ilot friend of mine told me about getting vertigo once. He was flying formation with another jet, looked down his wingtip at the other, saw his running lights and the lights of the city rotating beneath him as they orbited the field. And suddenly he lost it. He just rolled out (on instruments) and flew for a minute or two to center himself on his bank-n-turn, just getting everything squared away.
Same thing happened to me on Ken Farnham’s Florida East Coast today. I had the panel, dozens of lights and switches telling me a story, of indicators glowing and moving across a formalized diagram of the railroad. Under my hands and pencil, the train sheet with all those positions circled and marked. For three hours I’d been moving things with no problems. And thing – blink – lost it.
Just sat there and couldn’t figure out what I was looking at. I’d had in my mind that two locals were working City Point, a train was holding at Cocoa Yard while another pecked around him moving cars. Train was holding North at Frontenac . The coal drag out of the power plant was already through Titusville, running into the yard under a special order to run against traffic flow. Everything made perfect sense until it didn’t.
It was blood in the water as soon as I asked for “Trains in City Point, please call dispatcher.” I could hear the laughs in the crew room. I tried to rebuild the picture in my mind’s eye. This has happened before to me in dispatching, dozens of times. All dispatchers get it. Just happened a few weeks back on the LM&O. But this was a total shutdown.
To make matters worse, while trying to dig my way out, I forgot to align the primary yard turnout and sent a train the wrong way (into Palm Bay rather than Titusville, causing a near head-on in the tube (thankfully the crews spotted it and stopped the trains).
Just like my buddy, I eventually got my horizon leveled and trusted my mind and not my instincts. Everything was back to running again. But yes, it’s something to get a silver alert in the FEC headquarters on the panel.
Still, everything ended well. We got through the rest of the session fine and everything was running on the clock.
And on the good side, I managed the four-train meet at Titusville, no small trick in itself. But I’m looking forward to facing the green machine again and see if I can do even better.
Watch this space.