Train Blog
OpsLog - LM&O - 1/26/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 26 January 2011 22:44

I have to smile when Everquack or World of Warplug folks brag about online squads who have been together for five, six months. My operations group has been together upwards of twenty-five years. I've got silent-service guys, ex-military pilots, software experts, a once-mayor, a veterinarian, former cops, linemen, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. I've gone to their weddings and funerals, loaned money, asked favors, exchanged Christmas cards and dirty jokes. As for train-running, we learned it together, from loop-counting to invitations to pro-rails, the superbowl of ops.

Tonight it shows. People arrive on time, they dive in to clean our massive layout. I count noses - we're short tonight. I know of an illness, a post-ops recoup and a broken arm. Still, most of the trains are signed up. We toss radio checks about, I line up the first few track warrants, the crews dial up their locos.

"Anytime, dispatcher," someone quips.

The clock is hot.

It's the professional teamwork you onliners could only dream off, tight controlled radio transmission, snappy read-backs. I'm playing ahead of my game tonight, Martin Yard is tossing them back as fast as they come in and the varnish is running bang on schedule. Things are smooth. The room is quiet, nobody idling in sidings swapping stories. It's actually getting dull. I bump the clock ratio up to keep it tight.

247 calls at the limit of Martin Yard, looking for clearance onto the main. I've got a passenger move coming out of the west dead at him, running on the dot. Usually I'd keep him in the hole but someone mentions the engineer is feeling sick and probably should go home (he didn't want to pack up in mid-run). Its risky but I open the door for him to run to Mingo Jct and do a siding-dive - I know 247, the guy runs tight and sharp, no dawdling. As insurance I ring up his opposition and have him notch back to Mingo. In essence, this meet is off warrant and off book.

"No problem," the varnish-driver confirms.

247 calls clear at Mingo and confirms 68 is only just getting in. He's still rolling as I'm reading his pre-written order, clear to Cincinnati, end of the line. He'll be off the division in five minutes, packed in ten, in his car in twelve, home in thirty.

These are my boys.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 January 2011 23:30
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.


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

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