Dixierails is a weekend ops gathering in Atlanta, ten layouts open for four sessions (Friday, Saturday AM, Saturday PM, and Sunday). It’s a lot of fun and you get to mix with many other operations enthusiasts from all over the country.
So, first layout for me, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Railroad, a nice N-scale. This has some of the best N-scale operations I’ve ever run on.
So I’ve run down to Junction Yard, a short hop over from Cumberland. I’ve got two sidings, one empty, one with the exchange cars I need. I roll down the empty and as soon as I clear the turnout to the main, I stop (so the rear crew can dismount and realign the turnout) and call the dispatcher to report clear. The phone is humming with all the chatter of crews up and down the division – the dispatcher is being hammered. When I get my break, I report clear and ask for the main again for a run around.
“I’ll call you back,” I’m told.
Ten minutes and two trains later, I get my clearance onto the main. Moving with the momentum of first-gens, I rumble out onto the main, back down the length of my cut, then swing back in to couple onto my take-away string. The crew is seeing to their activities, one brakeman dropping down to hook up our airhoses, the next running forward to realign the turnout to the main and me, I’m walking across the station planks to get the phone and call clear. I’m in the doorway, reaching for the phone, and suddenly there comes a clatter and a roar as a first class passenger train streams past on the just-vacated high-iron, the lights of its windows flashing between our standing freight cars. And in this flickering madness, my crew and I exchange glances. We were clear yet hadn’t called in that fact yet. The dispatcher had rolled high speed varnish down on us while we owned the track. We could have been killed.
A few minutes later (and at the same place, once I’d vacated), my friend Jim had the same thing happen.
It’s a dangerous life we lead, out here on the SPR.
I lived today. Tomorrow, we’ll see.