With warrants (where a dispatcher reads checkbox orders to a crew, who reads them back) there is a handy little order for “Not in effect until arrival of train ____ “. With this, you can latch orders. If Train 101 is going from A to C, and train 102 is at B, wanting to go to A, you can cut an order to 102 that clears him but it isn’t “in effect until arrival of 101”. If a dispatcher is clever, he can latch orders ahead of time, letting the trains roll as events trigger them. It’s really cool… when its done right.
The problem with tonight was that we had our top crews for trains 1 and 2 of the Sliver Bullet, the line’s crack passenger trains. I really wanted to give them rights over everyone so I gave them mile-spanning warrants, throwing out “not in effect until” orders to all the moody frights laboring over the summit at Harris Glen. It came about that the professional crews of SB1 and 2 wanted to run on their timetables, something we’ve screwed around with for months and haven’t really printed out yet. A copy was located (in the bottom of someone’s op’s apron pocket) and we went with that. So the Silver Bullets were out and I was clearing the mains well ahead of them, latching all sorts of orders on their passage.
Unfortunately, the version of the timetable was a really old one, with long, long stops at the stations. The next thing I know, I had the entire railroad latched up, waiting for a train sitting miles away, coaxing its passengers gently aboard. Grumbles and complaints rose from the railroad room. The natives were getting more restless by the minute.
Swallowing nervously, I cut an order to 202 on the west slope of Harris, giving him rights to run up from Red Rock. I knew he was waiting for the long overdue Silver Bullet 1, so I voided his prior order (with the wait) and got him up to the summit. Okay, things were finally moving.
I changed another order then another, trying to unsnarl my railroad. The problem was all the latched orders – as tangled as the alliances of pre-World-War-One Europe. And so that’s how I got train 247 west sitting at Hellertown waiting for helpers, while the awaited helpers were at the summit behind train 202, who had “not in effect” orders for 247. Which meant both trains were sorta waiting for each other. And I couldn’t get the helpers around and down the hill, because the Silver Bullet 1 was blocking the main at Harris, engaged its timeless activity of “passenger embarking”.
Yessir, I’d locked the railroad up nice and tight.
Worked it out by voiding 202’s prior order and ran him down past 247, with another order to the helpers to follow him down. But all this threw me off my game – I was making little dorky mistakes for the rest of the night.
Sometimes we dispatch. Sometimes we just push plastic back and forth.
Nobody died, nobody cried.