ne of my little model railroad observation is that if you host a session with ten operators and ten things go wrong, each operator might have one problem and see it as successful, but the host sees all ten (and commits suicide afterwards).
Well, today I rather disproved that witticism.
I was in the cab of my usual run, the Sand & Lumber job, a four-movement effort that gets empty flats and loaded hoppers down to Staffordtown, where they get switched out for empty hoppers and full flats. I’ve always enjoyed this job. Interestingly, there is a reefer run I’m also supposed to make (REF2) but either it bypasses the station or some other engineer elopes with it. That’s fine. S&L 1 to 4 is enough for me.
Same deal today. One guy ran the reefers to the midpoint (Youngstown) where I presume they ice or something. I’m supposed to run up on S&L3 and then, once in at the quarry, jump over the REF3 and run it.But the reefer guy was in the groove and wanted to see the run through. So sure, you can run it. It would give me more time to putter around the quarry and put away all my toys.
So I’m climbing out of Meadville having made a meet with another train. I’m just pushing through the town of Long Grade with my wife calling me on the phone – did I give rights to our driveway to some friend for the local plant show? I’m trying to tell her yes, I think I did, when I see REF2 coming down the hill into the lower Youngstown tunnel (thank goodness the top was off or I’d never seen him). Yes, the train I’d given away was now rolling downhill towards me like some agent of kinetic karma.
So I called out to the guy and he stopped. And I stopped. Turns out that he’d jumped the gun out of Youngstown by a couple of hours. I should have been clear before he ran the main.
So I told him to back up and he started to. Then JW (the host) got involved and told him to run down to Long Grade and pass me there. Well, now we find that the back three cars have derailed. And when we try to rerail them (through the access hole) all we manage to do is to knock the entire train on its side.
So things are going from bad to worse. All we can do is carry the cars, engines and caboose down to the track behind me (where access and light is better) and rerail them. Because it’s on a curve and I want to do it fast, I grab a rerailing tool, which makes the group sing their chorus mimicking me because I’d rerailed a car or two earlier (helping others, mind you) and noted that I could do it by feel. So yes, that added to the pressure drop of the suckage.
We’d gotten most of the train back on the track when someone somewhere shorted. A signal went down through the loconet which my engine interpreted as “All Engines Astern” (hey, my throttle was sitting on Meadville, five feet away). Anyway, I’m sitting there and suddenly S&L3 backs out of the passing track, over a misaligned (for me, anyway) turnout. Most of the train derails. The flat cars scissor. But enough of it propels backward to clout REF2 and knock it all back off the track.
So I took a big Zen Master breath. And we put REF2 back on the rails and sent him on his way. Then I lugged all my cars out of the hard-to-reach Long Grade to an area easier to work. And I put everything back on the tracks.
At the end of the session, JW was beaming. He’d had a rough session last time (the high point being the flamingo dance on a caboose). But he was happy. Meanwhile, I am literally leaning against a wall, fingers chapped from all the rerailing, back hurting, wondering how we could have fucked up my trip through Long Grade any worse. But it’s railroading. If the host is happy, I’m happy.
Well, somewhat happy.
(Yeah, those ten issues I mentioned in the first paragraph. They didn’t happen to everyone. They all happened to me!)