I have to smile when Everquack or World of Warplug folks brag about online squads who have been together for five, six months. My operations group has been together upwards of twenty-five years. I’ve got silent-service guys, ex-military pilots, software experts, a once-mayor, a veterinarian, former cops, linemen, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. I’ve gone to their weddings and funerals, loaned money, asked favors, exchanged Christmas cards and dirty jokes. As for train-running, we learned it together, from loop-counting to invitations to pro-rails, the superbowl of ops.
Tonight it shows. People arrive on time, they dive in to clean our massive layout. I count noses – we’re short tonight. I know of an illness, a post-ops recoup and a broken arm. Still, most of the trains are signed up. We toss radio checks about, I line up the first few track warrants, the crews dial up their locos.
“Anytime, dispatcher,” someone quips.
The clock is hot.
It’s the professional teamwork you onliners could only dream off, tight controlled radio transmission, snappy read-backs. I’m playing ahead of my game tonight, Martin Yard is tossing them back as fast as they come in and the varnish is running bang on schedule. Things are smooth. The room is quiet, nobody idling in sidings swapping stories. It’s actually getting dull. I bump the clock ratio up to keep it tight.
247 calls at the limit of Martin Yard, looking for clearance onto the main. I’ve got a passenger move coming out of the west dead at him, running on the dot. Usually I’d keep him in the hole but someone mentions the engineer is feeling sick and probably should go home (he didn’t want to pack up in mid-run). Its risky but I open the door for him to run to Mingo Jct and do a siding-dive – I know 247, the guy runs tight and sharp, no dawdling. As insurance I ring up his opposition and have him notch back to Mingo. In essence, this meet is off warrant and off book.
“No problem,” the varnish-driver confirms.
247 calls clear at Mingo and confirms 68 is only just getting in. He’s still rolling as I’m reading his pre-written order, clear to Cincinnati, end of the line. He’ll be off the division in five minutes, packed in ten, in his car in twelve, home in thirty.
These are my boys.