OpsLog – LM&O – 4/24/2024

OpsLog – LM&O – 4/24/2024

he moon dapples the western Pennsylvanian hills with splashes of silver. All is still. Suddenly there arises a low rumble and large slabs of forest slowly part, sliding away, the wire armatures of Bill White fake trees twanging. An exposed lair. And then a dark shape vaults into the sky! It’s the Dispatchocopter!

Whirling along like a large, dark, criminal-fear-inspiring bat, Eastern Dispatcherman rides the night air, having left his ward Western Dispatcherboy in charge of the railroad. His mission – to combat the confusion that holds the Lehigh, Monongahela & Ohio Railroad in its deadly grip. The Robert-button has been pressed by many trembling fingers. He must save the day!

Swinging low over the eastern grade, Eastern Dispatcherman spots intermodal 103 laboring up the hill. He’d granted this train full rights most of the way across his subdivision, only to have the luckless crew derail, lose wifi, lose engines, lose his place in the eastern lineup, and lose his mind, all in the first twenty minutes of running. Swooping low, he drops a parachuted warrant to the crew, given them rights all the way to Red Rock. Thanks, Eastern Dispatcherman!

His job done, our hero returns to his lair, only to find his faithful servant Lumpy waving a lantern and a order hoop. Shatching up the message, Eastern Dispatcher man wearily turns his dark craft around. Troubles in Harris Glen! Back he flies along his very predictable route to his very predictable crews. There, at the summit of the line, he finds two long freights deadlocked, both too long for the passing siding, fouling each other. The Harris Glen local waits patently to get into the station track. Of course, real crews handled saw-bys for a hundred years of operations. But the LM&O does not hire “real crews”, only deadbeats, boomers, and shaky rummies. Lightly landing his dispatchocopter with the grace of an anvil, Eastern Dispatcherman alights, to be surrounded by the crew.

“Eastern Dispatcherman, what are we to do?” one of them questions with a faux-Leghorn accent. “The trains are locked tight! There is no way out! It is the riddle of the ages! It’s Alexander’s Gordian Knot!”

Our hero sighs. “Well, if you had some spare engines behind, he could come up, cut away the fouling section and push it into the station track. I mean, if only we had a spare engine.” He looks with weary meaning at the nearby idling Harris Turn.

While lightbulbs went off amongst the crew, our hero leaps back aboard his carbon-neutral aircraft, launching upwards. He had to return to his panel. He’d been airborne half the night.

The Harris Glen deadlock being resolved by careful consideration and butt-kicking (Photo: KyleS)

But there was a turnout to coax in staging. Then, flying home, he crossed the GM auto plant, normally buzzing with activity but now ominously dark. It seemed that the Tipton Trolley had sent critical just-in-time shipments back to Martin Yard, shuttering the plant. “Not my problem,” the warranted crusader sighs. And then he jolts upright in his gee-seat. A ruddy glow flickers on the horizon.

Swinging in low over the Mingo Interchange, a large inferno roared as hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel burned in hellish horror. The Mingo Turn and Silver Bullet 2 had collided in a tunnel portal. As he watches, a dozen burning passengers staggered and fell still, crackling and smoking, around the wreck. Shaking his head at what hijinks that scamp Western Dispatcherboy could get into, he swings his copter back to the lair. Was this any way to run a railroad?

Death at Dawn. Mingo Turn and Silver Bullet 2 kiss. (Photo: Kyle S)

Yes, sorry for the long dramatization but it was that sort of night. I’d split the panel with Chris S, giving him the harder western subdivision (as a sort of perverse graduation gift after his running the eastern subdivision last session). Like a booze hound who hits rock bottom, I think he’s sworn off dispatching for life. Oh well. Look for many more dispatcher-orientated dramas from me in future, I suppose.

223 leaves staging. Everything following this point was delay and disaster. (Photo: Jim M)

I didn’t think we’d even get through the session, what with a lot of our steady hands out for work or vacation (and this from the Amsterdam/Covid kid). But the crews kept at it. Crazily, all the steel mill jobs got done so the plant is operating at full capacity. I think everyone knows if coal and ore don’t go in and shifter jobs don’t get run, the output drops and there are fewer things to do (either that, or because of Zach’s threatening pre-briefs*). It was good to see that massive facility actually in operation, and the small jobs are fun for idle crews.

Comic-era reporting aside, my personal dilemma was early on, when 103 (westbound intermodals) delayed and delayed, pinning down the interchange point at Red Rock. This backed up the railroad all the way to Lehigh. It’s that butterfly-wing-flap effect. Please, guys, test your motive power, test your throttles and be ready to roll on the advertised.

The Meddle of Honor (our kudos award) goes to Steve B. The MOW crew “fixed” Shelton power feeds but (to my stunned disbelief) did not run a train over it. Shorts and dead sections galore. I looked up to see Steve wrapped in one of those Star Trek exploding-bridge-consoles deals, literally shoving the cars back and forth by hand to get his job done (I’d have understood abandoning the effort but he finished it up, then left to go to the local burn ward for treatment). So thanks, Steve.

Another “meet” in Carbon Hill. Chris, did you know about this? (Photo: John DV) (Late news – this was not from our grab-ass official session, but from a grab-ass goof-around fun-n-games at the club a week ago)

Overall, a not-so-good night on the railroad. We still need operators to work it out on the ground and not fetch the superintendent (or me) for every little thing. If you are overly delayed, let your dispatcher know. If you are faced with a puzzle, work it out on the ground. Don’t just reach for the call box.

On the good side, I think we’re finding the 9:1 clock speed just a little better than the original 10:1. Also, crews did much better OSing off the main – I’m grateful for that. And the communications went well (Chris and I were walking through the warrants and there seemed to be very little waiting).

Next week, my topflight maintenance crews and me (mostly me) will get to the bottom of the Shelfton dumpster fire.

Tune in same Western Dispatcher time, some Western Dispatcher channel for next month’s report.


* Did you know if you spellcheck “pre-briefs” you get “pee-briefs”? I mean, really?

95 rolls with style out of Carbon Hill (Photo: Zeus H)


103 sits in the intermodal yard after destroying the eastern subdivision. Don’t tell me you tried this with one engine. (Photo: Kaden S)

Don’t even ask (Steve H)

A nice picture of tulips. I need something to sooth my soul.