Train Blog
OpsLog – LM&O – 1/24/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 24 January 2018 23:34

o now I know what having a stroke is like.

Usual session. Everyone came. We cleaned. Trains went on the rails. People signed up. In the back office I booted my computer and readied the fast clock. Odd, it booted up at 15:1. Normally the club runs at 10:1. That was a problem a few years back but I easily corrected it. And then it was hot, and then we were running.

Just like a chess game. 202 went into the siding at Zanesville as it had for at least a hundred times. Silver Bullet 2 stormed by on the main. Behind the pair, coal drag 414 rolled out. We managed to get Harris Glen Local up the hill to do its work before things topside got hot. When you’ve dispatched as much as I have, you can run this pike by rote. No sweat.

About ten minutes into the session I got a line error on the clock. No problem – I fiddled with it and got it back. Since I was in the middle of writing warrants, I didn’t give it a second thought.  We had a lot of extras out so my hands were occupied, kicking warrants out briskly.

I can’t think about to where it all went wrong. I could sense things building around Harris Glen. But this time it was worse than normal. The 6am freights were out. The Silver Bullets were heading towards their summit meet. But now suddenly it’s climbing towards noon. I’ve got even more trains out. And before I knew it there were too many trains on the mountain; three eastbounds, an unprecedented five westbounds, and at the summit two helper sets and a local wanting down. And this doesn’t include the rest of the railroad where everything was buzzing about.

Seriously, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I’ve never had so many crews waiting on sidings. I wanted to sob how it wasn’t fair. I couldn’t think back and see any point I’d goofed up. Everything had been by the book.

And now I could hear the crews laughing at my discomfort. Humiliating! I did everything I could to move trains, fleeting them across the summit in fast parades (which is mathematically more efficient than exchanging directions on each one). That helped but even as I cleared that set, more took their places. This was hell, a literal hell where a skill you had is suddenly lost. I couldn’t do this anymore.

And finally it was over. Four freights rolled off the railroad. A local was still out and the helpers finally rolled down to refuel in their houses. I just leaned back in my chair and gasped. I felt like I’d been hit in the head with a brick.

And in the real world, it was 9:40pm.

That made me blink. Normally we run a 2.5 hour session and finish about 10:20pm or so. But this was early, way early. Frowning, I checked the clock.


Well, bugger me! When we got that line error in the early part of the session the clock seemed to have shifted back to the faster setting. This meant that trains were entering the railroad at a higher rate. And with all the extras we were running we were now at capacity and beyond. Even the people who’d waited twelve hours for a warrant realized that it was sure a quick twelve hours.

What a nightmare it was. I’m sitting here writing this, just beat.

I guess if you are going to count chickens before they hatch, don’t count rapid-fast. Shit.


ShowLog – Deland – 1/13&14/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 14 January 2018 20:02

irst show of the new year and the railroad was staffed and run at full capacity for the two day Deland show.

FEC crosses McQuade Street

A good group showed up on Saturday morning for the miracle (with donuts) set up – one hour from truck tailgate to basement-sized railroad. And all day we were packed. Lots of visitors. Lots of favorable comments. Lots of kids running. Lots of money in the donation buckets. And lots of lots of trains on the railroad. Like a leaky hull, trains kept squirting out of the three yard exits. When one train came in, you’d see two or three guys stand up and sidle over to their throttles to dip out onto the main. Honestly, it was like rush hour with all the reds. Not that this is a bad thing – it’s great to see all that participation and friendship on our double-main (man, imagine if that was single track with sidings?).

Also great to bump into three founding members of our club. Two of them I hadn’t seen in thirty years. It was great to see their reaction to our work – when they left decades ago, we were still on a random collection of wooden modules running DC-stations. Now we’re on space-aged milled aluminum frames, DCC controlled with signals, the trackwork bulletproof, the scenery neatly representative of the area we run through.

Also picked up another CSX transfer caboose (perfect for adding resisters to for complete train protection) and a log car to push the saw-mill guys into getting their project moving.

Normally I’d take Monday night off after this sort of a show. But I’m jazzed to ballast the Folkston module – once that’s in, the roads will be secured and the scenery installed – the town is already half-built. So yes, if you came to our event and thought what we do is amazing, it’s about to be more-so in three months. Come out and see our new scenery then!


Big steam, little coal, tiny Xmas trees (Photo: Frank Z)

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 January 2018 21:03
OpsLog – WAZU – 12/17/2017 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 17 December 2017 20:34

an’t put much here. My left hand is in a splint and I can barely type.

All I can say about Doc’s session on the Wazu is this – picture an ammunition train going head on with a train carrying gasoline in the narrow dangers of Goblin’s Gate.

And that was pretty much our session on the Wazu.  Had a great time, Doc!

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 December 2017 20:37
OpsLog – WBRR – 12/2/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 02 December 2017 20:45

inally got a return trip on the Western Bay. And this found me on a chilly December morning sitting in that ice-cold cab of Train #2 in Denver, boots up on the boiler to warm my feet. Slid open the window and shivered in the icy mountain air to spot Conductor Vin.  His job was done for him – no passengers dawdled on the platform – all of them quickly tipped porters to stow their bags and scurried up the steps into the stove-heated coaches. At exactly 10:40am, Vin checked his watch and gave me the nod. With two whistle blasts and with our ice cold bell about to break in the chilly temperatures, we rattled over the final points, rolled through a tunnel and began out trip to Alpine.

What can be said? We met Train 1 on the roll past the clapboard station, the operator wiping his window clear to catch our numberboards, his signal dropping. At Dulce we found 123 just clearing the main. A bundled operator came out as the few passengers scrambled in and out of our coaches, clearing us out. And then it was through the long tunnel to Ute (on this cold day, you can bet that Vin was more than happy that this critical turnout between the first and second divisions of the WBRR now had a dedicated switchman there, huddled in his shack with his phone. He just stayed in the coaches and watched the dark snowsheds pass.) And then we were across the bridge and into Navajo, finding 391 loitering for us. We picked up a single passenger from the board that passes for the station “platform” and then, to Vin’s annoyance, I told him I wasn’t going to make the long run to Alamosa on a low tank. 391, eager to spot cars, watched in disgust as I watered up, the spray icing my tender.  And then we were stepping up the spin, riding the icy rails out of town, on our way to our final stop.

Yes, it was a great run – it was like I was reading the timetable and watching it magically appear before me. Once #2 was put away, I went to do my second job of the day, assistant dispatcher (a combination of timetable checker, crew caller and yard ass-kicker). Al, the layout owner, was doing a great job. Everything was under control (or so I thought).

Inside the cramped dispatcher office – bedlam. Al was cursing a crew that hadn’t OSed through a station. Then he told me to go find a crew that was missing, their train ready to roll. After that, I was over to Denver to work an issue there.  

“Uh, I had a good run, Al.”

“Whatever. Go over to Durango and kick their asses – why isn’t 35 out and running yet?”

I thought he was doing a great job. Everything seemed to be going good (in trying times). I think he finally needed some time away from the desk – he went off to find something out (possibly with a wrench in his hand) and I just stood in the office. “So. I’ll just stay here, right?” Hung for a few minutes and then an OS light came on. I looked at his magnetic board and figured out who it was. Cleared them through. Then helped to get the Goose past 243 in the confusion of Placerville. The next thing I knew, I was running the panel and having a great time. Yeah, I can look all clever and competent but truthfully, Al had shouldered the difficult part of the session. I just sat back and ran things, and even got pulled into an investigation concerning a smashed caboose (the crew fingered me, and I figured them right back*). But it was a great session (for me!) with some high-stepping running and some fast dispatching. So thanks to Al’s crew for letting Bruce and I come and play!


* It was the crew’s fault. Just saying.


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