y the time the session was over, and then the hour debrief by the hard-core hoggers done, the lights off, alarm set, and the slow drive home, after all that, I sat on my sofa and watched something dumb on the tube and drank a beer.
I mean, insert your expletive, but what a session.
The club came together Wednesday night for a big monthly ops session. We were going to try the racks and stacks again after the chaos of last time (with trains going to the wrong way and one intermodal being attacked by the mole people in the tunnel above Red Rock). I think the membership wanted to really work together to show we could do it. Either that or people are really taking public humiliation by blog seriously now (“Assemble the crew for punishment detail! Ready the whip!”). But ran it we did, and ran it well we managed.
I wasn’t sure about our chances when I got into the dispatcher’s hot seat and started writing some pre-session warrants. We had a lot of trains rolling tonight and a lot of switching to do (the LM&O now runs seven locals, and most of those are supplied by off-line freights). But with Kyle ghosting me at my side (to test out his warrant-writing Gutenberg press), we went hot and I spent the next two-point-five hours writing warrants virtually non-stop. Think about it – at session-start along the waterlevel subdivision, we had four trains east (202, SB2, 152 and (God help me) even 414). Opposing was the Mingo Turn (921, tears staining his warrant pad at his extensive checkbox 8). Shelfton Turn (902) was blowing out of the east end of Martin Yard, with 102 (known as “Tippy the intermodal train”) hot on his crummy – he still had a dramatic crash to stage above Red Rock (we actually have spectators line the tracks there to watch the daily destruction). And on the other side of the summit, there was a freight forward extra out of Bound Brook for Calypso, with 102 (more intermodals), 223 (west freight) all running so close so as to be virtually coupled. Oh, and the steel mill job was kicking MT limestone cars to 941 at Calypso (the Harris Glen Eternal Turn) to join the upgrade stampede.
And, mind you, that was the first hour of twenty-four.
I’m not going to talk about some of the goofs. I heard about a couple of them but really, they were minor and the engineers know who they were (though evidently they don’t know what checkbox 8 and 9 mean). But what made the session shine were the number of great moments of train handling I witnessed in our battle-stations session. When a freight train erroneously got him front of 103 stacks at Lehigh and then died, Jeff C was able to neatly back a thirty car train out to run by him, all while flagging against racker 153 coming up behind. And Kyle’s steam-powered difference engine caught me out on a couple of engineer-killer lap orders. Speaking of tenuous reverse moves, Zack on 152 did some shuffling short of Pittsburgh to get by hot westbounders (honestly, Kyle and I looked at the six trains trying to get through Martin and thought the session was locked up and done – the yard was plugged and more were on the way). Yardmaster Steve took his beating like a man and finished up with the yard in fine order (though an independent audit next week will confirm this). Even the newbies (Steve and Phil) ran mineral trains both ways, feeding the hungry steel mill and making the dispatcher cry). Hell, everyone ran clean (and in the right direction this time) and everything on the sheet (with the exception of one and a half silver bullets) completed. Crews were quick on their warrants, prompt in their radio responses, and somewhat better on their OSing (with purists Zack and Kyle in disagreement with me on this, but they are children of the helicopter-parenting age and uneasy with trains running unwatched in the night). Kudos to everyone.
In the end, we wrote out 101 warrants which is (I believe) the record for the pike. Twenty-five trains were run.
With the dispatcher checking car-counts, we didn’t neglect our setouts at the endpoint yards this time. The yard is (as reported) clean. Calypso is good. Something like seventy cars were spotted by all the locals. We met all objectives of the session and even got the passenger trains home in reasonably not-quite-late fashion. The experienced hoggers supported the session and the green engineers rose to the occasion. I can’t imagine wringing any more out of our session – it was a high water mark.
Some of the changes that were discussed in the debrief – all mineral trains (coal and ore) will share the 400-series numberboards (we’ll change 552 and 553 to 452 and 453 going forward). Also, Zach and I agree that the freights will have to go back to their original start times (the opposing pairs rolling at go-time, 6am and noon). Look, there is so much happening at the start that we don’t need the second starters crowding the openers (as it stood, 202 was running with 244 illuminating his caboose from Martin over the hill). Crews will be reminded (and berated) over what “not in effect” and “do not foul” mean in November’s meeting (and some of you culprits are writing software to replace me, yet you don’t understand that?). I’m sure we’ll have an interesting discussion about this in the business meeting, which I look forward to writing down as secretary – please be as rambling and windy as possible while stating your opinions.
But overall, that was it, guys. We don’t have sessions like that often, not without ambulances on the property and fist-fights in the parking lot. It was a lot of fun. And we did a lot of railroading.
And we are glad that two of our members who were absent for medical reasons (well, the one codger won’t come out for ops anyway, but still) are okay from their hospital visits. When we had a spare moment for thoughts, you were in them.