hen I think of railroads in operation, I think of trains holding at the station, the crews watching the conductor who is watching his watch (all that watching) for their on-the-dot departures. Of course, if ops teach us anything, it often illustrates how railroads don’t work.
Take last night’s ops (which I would have written last night had I had a computer that could reach my blogsite (I’m using the dispatching computer with no internet capability to write this)). The original idea I had was to push out of Calypso with the Harris Glen Local numberboards (we really need to correctly identify the turns – something else to do). I was pushing it out of yard limits with a very hopeful lashup of two Mikados (which I’m trying to run back into service for the Cuesta Division). Now, running steam in N scale is always problematic, and switching with steam, moreso. But I got up to Harris and did my work (handling the cuts in and out of H.L. Hidden as two moves since those steamy lugs would never have shifted all twelve hoppers in one go). Got done by 5am, nice and quick, and was all ready to come home (backing, since Harris has no turntable or wye). But my quick movements were stymied by the dispatcher who told me to hunker in on the siding and wait.
And then, from Calypso, a call for helpers on a westbound freight.
Since I had nothing better to do, I found myself as X3001, hooking up in mid-train to shove that mixed bag up the hill. Just this once, I told myself. But then a second train in Martin was floundering. Since I can’t be both there and here, I managed to wheel and deal the helpers off 415 (a coal just coming down across Stone Bridge Point) to assist 244 up. But to keep 247 moving, I rode down past the pocket, all the way to RedRock. And now I was stuck.
I hooked off onto the siding and then asked if I could midtrain back on 298, another eastbound freight. One dispatcher said sure, and I could occupy the main (since he was due in on the siding and I could cut in from the same track). So I did. And suddenly I was washed in brilliance as passenger 97 popped out of the Burtnett Tunnel, 100 yards uphill. I called the dispatcher to inquire WTF, only to get a second shift dispatcher who had no idea I was even there. Fortunately 97 was rolling slow under the “don’t plow into anyone” checkbox so I didn’t die – I just sat upright in my cab in my soiled pants and scurried back onto the siding so he could go by, before hopping back onto the main to let 298 up. All this without any warrants. Only now do I realize how dangerously illegal this all was.
Now I was tucked deep in298 (two cars back from some stock cars – pew!). Once again I rolled through Harris Glen, ten hours after my original completion. My mikes were still lashed up, half of the crew foraging for wood to keep the boiler lit, the other have carrying water up from the stream. My flagmen, they were dead,their flags marking their burial cairns. So sad.
I’d only just gotten back to Calypso to put the helpers away and there was 271 with barely enough power for straight-n-level. So back into a cut I went, to push and shove back up the Harris West ascent.
Midway through this, I got a holler from Martin Yard. All the mid- and late-day freights were not dropping anything at Martin. The local tracks were sparse. I remembered spending thirty minutes in staging the week back, setting out paperwork on six freights for drops. We looked back there – no paperwork. We checked with the crews – nada. What the hell? Then it turns out that one of our crewmembers (who usually runs the Harris Glen Turn and was no doubt fuming at my taking of his run) revenged himself by throwing out all the waybills from the latter trains (thinking them dated and unused). So another quick run over to Martin for a yardlette conference (with 271 holding for me in a siding, waiting for me to get back to helping). We decided just grab five cars off anything coming into Martin and we’d catch the paperwork up before next session).
Back in the helper cab, I boosted the freight to the summit and cut clean at the pocket (no more side trips to RedRock). And then, throwing down one controller and grabbing another, I jumped into the cab of my Mikados (eighteen hours after I’d left them) to get a warrant down. With our firebox burning the last of the Harris Station we’d chopped up with axes, I managed to back down the hill to Calypso, to roll in at midnight and presumably just meet the crew from “tomorrows” Harris Glen run, just coming on duty.
So that’s railroading in its most elegance sense.