Train Blog
OpsLog - SP Coast Line - 2/7/2011 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 07 February 2011 23:44

In my last two blogs I went over the ass-aches I went through to drag this railroad into operations. Let's add one more - the cat got INTO the layout, crawling around inside the framework and walking along the hidden mainlines. I had to drag her out from under it - this stunt earned her a big squirt off the spray bottle. She's still sulking.

So there I was, bringing a new automated dispatching program online, unsure if I had track damage under the layout, wondering what was going to happen.

And what happened was wonders.

Lucky cuts in behind the sugarbeets.The trains ticked out of Watsonville right on time. Salinas purred through its reefer shifts. Me, I was over at King City, sitting behind the hot boiler of "Lucky" (Mikado 3304), working helper detail. Shoved freight 920 up the hill just as dawn broke. As we got to Serrano, I whistled a desperate call to stop up to the head units - we should have been in the siding but had blown past our meet with the Coast Mail who would be thundering down on us in 20 minutes. We got the train stopped on the main (wrong place). Ran a brakeman forward to flag the Mail into the siding. (this was like deja vu for me because I was helper on the same train last time and we skipped the meet and damn near took the Coast Mail in the face at the yard board). Anyway, pushed the freight into SLO, watered up, then dropped back down, pocketing into Serrano to catch the Noon Daylight hghstepping past behind a pretty GS4. Hoo hah.

The rest of the day was pretty easy. Pushed a second freight up, and also shoved a load of beets over the Santa Lucita Range.

The railroad wasn't running flawlessly - the dispatcher program tossed up some bugs, a turnout died and had to be manually shifted, and those couplers gave me fits. Worse, that engine with the bad wheels? His back unit started going offline on the last run.

But the crews ran like demons. Even with the difficulties, every car was getting snagged off every siding. The trains were checking the SLO platform on the damn dot. The SLO yard crews were working the yard exactly as designed, getting the stuff out with plenty of time. Great fun to watch Merchandiser West swap its trailers out in SLO and run down the hill, the Lark riding its silver caboose.

And... it was fun. Really a lot of fun.

Worth the pain.


No, it was.

Thanks, guys!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 February 2011 00:19
Logical mind meets Illogical line PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 07 February 2011 16:29

Continuing the earlier posting...

Got home early, everything in control. Moved things into place for ops, a very methodical process (in a little house, you have to do a number of things to make it ready for 8-12 operators). Anyway, was performing the final step, adding CRC to spots on the line and then running a set of F3s up and down the track to spread it out. The engines were running smooth and I was actually goosing them right along. On the first uphill, at high speeds, they piled up at the lower Serrano turnout. Odd. Well, I was going TGV fast.

Then the second run up (more sedate) and this time I saw them go off the rails, right behind the sugar refinery. This is one of the problem spots on my railroad, a place where a climbing turn enters a swayback, and of course, there's the joint. The GS4 has to be rerailed every time through there. But this time, my Fs (four axle railstickers if there ever were such a thing) were going off. I figured the the first pileup was caused by the wheels going off the rails and the train sliding along until crashing at the turnout.

I ran them back and forth, reversing them around, but the same truck set always went off at the same spot. I checked the gauge - fine - and the truck seating - fine. I looked at everything. Then I decided, F-it, its only one spot. So I ran them up the hill and derailed (the same truck) coming off the Stenner Creek trestle.

Okay, that was getting weird. Even though the my gauge showed the wheel spacing spot on, I cracked open the engine (I love doing that right before ops), dropped the truck out, popped it open and pulled the wheels off. Other then a little kitty-cat hair-winding, fine. But just in case - JUST IN CASE - I got out a new set of wheels (I buy these things in batches and keep a bunch around) and put new ones in). Put it together in a minute or too, checked everything, and then ran it up and down the hill across the bad spot. No problems. Ran it across the trestle. Fixed. I don't know why those wheels were bad (perhaps they had a wobble in them?) but that seemed to fix the problem.

Isn't it great, simulating the heartburn of a real division superintendent?


Last Updated on Monday, 07 February 2011 16:50
Isn't this supposed to be a hobby? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 07 February 2011 14:08

I'm sweating bullets and biting my nails right now - I've got Ops. I hate hosting. Once it gets going, its generally okay. But until then, I'm like an actor before going out on stage. I'm wired, tight to twanging.

Problems I dealt with this weekend: A corroded wire (again!) the in Salinas panel. A Watsonville turnout that wouldn't carry power. A steam engine that worked fine until I added the front coupler, and now its dogging. My new sound-equipped E8s are jacked a little high, putting their pilot couplers out of line. And the Salinas switch engine, which no longer wants to run through the tight turn behind Valley Fruit very well.

I'm too much of a perfectionist for this. Its like three days of gentle nausea.

Godallmighty, just let the clock start!

Last Updated on Monday, 07 February 2011 14:14
OpsLog - LM&O - 1/26/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
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

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