unning with a junior member, a young kid who’s been at our club for some time. He’s never done TT&TO (time table ops – the most amazing way of controlling trains, one used across a hundred years (until the invention of radios)). He’s a little nerved about it and since we’re running two-man teams, I’m running with him.
Last train of the day. We’ve run a local transfer job, a high-speed passenger move (with rights over everyone!) and a local mixed cakewalk-run down from the hallers. and now we’re running up the line to pick up some northern coal for a run south. We screwed around in Salem yard for a bit, delays in getting our engines, our cabooses, and our paperwork. The last scary train we gotta worry about is a northbound mail train coming into town in twenty minutes. If we can launch out early, we can run ahead and bob’s your uncle.
But best laid plans and all that. No paperwork for about two scale hours so me and the kid wait in the lounge. Finally the clearance card comes up for us – we can roll. So we’re out of Salem for Paulson, rattling along. We meet an extra freight at New Castle and rumbled into Paulson, no problems. Down the main, around the coal cut, and on goes the crummy. Then back down the main to couple onto the headend…
…and there’s the mail train, coming right out of the tunnel from the south, right at us.
Okay, that was a blink moment. Since we’d just started to run back down our cut, we stopped and backed clear, letting him through. Once the panic reaction was over, I had a chance to think it through. The mail runs as a second class train, and even through we were an extra, he was in yard limits so its 25mph and within-stopping-distance. He wouldn’t have hit us, and we could have probably flagged him to stop and completed our run around. No, it was really the surprise of it – we were two scale hours behind his go-time and I’d assumed that he was gone. I hadn’t even looked across Salem Yard (or the registry book) for their departure. It was the blind spot of expectation, the sort of thing that results in rail-side graves. Not that we were in any danger, simulated or otherwise. I just was pissed at myself for not checking a little closer and running out of a yard under assumptions.
Live and learn.
If you are lucky.