Train Blog
OpsLog - FEC - 5/19/2018 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 19 May 2018 19:12

kay, so when that general freight rumbled north into Bowden Yard in Jacksonville and I missed setting the primary turnout correctly, it rolled up the departure track and slammed into a freight sitting in position for departure. Of course, it’s the perfect storm because the engineers are in the other shed, running blind on repeater signals. So crumbled diesels, even more crumpled crews, ruptured gas tanks, explosions, six o’clock news.

As a dispatcher, I’d have been out of that seat before the shockwave rolled overhead. The NTSB would have had me in a chair, isolated, grilling me about that total F-up.

Terrible, terrible.

But really, there were other accidents on the FEC today that were not as bad but impacted the session more. Like a local that, given a green light, backed out of Palm Bay, through a red signal and a locked turnout, derailing itself and causing its slow passage to even become slower (perhaps the detectors that triggered down the line were because of the damage taken in the prior derailment?). And there were crews that advanced through reds. And crews that apparently went into Cocoa Yard, went for beans, went on the law, and possibly vacation (how long can it take to pick up a car?). I even watched a train roll through a red and couple onto the back (‘couple’ being a euphemism for ‘rear end collision’) of another train. No cups got filled there.

If only the superintendent hadn’t been at the throttle of my train. I might have gotten away with it. Anyone else, I could have convinced them they’d run a signal or not followed procedure. Oh well.

Life lessons in model railroading.


Last Updated on Saturday, 19 May 2018 19:15
OpsLog – FEC – 4/28/2018 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 28 April 2018 19:51

o let’s just say, hypothetically, you were standing trackside in Titusville in the 70s (when it was still a sleepy little southern town). It’s about 3pm on a perfect Florida afternoon.

Some blue units with 930 mounted on the number boards have been in town for a while. You might have checked references (mimeographed off a typewritten sheet by the Florida East Coast Railroad Fan Club (if such an organization existed)) to see that this was the Titusville Turn. Oddly, it listed its duties as light switching in the small offline yard but here it was with a long string, the engines running up and down the length of the oversized cut as if trying to determine what to do with it. All the brakemen were out throwing mainline switches (your references list these as fairly new interlockings, so why are they overriding?). As the lead units roll past, you hear the increasingly shrill dispatcher yammering on the cab radio, the engineer shaking his head. Finally the entire overlong cut is pushed back into Titusville, the main and siding now clear. And well down the tracks to the south, you see shimmering headlights. You get your polaroid camera ready for a shot.

It roars in, the brakes squealing as the train (a general freight number-boarded 208) eases to a stop at the Garden Street crossover. Now why would…?

The opposing train, rumbling up behind you, catches you by surprise. It’s down the siding before you know it; you catch 311 on the boards, more freight. Brakes squealing, it rounds the long curve out of town and grinds to a stop, the caboose juuuust clear of the crossover. And from behind it, you see exhaust rising. Clearly, another train is holding just outside of town behind 208. What’s going on?

The twin turnouts in front of you throw over with a heavy clunk and 208 begins to slowly ease into the siding behind 311, shaving it so close the caboose grab irons are nearly carried off. You snap shot after shot as the heavy freight cars sway their way onto the siding. As it clears, the points come over with a second resounding crash and suddenly 208 is backing up until the cabooses actually couple. It seems that Titusville siding is packed today, perfect for dozens of pictures (you don’t have time to peel the photo paper off the shots you’ve taken).

With a mad ringing of bells and a series of sharp honks for the benefit of the well-blocked grade crossings, a third train hurtles past, glimpsed in the space between freight cars, gathering speed for its run to Jacksonville – bright orange Tropicana cars. 202, a reefer block.

Shortly after this, 311 is on its way. 208 finally gets a yellow board to proceed out of town in the wake of fast-moving 202. And you are left on the side of the tracks, peeling paper off your photos and applying the fixing agent to them. Action shots! These ones are keepers. You are still at it when lowly 360 rumbles south to continue its work down the line…


And, full disclosure, while Bruce had his hands full with the Titusville Turn, he did save me from running over a cyclist on the way over today so there is that.

OpsLog – LM&O – 4/25/2018 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 25 April 2018 22:34

here are some sessions where at the end the musicians in the orchestra pit should break out into a stirring refrain and the operators should all come forward in their black club shirts and bow, center stage, to our audience.

Tonight was one of those nights.

We ran the schedule – the whole thing. Every freight, every passenger, every coal drag. We also ran a bunch of extras, possibly a half-dozen or more. Funny thing was, other than a parade of four trains over Harris Glen, the summit just wasn’t a problem for us – it was the water-level tracks (where I lost track of the Mingo Jct Turn and caused a lap order (i.e a fiery cornfield meet (i.e. popcorn))) to occur, something which shames me. But otherwise, the survivors reported good times across the railroad. I know Silver Bullet 2 ran ahead of schedule (much to the dismay of the people left on the platforms) and Silver Bullet 1, even with a late start, managed to climb back on time.

Even more interesting, we had young Shawn running the yard (yeah, how many clubs have a pre-teen running a major classification facility?). He seemed to do well but time will tell (as will my friend sheets when I review them to set up for the May session).

But overall, a lot of fun and train running late into the evening. I’m still sitting here smiling (even with the smell of popcorn haunting me).

Great session, guys!


OpsLog – WBRR – 4/21/2018 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 21 April 2018 21:03

hat really sucks with when you drive two hours to Port St Lucie to be an assistant dispatcher to a guy who is actually better than you. Richard’s got this gig cold – I mean, he’s running the DS panel without the magnetic board. He’d doing it in his fricking head. I’m just watching this guy throw down train moves and thinking, Jeeeze…. Like maybe I should be holding his coat or something.

And not only that, he was gracious enough to give me half-a-session. Of course, when he got up and bowed his way out through the Oz curtain, I was left with an empty board, no idea where everyone was, and a bunch of OS lights twinkling like fireflies in a clearing.

Okay, so it took about ten minutes to get everything figured out (what with inane calls like, “So, 122, good to hear from you. Um, where are you at right now?”) Anyway, I finally rebuilt the board with the magnets (no thanks to Richard, who was probably mentally bending spoons or something). But no, the session seemed to run well, Bruce and I had a gondola load of fun, and the drive home was as easy as butter sliding off a pancake. All sessions should be like this. Nobody crashed and nobody died. And nobody got hung out to dry.

Next session, someone remind me to ask our host where exactly the “Western Bay” really is? If you know, please contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . I’d love to know.

Thanks, Al!



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