OpsLog – Tusk Hill (AKA TBL) – 09/10/2022

OpsLog – Tusk Hill (AKA TBL) – 09/10/2022

ell, this is one for the books. Train-buddy Kyle (who has English sympathies) chatted with me after our last Tuscarora Branch Line and proposed an interesting idea. He loves interlocking, especially English interlocking (to go with all his English trains). And while all I’ve got is Yankee interlocking, we decided to give a try to running my layout with English rolling stock and engines. So we set up a run with a four-person crew and gave it a whirl.

Peep-peep, goes Thomas. The day opens in a quiet English rail town thousands of miles from Pennsylvania (Photo: Kyle S)



First off, Kyle’s equipment ran pretty flawless. We’re talking quality stuff. So those little steam engines, they could handle the heavy traffic of the Tuscarora (sorry, Tusk Hill). They had a bit of trouble navigating the tighter turns but hey, one thing about English equipment, it rerails quickly!

So we had our special day, including short up-to-London passenger service (Kyle remarked that my abandoned station was hardly the place to drop passengers at). But we ran the tea kettles and had a lot of laughs.

Zach joined us in the run. He’s an accomplished operator and had the interlocking figured out (just peeking through the windows, evidently) so that he could tell the operator what levers he had to pull, and in what order. I thought Kyle’s interlocking debut was impressive, but Zach shocked me at how quickly he absorbed the lever actions. I’m feeling old now.

Zach in the literal thick of things, switching from the middle of the cut (Photo: Kyle S)

Of course, speaking of old, Greg did his second session as towerman and was a bit on the methodical side. We got through the session okay but it took a bit longer than our normal run (four hours rather than two-and-a-half). Poor Kyle – I don’t think I’ve seen an engineer amass so many clearance cards for getting a red board with no orders. I think he was just burning them as fuel.

And while we’re on the topic of delays to the session, I got a little… um, whimsical on the amount of special coal moves I required. Normally I’ll specify one Bexley run and one hopper drop. This time I went with three hopper drops. That meant that poor Zach was getting additional cars to switch (when three cars in tight switching is barely do-able, adding another tips the scales to impossible. In fact, near the end of the session, I told them to ignore the two hoppers left up at Bexley. Digging them out looked like a tedious chore and I think (after four hours) that the session was winding down.

But that’s the thing; even though we ran a four-hour session, the guys all stuck to their posts for which I am grateful. We had a fun time running Tusk Hill. My takeaway is that I’m going to start enforcing mandatory job switches at the half-way point. Then maybe I can get out of the dispatcher office and show those kids how to make the interlocking dance (I might have just made an unwise dare here).


The coal rolls towards Easton, in mini-serving sizes! (Photo: Kyle S)