OpsLog – Mini LM&O – 6/6/2024

OpsLog – Mini LM&O – 6/6/2024

o being an officer, a member of several committees and the senior club member has its drawbacks. Last club night, I had to inspect erosion on our entry culvert, jimmy the lock of a car, take minutes for the monthly meeting, deal with an upset member, repair a turnout, replace tumble-barriers under the layout, pick up all the dead cockroaches I found under there, issue a new club key and go over the alarm system, crush cans, fix a broken phone, deal with an upset member again, help restore a locomotive address, replace paper towels in the bathroom, deal with a half-dozen questions, bag up all the trash, free up the sticking lock on the fire door and finally, mercifully, luck up the club and gate and go home.

Add this to the fact that I never get to run trains anymore (always dispatching) and am I really in a model train club or am I just a custodian in a lunatic asylum?

So after a night tossing and turning over that question, a thirty mile get-it-out-of-your-system bike ride and a really long nap, I was woken by the cats who (a) can tell time and (b) want their midday meal. I was just cleaning up their bowls after that and the phone rang. Zach. I frowned. I hadn’t mentioned him in any blogs recently. What could he be mad about now?

Actually, he wasn’t mad. He asked if I was doing anything tonight. At my “depends” he told me a group of younger members were going to just run the mainline of the club layout – as many of the trains as they could manage. No switching, just the mainline stuff. And since Zeus wanted more dispatching time, I could actually, finally, amazingly and reservedly run trains! So, yeah, sure.

Rolling big-time! 414 with a helper howls past the Pittsburgh Interlocking (Photo: Zach B)

Got out there early to run a trio of four axles and get them warmed up. Set the clocks and put out the dispatcher board. Then Christian showed up and I told old-man stories until suddenly it got dark outside. Rain. Guys came in during a full downpour and suddenly we all got a tornado warning. Great. It was becoming a “Story of Job” thing. Did God make a wager with someone? Would I ever get to run trains?

Finally everyone showed up (and it smelled like wet-dog for a bit) but we got everything lined up and started a session – six guys: four young, one middle-aged and one pre-mortuary. And clock hot!

And then clock dead. The power dropped for about a minute – and yes, that clubhouse is like a sunken submarine without power. Once it restored, it would go out a couple more times – the addressing would hold but I’d have to reset the clocks, over and over.

I picked up 247, the westbound freight out of Bound Brook. While I had a five (fast) hour wait for my departure, I could just sit on a stool and relax. It was nice to just see the trains roll and the guys having fun. And having fun we had. When there are only a handful of guys, there is no confusion, yelling, no newbies, no questions, no tantrums, and no phone-waits. And everyone know their jobs (Pete couldn’t realign switches worth shit, though).

Silver Bullet One poses a moment before the excess weight collapses the trestle and sends them too their doom (Photo: Zach B)

With three four-axles and twenty cars, I didn’t think I could make Harris Glen and advised the DS. Ended up in Lehigh behind Pete’s uberLiner, his overlong, over-compensating passenger train. The DS made a nice move and kept helpers on the downhill 202 to drop in the Lehigh MOW spur, just for me. Once everyone cleared, I pulled onto the viaduct and trusting my skills, added the helpers midtrain. Now, there has been a lot of worrying and forward-planning on running live helpers on trains. Poppycock! They went on smooth and easy. Started up the hill and did my best to speed match the two sets on the viaduct. Checked again in the open area between the upside portal and the loop, running nice. Did the loop without hysterics or any problem whatsoever. Popped out the top, leaned around the bend at Harris, and took most of the train down past Notman depot so as to cut away the helpers and get them clear. Backed in slow, coupled, and just smiled. I really had a blast running my own helpers up the hill. Why everyone is pissing-into-depends frightened of helpers is beyond me. It’s railroading. You might as well leave the loco shells off if you don’t want to incorporate this into your session. Great fun!

The Empire Strikes Back! 247 checks air in Martin as Silver Bullet One rumbles past (Photo: Zach B)

The roll down the hill went nice, one long smooth gliding warrant, passing Silver Bullet one through Pittsburgh and into Martin. Started switching out my cars incorrectly (off the back, not the front) but a passing Zach pointed it out before I could bungle it (to his credit, Zach was running 414 with a live rear-end helper on the back. See what happens when the off-main professionals get on the high iron? Nobody is asking where Zanesville is (looking at you, Pete)).

A very happy 247 vanishes into the tunnel, bound for Mingo as 414 works the grade overhead (Photo: Zach B)

The rest of 247s run was just brilliant. Highbeamed Silver Bullet One’s observation car all the way to Zanesville. A three -way saw-by at the last-named-point that was fun to watch and every more fun to be a part of. Then on to Cincinnati to terminate. Still smiling!

To return, I ran down an empty yard track to couple onto 298 to run the other direction. Since this was a fast freight, no stops, just a straight-through run. I thought, maybe, that with fifteen cars and the straight alignment up the west slope, I might make it without helpers but no joy – stalled just outside the upper Red Rock portal. Easy enough to back down the helpers, pull me up to Harris where the helpers dropped off (on the station track) and then do a slow roll through to the spiral while running the helpers back to the pocket. And you know what? Letting my engines run blind and at a steady slow speed took the spiral better than some of our operators, who find themselves digging cars out of the loop. I made two trips through and didn’t drop a wheel.

I will admit that we have a crying need for a camera there. It is a little too blind and trusting – I’ll have a word with the board.

Anyway, 298, like 247, was a total joy to run. I’m not going to say that the entire run was flawless.I might have touched cinders here and there. But since I was paying attention to my train, single-wheel drops did not turn into car-pile disasters. But I really enjoyed the session and thank Zack and his guys for reminding me why I manage the building and the dispatching and all the meetings and storytelling I endure. Last night was fun, really fun. And for those who don’t have fun, maybe you aren’t doing it right?

Since Zeus got to practice the entire line last night, we’re going to put him in the big boy seat for June ops, letting him run the entire railroad. Be kind. Expect delays. At least you won’t be running under a tornado watch like we were.

So I was sitting in my chair at the center table with a sloppy smile at the end of the session when someone came over and told me about all the ants in the bathroom, likely driven there by the heavy rains. Got out of the comfy chair and went back for the spray. Back to work.


See, it can be done. Light cars, rear end helpers, a loop and an experienced hand on the throttle. Easy! (Photo: Zach B)

A CSX crew works the Nazareth cut. I’m not sure why – we didn’t switch at all last night (Photo: Zeus H)