Train Blog
OpsLog – FEC – 2/16/2019 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 16 February 2019 20:36

here are three things Dispatchers love in model railroad operations.

The first is the chance to dispatch a large and active railroad, which the FEC is. It’s got full CTC, a massive panel that’s great fun, and a lot of traffic up and down the line. So when Ken asks me, “You wanna dispatch?”, yeah, I’ll nod and say “Sure” but inside I’m clicking my heels and throwing my hat in the air. “Sure, I suppose I could.”

The second thing a dispatcher loves is when the operations and yard folks run their trains well. In this case, we were clicking through the trains, making the layout run as advertised. Once or twice we were running so smooth that I had to hold trains (which goes against my nature). Someone would be at the signal stand at 1pm and I’d have to hold them forty-five minutes for a meet. Overall, our running was as smooth as fine bourbon easing down my throat. “Ahhh, yes”.

But the best thing a dispatcher loves is when the entire train group thinks he’s messed up and is going to have egg on his face. Oh yes, I could hear the crews on an open phone, laughing that I’d messed up at the end of the session. In one stretch around the Pinetta siding, I had a local in the industrial weeds at Bonaventure, three southbound freights rattling out of Cocoa Yard, and two more trains coming north. Total disaster. But while they’d been twisting their throttle knobs, I’d been looking this over for ten minutes. So, yes, think I’m dead? Well, this dispatcher has nine lives. First, I held the local on the low Bonaventure iron. So he’s clear. Of the three southies, the first rolled into Pinetta main, signals protecting his ass from his two shadows. The northbound, routed into Pinetta siding. Speaking over the catcalls, I directed the second northbound (940, running as an extra) to duck in at Eau Gallie (which was where he would tie up for the morning). With him confirmed clear, I opened up signals south and the three trains rumbled through. As they cleared Bonaventure, that local emerged to run north back to Cocoa. And suddenly we had three trains running south, one north, and one tied down at Pinetta for a crew change. I felt like a magician at a birthday party. Alakazam, you doubters!

Yeah, great session. Still smiling.

Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.


Last Updated on Saturday, 16 February 2019 20:46
OpsLog – TY&E – 2/10/2019 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 10 February 2019 22:24

kay, I can approach this several ways. There’s spending a fun Sunday with friends in an open garage as the rain comes down, just running trains.

And there’s the angle where we ran on a layout where everything ran on time, every train passed as per their timetable, that it went off like virtual clockwork.

Or there is the telling where I visualize the Sand and Log run down from Tipton to Staffordtown, of running a train constructed with heavy covered gons on front, flats behind, of slipping into Meadville to make my meet to rocking along in that swaying cab as I eased into the industrial yard to deliver everything.

The TY&E was all of those things.

We got up a team and put the boys behind the throttles for a great session. There is a lot of casual running under the confines of a fast clock (which sounds counterintuitive, I know, but there it is). The guys had it wired and everyone figured their moves. I saw slow running and careful switching and some laughs, with even a moment of silence for a departed crewmember. So yes, no better way to spend a Sunday.

I’ll admit (because JW will badger me if I don’t) that the only mistake in the session was mine. Yes, my mistake, that of thinking a northbound local should build itself to face north, when really it builds south and chugs around a loop to face the other way. I mean, thanks to JW for not embarrassing me in front of everyone by pointing this out before my departure. Also, it was nice of him to let me struggle that damn caboose around to the opposite end of the train (which meant shifting cars all around Staffordtown to make this work). I wouldn’t want to miss out on that move, even if it meant a lot of back-n-forthing to no gain. But I messed up, and for that, I am sorry.

Seriously, though, a fantastic session, one of the best on this Frankenstein railroad (and I mean this in the best of ways).

Thanks again, JW, for hosting!


OpsLog – WBRR – 1/26/2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 26 January 2019 20:26

t’s been a half year (I figure) since my last run down to Al’s (last time I’d suffered a hernia and didn’t want to sit in a car for four hours). This time, my physicians cleared me for light Station Operator Duties, so I reported to the Delores office (as well as Placerville Jct and Dulcie), grabbed a stool and a radio and managed the railroad from the cinder-roadbed level.

I suppose that’s why I like this job – it can make a difference. Sure, a dispatcher and a yardmaster can make a railroad run smoothly (and everyone wants those jobs). But a station agent can really keep a railroad running evenly as well. Handling the three central stations, I was dealing with every train through. At bare minimum, I would call their times through so the dispatcher could track their progress. But to be truly effective, a good station operator needs to be more than that. I’d help the crews by checking the timetable and spotting potential conflicts (like when they stopped to set out cars). Also, when I could, I’d help the crews with derailments (after fifty-five years in this hobby, I can put cars back on their rails quickly). And really, having been a dispatcher, I know what the dispatcher needs reported. I work as his eyes and anticipate his questions.

And I do all this, even when they don’t follow official railroad radio procedure.

So I clocked the trains through and kept everything running as smooth as I could across two divisions. And outside of one guy who ran a train off the siding out of my town without aligning a switch and putting every wheel into the cinders, I did pretty good.

One strange thing – near the end of the session, was working at Dulcie and train 122 (the Navajo Turn) came in. That gave me pause. Bruce used to always run on that train and it was a little sobering to see it go through without him. Still, we have our hopes that he’ll return to our rosters eventually. But it’s not the same without that little guy passing me in the aisle and giving me a nod as I call him by. And the car ride is longer, too.

But a good session, probably the best we’ve had. Thanks, Al & Crew, for permitting me to run with you guys.


OpsLog – LM&O – 01/23/2019 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 24 January 2019 00:04

o one can blame me – after Bruce had a critical medical attack in my car on the way to a train session, well, I really wasn’t in the mood for operations at the club. But I thought about it and knew that he’d kick my ass if I cancelled a session because of him. So I sent out a reminder and showed up.

I can’t say why but as I walked in I suddenly knew what I wanted to run – the helper set he always worked up the Harris Glen westbound ascent. The engines were right where he left them at the end of the last session, up in the pocket off Hidden Spur. Grabbed my controller, grabbed the engine and got ready to boost heavy movements west.

It was bittersweet, the wait. Two couples showed up – both had talked to Bruce recently and had been invited out to this very session (that’s the sort of guy he was). I had to explain what happened – they were so sorry. But the show must go on, the clock must go hot and the trains started to roll.

Turns out one of our guests brought his own engines and consist so I told him to set up in Calypso and worked it so he’d meet me in Lehigh for the ascent. With him on the way, I climbed into Bruce’s LM&O 3001 and fired them up. I was hoping they didn’t need wheel cleaning or other servicing but they were fine, gliding down the hill so nicely. Met up with the Tupelo & Logan lease units idling on at Lehigh with their rusty rolling stock behind them. Coupled up and worked out the plan with engineer Larry for the ascent. Larry, it turns out, is a true railroader, in real life and model form. So with everyone pulling together, we rolled up to Harris as neat as you please, just taking in the scenery and chatting. Dropped the helpers back in the pocket and cab-hopped with Larry all the way through to Cincinnati, just to pilot him over the road.

Of course, I’d like to say that the rest of the run was perfect – we just had dual track to run – but it was not to be. Found 202 running wrong main through Pittsburgh and had to go into emergency. Got dispatcher permission to work around him. But as soon as we took our rightful main, headlights again, this time from a pensy coal drag the dispatcher had sent against us. What a night.

Headlights. T&L in the upper left. PRR in the lower right. DS fault (M. Anderson)

But it was crazy fun with all the guests (husbands and wives) all running trains, with everything stacking and every phone in use.

But the helper run was the best. I’m sure Bruce would have wanted it that way.


Last Updated on Thursday, 24 January 2019 00:21

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