t’s been a half year (I figure) since my last run down to Al’s (last time I’d suffered a hernia and didn’t want to sit in a car for four hours). This time, my physicians cleared me for light Station Operator Duties, so I reported to the Delores office (as well as Placerville Jct and Dulcie), grabbed a stool and a radio and managed the railroad from the cinder-roadbed level.
I suppose that’s why I like this job – it can make a difference. Sure, a dispatcher and a yardmaster can make a railroad run smoothly (and everyone wants those jobs). But a station agent can really keep a railroad running evenly as well. Handling the three central stations, I was dealing with every train through. At bare minimum, I would call their times through so the dispatcher could track their progress. But to be truly effective, a good station operator needs to be more than that. I’d help the crews by checking the timetable and spotting potential conflicts (like when they stopped to set out cars). Also, when I could, I’d help the crews with derailments (after fifty-five years in this hobby, I can put cars back on their rails quickly). And really, having been a dispatcher, I know what the dispatcher needs reported. I work as his eyes and anticipate his questions.
And I do all this, even when they don’t follow official railroad radio procedure.
So I clocked the trains through and kept everything running as smooth as I could across two divisions. And outside of one guy who ran a train off the siding out of my town without aligning a switch and putting every wheel into the cinders, I did pretty good.
One strange thing – near the end of the session, was working at Dulcie and train 122 (the Navajo Turn) came in. That gave me pause. Bruce used to always run on that train and it was a little sobering to see it go through without him. Still, we have our hopes that he’ll return to our rosters eventually. But it’s not the same without that little guy passing me in the aisle and giving me a nod as I call him by. And the car ride is longer, too.
But a good session, probably the best we’ve had. Thanks, Al & Crew, for permitting me to run with you guys.
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