My engineer trainee Cody is in the pilot’s seat and I’m lounging in the back, idling a couple of big UP rental engines, pumping air down the line to a ragged cut of freight cars in Calypso. It’s his first run over the railroad so I’m conducting for him tonight. Time to call for a warrant.
“Dispatch, Extra 5354 with you in Calypso, looking for a warrant west to Cincinnati. Will require helpers at Hellertown.”
“Extra 5354… This is, ah, warrant 5 to 5354. Checkbox two to Hellertown. And, um. Checkbox six, take siding. Checkbox eight, do not foul ahead of train 223.”
“How about something about those helpers?”
“Oh. Yeah. Checkbox 12. Helpers on at Hellertown.”
Cody’s not the only new guy here. The dispatcher is a kid (literally, in his mid-teens) running the railroad for his first full time. He’s on his own in the back office and we’ve got a full house, so it’s going to be interesting.
Since my orders read to follow 223 out (I can’t foul, I need to follow), we’re stuck. I’m mentioning this to Cody while half listening to my buddy Larry taking a warrant in the nearby cab of 415, a westbound empty coal-pull. He’s checkboxed 8ed on X5354, so he’s in the queue behind us. But where is 223?
A shimmering light at the far end of the yard. And, Great Thundering Hornytoads, it’s 223 just in from Bound Brook. He’s got at least an hour of switching ahead of him and we need him out first. We’re in for a wait.
The kid was doing his best – not many guys his age could pull fifteen trains across the Harris Glen summit in two hours. But its a bogfest out here. We finally get over to Hellertown and the helpers are nowhere to be seen – they haven’t been called yet. Then the DS cuts a new order to Larry’s 415 in the siding behind us to run around (and our descending helpers just clears into our siding when the coal thunders past, just missing them). Later, coming down out of Tunnel 3 above Red Rock, we go into emergency when we find 414 (the eastbound coal) on our main. It takes us five minutes to build up air and we have to verbally get authority to go around him on the siding. Hey, it’s not like written orders are any safer than verbal talk-arounds tonight.
But the kid took the job on and hung onto the desk, ordering, counter-ordering, voiding and LAPing. He took the abuse of just about everyone there. The varnish fliers were laughing how far they were off their timetables. But he hung in there so I’ll give him credit. Not many clubmembers will take the hot seat.
Still, when it was all over and we were standing around chatting, he looked at me and asked, “Are you writing about me tonight?”
Some blogs write themselves.
(The picture to the right shows the incredible view of Martin Yard. It’s not packed with cars – it’s packed with a logjam of trains who can’t get warrants out. Two more trains stand on the mainline to the left (only one is visible), also waiting. The coal train standing there will nearly kill me five minutes later when we both had rights to track 1 through Weirton).