sually I want to relate something that happened to me, usually if I’m brilliant, but pratfalls are posted as well. I’ve mentioned my mail train surprise (my fault) and my caboose-in-the-face (not my fault). But here’s one for someone else.
Paul Lator hosts the great Southern Pacific Coast Line, a fun railroad with CTC but really tight aisles. I’ve run over there for years and always had a great time. I can mention that I’ve watched people crash and burn here. Relevant to this story is the San Luis Obispo yard, where someone (I’m talking about you, Greg Wells) delayed the US mail in its RPO car for six hours (and then got the wrong car hooked up, to boot). It’s a busy yard, jammed in a corner, a bit of a bender for the most experienced operator.
So Paul recruited me to run his dispatcher panel for the final Sunday session, a job I was more than happy to fill. Matthew, frequently referenced for his butt-monkey moves in these pages, took the SLO job. The clock went hot and off we went.
I wasn’t having the best of days. I had some problems with some of the signal settings. And Santa Barbara yard and I had a difference of opinion of where trains should be stuck. Worse, about a quarter of the way through the session it became apparent that the staging fairy had been drunk on moon juice the night before – my detailed staging instructions suddenly looked like hopeful suggestions, then wild accusations. Something was off, and as I moved trains into whatever tracks were available, we got offer and offer.
I also realized that CTC without a train sheet is dicey at best. Without a reference as to which little lights were who, I lost track of trains. Several times I had to ask for “the train at Browns Crossing to call the dispatcher”, a clear sign I had my head in a sock. Hoo boy.
And let’s not talk about the detector lights going into SLO, where track one trains were illuminated on track two, and vice versa. That tossed me off, too.
I really wanted to have people admire my godhead like that earlier session on the SPR but I didn’t shine that day, no. Really, everyone shook their heads with pity and a few gave me a couple of bucks to get myself on my feet. You lose some, you know?
But it was only later, upon reflection, that I realized that unlike the DS or Santa Barbara yard, SLO yard ran quiet. Trains came in. Trains were ready on time to come out. I even got advance warnings for departures and requests to occupy trackage past the limits (a trick Bob Martin could learn). Frankly, SLO was not noticeable because it ran so well.
Of course, being Matt, he had to end his trick with the flashy move of shoving a caboose after a departing train with his yard switcher, neatly coupling it on the roll. This would have been even better had that same train not immediately derailed over the Sagus turnout which he’d neglected to align correctly. But that’s Matt.
No, I gotta give the guy credit – he did a lot better than the older, more knowledgeable SP hoggers. Even with that Sagus move…