ery busy night at the club. First there was the work session that went on until 8pm – we worked elements of Pittsburgh, fixed two turnouts, argued about signposts (bit one off in a dare – really), and then designed the steel mill trackage. After all that, everyone left and so I pulled out my Tuscarora Microlayout and had a coal session.
Why? Well, we’re going to have a live session and I’m still working out the card method that drives the coal moves. As noted in earlier blogs, an engineer pointed out that coal felt meaningless – it was just a bunch of runs back and forth. So I thought about that and learned a coal load of coal facts, and then I designed a card system around the idea of coal hauling.
Okay, so after my recent test session, I realized that I wasn’t getting enough runs. To run coal to eastern markets, you need to things. One – coal (duh!). And two – empty hopper cars (located in those eastern markets). So you are trying to get empties west where they can get loaded and then move loads east.
The thing is, bunny hopping single cuts of cars one way or another suck. You barely leave the origin and then you are getting the train order board at Tuscarora, giving you rights to run around your train and shove it into the destination. This gets to be a drag if you are moving one east, one west, one east and so on. No, the elegant way is to get your cards lined up to move lots of cars in one go. Fleeting your trains means everyone but the last one gets to highball through Tuscarora, which is a lot of fun (seeing that train order board drop green on approach is always a thrill). But you gotta get the right combinations of cards to pull this off and the twenty-six or so I’d originally generated wouldn’t really cut it. I just never made the card matches.
So after the last time, I added six more cards that serve as wildcards (three easy MT cuts you can combine with others to run west, and three easy loads that are pretty simple to combine with others). So putting this in raised my strike rate – most of my runs were doubles, and I got some triples too. In fact, I was struck with a dilemma at the end of the session – the heavy tidewater run (the massive westbounder) was ready to roll on time but I was over on the other end of the division with a fleet move of three trains I could run east. The problem was that I couldn’t run those three, then swap over to the tidewater and run those three moves and still have time to get the RS3 back to Tuscarora before going on the law. So I ran the three loads, picked up two Tuscaroras and then scurried back to home base before being forced by law to shut down my engine. But it was a lot of fun and gave me a lot of chin scratching to figure it out.
Best move of the night – was running MTs west and didn’t have any loads for them. Rather than plug the main (for the imaginary freights that would be running against me in a full session) I held the hoppers at Tuscarora for an hour, going to beans while hoping the mines would produce something. And they did, so now I knew what mine to deliver to so I could scoop up coal and run east. So yes, this tiny railroad now has more coal operations that most big layouts.
The only butt-biter moment was a cut of per diem cars being dropped on my at 9pm. I was in the middle of assembling the tidewater and couldn’t deal with them. So I got charged for those cars and took a score hit. At the end, I got credit for moving twelve loads west (thirteen minus one for the per diem). So we’ll see how other coal people do – this Saturday in fact. So watch this space for news!