rinding into Harris Yard after the long ascent up the mountainous grade above Elkview. Rumbling under my metal unadjusted (inside joke) seat is the first of two GP7s (after a mixup at Ashbury left me standing at the ready track, litter rustling around my feet, no engines). Haivng been reassigned these fine units, I did the in-and-out switching on local 252 easily. So now I’m in Harris with a coal train idling next to the unloader track (the crew hunched over their orders) and a red board on the Clifton Forge line, denoting a wesbound arrival.
I’ve only got a couple of cars so I use the Blackstone line as my drill track, dropping my cars as instructed. Flip the number boards over to 253 for the return trip. Now I have to run around and get onto track five where the return cut to Ashbury is waiting, crummy on the back, the smell of coffee issuing from the open windows (as we roll past on the siding, the conductor hands up two green WVN cups to my brakeman).
And now it’s an interesting action-filled yard – a coal train is rumbling past on the main, slowly outstripping us as we parallel down the siding. I’m going to let him clear in front of me so we can swing out onto the main behind him and collect my return cut. Over yonder, the coal train at the unloader is tending to business. So yes, three trains moving in concert in this small rugged town – a delight to watch and be part of.
Soon enough, the marker lights of the coal train are into the tunnel to Elkview and we’re right out behind him, using his signal to safeguard us as we pull just far enough out to swing back onto track five. Smooth couple and we’re out of Harris, edging down the long twisting main, squinting over our coffee mugs into the setting sun as we watch for that westbound coal. We’re almost to the steel trestle when we spot the fusees burning between the rails.
“They’re working Elkview,” my brakeman observes. “And they aren’t going to do us a favor and let us go by.”
We let the fusees burn for a bit and then nose our way into that tunnel into Elkview. There we find a cut of empty hoppers on the siding, freshly set off. Ahead of us, the coal train is vanishing into the tunnel. Red light flares in the portal. “More fusees. They’re going to work Darby too. Guess we’ll wait.”
I bring the GPs a stop, just clear of the Elkview crossing. And we wait.
Finally we roll through Darby as the night deepens. More droppings, MTs on the siding. The coal train is clear, down the Madison Branch. Finally we can open up to track speed, running river-level through New River to Ashbury. Our mugs are long dry. Maybe we can get another cup from the yardmaster’s office…
All this stop and go-ing was fun, of course. I always enjoy running at the Komar’s. And it put me into the right mindset for the horrors of homebound I-4 and the real-world stop-n-go I’d face. It took about two hours to limp home, very engaging with a manual clutch. But I always enjoy their session and look forward to the next. Maybe I’ll try heading home via Miami or something next time…