hat’s four feet long, has dozens of lights and even more switches, and looks like the engineer station on a Russian bomber?
Answer: The dispatcher panel for Ken Farnham’s Florida East Coast Railroad.
Positions are always random (i.e. crew call is based on Ken’s whim) and today I got to be dispatcher. Haven’t run his massive CTC board for over a year (on the previous incarnation of the FEC, back when it was house-side). So today, I got the tag for the panel.
Now, I know how these things work – I’ve run them before at the Silverstar club and elsewhere, but Ken’s railroad is a highstepper – you’ll be juggling three to six trains at any time and the calls come in fast and furious. So, right after the start, I was fumbling and flailing, trying to remember where everyone was, where places were, all that. In the back of my mind, I could hear that flight instinct trying to take over. I couldn’t keep up. But then, as the hours slipped past, I got ahead of the panel. I was setting them up and moving them without too much trouble at all.
I was helped by the fact that the four person yard crew was working the trains in and out, queuing up ten minutes ahead of time, and that operators were sharp on their calls and watched their signals. The locals got out of the way when needed and everyone followed their orders. In the end, we were on the dot and moving traffic nice and hot.
It was a great time and I feel like I was playing that CTC board like Captain Nemo working his pipe organs on the Nautilus. I had it down, right down.
So let’s see how well I do in another year or so…