Train Blog
OpsLog – B&B – 10/2/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 06 October 2016 16:53

f there is a grand finale for the weekend, it would be the Brandywine & Benedictine, a beautifully massive railroad that sprawls all over. Sadly, progress has overcome this fine line – it is no longer Time Table & Train Order controlled, and now runs on CTC. Traffic lights aside, it’s still a delight to operate with two dozen engineers to make this all work. And my part in this drama begins at 2:30pm, rolling downslope from Sulphur Springs to the town of Allegany at the controls of a massive articulated steam engine, a long string of black coal hoppers pressuring me down the long grade as I went right and left along the topographical map lines. The engine is hissing and rumbling, I’m blowing the whistle at every tiny crossing (long long short long) and watching for signals. Pass my buddy Bob who is holding on a siding with a similar cut of empties. Down through Natural Tunnel and then a sweeping descent into Paulson (where I’ll swap out some cars). Later in the run, I go into the main yard further down the line, switching more cars out (the paperwork here is a little rushed, the Superintendent having worked overnight to get things sorted from the last batch of hoggers). But that’s fine – the yard’s gets the cut off in quick order, my steam engine is swapped out for diesels (the B&B is growing up too fast – cold inhuman signaling systems and misuse of F-units, all since my last time). But it’s fine – I was out of the yard and throbbing south, heading towards the final terminus where a buddy of mine was sprawled all over the yard lead (woops). But all in all, a great run.

I could have opted to dispatch this one but I’d already done some desk time – I wanted open running through full scenery and I got it. Just a blast, an absolute blast!

Thanks to all who made DixieRails a success!


Last Updated on Thursday, 06 October 2016 16:57
OpsLog – PCD – 10/1/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 05 October 2016 20:33

t’s a long run from Trinidad to Denver, mostly double-track main, one for passenger, one for freight. All down its length, industrial centers, mines and cities sprawl along the desert route. And unlike the SPR, this time I wasn’t bashful. I gave everyone a quarter second to opt for dispatcher and then my hand shot up. “I’ll do it”.

The pace of this railroad is pretty easy, and if you look ahead you can pretty much route them from track to track to keep everything moving. Of course, I’m always surprised by how many operators don’t call in control points or let me know when they’ve left my main – critical information I’d really like to know. Regardless, I moved everything that came my way.

The only near disaster was when I ran a southbound general freight down the passenger main to get around a northbound movement. All fine and good. Then I realized that a passenger extra was scheduled south in ten minutes. This movement was flagged as do not delay. The railroad president was aboard. Nervously I called the southbound freight, only to find him in the huge helix, backing up to fetch some lost cars. Uh oh. Told him to expedite and knew I couldn’t cross him back over until he got to Pueblo. Told him I was clearing him to retake the freight main there. Confusion between us – he thought I controlled that crossover; I didn’t. So he rolled right past it and stopped, not having crossed. I told him to back and then move into Pueblo to clear the bigwig’s movement. Just as the passenger extra called an approach on the final control point before Pueblo, the freight reported clear.

“Passenger extra, you are clear all the way to Trinidad, no holds.”

As he rattled into staging, the superintendent passed by, complementing me on my sharp train handling and how I’d get a promotion out of it. That’s fine, because I knew if I’d delayed him, I’d get an anti-promotion, maybe even ending up as an engine hostler in Chicago. Man, wouldn’t that be a fall from grace.

Anyway, a fun day on a fun runner. Combining this with the CNW, I’m run ragged. But it’s a satisfied sort of tired.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 October 2016 22:36
OpsLog – CNW – 10/1/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 04 October 2016 17:09

new position for me. Ran on the basement-packing Chicago & NorthWestern, miles of main line with industry all the way, all fed from the massive Proviso Yard. Zoom in on that yard. Dozens of tracks. Zoom closer. At one side, engine facilities and fueling decks. Zoom even closer. See him? The guy who runs engines out from the shops and puts them on the ready track? And who plucks them off the arrivals, inspects them, services them, and refuels them? Yeah, that’s me. Low-class dirty in my suspenders and grubby ball cap.

And that’s what I did – moved engines back and forth all session. And really, it was rather fun. That’s the thing about model railroad operation – there is always something new to try. On my Cuesta Grade I’ve got the Salinas fruit shed operator and the freight agent position. So why not an engine hostler? I’ve done it on the FEC. It’s actually pretty fun, especially when you get busy and are trying to do two things at once. In the end, it was just fun and I got time to take it easy, too (which explains why all the crews switching long cuts were beat and why I was still relaxed). Gotta pick your billet, guys!

If I could see one thing in this operation (and I pestered the superintendent about it) it would be for a sheet to record when I'd plugged trains into the fueling deck, and when they'd gone to service. This time it was scout's honor. We need something stronger than that. Still, I met the low flow of newbie operators floundering about on their details, so no rush needed.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 October 2016 17:17
OpsLog – SPR – 9/30/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 03 October 2016 17:43

dispatch a lot. And usually I have no problem taking this position. So when we were all loitering in our briefing for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Railroad and the super called for the DS, I was standing there doing my “Ah, shucks, sure, I can do it” modest number when someone snatched it right out from under me. Blink blink. Wait. What just happened?

It ended up biting me in the ass, too. I was a heavy coal job straining out of Pittsburgh, entering the main (in hidden staging, controlled by the dispatcher). I called. He cleared me and (supposedly) aligned my hidden turnouts. I advanced. And after a while, I realized I was stuck. Asked the superintendent for help. He looked in the dark staging yard. No, I wasn’t stuck. I was fully derailed.

And in the worst place – in a buried turnout throat under scenery. Fortunately I discovered that a line of building flats were removable, allowing me to fetch out each engine and car with my fingertips, one at a time. It took about fifteen minutes but eventually everything was out. Finally got underway. Met a train at the first siding I came to (who was impatiently waiting for me), rolled past him and went on the ground again. When the opposing traffic met me, he didn’t realign the siding turnout he’d used back to the main. And so thumpity-thump, I’m on the ground again.

Hey, these guys were supposed to be good operators but I was finding all sorts of turnouts left in wild position; into spurs, into sidings, into other dimensions. Eventually I was running in permanent restricted speed, walking ahead of my train and checking for mis-set turnouts and land mines.

So it was a long night with a couple of tie-ups with bottlenecks at Connelsville Yard (hey, that’s railroading). My over-and-back coal run took a long time, two hours of real time for an out-n-back. But that’s railroading, too. But dammit, I made it, regardless of the track alignments the dispatcher tossed at me.

But really, I’m just like Ernest Kessler in The Great Waldo Pepper – I keep track of talent. The owner can’t do much when a dispatcher or yardmaster falls down. But the owner did give us a wonderful layout to run on, one with a delightful mainline (two, actually) with a lot of interesting jobs all wrapped up in Pennsy brown. Great time and good running (if you watched for open turnouts). This layout is one I always point to when I talk about how N-scale can be used to fill a modest basement with a massive pike. Gorgious trains against some really neat scenery. Super session!


Last Updated on Monday, 03 October 2016 17:51

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