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OpsLog - FEC - 3/26/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 26 March 2016 21:48

ometimes you have ops sessions that make you want to slink away and take up stamp collecting...


Sometimes you have ops that you want to lacquer up and hang on the wall, and just lean back in your easy chair and look at them, preferably smoking a big fat cigar.

Yeah, today's run of the FEC was one of those days.

Man, did we have fun!

I ran the panel and was feeling so comfortable with it, I wasn't looking at the in-out cheat-sheet, but actually working the yard throat panel logically. We had everything moving including a rail inspection car that Ken had tossed in there as a spoiler. I had to putter it about off warrants, like a little mouse under foot. But no troubles; the freight was moving and everything was getting done.

I have to hand it to the crew - everyone was on top form today. The yard (working behind my chair) were lining them up and sucking them in. At one point I had four trains (two in Palm Bay, two in Titusville) honking to get in. I'd roll them in and Mrs Bev would grab the train as soon as the crew dropped it off, pulling it into the yard and breaking it quicker than a new IPhone screen. The rest of the yard, from Yard Master on down, had trains lining up to leave. One would go out and another index card would be placed on my desk - the next departure was queued up and ready to rumble.

Out in the other shed, the road crews were running top notch. Of course, I couldn't how it really went out there - for all I know, Ken was laying about with a bullwhip. But crews would pick up when I called, they'd wait for their signals, and best - those that switched moved through their tasks briskly, freeing up the main.

For me, the funniest moment came when I lined up (early on) for a three train meet at Palm Bay. Ken said, "Are you sure you can handle this?" (a reference to an earlier blog). I heard people laughing but under CTC this sort of thing is easy to do and slicker than snot. I did three ways, I had trains overtake each other, and I even ran a four by at Pineda, pretty as a picture.

If there was one problem today, it was that we were running too fast. For a while, we were pretty much dead on the dot. But then trains started getting to their destinations earlier then scheduled. I tried to hold people in holes for a bit, but it seemed silly to make an entire room of engineers wait. After four and a half hours, we were off the bottom of the run sheets and running through the extras roster.

Afterwards, everyone just sat in the crew lounge and glowed. You know its a great session when nobody gets slapped in the face with a glove afterwards. No, everyone was smiling and as far as I could tell we were all grooving on a job well done.

So it was a blast. Thanks again to Ken and Bev for the invite, and to the crews for putting up with my toggle-tossing antics. Great fun!


Last Updated on Saturday, 26 March 2016 22:23
OpsLog - LM&O - 3/23/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 23 March 2016 22:36

e're going to have to start throwing random events in.

It went too well.

Oh, I know that there are always derailments and issues. The random car spotting has gotten crazy (Variety Press is getting all their unsold copies of Early ReTyrement back, it seems). But really, from the panel, it was a smooth night.

We ran all the drag freights, most of the passengers and three of the four locals. Everyone came in and set up smooth. I fired up the computer and got the back office running. Had some guests show and put them on 202 - poor Jim, I'm always unloading nuggets on him, but really he gets a good fun run on that ride and tonight was no exception. So it was GO HOT time and - highball! - we're off!

Really, I just plugged the trains through like always. All the passenger traffic ran pretty much on time. Kicked out orders against their timetables, adding the order expires at option. The helpers were busy, the line hummed, the new track held true, and everyone was smiling. You can't have a better night than that.

I'll even toss a complement to BigJon Diaz, who took the yard and ran pretty smooth. How well he spotted, I can't tell you for a couple of weeks, but I didn't get any panic calls to hold the inbounds. And Matthew, who thinks he gets a blogspot for delaying trains, was only following my orders. It was only a delay of a couple of minutes for that runaround move and all the holding trains and latched orders that got them all moving. So no sweat.

So good work, gang! We made it look easy tonight!

The chip train hard at it: Photo Mike Anderson


Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 March 2016 22:50
OpsLog - WBRR - 3/12/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 12 March 2016 20:40

staple of western drama (overblown western drama, indeed) is that of the misunderstood genius, one who dreams magnificently and throws himself into reaching efforts, only to suffer the destruction of his mad plans. In the end, he is left to croak in the ruins of his endeavors about how "it should have worked, the fools, the fools...!"


Look, I know you can get three trains past on a single siding. I've done it in warrants, on CTC boards, and various forms of mother-may-I. It is a stock in trade maneuver on the L&N (where sidings are short and sharp and trains rumble in nose-to-tail parades) and even on the LM&O (spend a night atop Harris Glen and catch the action as it happens over and over).

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out how three trains can pass on a single siding. But, yes, it can be done.

So after shadowing Dispatcher Phil through his paces on Al Sohl's Western Bay Railroad, I felt ready to finish the final quarter-session on my own. Took the panel, slipped on the headset, got comfortable with the radio. Time to give this railroad a dose of DS efficiency. Nobody would be waiting for orders. I'd issue those famous cross-the-layout commands I was famous for on the LM&O, the ones that would leap the Silver Bullet from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati in a single warrant. So as I was turning 121 in Navajo for its run back to Denver, I wasn't too shocked when two extras sprang into being, one to the east, one to the west. I could get them all through Dulce (a sleepy little Rockies town) without any problem.

People who heard the orders started popping their heads through the curtains. "You're mad, Raymond, mad!". I assured them that this maneuver was nothing special, just a standard two-past-one trick. Even the superintendent was looking doubtful. I didn't see the problem. But then again, I didn't know the railroad and the crews.

Okay, the first miscalculation - 121 had already been through Dulce once. It had spent a lot of time there and I'd assumed it had all its switching complete. Turns out they had more, much more. I ordered them into the siding (with the eastbound extra ordered to follow them in under restriction, and the westbound ordered down the main). But when they got there, they broke the train into tiny chunks and began pushing it around.

My second miscalculation was thinking the crews would do what I told them. No, when 121 got to Dulce, they went down the main and plugged every inch of rail with cars. Was there anywhere they didn't put rolling stock? They might have even shoved one into the local barber shop for all I know. And I had two inbound trains that I was having problems contacting.

So now everything was going to shit. I figured I might be able to save the situation - get 121 rebuilt, let the westbound extra by on the main, push 121 east and back it down the main as the westbound cleared, giving 121 full rights to Dulce once the dust cleared. I'd done this in Goodbee a year or two back on the L&N. But now the full mutiny was aflame. The superintendent chugged into town in his model T, thrusting his cigar this way and that. The phone lines were cut (121 refused to take further orders) and the Union was destroyed.

I don't know about mice, but so much for my plans.

At the hot panel (Photo Credit: Al Sohl)In the end, 121 and the eastbound extra swapped places (that's a trick I'd like to have seen - I suspect magic was involved) and everyone continued on their way leaving the town in ruins and the railroad in shambles. And me with a whole container of eggs on my face.

I suppose there is a lesson there. Yeah, the three-by is a pretty slick trick, but the MBRR is a mountain narrow-gauge railroad. They don't run under spit and polish rule-booking like the lines I run on. Things are more informal. A lot of time, crews "work things out on the ground" as we LM&O dispatchers call "letting the monkeys play it out". And they don't take kindly to know-it-all dispatchers telling them what to do.

Yeah, next time I'll keep my moves simpler and make sure my meets are limited to two trains. And next time, I'll make sure that orders are only good for a town or two, not places fifty miles away or years in the future. Next time, I'll gear things down.

Well, if there is a next time after that debacle.

Watch this space for the answer to that one...


Last Updated on Monday, 14 March 2016 07:15
MaintLog - Orlando NTrak - 3/6/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 06 March 2016 16:53

asn't looking forward to this - started getting reports while in India (of all places) that the front porch of the train club was rotting away and needed replacement. Could there be something I'd want to do less that that?

Okay, so great thanks are due to Bill Sterner, John Ligda and Bill White who all came out on a Sunday to work this. Our plans were to spend today getting as far as we could with demolition and see what a future rebuild effort would entail.

First good luck - a few months ago I happened to find some leftover roof sheeting in the club house. Second good news - when we got up there and tore off all the old tin, we found that outside of the leading corner of the roof and all the crossbracing, the heavy beams were still intact. So Bill ran over ot the shop and got us some new 2x4x12s (pressure treated - yes, let's do it right this time) and we got them all installed pretty quick. Then came the tin - not a hard job at all (I've done the entire thing twice now). With John's 60's music booming out of his little boom-box van (we were such a little construction site) we knocked the entire project out by 1:30pm. So that's in - outside of some paint added to the end of the 2x12 we cut away, the entire project is done.

Thanks, guys, for some critical work that keeps, literally, the roof over our heads.


Last Updated on Sunday, 06 March 2016 17:04

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