oday was a much better start for the day. The crew caller handed me a soup ticket for 56-2, an eastbound passenger that sounded more romantic then it actually was (two clapped out steam engines and a string of mismatched baggage and express cars, real City of New Orleans stuff). And who should I see in the next train over (56-1) then my traveling buddy John. Yeah, he’d be proceeding me up the hill. And another nice guy, he’d be the final section of the parade. So, three friends out for a stroll.
And at train time, off we went.
I followed John by two minutes, riding his ass up the dual tracks to Bena. Came down the long slope and didn’t see anyone there – I was expecting him to wait for 57, the Owl, running the other way (and superior by direction). Checked my timetable and there was a scheduled meet listed at Ilmon for the two, the next siding up. Pulled up to the spring switches at the end of the dual and waited to see the fireball rise over the horizon if John didn’t keep track speed up. The third section pulled up behind me. “What’s the hold up?”
I pointed out 57 in the timetable and the blood drained from his face. “Shit, I didn’t see that. Thank goodness you were holding here” *
But the rest of the run was flawless. We didn’t get any orders, we just ran on each other’s yellows, clicking through the signals and riding as close as possible, the way God intended sections to run. I heard one operator remark in his OS that the 56’s were running tight, which I took as a complement. 56-3 dropped away from the parade at Tehachapi, stopping to toss off his helper. But me, I rode John’s markers all the way down into the Mojave sink, a nice sharp run with a minimum of fuss. And that’s what railroading is all about.
* Before I get too cocky, I did the my own boner at this same place six hours later when I sailed past, thinking I had an hour of free time before another passenger movement and realized I’d been reading the timetable reversed and it was actually a five minute shave. Gulp. So we all have our brain farts…