This is the first of five sessions I’m attending over the next week. And for me, it didn’t go so well.
Look, on the Florida East Coast, I’m known as the ace of the base on the dispatcher panel. I can just sit back and make that railroad dance. But this session, I was “Trim”.
What’s “Trim”? Do I work in a mall haircut joint and take a little off the sides?
No, I work part of the sprawling Hialeah Yard. When trains enter (and stop at the drop off point) I pick up the engines and bring them into the massive engine facility (shown below). Then I review the train’s consist against a listing of needed cars, writing a list of tracks the cars go into (I forget what this was called, but I came to grief using on years back on another layout). So I give the list to the actual engineer working the other half of the yard and she puts the cuts away, building the next day’s trains.
As far as the outbound trains, I select engines and run them out onto an available ready track. Then, with my switch engines, I pull the cut (build in the prior session) out and shove it behind the engines. All of this is capped with a caboose. I review the consist I’d pulled and if it matches the train card, I pass this card to the yardmaster (or in this case, the yardmistress) (my wife)(my boss) and she connects it all together, pumps up the air, and searches through the trackside bars and bordellos for a crew.
And that’s my job.
It’s not a job for those who don’t like interruptions. I’d be building a train and an inbound would arrive. This meant I’d have to leave the switch engines, dial up the inbound units, pull them clear of the arrive track and into the inspection track, build my list, get the engines into the refueling track and call the main switchers down to pull it away and break it up. I might get another move or two on the build and, from the corner of my ear, I’d hear the dispatcher (sitting right behind me) aligning another train in. Goddammit.
Besides, it wasn’t my best session. While getting used to the yard trackage, I put my units onto the cinders a couple of times. I backed my switch engines into the other units (wasn’t watching). I pushed a cut of cabooses off the caboose track and over a turnout (wasn’t watching there either). And I parked my outbound multi-units on the reverse loop gap, shorting out the yard three times.
The dumbest thing I did was when I was doing too many things at once. I had a yard engine controller, a hostler controller, and a turntable controller, all in a line. I remember trying to get units off an arrival while pushing a cut into the departure track. At one point, I looked at the turntable, to see it slowly revolving around an around (I’d manhandled the wrong controller at some point, it would seem).
So yes, even the star dispatcher can screw up a new job. I asked Superintendent Ken if I might try it again next time. Of course, maybe he doesn’t want me anywhere near a throttle. Look at how well I did when I had a handful of them.