Train Blog
OpsLog - WBRR - 2/4/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 04 February 2017 20:20

ust another day on the railroad.

Was aboard 391, a mixed through freight out of Alamosa, creaking its steamy 1936 way up to the high slopes and eventually to Durango. I was conductor - boss man of the movement. In the cab, young Eric, still new enough at railroading to have a spark in his eye (and I knew he was aiming at moving east to high stepping Pennsy eventually). Richard slumped in the crummy, sucking at a bottle of rot gut, occasionally stumbling down the steps to realign the turnouts behind us if Eric blew the whistle long and loud enough.

We were into Navajo late - the Alamosa hostlers had been slack and now we were tucking up behind 123, another working freight that was just clearing. What a bottleneck and we'd only been on call for less than an hour.

Leaving Eric in the cab of our teakettle, I crossed the rusty rails to the tiny railroad office, snatching the phone out of Cook's hand and rattling the cradle, calling for the dispatcher. Once I raised him, I told him that I wanted to bring my engine across the main to fetch out a box car, then ease up to water on the main. "Okay," he replied unconvincingly. "Main and siding. We'll call when clear." A pause. "Okay."

Shaking my head, I tossed the phone back into Cook's lap and stepped out onto the rickety platform. There was a neat little pin-pusher of a woman standing there, and in her shadow, her hen-pecked husband.

I should have thought about this more, but being a freight guy, varnish-hoppers didn't factor into my day. Lighting a smoke, I crossed to the east end switch and shouldered it over. Then, a wave to Eric to bring it forward. He tried to toot twice but it came out as one long warble. Still learning.

Everything else went like clockwork. He rumbled past me - I threw the turnout back to the main then walked down the line, aligning the spur and stepping clear. Our steamer rumbled across the points, easing back down the turntable lead where the box car waited (I tossed another look at the distant reporting mark, confirming the pickup against two copies of paperwork. This railroad was red-tape happy these days). Then Eric brought her forward, missing the spout. Frowning, I gestured to him to back. It was then I heard wheels pounding rail across the bridge just east of Navajo, down Ute Junction way. Turning, I found train 2, the passenger those nice folks on the platform were waiting for, highstepping down the Placerville grade into town. And here we were jutting onto the main. Eric was up on the tender, both hands on the scoop, gaping over his shoulder. Richard was, I supposed, drunkenly sleeping in the crummy. I pulled off my hat and waved it, hallooing them to stop.

Train 2 ground its wheels, back-spinning desperately. In the end, she threw cinder grit all over our cow catcher, she came so close. For a moment there was silence, both crews, the two passengers and Cook, all staring at each other.

And then Train 2's conductor was swinging down, swarming towards me with murder in his eyes and a timetable in his hand. "What are you four-flushers doing on the main? We're scheduled through! You're on our time!"

Truth be told, I hadn't even thought to glance at the timetable, having gotten direct (if hesitant) authority to occupy. So I snarled back, saying just that. And back and forth we went, stomping and arguing, but it was really a sparring of kittens. Nobody was really mad. This was model train operations. It's all in fun.

Only later did the Superintendent mention that two trains collided under the tunnel past Ute a session ago and that this was a reoccurring theme of bloodshed on his railroad. One train had been the hapless Train 2. "It's a wonder anyone would ride the Western Bay," he fumed.

"What else can they do?" Richard observed, not as drunk as I'd imagined him for the fantasy. "Ride a mule? A buckboard?"

Good point.

But all in fun. Already I'm circling my trains not to pilot. 391? Check. 2? Check.

Safety first, right? But fun a close second.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 04 February 2017 21:05
 
OpsLog - FEC - 1/28/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 28 January 2017 21:38

retty easy going session (especially since that last medical-emergency turnout-runner we had at the club). Left my mid-vacation to run over to Palm Bay for a little train running on the FEC.

Not much to say. No realizations about the spiritual nature of things trainish or otherwise. no deep insights. Got there after everyone else and so I got the last train out. But that's fine - it was a fun local that worked up through Palm Bay to Pineallis, just switching the industries and getting clear of the occasional passing train. This sort of work is actually pretty fun, just focusing on the job and doing it clean.

Later I goofed on my second train, running out before getting the departure signal. But since I'd spotted a potential cornfield and saved the dispatcher, he was willing to overlook my screw-up (is this how the real FEC runs?) I guess what happens in Bowden Yard stays in Bowden Yard.

Good session overall. Thanks for having us out, Ken!

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Last Updated on Saturday, 28 January 2017 21:51
 
OpsLog - LM&O - 1/25/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 26 January 2017 16:16

Some sessions are great sessions that put a smile on your face for the drive home, and have you flipping through your railroad books long into the night.

And then there was last night.

Actually, it wasn't bad. Not bad. Not too BAD. Not too much. But...

Well, yeah, apparently we found the niche Ringling Brothers has left.

We were packed, always good, lots of guests, but then again it makes running a bit tricky and our mistakes all the more embarrassing. And then everyone seemed a bit "off" (more on this in a bit). A couple of crews left turnouts open on the main. A couple of crews drove into those spurs with mainline trains, forcing sheepish backing moves. And a couple of crews complained about turnouts that threw every car on the ground (and which were set against them). So most of my effort was spent getting the clocks working, getting equipment on the rails, getting dodgy turnouts to throw, answering questions. I did get to run the Harris Glen turn up the hill, a fun job married by one of my locos blowing a chip (meaning I ran it with a single four-axle). Got everything put away and made it back to Calypso - fun run.

I was going to run 271 after this but someone called for helpers and the usual crew was out on the road. So I dialed up and lugged a freight over the hill. Was going to cut off at the summit and slip into the pocket but an eastbound coal drag called for help in Pittsburgh, so I rolled on point down the Red Rock and dropped off. Eventually they showed up (and good thing I was there - I had to drag them fully into the siding). We got over the hill fine, and yet another call, this time at Hellertown from a crew on a potentially-stalled freight that would need a boost. So over I went to them. Coupled up and sat for a bit (as usual on busy nights, the DS was new and starting to slip backwards into time - bad sign to see every callbox in use). I was enjoying the irony of the fact that the crew I was helping was the usual helper crew. I was in the midst of coming up with a sharp crack - "So, the shoe is on the other foot, eh? The helper becomes... the helped" when the guy one-upped me by suffering a medical emergency. He had to go sit down and sip water, but he looked bad. I asked if we needed an ambulance but he said no (frankly pal, you looked like death microwaved for 10 seconds). With him weakly waving me back to the cab, I left him to die in that metaphorical ditch and, with a throttle in each hand, coaxed the drag freight up and over the summit. Rode out my warrant to Red Rock and had just gotten into a siding and snagged another just-off-the-footplate crew to run the freight in to Cincinnati when our fallen member decided to even look worse (and I haven't finished getting that dead-guys plaque fixed up yet). He needed to take his engines and get home, and he really couldn't drive like that. So I'm standing there like Han Solo in the snows of Hoth when the TaunTaun dies, looking around, trying to figure what to do.

Good John, my relief crew, said, "I'll run it in." "But he's taking his engines. And what about the helpers? Who will get them back to the Glen?" Jonathan considered it. "Pull the engines off. I'll run it to Cincy on the helpers."

That was such an unconventional, outrageous plan that we went with it. While Frank (ever as friendly and smiling as the Red Jack) gathered our member's things, I found Bob the Veep in the back, looking over my Harris Dead engine. "Chips fried," he told me.

"Not as fried as that guy out there. I gotta drive him him. And you gotta drive me back." Thankfully, for all his political faults, Bob agreed without a moment's doubt (the gun pointed at his head might have helped). So off we went into the night, carrying our critically injured member home, who, in the spirit of Monty Python, "got better" as the miles rolled by.

Got back to the club at 11pm and saw one car. Came in and found Bad Jonathan sticking around for my return, running the final freight (my freight) in. This will make out automated freight forwarding for next month a lot easier, so maybe he's Not So Bad Jonathan now. While he ran off its final miles, I looked over the ladings for Martin Yard and wondered if the yardmaster had actually followed his sheets or had another system in mind (numerical sorting perhaps). That's going to be a cleanup job for myself and Bruce to tackle next week.

But, yeah, we shut things down at half-past 11pm (7am on the clock) and locked the place up.

But no matter how bad the session was, it was still good. I don't know how many trains we ran (when you aren't the DS, you can't see the big picture). But it was fun.

And we'll try to make the next one even "funner".

The helpers running off station, dragging a disabled freight (Photo: J. BradBury)

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Last Updated on Thursday, 26 January 2017 17:15
 
ShowLog - Deland - 1/(14-15)/2017 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 15 January 2017 18:43

t's five o'clock on a Sunday, I'm sitting on the club bench on our porch waiting for the truck to arrive for unloading. I'm beat. But I'm happy.

Wotta show.

Came back to Deland for their two-day - haven't been out since last April. The club's been a little staggered, what with the passing our our treasurer. But this got the dust and frowns out.

When you think about it - our two track main had nothing short of three trains (and often up to eight) for the thirteen and a half hours we displayed. People stuffed the tip jars. People came up and talked about how we were their favorite. The show sponsor came up and said how many good things they were hearing. Even chatted with a couple who lived near Folkston and were excited (just from our three preliminary buildings and our pencil scratchings) about the recreation effort we were making.

And the trains. Double-heading Mikados. Pennsy ariticulateds. The snaking VIA train. Miles of coal and oil. At one point, we looked like Grand Central with all the passenger trains rattling past. Even had my new F units with that take-charge horn. And, of course, our LMO hoppers and Conrad Yelvington cuts. Finished the show with our own fireworks - everyone pacing the bullet train around the layout, just running like mad dogs (I discreetly slipped into a siding - speed is not an SP thing).

Made a little kid's day - we moved the gons with aluminum blocks from the interchange back to the recycling facility. He backed in so carefully and looked so proud.

So yeah, we got shit done. I'd look around and we were engaging the crowds as we always do. And when it was time to take down, bu-bye. By the time I'd gotten four clamps off from muscle-man Loiselle's twistings, half the layout was put away.

So, yeah, no better way to make money unless you are a nymphomaniac call-girl (sorry, it was the only comparison I could think of) (JW would probably approve of it). But yes, we came in and made that show. Good work, everyone!

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Last Updated on Sunday, 15 January 2017 19:29
 
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