Doc Andy’s got a double garage of layout, a sprawling run of Union Pacific and Santa Fe from Council Bluffs to Denver. Half of it is shared trackage, half parallel mainlines. It’s massive and fun and impressive. I’m there for the session but I won’t see a single car move.
I’m in the main house, upstairs in the den. I’ve got a timetable in front of me, a repeater clock, the timetable and my computer. On its screen is a schematic of the railroad in Excel with colored cells containing train numbers. I’ve got a radio in my hand and fear in my heart. I’m the dispatcher.
“Clock is hot,” the superintendent transmits.
Now the radio is crackling. Trains lining up for the eastward pull into Denver. Others advance on Council Bluffs. I’m picking up their calls, giving them clearance, moving their indicators on my screen.
UP 2440 at Gibson Yard.
Thumb the transmit: UP 2440, you are clear to Grand Banks, take the siding.
UP 2440 acknowledges, clear to Grand Banks siding.
Things are picking up. The clock is on fast time, twelve times faster, twenty-four hours of railroading in two. After cramming a local into a spur, I shave two passenger trains by at Columbus on the dot, earning a superintendent attaboy. Things pick up as the day rushes past. By 10am, the grade from North Platte up to Denver is packing with trains. I’m bailing them out as quick as I can. A couple of fast rollers, sharpies with radios, are ready for my call and run nose to tail east, breaking the log jam. Yet over in Counsel Bluffs where the lines come together for the run to Omaha, a new jam. I’ve got a local in and out of sidings. Busy busy.
I usually keep spare batteries handy – I can burn through three AA’s in two hours. Now it’s nonstop, a dozen trains moving, each with its own destinations. The host’s wife brings me a coke and cookies. The coke I enjoy, the cookies are a pass – if I’m chewing them, I might miss a call. One train clears, another enters.
And suddenly, like storm clouds clearing, I’m seeing vast holes on the panel. I can long-bomb trains to their destinations now, non-stop. Down in the bull-pen listings, there isn’t anything left. We’ve run it all. I give the last order, sign off (even while the trains are running). This puts me outside the train room as the crews come out. Handshakes all around. A great session.
I smile driving home.