OpsLog – TBL – 4/30/2023

OpsLog – TBL – 4/30/2023

n the dispatcher’s office, just above the 1962 bikini-girl calendar (which covers the official PRR one), the clock ticks 2:00pm.

“OS Easton. Coal extra 8520 West is clear at 2pm”

I look at the radio. The coal extra is running towards Tuscarora? But..

“OS Westly, WE-2 clear at 2pm.”

My stomach tightens. I gulp an antacid. Both trains are racing towards each other for a meet at Tuscarora. Even though there is an interlocking system there, those trains should be carrying a meet order, just to be safe. This is cutting it really close. I grab the phone and call Tusk Tower.

“I heard it on the wire,” he tells me. “We’ll pass them here.”

I hang up the phone and pace. While interlocking levers will keep you from sending a train into another train inside the plant, it won’t prevent an exit signal being set, colliding trains beyond the distant signal in dark territory. And in TT&TO, everything is dark.

A long ten minutes. Distantly, I imagine the annunciators ringing damn near on top of each other, marking the opposing trains both entering the Tuscarora turn at roughly the same instant. The wall clock goes 2:11,

“OS Tuscarora. Extra 8520 s past at 2:10pm, white signals. WE-2 is past at 2:10pm, no signals. They’ve cleared.”

I sink back into my ratty chair, wiping away the sweat.

Tuscarora tower operators line the windows, watching for headlights from east and west, setting turnouts and lighting the signals for a rolling pass. (Photo: Zach B)

Wedged into the Inner Industrial Area, Local-2 is trying to get every inch of slack out of his cut to clear the turnout points and push into the fuel distributor. (Photo: Zach B)

Yes, the session went great, even with the exciting bits (we actually had rolling meets twice during the session, once with an actual meet order) (and yes, the Coal Extra should not have cut it quite that close. If it hadn’t been for interlocking signals and the dispatcher and tower operator communicating their concerns, terrible things might have happened). But then again, it was the first time running the Tusk under actual Time Table & Train Order (and not the make-believe orders we used to use). So we all knew that it was going to be a rough run going in.

Further, I sceniced and ballasted around the turn; nothing like scenery to get in the way of good operations. With all these changes, I came out for set up with a lump in my stomach.

But our crews stuck to it (would you believe that operations on a 2×4 foot layout runs four hours?). One take-away – I need to start bringing in snacks for the sessions, just like is done in a basement-filler. Everyone was punchy at the end.

Also, thanks to all those who showed. We need four operators for a full session and we got six. Mike jumped in and helped with brakeman duties in Easton. And John looked over the Tower Operators’ shoulder and looked queasy. We wanted to put him at the levers but no-go. If we have too many people next time, we’re going to establish a Station Operator job (doing the paperwork) to move the Tower Operator to a leverman position.

Nobody liked the randomized extra train numbering. All that coding. Boo-hoo. Okay, so I’ll list them sequential.

The annunciator worked pretty well. The crews shared a laugh at me pushing the buzzer but hey, it bought us ten minutes of “running time” for each inbound crew. If you don’t know what I’m taking about, EXPLANATIONS ARE HERE.

Overall, the crews ran good in the new system, no major disasters or panics, everyone had fun and the railroad ran as well as can be expected (better, actually, since when I cleaned on Friday, a turnout had been giving me fits). I went home happy.

So, following my >>>BOOK FLOGGING BIT, AS USUAL<<<, I’ll post up some more of my favorite pictures. And thanks again, guys, for one of the best sessions yet. And next time, we’ll run the English Tusk Hill version!

The Easton Turn works a town that looks very much like Tuscarora. All those coalburgs look alike! Another westbound MT run holds at the distant signal. (Photo: Kyle S)

Inside the brewery,, one worker attaches a suction pipe to the belly of the car while the other raps on the car body with a hammer to break up any clumps. (Photo: Kyle S)


Running thirty minutes late, the first train of the Tidewater Extra trio rolls through town, carrying empties as well as deadheading Anthracite coal west (Photo: Kyle S)

A neat switching puzzle: How do you get 200 feet of train down the facing point spur when your tail track is 198 feet long? I don’t think I want to know their solution. (Photo: Mike D)