ourteen and a half hours.
A lot can happen in fourteen and a half hours.
And this was in 10:1 clock time, so that was (in real time) just under an hour and a half.
That’s how long number 902, the Shelfton Local, had to wait to get a warrant from a newbie dispatcher (yeah, Steve H, your humiliation begins. All newly minted DS-Deskers get it). And my order would have been one checkbox. Go to Shelfton. Man, it’s what, four real-feet away? Leave the yard, cross over, go into the cutoff. (And to think – I’m the guy who pushed toward “realism”, established yard leads and made it so Shelfton needed to warrant across the main. Me. Does that make me a masochist? In this case, I think it made me sit).
What else can you do in fourteen and a half hours in train time? You can restart a dead booster that’s knocked down a quarter of the layout. You can reset all the clocks that have failed (because of the short) and make sure options, rates and times are correct across them. You can run into the DS office three times and fix the dispatching program. You can OS a half-dozen trains in. You can go to the Zanesville/Carbon Hill area and radio in the snarled situation for the dispatcher and offer a suggestion on how to fix it (he did / it worked). You can go to Harris Glen and explain to the dispatcher just which way a waiting coal train is facing. And you can go back to the phone, find someone else has grabbed it, that you’ve lost your place in line, and that you get to wait and wait and wait.
That is, until the yardmaster comes over and bellows at you to clear track three.
And so I ordered my ballast bunnies out (headend and rear brakemen) to get out and quarter my train, 500 feet out, with red flags. And from there, we can walk the train (at 5mph) out onto the main under flag protection), crossing over to the far track and into the cutoff, so I can go down and switch Shelfton.
I had planned to run one of the final freights of the night but after all that, the waiting and delays and chaos of a new dispatcher, I just had a quiet sitdown. But that leads to the old club joke – I might be an insufferable liberal who beats the operations drum stridently and demands perfection, I might be a royal pain-in-the-ass, but I’m a good dispatcher. A necessary evil. So yes, my position is secure.
It was funny. Our layout is big enough that sometimes its hard to tell what has happened during a session (I don’t think anyone, DS included, knows for sure). But looking through all the pictures, I could see some of the amazing cock-ups that happened last night.
I guess that’s why they refer to the sinking of the Titanic as “A night to remember”. Sure, you lost all your luggage, your froze on deck and maybe got wet, you had to fight tooth and nail for a lifeboat seat, but you survived.
And that’s all we could do last night. We survived.
And still, in a way, we had a great deal of fun.
Afterthought: Maybe the dispatcher needs to practice with the panel before next time? Might be wise.