OpsLog – TBL – 11/26/2023

OpsLog – TBL – 11/26/2023

ell, it wasn’t the best ops session we’ve had on the Tuscarora. I’m gratified that a number of people drove long distances to be there (107 miles from St Augustine, 68 miles from Satellite Beach, and a drunken crawl in from Tampa at 85 miles). So a lot of people came a long way – I hope they enjoyed themselves. Jury is out for me.

I don’t know where to start. So let’s use the blamethrower – what mistakes do I remember?

The scheduled freight/switching crew was not well versed in switching (which is half his job). You know the Gordian Knot that Alexander supposedly faced? Rather than cutting it in half, the crew tangled it worse. Also, there was the confusion of the whistle posts. On the Tuscarora, I actually pay a guard to live in that little shack near the tracks. All you need to do is blow long-long-short-long on your initial approach, generally from the tiny “W” signs I painted and he’ll leave his shed as you roll by and protect drivers from any secondary crossing you make. That seemed to confuse the heck out of an operator that was already confused. In fact, about 25% of all crews missed blowing at my one crossing. That’s why we put sound in the engines!

The switching engineer asks the rebels smoking against the fence where Jacobs Petroleum is so he can spot there (Photo, ironically, Jim M)

The coal operator had the sheet down, so good for him. However, besides the occasional no-blow, he did run on a scheduled train’s time. He had rights to run ahead from Easton to Tuscarora, but that was it. Was expecting him to hold in town and let the freight train past. Caught him going out the other end. Now, I could blame the leverman on this – he did throw him a green. But then I’d also need to blame the tower operator (and that would be me) for not advising him on the orders that had been issued by Easton Station regarding this. Blame all around. See what sort of a session we had?

The coal operator runs around his cut for the final push into Easton Power. Yes, the crossing guard is at his post off-shot right (Photo: Kyle S)

The leverman did pretty well. I have no complaints for him. Well, earlier when he was acting as station operator he was OSing trains when the annunciator rang (rather than when they rolled by the station). He did take the new (and correct) method of keeping the train order board set correctly through the session – we didn’t have to issue any “no order” clearance cards for a stale train order target.

The dispatcher? We was sharp in the morning. The second shift came on hung over (and it wasn’t a random event). I’ll give him this, hung over or not, he was able to pick up TT&TO dispatching on a microlayout with very little prodding from me. And he didn’t throw up on my train sheet, which is one to the plus.

The station operator? Well, that was me. And I had my own share of goofs. First off, it was pointed out that I misspelled “Pennsylvania” on every TT&TO order we use. How could I miss that? I’ll have to reprint about fifty of the things. Nobody noticed over all the sessions we’ve run (must be almost forty now). And yes, I did fumble about with getting orders hooped up (when I wasn’t knocking the order container off the table for a quick game of fifty-two pickup). I drove the scheduled engineer crazy by calling him out on his grade crossing incidents (hey, it’s RIGHT THERE in front of me!). I also yelled at him to turn off the damn bell, even through he was carrying orders that the bridge was being painted and he had to move through it at restricted speed, sounding his bell. I seem to recall a bunch of other goofs and mistakes, possibly too numerous to remember. My shame is a personal thing, which I keep to myself.

And the interlocking itself? Yes, it gets some blame too. After running a Tusk Hill with no problems a week or two back, in this session I glanced up and saw signal 13 on the repeater panel showing yellow over red. Maybe that’s a railroad signal elsewhere but not here. We had to reboot three times and finally it settled down. I need to talk to the engineer who designed this for me when he’s home from the sea and find out what could be the cause. We did have a car with metal wheels on the turnout (the cursed and damned one I replaced) each time. Could that have caused it?

Yes, I was pretty worn out after that session. But I guess it was good. We got it done in 3.5 hours and that’s target time. But we’ll see if anyone shows for the next one. Then again, if it’s just me, well, that’s what the layout was designed for anyway.


Another load of coal is shoved into the power plant. At the brick works, the workers either accept a newly delivered furnace, ship off an old one, or both (Photo: Kyle S)