OpsLog – WAZU – 4/21/2024

OpsLog – WAZU – 4/21/2024

guess it comes from bumming around the Netherlands for two weeks. Everywhere you go, you see trains zip past. And Central Station in Amsterdam has more rail traffic in and out that a Christmas tree layout. Every five minutes, a sleek blue train from the Dutch Railways bursts into the sunset, flying across fields and vaulting canals.

And here, we just crashed a couple of trains at Folkston, GA, in what sounds like a complete stooges act of train safety.

But those Dutch trains – poetry in motion.

(Photo Credit: Me, of course. Haven’t you been paying attention?)

Look, for American railroading, Doc Andy likes creating fast lines. It’s Union Pacific all the way, with two or three massive engines on the front and unit  trains of oil, coal, grain and army men being carried across the rocky deserts between Spokane and Portland (is it rocky desert? I’m not sure). Anyway, until recently, the WAZU has run kinda… haltingly. Trains waited in sidings forever. Trains stacked out outside yards. And there was that time Amtrak 22 abandoned its passengers in an industrial yard. Yes, anything but fast.

Busy day at the pulp plant with trains passing on the main and siding, and another train working the sawdust mounds. (Photo: Zack B)

But we’ve come a long way. The crews finally know where everything is and how to get trains in and out of staging. Everyone knows where the places are. All the jobs are competently filled. And on the office side of things, I’ve finally learned how to get the giddyup out of dispatching. Now the calls are quick, the crews sharp, and the trains move.

It was funny – we were tracking the Amtraks across the division. They were running three hours ahead of timetable for most of their runs. Yeah, that’s great for us at they plunge through the desert vistas (still not sure about that), running like thoroughbreds. I don’t know how the people standing on the platforms felt when they found that their trains were by hours ago. But damn, it was fun to run them with that level of advance.

Curiously, Amtrak Greg was running them remotely. Racked up with a replaced knee, he took a seat back in the dispatcher’s palace and ran his trains remote off the multitude of video screens Doc has set up. Apparently I’m supposed to be using them to dispatch, but mostly I just keep an eye out for nosepicking. But Greg rolled across the division from my room, watching his progress across the many screens. When he got to the end, we pulled the next Amtrak out and he swapped trains and ran all the way back.

That was what impressed me the most. Most sessions, people tend to be compartmentalized in their jobs. On the WAZU, most people will juggle between jobs, often holding their train in a siding to go help pull a train out of staging to clear for an arrival. That’s what makes this whole furious schedule possible – everyone moving whatever trains need to be run. I don’t think we had more than a minute or two wait for staging-clearance all day.

That being said, I now how my next goal. Next time, I need to keep my timetable firmly in front of me (and not let Greg cage it off of me). I need to start slowing down the session, taking time to make trains meet where they should meet (rather than where it is convenient and expeditious for me). It used to be that we ran hours behind. Now we are hours ahead. Just like the FEC, we’ll need to slow down the action.

An Amtrak drone meets a grain train at Hinkel bypass. (Photo: Dan L)

Other than that, it was a fantastic session. Any session you can drive home from with a smile on your face is a good session.

But it does make for a tough blog to write.

Of course, there was that goof John did…


Dan L works an industrial area so sprawling, it looks like something out of the novel “Railsea”. (Photo: Dan L)

An intermodal finishes up in Cheney and prepares to blast off for Spokane. Pictured at left: Bob K’s ponytail. (Photo: Dan L)