After the long flight to San Diego, after breakfast/lunch (watching dubiously as one of our group has an omelet and beer), after naps and dinner at City Deli, it’s time to head over to the sprawling La Mesa Model Railroad Club (located in a museum basement in Balboa Park) and help set up.
La Mesa is a huge place. They’ve modeled the route from Bakersfield to Mojave in 25 scale miles, running it in a simulated 1952 under Time Table and Train Order rules. It’s always a blast to run here – its like a mix of railroading and La Mans, two twelve-hour days running trains with fifty railnuts, operating as close to the book as possible.
We show up and I make the rounds of greetings – its been a half-decade doing this, so I’m getting to be one of the old hats. I ask what needs doing, since all the trains are stationed in Bakersfield and half of these need to be moved to Mojave – no hand-carrying them, they are run, track speed, up to the second floor where the desert city hangs in mid-construction. Given the distance, it takes an hour to move each set.
But no, everything is rumbling along. The newbies are out learning the line.
There is one job I can do, though.
If you think railroads run on water and oil (or the blood of railroad men), you’re wrong.
They run on paperwork.
Thus, I find myself sitting at Famoso, which looks like the muppets backstage because it is – it’s staging, that place off layout that trains go when they pretend to go elsewhere. I’m sorting the waybills, checking them off against their fifty car trains. And when I’ve got them all straight, I pull out a switch list, touch pencil-tip to tongue like a good little scribe and start writing road names, car numbers, destinations and loads. Yes, that thing Microsoft Excel does so beautifully, I’m doing by hand – long lists of data painstakingly written down.
And I’m not even sure how practical this is – these cuts will last shorter than a mayfly’s life – tomorrow, someone will hook up and run each train out to Bakersfield, where the list will be passed to the yard crews and the train broken down into different trains.
But someone’s got to do it.
Scribble scribble scribble…