art of the operations game is getting to the point where the layout you operate on is burned into your brain. You know all the switching tricks. You know the how the line is dispatched and know what your authority to proceed is. Everything makes perfect sense. Everything is logical.
And with this, I’ve actually known people who have learned our club system but will not go into another layout cold. Worse, they might tell the host that they’d like to “come and watch”. (No host wants this – aisle space is always limited, and we don’t need a lump of inert meat taking up volume. Or worse, talking in the background at volume.)
I can run extras, yard jobs, line jobs and dispatch under mother-may-I, TT&TO, warrants and CTC. I’ve run from the 1930’s to the modern era. I’ve experienced many different size and intensities of operations. This weekend, I’ll be dispatcher in Tusk Hill on Friday, a yardlette and possible turn job on the West Virginia Northern on Saturday, and a dunce pulling the ramshackle sand and lumber job on the Tipton, Youngstown and Erie on Sunday.
If you are at all interested in operations, you should make it your mission to attend as many sessions as you can. Each system is different. And just think, you might learn something you’d like to do on your own layout (a couple of hosts have incorporated something like my coal tally sheet to their pikes). If you have a local club, visit it on ops night and see if you can “ride” (or even operate) with them. Put out feelers amongst your operation-orientated friends, noting you’d like to go to more sessions. And if a chance comes, take it.
Look, so you’ll be a newbie. You won’t know the tricks, the timetable or anything – everyone knows you are new and only the most buttheaded of hosts would hold it against you. And nobody dies – I’ve gotten fired off jobs because I screwed them up so badly and it wasn’t a big deal (I can always play it for laughs when we swap yarns). But yes, put yourself out there. Get on as many crews as you can. Make yourself available.
There is nothing nicer than having host call you and ask for you to come and run on their line. I’ve actually (tooting my own whistle here) had owners change their operation dates because I couldn’t make the original one.
It’s like the old joke (PC-dated now) that if a man stands on a corner and asks every passing woman if she’ll go to bed with him, sure, he’ll get a lot of rejections. But even if one in twenty accepts, well, mission accomplished.
Don’t hang back. Don’t wallflower. Get in there, take the rough jobs, have fun and make a name for yourself!