o we want our ops to feel like we’re Riverdance dancers or Power Rangers or something like that – a group of people (and trains) moving in complete unison, everything dramatic and choreographed to the second. After all, isn’t that what those timetable things with underlined meets are all about?
Instead, we’re like a squadron of outnumbered, ill-trained RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain. Sure, there is the yell of Tallyho, the initial uniform pass, a burning Jerry or two. Then it’s confusion and chaos, the wingman gone, weaving in and out of the bomber stream, shooting passing shots and gasping into the oxygen mask, to finally drop the gear and bump across the aerodrome’s grass, to fall from the cockpit, roll down the wing and tumble to the grass, to vomit and shudder at our adrenaline overload.
That’s pretty much what the WAZU session was like. Total confusion and, later, we’ll talk (and blog) about how absolutely glorious it was.
So the timetable was shot to shit within the first quarter of the session (it might as well had been chiseled in the dead Phoenician language for how relevant it was). And like a good air battle, nobody is sure what happened. I think there were two head-on collisions (one in the dispatcher’s goal net, the other an operator overrunning a siding and crashing). And two more near misses when crews, listening to orders being given to trains to proceed to where they, themselves, were idling, who called and asked “WTF?”. So yes, the dispatcher was better this go-round, but he still got his ass handed to him by the end of the session…
Note: At one point, he called for me to come back to the DS office. “Kid needs my help,” I thought, strolling back. He looked up with desperate eyes. “I gotta take a pee.” And while I sat there alone, I moved one train out of Portland, one order, and when he came back he told me that a westbound train was coming up that very line. We gasped at each other, only to immediately get a call that the crews had listened to our shit and arranged for a PPM (a Personal Private Meet) to avoid disaster.
Yes, so it was a total tumble-dry of a session, trains all over the place, radios crackling. But on the good side, the crews did orchestrate around each other (like, well, Power Rangers) and everyone threw each other’s turnouts. We managed to get through it and everyone had a smile while we slumped in the debriefing chairs (like those cool RAF pilots (the survivors, anyway) in their own after-actions). At the end of the session, most of the trains were hours late (one of mine got in twelve hours in the afterwards). But there was pizza and good cheer and memories and accomplishment. I ran a local (my way, Doc, my way), two grain trains and a tanker string.
And to me, it was a great day, indeed.
P.S. In the dispatcher’s defense, I found out that the layout owner actually went back and played the “It’s my railroad” card to get special superiority and move through a traffic jam. Power corrupts, people.