‘ve got a friend who like to play psychoanalyze-games with me. All of her questions are pointed and reflective. Anyway, the other day she asked, “What was your greatest accomplishment for the week?” I didn’t even have to think that one out.
“I got three trains by at Ramsey.”
As mentioned in my other blogs, John Wilkes Virginia SouthWestern is a great railroad with two main lines. For the Protorails convention, I was invited in to dispatch the L&N and Tom Wilson grabbed the Southern desk. Since the L&N has a higher density, we usually give the CTC panel (kinda an interlocking that handles the two interchanges) to the Southern dispatcher. I just tell him what I need and he does it.
At the session’s start, the superintendent gave me a list of special movements I had to handle. One of them involved Ramsey, a very problematic passing siding that is totally in a tunnel and requires seasoned crews to not run afoul in it (you just have to know that you need to get in past the last visible point and stop, and not try to edge to the far end of the siding). Of course, seasoned crews was not what we had that day – they were all visitors. Anyway, the order instructed me to form a double meet at Ramsey, two southbounds facing a northbound, right off the bat. Tricky. The clock went hot.
The first train, a northbound out of Norton, made the run in good time, running onto Ramsey siding as Tom had lined it up. That meant we could set both turnouts to normal for a main line run. There was a bit of “who’s on first”-ing while Tom and I worked out what meant what when I was requesting turnouts. With one southbound train coming up the helix and another on first contact behind him, I realized that things were in motion now. I could only wait and see what would happen.
Then I got a call from Elbojean (north of busy Ramsey) with a coal crew ready to run south. Possibly it would have been better to hold him until I’d cleared the northbound out of Ramsey; it would space out the trains that would be pouring into Norton Yard. But then I remembered the affinity Dispatchers have for Yardmasters (and all my mainline traffic they block) and I decided, “To hell with it. I’m running three south into Norton, nose to tail”.
With that, I cut the coal an order to proceed to Norton with it not in effect until the second train came past, with him then proceeding at restricted speed, watching for train ahead (so I wouldn’t get blamed for any crushed cabooses). As ordered, he fell into the southbound parade. Once they’d all stormed past Ramsey and were on their way through Granfield, I had Tom reverse the north Ramsey turnout and ordered the holding N&W train north to Decoursey.
Smooth as silk.
And the yard was pretty busy after that.
The rest of the session went pretty smooth. I moved trains north and south. A little bit of a problem right at the end with many trains in the shared Goodbee trackage (and Tom physically threatening me to get the hell out of the way). Of course, I moved the last two north when one of the crews lost sight/control/consciousness and suddenly backed into Goodbee, smacking into a waiting Southern train (I could only look to Tom and shrug – that guy had been a problem all day for me). But we moved pretty much everything and the waits were few and tolerable, so overall I figure it was a great session.
And thanks to John Wilkes for the invite, and lunch. BTW, John, your wife wouldn’t let me pay for lunch. And I didn’t push it.