ooks and movies never work well if nothing goes wrong. The excitement comes from complications and deviations from the plan. Like in the movie Alien. Would you really want to watch it if, after the facehugger thing got that guy, they locked him down in proper medical observation, saw the seed, removed it, squashed it? Then you’d have ninety minutes of them getting themselves ready for cold sleep, just SOP, nothing more.
Well, in model railroad operations, running the timetable is the goal.
Immediately after our last session in March, Al, Phil and myself took Al’s original written instructions for each train (detailing who a train was supposed to meet, and where) and condensed it down to a very nifty timetable. Before the session I helped give a five minute clinic on how to read it correctly, what it all meant. Engineers were nodding, getting it. Yes, and that’s fine, but it’s when you’re in the siding at Delores, trying to see who you have to meet with people pushing against you, a simulated church bell ringing, and trains tooting all ’round – that’s when the rubber hits the road. Or, conversely, when you are in the dispatcher’s office, trying to keep everything moving.
Which is where I was at.
And that’s where my greater familiarization with the railroad, its crew, its operations, and the new timetable helped out. Yes, we did find some typos but overall it worked. I kept the clever moves out of the session, focusing on running trains to their scheduled meets. For a while, it was overwhelming. And then when #35 was plugging Navajo, Express #1 ten minutes behind him, and two opposing freights clogging Division 1, I thought everything was coming apart. But the crews picked up their calls. They backed out the east side of their towns, and rerolled back into the sidings, clearing the main. #35 cleared the Ute cutoff, #1 spooled up its delays with clearance directly through to Denver, and suddenly we were unplugged and back on the beam.
Even had a cool moment where I gave #122 working Navajo an order to “use all tracks, but clear into the siding at 2:00pm”. Why this was cool was because #2 (running west really late) was firing white and trying to get back on his time. He was scheduled to pass through Navajo at that time. Heard him go by, leaned sideways and poked my head through the DS office curtains, and there was #122 sitting clear with #2 coasting to a stop at the platform. And that, if you don’t know any better, was cooler than cool.
So outside of moving two meets east to accommodate the overdue #1, everything rolled though on the dot.
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