OpsLog – Tusk Hill – 8/26/2023

OpsLog – Tusk Hill – 8/26/2023

kay, it’s easy to cosplay some of our operators from yesterday’s session.

Me, I’m the oily guy with glasses, the railroad gopher, usually called “The Professor” in such pieces. I scurry around and do a little of everything. I did just about every job (save dispatching). And usually I was on my rickety bicycle, cranking down country lanes with a satchel of tokens to deliver to Branch, Easton, Westly and Tusk Hill.

And then there was Mathis, with a face (with apologies and a smile) that would look perfect under a slouch cap, powdered with coal dust, shouting things like “Right, Gov’ner. Another run of coal, coming down the line, Bob’s your uncle”.

And Ben, setting his cup of tea down to grip a lever, with his glasses and his smile, his tweeds rolled up around his elbows, watching the trains roll past his tower.

And Zach the tower operator, and (again apologies, but it’s the first thing I could think of) as the angry continental, a short snarling Frenchman who shouts into the phone – “I care not about how you feel, Monsieur Deespatcher, but zee line, she ees no clear, nor shall it be clear in quite som’ time. Now, stop with the bothering of me!” The receiver slams down.

And all I’ll say about our dispatcher was that he probably wore a periwig from which he was tearing tufts.

The creamery in full operation. When this was a brewery, they’d use the hose to empty covered hoppers. In this version, I don’t know – maybe they are milking the cows without unloading them? (Photo: Zach B)

It was an… interesting session of Tusk Hill on our microlayout. In all, it was a bit slower than the usual session – we were running the flip clock at something like 2:1 (a four hour session only got to 10am). And, to offer a kindly criticism (which Kyle and Zach (sacré bleu) and I discussed in the debrief) is that the railroad processes got a bit in the way. Besides passing the tokens like hot potatoes, the communications were a tad slow between the dispatcher and tower. We were only able to get one train to run a loop without stopping (having Zack on the ground to hand up a token from the passing mineral train (i.e. “coal” for you colonials) and fetch the dropped token from the weeds. The shunting was a bit complex (on the Tuscarora, you might have to occasionally move a car to get another (like at the freight house). Here’ with two to four cars at an industry, I had to do a lot of digging.

In consideration, I’ll offer the following note – on the early Tuscarora, I had the idea of simulating the ideal of a tower calling the dispatcher the moment he spotted headlights coming his way. That is a time-honored tower function, to alert the dispatcher of an approaching train, who then confirms which train it was and instructs if orders will be hooped or the board set clear. I mean, it was the first thing I imagined doing as four-person operations became a reality. But it soon became impractical. For starters, one operator (whom I won’t name so as to keep AJ anonymous) would run so fast down the approach that he’d be at the tower before before we could complete our communication. Also, digging out the correct orders and clearance cards took time. Trains always stopped. For this, I eventually abandoned (with heavy heart) this feature and went with a different method. As the tower would be on the party line, they would hear a train being called through the next station (Easton, Westly and Martin) and already have paperwork ready. The dispatcher could even call ahead. And with the announciator bell, they could hold the signals until the train crossed the ten minute run time between the stations (of course, slick tower crews could have the signals set so a train could run through direct). So, while I hated losing this feature, I just had to. And that is the decision Kyle needs to make.

But overall, the guys who came out had a great time. I’ll mention that, with the stress of set up, the four hour session (with me holding multiple jobs) the conversational debrief and having to put things into the car I usually don’t carry home (i.e. a damaged picture frame), I left my throttle bag (with four throttles and two engines) sitting on the bench outside. As soon as I got home, I had to turn around and race back. And then it was Drive Home Part Two. By the time I got home and had dinner, I was exhausted. I fell asleep in the middle of a TV show. Slept something like eleven hours (you should try it, Zach).

Anyway, thanks to the crews for a very involved session. In 2-3 weeks, we’ll try a Tuscarora. Please consider attending!


The Tusk Hill tower operators play token-tiddlywinks while the shunter crew burrows through the wagons (Photo: Zach B)