OpsLog – VSW – 3/16/2024

OpsLog – VSW – 3/16/2024

once read a book – Goshawk Squadron – about a maniacal squadron commander in World War One who is drilling his men to be killers. Even in a lazy afternoon aerial drill, his pilots try to get close and pop a couple of shots his way, only to dive clear when he swings towards them. Nobody knows if he’ll shoot back or what. It’s like kittens fighting when the claws come out.

Today’s session on the Virginia South Western was like that. No matter what went wrong and what delays we faced, everyone tried to pop a couple of shots my way. Take, for example, when one train left Norton Yard, descending the helix, only to meet one oncoming (and get pushed upwards) by a heavier inbound. The first thing I knew, Superintendent John comes boiling into the dispatcher’s room, yelling that I’ve killed some of his crews and that I’m facing a thirty day suspension and possible charges on the incident.

A once-in-a-lifetime event – a passenger train rolls through the division. And we delayed it so long, they’ll think twice before doing that again (Photo: Greg K)

“Wait a minute,” I respond, flipping back through a couple of warrants until I located the one for the train out of Norton. The one that clearly reads “Not in effect until the arrival of” and then the inbound train’s ID. “I told him to hold until the line was clear, until that train cleared into the yard. I even explained that he had to hold. Told him flat out.”

“Oh,” replied John, then off he went to address the guy who’d left prematurely – possibly if he was dead, I suppose John was going to piss on his grave or something. But that’s the way the day went.

Of course, the busiest part of the layout is the narrowest (Photo: Greg K)

Over the long session, I kicked out sixty-five warrants to move twenty trains between Decoursey and Atlanta. And all during that, I had a number of issues that got pinned on me, such as:

  • The delays up and down the hills – there was heavy traffic on that line and we moved them as fast as we could. We even flagged to get trains around other trains in an efficient manner.
  • The derailments leaving Ramsey right at the end of the AM session? The turnout failed and wouldn’t throw, regardless of the CTC indication.
  • The yardmaster launching into a crying jag at me? We had an agreement that he’d call me if I had to hold back trains (I don’t have time for “He loves me, he loves me not” train counting). He never called.
  • The delay of the Bumbling Bee northbound (a.k.a Train 52) – The superintendent told me about this upcoming special train over lunch. By then I had no open sidings and the line was clogged with two trains working Goodbee). Yes, we have a critical train coming through… sometime. Maybe in five minutes, maybe in three hours.
  • The delay of the parts train: I like riding bikes. If you can’t get a new car, buy a Cannondale. Oh, and that comes down on the Southern DS’s shoulders – he had a guy working somewhere on the shared trackage who was incommunicado.
  • Two trains that nearly hit at Granfield? That was a crew out of Caywood who was busy taking pictures from the running board and went into the wrong track for the meet (BTW, Photo Credits for many of these nice shots are courtesy of Greg Komar).
  • And those two trains that got detailed running through Edison Jct? … Well, okay, those were mine. I was a little over-eager on the CTC.
  • And hounding Gail about leaving the yard the wrong direction? Well, no, she was right and I was wrong.  At that time I was still a newbie with only a half-hour of experience. Now I’m a grizzled vet.

The parts engineer glares at the camera. Hey, don’t take it personally – I delayed EVERYONE! (Photo: Greg K)

Don’t get me wrong – I’m only bitching because people expect me to on the blog. It seems that I dispatch so much that most people want to witness a patented Raymond goof-up. And these aren’t like spotting Big Foot – they are actually pretty common. But I only list the ones that are funny and innocent. The ones where crews actually perish and it’s my mistake, I go home and stand on the roof under a stormy sky and smoke a macho cigarette, looking into the middle-distance at fate and destiny while my cape billows out on the wind off the darkening squall.

But yes, a lot of times I hide them from the pages of this blog.

But overall, and in all seriousness, I’ll confess that by in large the crews were sharp and didn’t grouse too much at their long-ish waits. There were really no major slips (discounting that explosive fire in the helix – again, it was a Royal disaster (heh heh)). The crews handily worked under flag protection and worked things out on the ground without calling for me. I saw members assisting other members when things became problematic. The comradery was high, the runs fun, and everyone had a good time.

And like everyone else, I was beat by the time we rolled the rails up and called it a day.

A Goodbee Local impedes the flow. Our railroad used more red flags than a Russian May Day Parade (Photo: John W)

Thanks to John for the great session (and Joyce for the bean soup!). And to Jeff and Bob for making the run out with me. Staying awake on the drive home  would have been tough without them.

To all, thanks for that session!


On a clear day… in Norton… you can see a lot of rusting, motionless rolling stock (Photo & Yard Delays: Bob M)


Robert and Donovan locked behind bullet-proof glass, working the VSW call center, passing complaints to each other (Photo: Greg K)

My friends. Bob the yardmaster is getting ready to scream at me. Gail the engineer ran one train on the L&N and defected to the Southern for the rest of the session. Jeff the local hid from me in Granfield all day. And Royal looks at his warrants, wondering where he went wrong. (Photo: Greg K)