Train Blog
OpsLog - FEC - 11/11/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 19 November 2016 21:28

eah, Dog! Ken let me run the panel again! And it's the FEC holiday party - a full lunch followed by hours of mainline action. And everyone is there - open invitation - so we've got the cores, the casuals and the crazies in the cabs. And now we can really answer the Universal Question:

How many ways can you cut a caboose off?

Well, if you are a dispatcher, there are at least three ways. See, engines and cabooses light the block on the DS panel, letting you know where they are. Ken even said in the briefing - if you are going into a siding, leave the caboose on the main so we know where you are at. The last thing a DS wants to do is think a train has cleared a turnout and find out otherwise (by cutting it in half, like a samurai sword does an earthworm).

So, method one: Drag a string of cars out of a siding with the caboose at the head of the string coupled behind engine. SLICE!

Method two: Work with your entire train inside an industrial area. When you leave and cross a turnout, the front of your train has cleared the siding turnout, but the tail is still back in the unregistering industrial trackage. SLICE!

And method three: If you are the crew with the initials "BM", pick your caboose up with your hand while traveling towards the siding turnout. That's all I can say. One moment, the light was out. The next, just as I threw the turnout, the light came on. And "BM" is just sinister enough to do this. He's the best I can do for a "nemesis".

Anyway, outside of all those accidents (and the resulting form T's that I had to fill out) the session ran well. I did have a moment when I missed a meet at a siding and had to get two trains past at Cocoa. This is a big no-no but I was in a corner. I wanted one train in, nice and quick and quiet, and then I'd slip the other past and nobody would be the wiser. But the crew dipping into the yard were bulls in the china shop. Things broke. Trains went on the ground. Searchlights flashed across the sky and a band played. The Superintendent saw it and - if he'd been in the mood to dish out demerits along with all the chicken and pie, I'd have had a double serving, thanks. So yes, being sneaky didn't play well in Palm Bay.

I think my favorite moment came with the inaugural run of the Tropicana juice train, highstepping up the line, heading north. Such an auspicious occasion with hats in the air and cheers ringing. That is, until it got through Melbourne and a detector picked up a hot box. So much for that service. We had to explain to the shipper where a boxcar of orange sludge could be found. Makes me wonder if we'll see more Tropicana trucks on the highway. We shall see.

Anyway, great end-of-the-year session at the Farnham East Coast. Thanks, Ken, for making this happen!



Last Updated on Saturday, 19 November 2016 21:57
OpsLog - Tehachapi - 11/6/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 07 November 2016 00:41

o this was a long train day. Or a long day with trains. Or a day of long trains. I don't know. But I broke a personal record here.

Started off with a nice railroady breakfast (eggs and bacon) severed up by our hostess Andrea (such a sweetie). Then, the railroad belched to life. Crews reported in. John and I went onto the signup board, separate - my bird was ready to shake off its blood crusts and fly. And off he went to run helpers off Tehachapi. And there I sat.

And sat and sat. Last on the board.

Two hours later, at 10am, they came up with a train for me to run. Reported to Lancaster and picked up my power - bitching black widow F-units with sixty-three PFE reefer cars strung behind it - this train was something like 20-30 feet long! Ran it up to Mojave and waited for paper.

See, that's how this railroad runs. I report in. The station operator and the dispatcher discusses it. The dispatcher checks his paperwork and situation. He thinks about it. He works on several other issues. Hours later (two in this case), he comes to a decision.

During this time John and his engineer (he was a helper) pulled up in Santa Fe paintschemes, also dragging PFEs but 90+ cars in this case (this explains the helpers). Good Lord, but they were long. We chatted. We hung out. We waited. I looked at my schedule and saw one westbound passenger roll by (with a second section somewhere behind him). More time. And more. And then suddenly the operator handed by a wad of paper (six flimsies and a clearance card). I started to read through it, first of several times. Seems like there was a MOW train working the hills beyond Tehachapi who would be flagging for me. And I had rights over second 804 and anything to do with 806. And yeah, that overdue passenger train, he was running one hour and twenty minutes behind schedule. I kid you not - this order came to me one hour and eighteen minutes after his stated arrival time, and I could see his headlight approaching down the line. So thanks for that breaking news. Sure, here he was, just like you said.

As soon as the passenger rolled out, I thumped forward into run 3 and rolled out of the yard, 300 feet behind the rear coach and letting him outpace me on the climb out of the sink. Eventually lost sight of him. Reached Tehachapi and he was gone - and that was as far as I could go. I still hadn't seen First 804 so I was grounded. Broke in two across the westbound sidings and hung out.

Just about two hours rolled past. Got lunch. Talked to John when he, his front-end units and his 90-odd reefers rolled up. Took a nap. Got some more paper from the Tehachapi operator. And finally, after two long hours, the missing 804 arrived.

Now, this put me in a bind according to the timetable. Train 24 was running quickly towards me, thirty minutes out. And 30 minutes behind him, 52. I was about to his a wave of varnish and wanted to get as far down the tracks as I could. So I highballed out of Tehachapi, rumbling around the long corner towards Cable, picking up speed and calculating how far I could go against the hissing sands of time and damned in there wasn't that MOW train, poking up the hill, not flagging but in motion.

Luckily he was on the main at Cable when I found him, and I could drop a brakeman to throw the turnout and go around him. But all this get out, throw the bar, get in crap was burning away time, allowing the multiple passenger trains to get even closer. With my pocketwatch in one hand, my timetable in another, I held track speed as I punched through the series of tunnels past Cable. Came up on Marcel - all tracks open. Another time check. 24 would be in Walong (the beloved loop). in 10 minutes. I had to clear by 2, and it would take about 5 to get there. Really, really tight. Held track speed out of the slow waves of Marcel, through the approach tunnel and into the Walong valley. There was the loop, and there were the tracks that run up from Woodford. And no 24 - running late, like that never happens here. So I tucked in and waited.

24 did show up, fifteen minutes late. Turns out a westbound train didn't sign the Bakersfield registry book and everyone sat around waiting for a train already by. 24 also had a second section, so I waited for that. And finally the tag-along passenger train, 52, showed up, 45 minutes late. Bravo. So off we went, with rights over everything, a straight run to Bena and on to Bakersfield.

I'll mention that my absolute rights over second 804 eroded somewhat when I picked up new orders on the roll through Woodford. I'd be meeting a section of 804 in Caliente, something I wasn't crazy about (get out, thrown the bar, get in, and do it again at the exit turnout). But hey, the run was nice, a smooth slide down the long golden hills, around the freight in Caliente, down the river valley to Ilmon and into Bena where a local waited on the center siding. Then highball down the long dual to Bakersfield, picking up 806 just on the outskirts. Hissed out the brakes, got the train stopped, contacted the yardmaster, got directions to the icing deck. After that, took my engines to the servicing tracks, shut them down. Signed the register. Dusted myself off.

Seven and a half hours. That's how long I ran this train, and that's real hours, not make-believe fast hours. You could drive from Orlando to Atlanta in that time. I've never worked on job in model railroading for that long. But it was fun. That's railroading, real railroading, and not that stunted stuff we play out. Very enjoyable.

I really had a good time at this session with La Mesa. Next year, I need to push for more people to come. Great fun!


Last Updated on Monday, 07 November 2016 01:34
OpsLog - Tehachapi - 11/5/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 06 November 2016 00:13

irst day of the two day full-throttle ops weekend at the La Mesa Club, San Diego. Great layout; 1950's California railroading under Time Table and Train Order, on a layout 25 scale miles long.

It started with bloodshed. So, off to a good start.

John, getting ready for his inaugural run aboard Extra 170 out of Boran for Bakersfield and parts west didn't quite see a step, so down he went five minutes before departure, a sprained hand and a bloody elbow. Now that he'd learned his place beneath a conductor, we could proceed. Well, that was until we found our engines were FUBAR.

We tried to edge out of the yard, keeping an eye to the timetable for trains (of two railroads) going into and out of Mojave. But our engines would just wink off. Finally Mike the Mechanic wandered by, and willing to help (one look at my battered engineer was enough to cow him) he had a go at getting us running. Turns out the third covered wagon was shorting the consist. He went to fix it. Now ten minutes late, we finally tried, only to find the second covered wagon was running backwards. Fifteen minutes late and the A and B units were running opposite directions .What a total cluster - I was ready to give him a beat down too. Finally, we got all units running the same direction and off we went, clawing our way into Mojave where the front unit died so hard, the pushing units wouldn't merely push it, they'd detail it over and over. At this point, everyone gave up. We were given cab fair to run to Boran where we picked up another set of Fs. Sliding into Mojave, we caused great controversy over the wire as suddenly we were no longer Extra 170 but now Extra 212. While the dispatcher and his station lackeys tried to rework us into their train order worldview, we finally got out of town, an hour late and trailing blood, but away.

Actually, you'd think that was a bad start but really, once we were running, it was a blast. Oh, it was one of my longer runs across the division, six hours and ten minutes, but that's fine. The engines were purring, we had fun at Tehachapi (having to break the train in two and stash it's ass down the MOW spur, clever dicks that we were). Finally our run was one great glorious descent down to Bakersfield. John got to see how train orders worked, we got to insult other crews, we got to find turnouts that crews left open (leaving to even greater insults). And finally we were through Kern Junction, swinging left off the SP main, rattling down Santa Fe trackage to our terminating yard.

Short fun helper run in the afternoon for Bloody John. Me, I just graded him on performance and style, true Russian judge stuff. But really it was a very enjoyable day. Glad we came an looking forward to more railroad adventures tomorrow.


Last Updated on Monday, 07 November 2016 00:41
OpsLog - FEC - 10/29/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 30 October 2016 12:11

ight trains.

Outside of the interesting imagery that phase produces, it can make for some interesting running potential as well. And even more interesting since my entire day (and all the hobbies that filled it) involved night stuff. See my astronomy blog for the connection.

In this case, the Florida East Coast was going to try something new. We ran the first half of the session, 1pm to 6pm, under daylight conditions. I'd agreed to splitting the shift with Ken for this - we'd swap out the DS job half-way through. And we had a good front-end run - a lot of the more experienced members were there, the yard ladies were not saddled with any nuggets, so trains were ready on time and came back ahead of time. Really, the superintendent was mad because we were running the railroad fast - what could I do? Outside of a hitch here and there we worked around, trains were going through their paces like the well-oiled machines they were. As it came out, that was the most routine run I've ever had on this line.

Then the lights went out.

Actually, that story-break is pretty worthless since nothing really changed. Sure, Ken was in the DS seat and I was out on the road, and sure, the layout lights were extinguished, replaced by the blue bulbs of a moonlit night, casting a low lunar hue over the east Florida scenery. But trains rumbled through the night, passing small lit windows of night-owls (though it was only 8pm, so outside of the old folks, everyone should still have been awake). But it was a fun experience. Had to stop train 210 to swap cars at Eau Gallie, which was slightly complex as it involved using a small flashlight to check my orders and uncouple the cars (I sat my flash handle-up on a nearby stool, then realized that was a dangerous idea - if another crew member plunked down on it, he'd ruin the session by running around like some sort of screaming firefly). But nothing bad happened - 210 went on to make a brief stop at Cocoa to carry off some of the cars filling the yard, hitting green boards all the way through to Titusville and home.

Session ended, came out and looked up into the hazy afternoon sky, wondering if our astronomy event was still going on. And I had to get moving; I had 90 minutes to Orlando then another 45 or so out to Geneva and the sun was already going down.

Part two of my day continues HERE.


Last Updated on Sunday, 30 October 2016 12:58

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