moment of kick-ass history. The Luftwaffe was bombing the crap out of London. Things were getting tight for Hitler’s invasion schedule – they must break the Royal Air Force. On September 15th, 1940, the Germans threw everything they had into a full assault on the English Capital. From the bunkers below, Winston Churchill turned to Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park and asked about their active reserves. Park replied, simply, “There are none”.
And that was the epic day on the FEC. I started working with my lovely yardlets to move trains, myself on Trim, JB as yardmaster and Bev on classification. Usually most motive power on the railroad is twinned diesels. We were lining them up on the ready track, coupling them to long strings, pumping up the air and pushing them out right at the go times. The first set staggered back in – the superintendent told us to bad order it for some performance issues. Fine. We’d get some of the others back.
But as the day wore on, we were putting out trains quicker then they’d return. Big Al was doing well enough, but he was having those usual dispatcher problems (at one point, he looked like a needed a flask . “It’s not going well…”). Of course, add to this the fact that a lot of the switching times were slow, blocking the line (including Chip’s turning Cocoa Yard into his personal Rubik’s Cube) and returns were just not coming in. Trains were crashing in the yard throat, backing into each other, corn-fielding where there was no corn, just as crazy day. Eventually I looked in my engine-set sheds. Outside of the bad-ordered set, the tracks were empty. Extra engines? “There are none”.
Since I couldn’t build trains, I helped in whatever ways I could. When JB called for grizzled Steve to run 940 to the cement facility, he didn’t answer the crew call. I poked my head into the layout room. No Steve. I banged on the bathroom door. No Steve. WTF could he be? Went into the house and there he was, cute as a button, snoring on the sofa (I will go to my grave wishing I’d been quicker to get that camera out and take a Pulitzer shot).
But as each train came in, I yanked the engines off, bypassed the servicing tracks and put them immediately back into service. Trains were built. Yard service commitments were made. Smiles were shared (gap-toothed smiles, given some of the accidents). But we had fun. When the session was finally called, my yard was still largely empty, my engines out on the road.
Hopefully for our July session, the FEC can get some units dead-headed back into position. Otherwise we’re going to run this railroad with high-railers and handcarts.
Thanks to the Farnhams for having us over!