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OpsLog – LM&O – 11/22/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 22 November 2017 23:39

kay, this blog was mentally pre-written. We were holding our session the day before Thanksgiving because our college guys were back in town. Matthew wanted to dispatch. I already had most of the blog written in my head, about how he screwed up, how trains stacked, how we were running things twelve hours late.

Actually, Matthew ran perhaps the best session we’ve ever had with a guest dispatcher. I didn’t hear phone delays. I didn’t hear horseplay. Nobody died. What I did see was a railroad that went through its paces. Good for our division. Bad for this blog. But good job, Tide.

 So I was going to run Mingo Turn. I’d tinkered with my freight program and ended up with an imbalance – five cars to the other two locals and 20+ to Mingo. It was a nightmare. And since it was my fault, I’d run it, horrorshow or not.

Not. Actually, most of the cars went to the interchange. With those out of the way, the rest of it was indexing into City Oil and Hender Paper. And when I put it back together, I ended up with cars correctly indexed for outbound tracks. This was just random dumb luck. Actually, it was an easy run, nothing to write home about. And nothing to blog.

Craig reaching Carbon Hill (Photo Frank Z)After the turn was back in the engine house, I looked at the crew call. All the freights were out – nothing was left. Up at Harris, the two helper sets were idling. Bruce was going to run one set down the western slope to Martin. I figured I’d take the other set down the eastern side to Calypso Yard and put them away. Matthew cut me a warrant sharp and I glided down the hill on restriction, following the final eastbound freight. Got into Calypso in time to find young Craig (steamhead and recovering hockey fan) coupling onto every hopper car in the world with double ended steam (so pretty). I didn’t think he’d make Hellertown with that load, much less the Summit at Harris Glen. So we agreed I’d cut in. This evening we were trying to run helpers at mid-train to see how they handled. So I dropped in about, I dunno, twenty cars back. He blew twice to move, I advanced my throttle and felt the train buck. Shit. No way we were getting these up the hill, not with steam on the head and a pair of willed-to-the-club C&NW diesels. So a quick call to the dispatcher and now Bruce had paper to bring his heavier LM&O monsters down to Hellertown to meet up. We rumbled in to find him a quarter mile out. After some discussion, we decided to slap him onto the front of our steam.

So, on the head end, two big motors coupled to two heavy steam engines. Then about twenty-five coal hoppers. Then my units. Then another twenty-five or more hoppers. Two helper sets – this was a first. We all looked to each other and advanced our throttles. Slowly train 415 picked up speed, edging up the long slope.

It’s a twisty route up the grade to Harris and the crews were watching their couplers, trying to balance the loads of this very heavy train. Good so far, not so much as a wheel drop, but we still had the spiral tunnel just before the summit. And here’s where it got tricky – you could only set your throttle as you went into the 300 degree round-the-loop tunnel, sight unseen. We held out breaths (particularly me, jammed well back on the consist with steam and diesel fumes filling the bore hole). Anyway, happily we popped out into the bright florescence of daylight, all together. Rounded the high turn at Harris where I dropped off. Got paperwork down (and passed the Harris Glen local just coming in to work – man, we ran everything tonight). Heard that Bruce dropped off with his power at Martin and now on the river route, Craig ran smartly back to the mines at Carbon Hill where he put everything away nice and neat.

Good session. Good work. Good fellowship. Good operations. Happy Thanksgiving!


Last Updated on Thursday, 23 November 2017 19:21
ShowOffLog – LM&O - 11/21/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 21 November 2017 21:48

buddy is in town for Thanksgiving. I originally thought that maybe we could get a little time to hang out (like we do frequently, once every other year). With five kids, time is certainly a luxury for him (to me, it’s a requirement). But then he caught me by surprise – “Show us your club!” What a cool idea.

So in our Monday night crew set, a couple of guys helped me clean tracks – that was really nice of them, to take time to help me with this. And my buddy Bill agreed to come out and run a train with me so the kids would have something to run. But then the group grew as another friend (and his wife and two kids) showed up. So now we had seven kids, two trains, and a lot going on.

But the kids were all cool – they listened attentively, they had fun with the trains and said nice things about us (always an egomaniac boost for me). Bill and I ran opposite directions for two hours, and with the kids running slow, it was funny – we met ONLY at Bethlehem station and Weirton, nowhere else (and this was like a dozen times around). We even had the kids setting turnouts at the end. And everyone had a great time.

You know, sometimes we can get a little jaded about the amazing thing we’ve created at the club. And sometimes we can see it afresh through the eyes of someone seeing it for the first time. And looking around the large room with the ranges of mountains marching into the distance, it stunned me about the amount of time and treasure we’ve put into this.

But a great time for everyone. BTW, Harris Glen was working much better. But that dead section at Weirton is still a pain in the ass!

 Thanks again, Bill, for hosting with me.


OpsLog – Wazu RR – 11/19/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 19 November 2017 19:25

nlike Doc’s last session where we piddled trains around and figured out where everything was, this time we had the dispatcher program on line, a train timetable, a fast clock and committed operators.

Usual interplay on the railroad hierarchy – Train 999, grinding west with a long heavy string of coal hoppers, was ordered into the siding at Aver Siding*. Opposing him was 156, an oil can train sloshing his way east. The meet was supposed to take place at Hinkle Yard but with 156 oozing along late, I moved the meet eastward to Aver to get some rails under the wheels and get us back on time. Of course, only after everyone got to Aver did we realize that both cuts were too long to fit. What to do?

Classic dispatcher move – a saw by. So 999 dropped his over-length cut off on the main just short of Aver, and eastbound 156 nosed it down the line until he got to the next siding (Wallula) where he shoved it into the clear. Then 999 backed up (as 156 bubbled east) and reclaimed his train. It was actually one of those cool railroad moves where the dispatcher leaves his office to see it go down.

But of course, the WAZU isn’t interested in actually running efficiently. There was a lot of screaming about environmental groups hounding the railroad for our “dangerous practice” of shifting coal back and forth. Well, maybe this sort of scardy-cat response is what the BNSF does. On my SP, we just tell people like that to go to the blazes. So I had to move trains and argue with the superintendent about trivial stuff. Just another day railroading.

Seriously, the railroad ran well and the ops group ran it hot. People rolled off one train and took the next. We probably need a little more tuning on the time table – I had sidings to spare (short sidings, but still) and we can probably move a denser load of trains through. But it was fun. So Doc, thanks for having us out!


*And why call a town “Aver Siding”? So what if I want someone to hold the main. “Hold the main at Aver Siding”? What could possibly go wrong here?

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 November 2017 19:28
OpsLog - Tehachapi - 11/5/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 06 November 2017 20:11

y second day started out slow. All the other kids got to play so I hung in the crew lounge with my tinytop, IMing my niece and working on two game designs. Had this been the actual 50's (which we are simulating) I'd be probably smoking a stubby cigar and nipping at a flask. And hacking. So, let's not go too far on this thing.

Eventually the crew caller gave me my ticket – third 23, part of Grand Canyon, moving west from Mojave to Bakersfield. Since this was the third (and final) section, I'd be running well behind the first. No problem.

Had a couple of shiny ATSF engines dragging every ratty coach ever made. It was actually a pretty long train, all things considered. Anyway, got up to Mojave and got my paperwork, with orders specifying I'd be running 90 minutes late. And, oddly, that put me dead on the time of 51 (the San Joaquin Daylight). When I got back to my idling engines, there was a pair of GS-4s leading a string of orange and red coaches sitting along-side my consist. Talk about being upstaged.

And this opened up all sorts of discussions – what happens when two trains run on the same schedule? Everyone had something to say on this, but since 51 was still getting their orders (actually, their orders were being stapled together) I dashed back to my engines, pumped off the brakes and headed out.

Thus began The Great Locomotive Chase, Western Edition. 51 clung right on me the entire way. I'd look back and either see the headlight gleaming off the rails have a mile back or the actual crew walking next to it (a father and his daughter (with improbably purple/green hair)). Once again I  was rounding down my timetable, hitting my stations dead on the mark, not daring to stop since 51 was pushing as close as ABS would let them. Passed a couple of 804s sitting here and there, blinking in surprise to see an ATSF job running through on the SP's time. At one point, the daughter got close enough to ask if I was going to pull in at Caliente and let them past. “Nope, sorry”. Not being mean – I was running right at track speed and we were equal priority. Besides, once we got to Kern I'd dive down the ATSF main and be out of their purple/green hair.

And that's what happened – clickity-clacked across Kern Jct and slipped clear of the SP main (and for all their tailgating, they still got a beet train slipping across the yard throat to block them).

I'd have been clean and clear myself, but it was one of those egalitarian yard clusterfarts where four guys stand around and argue what work they should do (is there a hierarchy in place here?). It took ten minutes before they figured where I should go and what they should do – and this is why I don't like working in yards. Finally pushed what was left of my train back together and set it in place for the valley crew to run it to Rosedale. Sharp run.

Followed this up with 24 (sigh, another passenger train). Ran first section this time, driving (again) dead on the dot, but had to pick my way through Caliente when a beet train (I think the same cut that screwed 51 earlier) was slow to get clear. I actually ran down the center siding, beets to the left of me, beets to the right of me. Once I got clear, I slowly clawed my way back to an on-time arrival at Mojave. Three out of four on the dot. Even if all they'll give me are passenger trains, I'll run them on-the-bounce.


p.s. Got the last train of the day. Train 4. Guess what it was. I don't even want to talk about it.


Last Updated on Monday, 06 November 2017 20:21

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