Matthew, our cub dispatcher, is certain I’m going to write about him tonight. I’ll bet you think this blog is about you – don’t you? don’t you?
(Between you and me, dear Reader, we did have an across-the-division slowdown in trains and a couple of the later runs annulled. But seriously, the kid was running noticeably more in control. I am aware of no cornfields, and he seemed more careful in his warrants. About the same speed, but better than last time).
I was on 244, a freight out of Cincinnati, heading towards Bound Brook. Paul was filling out as rookie engineer and I was conductor. I had plenty of time to people-watch while the session ground slowly on.
For example, while we were waiting to clear out of Cincinnati, I noticed Bruce the Helper a short distance off, sitting with nothing to do, his chin in his palm like one of those Peanuts characters leaning against that low fieldstone wall. Bob was coming around the far curve with a long, long coal drag. Saw him bogging down, the friction of all those curve-rubbing wheels biting into his traction, and watched him realize there was no way he’d make the long climb to Harris Glen. He picks up the phone and talks. A pause. The overhead dispatcher speakers crackle. “Helpers! Helpers!”. Bruce, without missing a beat, still leaning on one arm, scoops up the phone.
My favorite comments came when Paul and I were stuck in Martin Yard (along with a number of other crews, including a mainline TOFC train that had somehow floundered into yard limits). All around us, trains were squeaking by other trains on various sidings, but the phones looked clear. I asked for a warrant to depart and mentioned I’d need Helpers out of Pittsburg. The dispatcher starts coming up with a warrant – I know where this is going and it’s okay, but I offer a suggestion to make it better.
“Objection,” calls Rob from his chair. “Conductor is leading the Dispatcher.”
“You fool,” mimics the Yard Master. “He’s using an old Dispatcher mind trick.”
I had to crack up. Priceless.
Overall, the railroad ran pretty, well, railroady tonight. The Silver Bullet was nine hours later. I know our six hour job took us fourteen to complete. But it was still fun, running with Paul and chatting with the crews marooned with us. And for all our dings, Matthew is getting better (he’s at least eager to try after the basting he got last time). So overall, it was a fun night.