On Sheet – The Booby Prize

On Sheet – The Booby Prize

y Jewish grandmother once told me something (for the record, she really isn’t my biological grandmother but we’ve shared a close friendship for forty years). She said, simply, that Knowledge is the Booby Prize.

It took me a number of years to understand what she meant by that. But as I get older, many of her observations become ever truer.

Recently our club had the biggest operation session to date, detailed HERE. As noted, I had more trains than I knew what do do with. At one point I was just fleeting them over the summit, collecting them at the long siding at Lehigh so I could move them out in spare minutes towards Bound Brook or Calypso Yard.

Afterwards, some of the guys sat around for an hour discussing how we can control things better. After all, I wrote 101 warrants over a 2.5 hour session (which is about forty an hour, or one every minute and a half). I was busy. Everyone knew I was busy. Was there a way to fix this?

One of the suggestions to improve train control was to have the trains OS (i.e. call their locations) at specific points. Right now, if a train gets to the end of his authority, you know he’s going to call for new paper to keep going. My only problem is that sometimes I need to call around if a train goes into the yard and fails to call clear of the main. Yeah, that is annoying but it’s getting better.

Some of the guys want to take a page from our occasional TT&TO sessions and establish places to OS along the line – we did this by putting red drink cups on the layout as a reminder to call at those points.

Me, I’m firmly against it. What? Isn’t knowledge a valuable thing to have?

Let’s say that you have the classic three railroad towns, A→B→C. A train leaves A for C. Fine. Should he tell me he’s at B?

What good does that do?

Knowing a train with authority to C is at B does nothing for me. I can’t change anything on the railroad until he arrives at C. Under warrants, if a train is holding at A behind him, I can get him moving under a speed restriction (watching for train ahead with adequate stopping distance). If a train is holding at C to go west to A, I can tell him to hold until the train arrives at C (not in effect until the arrival of…) and then go. But knowing he’s at B is pointless.

In other words, knowing a train is at B is a booby prize. It is worth nothing to me (worse, it ties up the radio to get reports as people clear B).

Maybe this is because I grew up with the streetlight rule – I could ride bikes and play outside until the streetlights came on. Everyone arguing for the B-control point idea were younger. No doubt they have cell phones and trackers and GPS locators running. In our faded time, mom knew we were “out” and that we’d come home when it was dark. End of story. She didn’t care if I was at A or B, she just expected me at C by the designated time.

Interestingly, someone in this same debrief changed the topic and noted a member who sent a trivial post to the club discord server that he was on the way to the club before the session, including where he was at. “That’s silly,” the guy said, “Why should I care?”

I could only smile at the irony. I think he realized it too.

Really, you’ve got enough info coming in when dispatching. Don’t micromanage. Don’t try to collect the booby prize.