beneath the surface of civilization?

Then came Thanksgiving, the club holiday dinner, Christmas, the club break-in, our January train show, our corporate software load. Night followed day. The town crackled under three freezes. Life moved comeward as my Indigo crows say.

Then last week at the club. I was parked in the side lot where only I park. As usual I was in and out all night, fetching things from my car, putting things away. But one trip, in that dark grassy field, my foot brushed something. I fetched it up, a bag? A Ziploc bag? In Bithlo, odds were it had drugs in it. But no, it felt like hard... things. Confused, I returned to the club's porch and squinted at my find under the flicking light.

Of course it was Jerry's mikado parts bag. The only explanation was that I must have dropped it going out to my car so many weeks ago. And there it had lain.

It had suffered freezes, prowling burglars, tramping policemen, rain storms, trespassing youth, the passage of ages. It has lain under starry skies and a brilliant sun.

Until I'd found it.

And it was mine again.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 January 2011 23:00
 
OpsLog - UP - 1/17/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 17 January 2011 22:20

Doc Andy's got a double garage of layout, a sprawling run of Union Pacific and Santa Fe from Council Bluffs to Denver. Half of it is shared trackage, half parallel mainlines. It's massive and fun and impressive. I'm there for the session but I won't see a single car move.

I'm in the main house, upstairs in the den. I've got a timetable in front of me, a repeater clock, the timetable and my computer. On its screen is a schematic of the railroad in Excel with colored cells containing train numbers. I've got a radio in my hand and fear in my heart. I'm the dispatcher.

"Clock is hot," the superintendent transmits.

Now the radio is crackling. Trains lining up for the eastward pull into Denver. Others advance on Council Bluffs. I'm picking up their calls, giving them clearance, moving their indicators on my screen.

UP 2440 at Gibson Yard.

Thumb the transmit: UP 2440, you are clear to Grand Banks, take the siding.

UP 2440 acknowledges, clear to Grand Banks siding.

Things are picking up. The clock is on fast time, twelve times faster, twenty-four hours of railroading in two. After cramming a local into a spur, I shave two passenger trains by at Columbus on the dot, earning a superintendent attaboy. Things pick up as the day rushes past. By 10am, the grade from North Platte up to Denver is packing with trains. I'm bailing them out as quick as I can. A couple of fast rollers, sharpies with radios, are ready for my call and run nose to tail east, breaking the log jam. Yet over in Counsel Bluffs where the lines come together for the run to Omaha, a new jam. I've got a local in and out of sidings. Busy busy.

I usually keep spare batteries handy - I can burn through three AA's in two hours. Now it's nonstop, a dozen trains moving, each with its own destinations. The host's wife brings me a coke and cookies. The coke I enjoy, the cookies are a pass - if I'm chewing them, I might miss a call. One train clears, another enters.

And suddenly, like storm clouds clearing, I'm seeing vast holes on the panel. I can long-bomb trains to their destinations now, non-stop. Down in the bull-pen listings, there isn't anything left. We've run it all. I give the last order, sign off (even while the trains are running). This puts me outside the train room as the crews come out. Handshakes all around. A great session.

I smile driving home.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 January 2011 22:44
 
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