OpsLog – LM&O – 2/28/2024

OpsLog – LM&O – 2/28/2024

ake a moment to put it into perspective. The famous La Mesa club at San Diego has op sessions on their two-story (not two level, two story) HO railroad. It’s 25 scale mile s long, runs 16 scheduled trains and maybe the same number of extras (so about 30 trains total). They host this with 30 to 40 engineers. They manage a 25 hour session 4 times a year.

Orlando N-Trak runs its sizable N-scale layout with 15 miles of mainline, runs 25 scheduled trains and a possible couple of extras. We run with 25 people, hosting a 2.5 hour session 12 times (or more!) a year. A rough comparison shows our train-per-tie and train-per-hour ratio is way higher. As, of course, is our person-per-square-foot-of-aisle. Their session is a delicate cake gently baking in the oven. Our session is a bowl of furiously boiling chili (very spicy).

A bird’s eye view of the nose-to-tail running at Red Rock, captured by a guy who presumably is now qualified for yardmaster work and can afford to engage in amateur photography (Photo: Jim M)

The February session was one of our top sessions. We had about 25 people (rough count) and ran every train except to Tiptontown Trolley. Yes, we had significant delays over the summit (we were stacking trains on either side, and yes, there was the joke about Lehigh “Yard” (Ho ho. Jolly joke), At one point, I sawed something like four trains around a westbound at Red Rock.

I’m sure everyone has “comments” about the dispatcher’s performance. All I’ll do is acknowledge the backlogs at the summit approaches. (think about this, I can only store two trains on the west side, and four trains on the east). Given our loading, that’s the best anyone can do (of course, if you think you CAN do better, feel free to volunteer (must be able to write fast. I kicked out 101 warrants, which is a warrant (with overview, transmission and readback) every 90 seconds)).

I know I made one mistake by putting Silver Bullet One on the wrong track at Lehigh. But then again, many of you all made mistakes (I know of a collision and several authority overruns that occurred last night, so glass-houses, ya’ll).

A beautiful shot of the Silver Bullets making their scheduled meet at Harris Glen, other than I distinctly remember putting one on the station track and one on the siding. (Photo: Kaden S).

A couple of specific comments on the runs – first off, there was a large number of trains held over at Lehigh and Bethlehem. And when something seemed to be wrong and a deadlock, everyone started screaming for the Dispatcher. I had to jump in my sleek black DS-copter and fly over to Lehigh/Calypso, darkness raining upon the land beneath me, only to find one train improperly located and the rest draining through as ordered. Had you taken a moment to consider everyone’s warrants jointly, you’d have seen what was happening. So that was 90 seconds (i.e. one warrant) that I wasted coming out to see everything working correctly as well as shepherding a wayward freight into Calypso (where his warrant took him). So, seven people or more, and nobody could work that out?

The worst of the evening was the noise coming out of Pittsburgh Station. From the wailings, I thought at ether someone had abandoned a baby or it was the Muslim call to prayer. Turns out that there were a lot of “scenery” coaches in the yard, promoting the outburst. I suppose possibly there was a change to the Earth’s core, magnifying gravity and making them too heavy to lift, or no place to set them (if only there was a shelf like the one that was there to place them). Further, another member’s equipment (A train fully authorized and ready to depart) was derailed. This might be appropriate in other venues (such as Womans’ RollerRink skating) but not here.

Three trains operating at different locations on our railroad: the varnish at Carbon, the stacks en route to Lehigh Yard, and the Champion Mine spur (Photo: Kaden S)

…and over at Red Rock, the congestion builds. (Photo: John DV)

So this leads to the lesson learned tonight. Point One: unless it is something you actually require the dispatcher for (headlights, annulment, etc) then don’t bother him. Most of the problems I was involved in should have been handled “on the ground”. If you are too long for a siding, figure a way to fix it. In real life, if two long  trains met in a siding, they’d have to “saw by” (meaning they’d have to stash excess cars at the nearest spur until the trains could get by). I’ll point out that in the case of Lehigh, the Calypso yard track is about three feet away, perfect for putting a couple of cars on (and trains that still need to get in and out can take the main to the short lead). You don’t need me chop-chop-chopping out for that.

And Point Two: helping others. There were trains that suffered issues on the hill last night. I suspect that 202 was overlength (trains should never go over the hill with more than 25 cars (protesting yardmasters are referred to Point One, above)). To the point, if someone derails, see if you can help him. If someone is shorting, quietly look around for anyone on a turnout (Orlando N-Trak is a “No Shouting” zone). If someone is confused by paperwork, help him. The point is to have fun. The goal is to not only move a train over the line, but to help other trains along. We had a lot of newbies, and often spotting a problem developing and stepping in to fix it is better than smirking as the problem deepens and then calling the DS for help.

A Lehigh engineer considers a problem he’s encountered (Photo: Zach B)

…and his solution (Photo: Kaden S)








On the plus side (if it’s possible, this side of the coin is much larger) I did see acts of compassion and valor out on the road tonight. Specifically, I saw Chris work Zanesville and switch out the auto plant that Tipton Tootle left high and dry, averting a paperwork disaster. Just up the line, Steve (with his new club key in pocket) took on the Mingo job for the first time (and in mid-session), and he was even tidy enough to do all the work in the industrial track (and left the siding clear, even though I’d bequeathed it to him on a warrant). Long-hair hippy Chris stepped in to help get 202 on the rails and rolling (desperately needed as the summit clogged up). Alex worked a couple of locals like a pro (and learned the painful trick on how to get a long cut out of the Shelfton 5% pit). Phil kept the steel mill running by moving hoppers all night (assisted by John and Rob). Hooper, though tempted, didn’t kill anyone. Of course, this list is by no-means complete. I can’t see everything, even from my DS-copter.

But a special thanks go out to all those who got plugged on the hill, specifically the Lehigh bunch (who actually formed a community and planted crops). Yes, it sucked that you had to wait so long. Again, 202 should have been through quicker, and had it not been for the hippy, you’d have waited even longer).

The yard, as plugged as it’s ever been. At about 6pm, five trains were clawing their way in (John DV)

Again, the take-away here is that this layout is your layout. Do what you can to make it operate even better (be it waiting patently, helping others and not causing churn). Running Orlando N-Trak ops is about as close as you can get to going to battle stations on a submarine, but we can always make it better.

And yes, as usual, I went home at 11pm, sank into a chair and drank a beer. Man oh man…


Minerals on the move – 414 meets 415 on our own horseshoe. (Photo: John DV)

A quiet moment on the uphill run – and the only picture with ONE train in it (Photo: Jim M)