OpsLog – LM&O – 12/27/2023

OpsLog – LM&O – 12/27/2023

o this is a transcript (sort of) of a call between the dispatcher and 415, an empty hopper run out of Calypso for Carbon Hill.

DS: Ready to copy?

415: Ready.

DS: Okay, Warrant 281 to 414 at RedRock. Checkbox 1: Previous warrant is void. Checkbox 2: Proceed to Weirton. Checkbox 3: Proceed on Main Track #2. I have three checkboxes.

415: (Repeats orders verbatim)

DS: (Pause). Okay, you know which track is track 2, right?

415: Yes, I know.

DS: (Concerned) It’s the outer loop in Pittsburgh.

415: Yes, I understand.

DS: (Nagging) There is a fake signal bridge just past where you go to two tracks. There are numbers over the tracks. You want “2”.

415: (Eye-rolling obvious in response) Yes, DS, I know where track 2 is.

DS: Okay, because I have heavy freight coming east in Pittsburgh on track 1. Anyway, Order is okay at 14:05, Dispatcher is “RAR”.

415: (Click)

415 (pictured left) shows his intimate knowledge of Pittsburgh trackage. Fortunately there is a scrapyard in the foreground that handles all such depreciations (Photo: The late Kaden S)

….ten fast minutes pass…

244: Dispatcher, 244 east freight. We just collided with a train!

DS: (Pause) Okay, is it a hopper train?

244: Yeah.

DS: (Grumbled recriminations and cuss words)

223 storms through Pittsburgh Interlocking, clear of the hill and through the railroad’s bottleneck (Photo & Crew: Jim M)






So it was one of those nights at the club. Of course, since it’s in the middle of the holiday season, attendance would probably be light. And since there is a rainy cold front coming through, the weather would keep people home. Yes, it was cold and nasty and Christmasy. I actually told my friend Zach that I’d take the DS job since it would be a “silent” night.

And of course, everyone showed up.

Dispatching is usually thought of as a guy moving individual trains to passing sidings to meet other trains. Most of the night I was moving trains in parades of three and even four. My most-used checkbox was 8 (Not in effect until arrival of _____). And in that, I think I gave someone a not-in-effort for four trains. In the read-back, I could hear the despair.

Red Rock was one of the top sidings in use tonight. I’d run two or three trains past opposings here (photo: Jim M)

Trains meet at Red Rock while CP shows how it copes with fear-of-helper disorder (that’s a lot of engines). (Photo: Kaden S)












All in all, I wrote 112 warrants in just over two hours, which is (I believe) a new record. I was even complemented by Steve (an active engineer) who told me (while running the 95/97 set) that he could see some of the “really slick” moves I was pulling (truthfully, some of those were just desperate hole-dives while working the moving Rubiks Cube that is this railroad). Some of these warrants had (for lack of a better phrase) “different-possible outcomes”. But our only collision wasn’t mine and everyone moved. And when I mean everyone, here’s a list of our signup sheet (25 trains).

(Photo: Zach B. Crews: Damn near everyone, but mostly Steve Bohn)

While on the subjects of kudos (and since we already covered me first-thing), mention should go out to all our guys who ran anything with wheels and (for the most part) executed their orders flawlessly (however, see below). The radio work was pretty good and everyone was patent. I know there were delays and the usual failures that layouts of this size and age can have, but overall the vibe was positive and there were a lot of smiles going out the door (that lasted until they stepped outside into the cold, driving rain).

The yardmaster sorts a cut (to the right) while another freight departs. And to think that I was against a two-track yard entrance. (Photo: John DV)

Of course, special mention must be given to Zach who ran the yard under crazy circumstances and got it all done. Of course, he pretty much designed the flow (with observations and protests by me) but he showed it can work perfectly well. I had good intentions of pacing traffic through yard limits which lasted until I was sinking under the flood of trains, at which point Martin Yard became Martin Limitless Siding for me. There were two or three trains all night rolling through and Zach ran both ends of the yard, pushing out freights with less than ten minute classifications (honest, Zach, you could have kept them in limits a little longer). But yes, he didn’t squeak once and did the LM&O proud. He even took over the superintendent job, which meant telling people we couldn’t do chip-addressing right now and that the bathroom was in the back, next to the dispatcher’s desk. Whew.


552, loaded with ore out of the docks, heads east through the yard for a run to Calypso while the dented 415 (now correctly running on track 2) rolls by on the main. (Photo: John DV)

Still, there was room for improvement. The radio work was sloppy at times (people were not pausing to listen if it was in use before barging in). Also, the trick of coming into the office needs to stop – those on the radio can’t tell that I’m giving you a personal  warrant and so now I have two people talking to me (and when I say “Hold on a second”, both the radio call and the guy in the room go quiet, and then we have to spend time sorting out just who I’m talking to. So stay out.

Another big item are people coming into the running session with trains that need addressing and speed-matching. Look, even if you know how to do this, the DS is usually crushed under the weight of railroad obligations and can’t be distracted by chip-work. This needs to be done anytime else but in the middle of ops. And anyone who does know how to do it is likely running (or at least waiting on Red Rock siding). So yes, not a good time.

And we have too many wallflowers who want to run a train with someone conducting. Look, I know that the layout is big and scary and there are a lot of dangerous trains out there (i.e. 415). But you need to step up to the plate and learn the railroad – it’s not fair to a guy who waits all month to bring trains and a throttle to run and I have to stick you on him. I’m thinking there are two ways to deal with this – one, until you are comfortable with running, you can run coal and ore (it’s pretty easy to do, there’s no switching, and it’s just a quick run over the hill. You can pre-signup the Wednesday before and then ask one of us to walk you through it. We’ll talk towns and duties and go over the warrants. Second: I’ll probably (once I talk to the ops committee) write a Pulitzer-winning handbook that explains those mineral jobs, the track panels and the warrants so you can review all this information in one place.

Also, there were some tempers flaring at the usual things on a small-scale, large-size layouts. Unacceptable, especially when visitors are present. If worse comes to worse, become a random event (meaning tell the dispatcher you’ve broken an air hose, leave the train, step out onto the porch (still cold, but there is shelter from the rain) to cool down). Take a five minute breather. You might even ask someone if they can fix your train while you take that break. We do this for fun, but we need to keep a measure of control to make it work.

Anyway, all chastisements aside, I think last night was one of our best nights with a full house. We had so many people that even with the cold front, the auxiliary AC was turned on. We kicked its ass, boys, and I’ll put a buck in the tip jar just to say it.


An ore-eye view as 552 approaches the packed Red Rock passing area, getting ready to follow a freight up the siding and on to Harris Glen (Photo: Sean M)