‘m going to tread carefully on this blog post.
So, like, What the fug?
Tom Wilson opened up his layout for guests of the 2022 National Model Railroad Association Convention. He’d even contacted me a month before and asked if I could dispatch (don’t toss me in the briar patch, right?). With advanced signup and money on the barrel head (I forget how much I paid) we filled up the roster, a crew of nine. It was going to be a great time.
I got there early, had a look at some of his new scenery, then went into the back room (the dispatcher’s hole) to get my paperwork in order. By go-time, I was getting radio checks and crews were taking their stations. The turn out past Avella called for a warrant and we did the little verbal dance, getting him clearance. He’d gotten to his location, another warrant got him around his train and allowed him to do his pickups. I’d just cut my third order for the session to get him up to Mifflin Yard when Tom came back.
“We only have four operators, including you.”
Well, doesn’t that just suck. Tom put a lot of work into this, as did his wife (who cooked up a wonderful lunch for nine people). With four, we were fugged. And not a one of them had called to cancel out. They just didn’t show. That’s only permissible if, after the hurricane, you were floating out into the gulf on the roof of your house. Rude rude rude.
“We need to do two things,” Tom told me while I digested this information. “We need to shut down the entire steel mill operation. No slag trains, no coal deliveries, nothing. We need to just stick with the mainline traffic.” I turned to ask what the second thing we were going to do was but by then Tom had locked a hand around my collar, dragged me down the hall the threw me into the train room. Sprawled on the floor, I looked up just as a throttle was tossed into my lap. “Get to work, clerk.”
So yes, I got to run on Tom’s layout. And given the number of times I’d been there, this was the first time I’d ever turned a wheel on it. I’m always dispatching this line.
But you know what? I had a blast. Ops are ops, regardless of the job. I worked my way up to Avella and back, switching. And then I got to run a couple of through coal trains by. The second one, an east bound coal train, got to stop at a washing facility and pick up shiny clean coals – an inaugural run. The engines might have been a bit heavy for code 55 rails but I still had to use my noggin to get cars out onto the siding – hated fouling the main with my caboose steps and handrails but there you go. Fortunately traffic was light.
We had a great lunch – too much food – but we did eat our share and more of delicious brownies. So, yes, while we were in the lurch a bit, Tom still gave us a great session and has even invited my wife (who wasn’t there, but who met him later at the convention) to come out with us next time. Should be fun!
And thanks, Tom, for just not shutting off the power and shuttering your house in the face of this really inexcusable action.