Train Blog
OpsLog - Florida East Coast - 2/26/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 26 February 2011 20:51

Short haul out of Points North down to Cocoa, where I'll dump my four cars and shut down my unit. The main's clogging - past the restrictions at Jay Jay's, I find three freights holding at Titusville, watching their signals, eager to head home. Slip past that parade on the siding, then beg the dispatcher to give me a green, please!

Finally get to Frontenac, where I'd pushed coal about a power plant early this night-session. There is a detector there. In reality, it would sniff up a passing train's skirts, checking speed and hotboxes and such, then broadcast its findings over the air. Here, Ken does it with a pocket of cards. Low odds for something bad but I pull it, something dragging on the second car back. I gotta drop it for inspection. I try to talk the dispatcher into letting me run around at Frontenac and push it into the coal spur but he's not having it - I get to limp down the coast at 15mph and look for a siding. Citco's got one, with just enough room. Carefully, I edge the foreign UP box in with the FEC limestone haulers (looks so strange there), tuck the defect into the waybill and stick it in the off-spot slot. Link up, pump the air, hiss-hiss, we're good. Call the dispatcher and beg a green out of him. It's a long run down hidden trackage after this, ending at Cocoa where I'll bail. Two toots of the horn and we're rolling.

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 February 2011 21:08
OpsLog - LM&O - 2/23/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:10

I'm edging out of the haller at the Carbon Hill spur with a rusty cut of boxcars. Behind me, the setting sun glitters of the tin roof of the Champion Mine processing plant. Atop the embankment I'm climbing along, freight 247 squeals to a stop on the main, hissing like a leaky ball. I ease up to the turnout to enter the main just past him. While the brakeman scrambles down to lean against the switch stand, I ring the dispatcher. My orders are to hang out for train 68, varnish eastbound. Already I can hear his bell ringing up the valley. I don't need to glance at my pocket watch to know he's hours and hours late.

Orders go out to everyone. The brakes down 247's length creak as they're pumped off. Just as he starts to roll, 68 rumbles past, a Pensy PA giving us a jolly honk as he clears onto the main. As the final car clatters past, I gesture to the brakeman. He throws the turnout and catches the engine grab iron and we rattle out over a spindly metal bridge. Since the tracks curve to follow the river's bow, its easy for me to watch my rusty red caboose, imagining the rear dude hopping down, realigning the switch and scrambling back aboard. Hope he's on. I advance the throttle.

Ahead of us, 68 is punching through a tunnel - even without a checkbox-4, I'll never catch him. By the time I'm calling clear at my final stop in photo by Jared DavisZaynesville, he's gone. Here, I drop my cut on an old drill track - tomorrow's job will take these with the sweepings from GM and Carolina Desk and carry them over to Martin. Someone else's problem.

Edging out of the drill track, I recouple to the caboose and shut down the units. We're done.


Last Updated on Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:37
OpsLog - Chicago Union Pacific - 2/21/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 21 February 2011 22:06

Tonight's session found me running Chicago's primary yard, a busy place that forwards loads to Proviso, North Platte, the coal fields and, eventually, Cheyenne.

Yard working isn't my big cup of tea. I can do it, I'm okay at it, but there is always that busy-and-now-interrupted feeling as trains barge in while I'm in the middle of shuffling a cut.

Worse, I wasn't on my game tonight. Twice I broke trains down and sorted cars onto receiving tracks, popping their identifying paperwork into the matching slots, only to find out I'd screwed up along the way. There is no gut-clench moment like looking at track four, seeing a green Tropicana reefer, yet the paperwork in the slot is for a UP flat car. Add to this a freight calling on the inbound and you've got a sweat-beading moment. And I did it twice!

I was really only saved by the fact that both my yard and Cheyenne were pumping out locals that locked up the main and slowed the traffic, otherwise I would have been snowed under.

I'm still not sure how I mangled it so badly.

Still, the layout purred tonight. Always nice to be part of a good sessions (even with my screw ups - I guess I make graceful recoveries).

Last Updated on Monday, 21 February 2011 22:16
Live or Memorex PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 19 February 2011 00:00

How serious should modelers get with following their prototype?

My first layout, Donner Pass, was correct in that it had pines and a mountain, and the names of the towns matched. I ran SP equipment (from all eras) and really didn't worry about it.

But it started bugging me. The more I learned the railroad's history in that area, the more it chafed. I considered a change. Then, on a stop during a cross-nation train trip at the small Californian town of San Luis Obispo, I got out to walk the platform. And here I was hit with a sense of having been to this spot before. Eerie. That is, until I got home and realized much of the SP promotional photography I'd been looking at had been taken in this tiny, tidy railtown. We ended up visiting again - I got a million pictures, and I also read (and reread (and rereread)) John Signor's books on the Coast Route.

And then I knew.

That would be my place. And the early 1950s would be my time.

The station is to the lower right

Oh, I can't make it perfectly correct, not without a room 4,950 feet long to cover the distance from Watsonville to San Luis Obispo. In my small space, I have numerous compromises. The slope from Serrano to SLO is actually reversed. The towns are smaller. My turns are tighter.

But we run all the scheduled trains (and extras like PFE movements and beet hauls). And I've got recognizable places such as the SLO station complex, the Stenner Creek trestle, the horseshoe just beyond (complete with a horse who'd lived in the loop at that time), the Salinas packing sheds, and so on. Little touches here and there.

But that is all it takes. Had a visitor from "out west" come run with us once. How gratifying for him to stand in the doorway and say, "Oh yeah. You got it. Dead on."


Last Updated on Thursday, 17 March 2011 17:41

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