o this was a long train day. Or a long day with trains. Or a day of long trains. I don’t know. But I broke a personal record here.
Started off with a nice railroady breakfast (eggs and bacon) severed up by our hostess Andrea (such a sweetie). Then, the railroad belched to life. Crews reported in. John and I went onto the signup board, separate – my bird was ready to shake off its blood crusts and fly. And off he went to run helpers off Tehachapi. And there I sat.
And sat and sat. Last on the board.
Two hours later, at 10am, they came up with a train for me to run. Reported to Lancaster and picked up my power – bitching black widow F-units with sixty-three PFE reefer cars strung behind it – this train was something like 20-30 feet long! Ran it up to Mojave and waited for paper.
See, that’s how this railroad runs. I report in. The station operator and the dispatcher discusses it. The dispatcher checks his paperwork and situation. He thinks about it. He works on several other issues. Hours later (two in this case), he comes to a decision.
During this time John and his engineer (he was a helper) pulled up in Santa Fe paintschemes, also dragging PFEs but 90+ cars in this case (this explains the helpers). Good Lord, but they were long. We chatted. We hung out. We waited. I looked at my schedule and saw one westbound passenger roll by (with a second section somewhere behind him). More time. And more. And then suddenly the operator handed by a wad of paper (six flimsies and a clearance card). I started to read through it, first of several times. Seems like there was a MOW train working the hills beyond Tehachapi who would be flagging for me. And I had rights over second 804 and anything to do with 806. And yeah, that overdue passenger train, he was running one hour and twenty minutes behind schedule. I kid you not – this order came to me one hour and eighteen minutes after his stated arrival time, and I could see his headlight approaching down the line. So thanks for that breaking news. Sure, here he was, just like you said.
As soon as the passenger rolled out, I thumped forward into run 3 and rolled out of the yard, 300 feet behind the rear coach and letting him outpace me on the climb out of the sink. Eventually lost sight of him. Reached Tehachapi and he was gone – and that was as far as I could go. I still hadn’t seen First 804 so I was grounded. Broke in two across the westbound sidings and hung out.
Just about two hours rolled past. Got lunch. Talked to John when he, his front-end units and his 90-odd reefers rolled up. Took a nap. Got some more paper from the Tehachapi operator. And finally, after two long hours, the missing 804 arrived.
Now, this put me in a bind according to the timetable. Train 24 was running quickly towards me, thirty minutes out. And 30 minutes behind him, 52. I was about to his a wave of varnish and wanted to get as far down the tracks as I could. So I highballed out of Tehachapi, rumbling around the long corner towards Cable, picking up speed and calculating how far I could go against the hissing sands of time and damned in there wasn’t that MOW train, poking up the hill, not flagging but in motion.
Luckily he was on the main at Cable when I found him, and I could drop a brakeman to throw the turnout and go around him. But all this get out, throw the bar, get in crap was burning away time, allowing the multiple passenger trains to get even closer. With my pocketwatch in one hand, my timetable in another, I held track speed as I punched through the series of tunnels past Cable. Came up on Marcel – all tracks open. Another time check. 24 would be in Walong (the beloved loop). in 10 minutes. I had to clear by 2, and it would take about 5 to get there. Really, really tight. Held track speed out of the slow waves of Marcel, through the approach tunnel and into the Walong valley. There was the loop, and there were the tracks that run up from Woodford. And no 24 – running late, like that never happens here. So I tucked in and waited.
24 did show up, fifteen minutes late. Turns out a westbound train didn’t sign the Bakersfield registry book and everyone sat around waiting for a train already by. 24 also had a second section, so I waited for that. And finally the tag-along passenger train, 52, showed up, 45 minutes late. Bravo. So off we went, with rights over everything, a straight run to Bena and on to Bakersfield.
I’ll mention that my absolute rights over second 804 eroded somewhat when I picked up new orders on the roll through Woodford. I’d be meeting a section of 804 in Caliente, something I wasn’t crazy about (get out, thrown the bar, get in, and do it again at the exit turnout). But hey, the run was nice, a smooth slide down the long golden hills, around the freight in Caliente, down the river valley to Ilmon and into Bena where a local waited on the center siding. Then highball down the long dual to Bakersfield, picking up 806 just on the outskirts. Hissed out the brakes, got the train stopped, contacted the yardmaster, got directions to the icing deck. After that, took my engines to the servicing tracks, shut them down. Signed the register. Dusted myself off.
Seven and a half hours. That’s how long I ran this train, and that’s real hours, not make-believe fast hours. You could drive from Orlando to Atlanta in that time. I’ve never worked on job in model railroading for that long. But it was fun. That’s railroading, real railroading, and not that stunted stuff we play out. Very enjoyable.
I really had a good time at this session with La Mesa. Next year, I need to push for more people to come. Great fun!