Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But, if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.
He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.
Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue…
Everyone remembers that Tex Avery image of the Grinch rolling into a ball in those tight confines. Funny when it happens to him. Not so funny when it happens to me, the dispatcher.
We were rattling the rails with a full house of operators. Trains east, trains west. I was kicking out warrants pretty fast – a warrant is a slip of paper with checkboxes and fill-in-the-blank sections. I write the order I want followed. I read it to the engineer over the phone. He reads it back. I confirm it. Off he goes. Simple.
One of my favorite tricks is to tripwire a warrant – using CHECKBOX 8 – NOT IN EFFECT UNTIL ARRIVAL OF TRAIN _____ , I can send out a warrant early and have a train wait for another. Once it arrives, he goes. And since I could see trains building at the Harris Glen bottleneck, I started working out a scheme where two eastbounds would tuck as best they could onto the main, while another train pulled onto the siding. Once he arrived, the first eastbound would roll down, toggling yet another westbound at the base of the hill to start up. I’d be using every inch of rails but it looked like it would work. It was a house of toggle-warrant cards, swaying in the wind. But I’d carefully considered it (while dictating warrants and having a distracted conversation with a guest). It should work. Should.
Now the warrants were all in place, everything live, trip-wires humming. Two trains toiling up from the west. Another coming up from the east. The guy holding on the eastern face came into the office with a smile. “You’re screwed! You’ve got a big knot at Harris.” “No, I’m fine,” I assured him. “It will all work out automatically.”
I heard a voice call out “Headlights! Headlights!”, the horrible call a dispatcher fears, meaning he’s sent two trains into each other on single track. My heart beat faster. But no, that was just someone getting a warrant wrong somewhere else on the pike and getting incinerated on his own recognizance – not my fault. All I could do was watch my display, with that overstacked knot of train indicators at Harris. Then a call – the first eastbound was down the slope, the tripwired westbound starting up. A call from the guy holding west on the summit, now rolling because the east train he was waiting for had finally edged in. I moment of breathless waiting and suddenly they were draining off the board like water down an unstopped drain. In five minutes, the line was clear. It looked slick and played out well.
And thankfully it worked….