ight has fallen and the chill has sunk in between the low Zanesville hills. The auto plant is humming as is the furniture factory (a pity since the local never showed up today). And me? I’m stuck in this rotting tower, most of the levers out of service, nothing but a second story train order office.
Looking west, I suddenly see a headlight stabbing out of Below Notman tunnel. I check the watch – 7:30 PM. That means… to the east, the low form of a drag freight comes around the raised hillock under the GM plant. I lift up the phone. “Zanesville.”
Over the time-crusted earpiece: “Dispatcher, Zanesville, go.”
“Zanesville reports one coming east, one west.”
“Understood, Zanesville. Those will be 68 and 247 for the meet. No orders for either of them.”
I acknowledge out, then grab the only two levers remaining in the row of white spares. Thrown one at a time, the heavy semaphores jutting from my tower each rise, the light-plates gleaming their emerald glow into the night. Both signals show clear – no orders to pick up.
Following the employee rulebook *, the New Haven varnish eases down the station track (I shake my head – the Zanesville “station” is little more than a bus shed) while freight 247 rumbles down the main, notching up as it rolls past. The passenger train comes to a pointless stop, the bushy-bearded conductor restlessly pacing the platform, waiting for a slow ten minutes to pass.
The dispatcher clicks an acknowledgment.
“Trains 247 and 98 in at 7:35 PM”
“Thank you, Zanesville,” the dispatcher says before crackling off.
It’s going to be a slow night. The next train is 202, five or so hours from now.
I sigh and light up a smoke to pass the time. Below, the conductor slams the door shut, having picked up no passengers, the F units notching up as they move towards their Pittsburgh destination.
Breaking from our narrative, I’ve got to say how well the special ops went at Orlando N-Trak. We ran Time Table & Train Order (using pre-printed orders). It worked well and with a minimum of fuss, we ran most of the scheduled trains (we missed a passenger set and two locals). To me, it’s always spooky to run under this method. While the event above actually happened this way, a number of the meets occur at sidings without train order stations, meaning that, as the dispatcher, I mark the trains past the outlaying stations (through engineer OS reports) and then sit on my hands as the trains meet, unseen).
There were a couple of notable moments. The loaded ore train, running as an extra, correctly took the Red Rock siding, neatly sidestepping the downhill 223. And even when it didn’t go perfectly (for example, when 244 suffered a unit failure and couldn’t make the meet with 247 at Red Rock), the crews handled it correctly. Since there were no train offices involved, 244 remained in Pittsburgh while the direction-superior 247 brought the meet to him. Of course, there were moments of dark comedy, such as shortly later when an extra coming up the opposite slope clearly failed to note the overdue 244 and plowed him. Since everyone there was at the ensuing funeral, there is no reason to name names. Besides, I don’t think I can since he’s still a minor – is that true?
Really, we actually ran the session at 8:1 ratio rather than 10:1, it was going so well. Also, if the membership agrees to do this again, I’d like to add a couple of new orders (annulled trains and work extras) to make things a little more realistic. Overall the attending membership ran our club layout using the most realistic and intensive form of operations and did it well. Contrats.
*This rules are yet to be written, but will be in place for our next session.