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OpsLog - LM&O - 12/23/2010 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 23 December 2010 08:33

Good session at the club tonight. One of our experienced dispatchers took a trainee (who is about to graduate it seems) to run the board. That put me out on the road. Good enough - I don't get to run enough trains.

First run was an unlikely lashup of old passenger E-8s (daylight colors) pulling modern TOFCs. Okay. Grabbed a newbie who was thinking of wallflowering and put him into the cab (I'd conduct). Picked up orders and off we went, east out of Martin Yard.

It looked like it was going to be one of those nights. The two dispatchers couldn't hear with each other talking and the club alarm was causing interference. Also, my coupler was high, the TOFC was low, and we broke away halfway up towards Redrock. This is fun?

But the DSers got it figured - we boosted radios up to a different channel and the DS office combined to one board. For us, we called helpers down out of Harris Glen, not because we needed them but because it would keep our train from breaking and rolling all the way to the other side of the building. My cub engineer was working it out, smoothing his performance while I jotted out the warrants. Dropped the helpers at Harris and took the easy downgrade all the way to Hellerton. Down there, we got a good idea and put in a box car (which matched better with both coupler sets) and never had another break for our run. Got to Bound Brook, magiced over to Cincinnati, and ran it back home in two warrants. Good enough.

My second run was with steam (because I'm a masochist). Tried to run with two headend mikes (on the same address) and a new soundchipped mike (with a bum forward coupler) on the back. The idea was to push hard enough to stay attached. Very rocky start - the forward units hadn't been tuned so one was spinning and one was lugging (and nobody was pulling cars). The back unit decided that it would stall in every tunnel, so I'd have to dig under the layout and bump him forward. Finally it was so bad that I swapped engines about and finally hit on the idea of dropping one of the tuned pair off and running the sound unit on the front. Since they were different addresses, I could manually work both throttles to run together so we got the pulling down pretty good (I was still way overloaded). Into and out of Martin Yard slick enough, but hairpulled the DSer, yodelling for helpers at Pittsburgh (I couldn't even make Redrock - hell, I hardly got around the bowtie at Pitty). Some CP power ran down and got on back (yeah, that boner front coupler!) and we pushed our way up to Harris. Downhill was easy enough, but either I found dirty track or had a mechanical fault in the new sound unit because he was cutting nonstop through Calypso platform, all the way into Boundbrook. I was thankful to limp in after that. Back to the shop for my teakettles.

All in all, a good session to wrap up the year with.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 December 2010 13:06
The Great Panel of China PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 16 December 2010 00:00

"You said you wanted to dispatch sometime," Ken said with his usual friendly demeanor. "How about today?"

"Sure," I smiled.

Holy crispy crap, I thought.

Ken's three-room layout represents sixty miles of Florida East Coast mainline - huge! He's also got a a half-dozen serious operators taking their starting positions, reviewing their train orders, checking out their paperwork, as serious as career engineers. This is not the place to screw up.

He walks me through the CTC board, essentially that big black 2001 monolith bristling with lights and toggles. I'll be the dispatcher today, setting switches and signals in to get the traffic over the line. My only contact to operations will be my panel lights and radio. There really isn't much chance of a collision - the signaling system will prevent that. However, there is a good chance of a stammering, sweating bio-lockup. Yes, I've been at sessions where the dispatcher melts down, where traffic grinds to a halt and the engineers quietly roll their eyes at each other. I did it myself 15 years ago - once in a lifetime is enough!

But, Christ, there are a lot of switches on this panel. To move a train from one siding to the next, you've got to align the turnouts with the toggles - klunk klunk - then switch the signals to the correct direction, north or south, - klunk kluckity klunk - then push the code buttons under each to light them up - click click click. On the board, the occupancy indicators mark the progress of the train. You gotta log where this guy is going, since the light doesn't tell you who is there, and with a half-dozen trains rolling you can get cross-wired quick.

Humans carry self-defeating fears with them - its a survival thing, I suppose. And mine are going off now. But there is no backing out. The clock's just gone hot, the first crew is calling from Cocoa, wanting to depart south. That last moment of apprehension - just WTF IS Cocoa? - but there it is on the board. These guys aren't a mother-may-I bunch - the request is clear and precise. I take the call with a nod, remember Ken's advice to set turnouts first, then work the signals back to the originating point. I line the route and signals, a final confirmation glance, then my finger punches down the line of code buttons. In the other room a constellation of emerald signal lamps come on. On my board, a block lights as the train advances. Another call comes in. I listen as I log the first, working the board, getting into the railroad's flow. And we're off...

Everything's fine...


For a nice video of Ken's layout, check out the two links (forming a two-parter) below. On the second one, you'll see your humble author trying to get out of Cocoa yard to pick up a limestone cut and run it down to the plant. You'll also get a good look at that big, big panel. Layouts don't come better than this...

File 1

File 2

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 December 2010 08:04

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