t had been an easy light engine movement from Youngstown up to the sand and sawmill spurs. A minor problem – none of the tracks seemed to be carrying any current so I had to resort to strategies of a four-year-old and push my train around manually (Superintendent, please note!). Eventually all that 0-5-0 switching was done, the clock ticked up to go time, the head-end brakeman tossed the manual turnout, and off we rattled with four covered hoppers and five empty flats, down the long grade.
We rolled through Youngstown right on the dot, with me checking my turnouts (I remembered last session and all those incorrectly thrown turnouts. I remembered it well). Anyway, put Youngstown behind me as I entered the spiral tunnel. On my schedule, I had a meet in Long Grade and another in Meadville. I figured everyone was running pretty much on the clock (after all, we were five hours in and everything seemed okay). What’s the worst that could happen?
I was going through the first long subterranean turn when suddenly lights were blinding us. A second later, the nose of an FT smashed into my engines with atomic force! It took a millisecond for the two massive masses to buckle their lead units. I died quick as the control stands, the frame and the entire nose of my geep buckled around me like a massive malignant fist, grinding me to paste. A millisecond after that, all four fuel tanks roared into flames, producing an explosion that blew out of either tunnel end like a blowtorch. Inside the tunnel, the massive contained heat lit the contents of the coal loads of the other train on fire, turning this into a roaring kiln that consumed flesh and metal and even stone, a disaster that would have shut down the TY&E for months.
Something, I think, that the superintendent was in favor of. I think he wanted to show everyone the door after that event.
But with the magic of model railroading, we removed the tunnel top and I gently backed out of my would-be crypt, holding in Youngstown for the coal train to clear. The TY&E executives have ordered me not to comment on the cause of the event, not until the ICC and the NTSB complete their hearings.
So other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
Actually, after we got our catastrophic disaster out of the way, the railroad ticked through its paces fairly well. All the trains ran, everyone did what they had to, and even the superintendent’s craggy face parted in a small grin by the end of it. Had a good debriefing after that, everyone had a final cookie and we all went home.
Actually, I think that was a turning point for the TY&E. We saw a much better operations this time. Most of the turnouts were reset correctly (better than last time, when it felt like something out of The Great Locomotive Chase). Now I’m ready for the next one. You know, after the room’s smoke detectors are reset.
Thanks, JW, for a great time! It was to die for!