Imagine two railroads, competitors forced by narrow river valley geography to wiggle together like snakes in a drain pipe. That gets you in the spirit for John Wilkes’ Southeast Virginia Division, a joint operation of the L&N and Southern Railroads.
Its really neat to dispatch – the two lines cross and recross each other, actually sharing a long section of right-of-way. When two dispatchers work it, they have to clear such moves back and forth, keeping the traffic rolling but not into each other. Today we were short (pregnancies and diarrhea cut back our staff). I ran both desks. Great fun.
There is one section around Goodbee (in the joint trackage) where two shorter sidings form a lag siding, where if you route it right, you actually can have one long passing siding. I remember three decades back where my dad told me about them, wishing that he could site on on his own railroad. Space, of course, kept that from being used. But now I had one right on the panel in front of me. And John, as he passed through the room, half-implied it would be a shame to lose such capacity. If one looked past the fact that it was on prime rails, the shared section that everyone used, it was really low-hanging fruit.
Midway through the session two opposing L&N freights vectored in on one another. I could have passed them anywhere on L&N iron just to play it safe, but that would be inefficient – someone would have to wait. No, Goodbee was dead between them. I angled them in with carefully-constructed warrants to make sure both crews knew which sidings were being used. Wished I could have seen it actually go down, the yellow-nosed diesels edging past one another in the narrow river valley, the turnouts clattering as they threaded past. But I was in the office, reading the next set of warrants to their crews, keeping them moving, getting them on to Tifton and Norton. So cool. I think Dad would have loved to watch it.