don’t think our op session was that bad. In fact, at the next business meeting I’ll have Sean Spicer come out and explain why it was so good.
No, it really wasn’t bad. We were running hot, with both Silver Bullets on time. I was having the usual congestion around Harris Glen, nothing extraordinary until a crew made a mistake, compounded the mistake by backing, then suffered derailments all over the place. There were trains waiting for him, and trains waiting for those trains, and next thing I knew 97 was running hours late. It was so bad that several engineers “audited” me afterwards, coming back to the DO office to question some of my orders. Fortunately I could explain my decisions.
So, I won’t pass out blame (because it would embarrass the crew of 244, who are currently listed on the crew sheet). But before we beat up our membership and our layout, let’s remember what we are doing here.
First off, we had a lot of visitors, new members and older members self-promoting into higher-difficulty jobs. We had ten year-old engineers learning to write warrants. I even had a newbie who was a little uncertain with his readbacks, but rather than correcting him I let him listen over the phone and pick up the lingo – by the end of the session he was by-the-book bullet-smacking with the best of them. So we had a wide skill level in the house.
The real problem came from train handling and train reliability.
Sure, everyone watches some guy in some video who meticulously hand-lays his track and balances each and every car. He can roll them back and forth, smiling a butthead smile at his accomplishment. But we’re in the real world here. We’ve got cars that are perfect and cars that were bought at swap meets. Sure, we try to go with the better ones but the rubbish-on-wheels somehow find their way back to our rails.
And the trackwork – it’s real-railroad trackwork. The layout’s been up longer than some of our junior members have been alive. The track has dealt with 27 winters and summers, with thieves leaping on it, with roadbed shifting and track alignment changing. So yes, it may be far from perfect, but it’s really rather prototypical.
I’m not saying this as a cheap out. We need to learn how to run our trains like the real railroads. We need to watch our stringing cars like hawks, watching for the first sign of a derailment (that’s what that little observation seat is atop of caboose for). And if we make a mistake and end up on the wrong place, what should we do?
First off, don’t back up. Real trains, a mile and a half long, don’t. They’d call the dispatcher. And they’d dump their flagmen out, the guys with the red flags who keep trains from piling into theirs.
This isn’t anything to be upset about, nor to frantically back forty cars up a curving grade to rectify. This is railroading, every bit as much as the warrants we use and the language we play the game with. If you make a mistake, don’t back. Just imagine that your flagmen are bailing out front and back, to walk 500 feet down the line in either direction. It’s part of the game.
From the reports I got (trusted ones, not from Spicer ones), the mishap at Red Rock could have easily been solved by 244 holding the main he’d accidentally taken. Flagmen could have stopped 271 as it descended from Harris Glen, directing him into the siding. The helpers (again, protected by far-flung flags) could have swapped over to hook on). And rear flaggers could have contacted 66 coming up behind. As the strategy was to have him ride 244 through Red Rock while 271 stood by, this could have been done easily and with a quick verbal approval by the dispatcher. More drastic changes could be resolved with voided warrants rewritten. It’s easy.
As our missing cub dispatcher used to put it: “Work it out on the ground”.
It’s part of the game.