OpsLog – WAZU – 3/10/2024

OpsLog – WAZU – 3/10/2024

guess operations can be like getting an old violin in tune. You turn the tuning peg one way and it sounds like a goose being choked (nothing out of you, JW). The other way, and it’s a fart in a wet suit. But if you get it juuuuuust right, the music is beautiful.

That’s what happened on the WAZU today.

For months we’ve been tinkering with this line, trying to get it to work right. See, the WAZU (simulating high speed rail traffic between Seattle and Portland) never quite hit that right note. The dispatching was too slow, the staging wasn’t working out  (arrival tracks were still occupied), the locals were in the way, the radios roared and the room volume was terrible. And we tried this and that and this again.

Hinkle Yard, as busy as it’s ever been!

But this time, suddenly, it worked. We had a pre-brief so the crews knew what was going on. We started carefully, without chaos. The locals were already at their switching locations (the idea being that at the end of the session, the next day’s locals would head out of the yards). The train markers on the dispatcher’s board contained critical job and final track information. And in an interesting ripple effect, I changed my dispatching style to something I’ll call “dis-fasting”, which was a quicker way of dispatching (a focused version of mother-may-I in a track warrant format). This meant that all radio calls were a single sentence, do one thing and only one thing. Shorter radio calls, less noise, more enjoyable ops.

It worked so well, I actually got the eastbound Amtrak in on time (the westbound didn’t get crewed up in time, but he still ran briskly across the division). Glancing at the times, the trains were mostly holding to anything from an hour ahead to two behind. We got the last couple of trains across the division by 8pm, which gave us four hours to get locals out.

A manifest train stampedes across the division, blurred not from depth-of-focus but velocity!

I know birthday-boy will chide me if I don’t mention it, but I almost ran him head-on into another train. I was rushing the session at the end and managed to catch him right at the point where the other train was entering a yard. A miss is as good as a valid excuse.

Even with a slightly reduced crew, everyone ran with a full commitment to make the session shine. There were no “one and done” operators out there. Crews moved fluidly from train to train as I needed crews. If a train would approach the end of the division and his staging track was still occupied, I’d pull them into the last siding, have him jump ahead to staging and run the blocking train out to the main where the counterpart was waiting. Then we’d run the holding train in. Then back to the outbound and run it the rest of the way.

We ran literally everything on the books other than the Walla Walla local (which Greg picked up in the literal Eleventh Hour).

Unlike our usual wakes we held instead of debriefings, the guys were laughing and talking about what had gone so right for us. Looks like the railroad is operating at peak form now. Can’t wait for the next one.


All Photo Credits: Dan Lott

In the background, Yardlette Bob runs Pasco for a great debut. Meanwhile, Mike looks around for one of his many runaway trains.

Why trying to work a train issue in a tight low-clearance staging yard is not a great idea. Thanks for photographer Dan for getting this on the rails (and catching the moment).