e started the session with my drive over, running things like I do on my trains in session. I run on time. I run exact. So my drive over involved picking up all the pizzas (five boxes of them – Andy does a great lunch). I was there in the pizza lobby (siding) fifteen minutes before the meet (or with pepperoni, is that “meat”?). Got the pies into the trunk of my Mini carefully. Then a couple of miles along the mainline, over roadbed as bad as the EsPee’s (that is, three miles of constant speed bumps). Didn’t even toss a mushroom. Pulled into the lot, drove over all the crazy drain-sinks, and got to my spot. Shut down my “unit”, got out, unloaded the trunk, and holding the pies with one hand, swung the trunk down. It caught the corner of the pies and knocked two of them to the grounds. Those pizzas were obliterated in the crash. Looks like I damaged the load with sloppy train handling. Still blushing and possibly facing a write up.
In my defense, they were supreme pizzas, so who cares? The pepperonis are the preferred pies. And further, our ravenous crew ate them up anyway. Lasagna, sure.
Anyway, because I’d been delivery boy, I got to be dispatcher. While Doc got the crews in order, I wrote warrants (he wants his locals all operating right at midnight, getting into position for their runs. After that, it’s MMI (mother-may-I). Kinda like the Espee, too.
I’ll say this; I was busy the entire session. Most of the crews were attentive on the radios (though if they want rights, they are a lot more attentive then, say, when the clear into a yard). But everything hummed along pretty well with me moving trains pretty quickly.
A couple of notables. One member (who will remain nameless but, heck, everyone knows who he was) ran a long oil train. With his mind on the Super Bowl, he ran at least two stop points. And when you are running a train that won’t fit in most sidings, that isn’t good. I’d told him to stay on the main at Hinkle Yard so I could get two westbounds into the yard, but he overshot and went to the next siding (where he fowled the trailing point). Because there were two, one could stay and one had to back to the next siding. The event further up the line was similar. You know, it’s pretty ballsy to be cavalier when transporting a million gallons of blow-up-juice. If he does collide and blow, well, I’m protected in my sheetrock bunker, on the other side of the wall.
Then we had the host who ran train 97 west. Now, I was making a special effort to get Amtrak across the division quickly (and in that, I did as well as I did with the pizza). But 97 was behind another freight with lots of traffic ahead (including our wayward tanker train). I told 97 to stick to the markers of the train in front of him (an old dispatcher trick – run two trains close and they handle as one). So I got the freight through the mess and ordered him into the Walla Walla siding. Then I told 97 to “fly, my hawk-like friend. Fly like an arrow to Hinkle, Biggs, and on to distant Portland!” This would have been so cool – a passenger overtaking a freight and then highballing through the early evening. But he didn’t answer. Then I called the freight and told him that he could follow the passenger to Hinkle Yard, where he had work off my main. A few minutes later, the freight called and said there was no passenger train in sight. This ended up with me calling 97 on the overhead, trying to find him. Someone saw his train sitting further back than it should have been. I called Doc again. And again. And then on the monitor camera, I saw him standing in the crew lounge yacking.
The last time I was treated this bad, I was dating.
But I guess all this ended well. All the pizza got eaten. All the trains got run (and while they weren’t really on time, they were a little better than their traditional lateness. We finished the session (other than a couple of scurrying roach runs) at 8pm.
Kudos, by the way, to Pasco Yardmaster. In a moment of painting-into-the-corner on my part, I needed to pull a siding out of my ass. Pasco was right there and the YM let me run a train through (had we been thinking it through, we could have used the coal wash racks to give them a nice shine). But that saved me some embarrassing back-moves, so it was appreciated.
The debrief was a bit of a surprise. I wonder if a ranking neurosurgeon has ever walked into a surgery debrief to be critiqued by the lowest nurse? It was kinda like that. Running a railroad that operates in tight quarters with crummy radios and wandering operators is kinda like driving a team of horses with a wagon full of pizzas on the Oregon Trail. Without the structure of warrants, sometimes I need to explain things. Without explanations, there can be mistakes. I want no mistakes. So piffle to that criticism. Maybe next time I’ll suck down helium and talk really fast. Would that help?
Outside of the amusing anecdotes, it was a great session. A lot of guys ended up doing local switching, a skill that can really help them do similar work on other railroads. We ran that railroad fast and hard, and in the end, all that was left was a single slice of crushed supreme pizza, cold and unwanted in the oil-stained box.