n these days of Covid, one has to weigh the risk of getting a disease with the fun you’ll have. Granted, I’m not about to jam into a bar just so I can get a watered-down drink and a reminder of how bad the current generation of music is. And my hair really, really needs a cut. But a chance to run on the Komars’ West Virginia Northern (in full masks and even cute blue booties (well, that’s for static but maybe it will help)) is a chance not to be missed.
I was so excited driving over. I can’t be a dispatcher (because they don’t have one). But maybe I could run long coal drags through the high Appalachian hills (just like my own Tuscarora). Or work the industries in any one of their grimy (this is a good thing) coal towns. And when it came time to sign up, the only job that was crying to be filled was… engine hostler?
I usually don’t like running yards – it’s not my thing. But engine hostler? This is the guy who moves engines out of the round house, readies them for the trip, and see’s them off before trudging back to the engine facility for another go. Oh, and there is also taking care of inbound engines, which is the above but backwards.
Like I said, I’m not a yard guy, and engine hostlers hold the yard guy’s coat.
But it’s running trains so I’ll give it a go. I mean, it was a two-hour road trip (on I-4, in interstate worse than a hardened lava flow with lane striping). So let’s run trains.
Had an absolute blast!
One of the cool things is that the railroad’s throttles are set up like a real cab. Trains take a big umph to start and the brakes are a tricky thing. My first set of inbound engines, I was easing them up on the refueling track and suddenly realized that six feet further (six scale feet) was the open turntable pit and a six-foot drop (again, six scale feet, a big deal in HO scale) to the concrete floor. But, man, I didn’t want to trundle a pair of RS’s into a hole and never live it down. Yeah, I stopped short and that’s fine. A mask will soak up sweat really well, I found out.
The rest of the afternoon passed in magnificent busyness. I was running cuts out to their holding tracks, moving engines in, servicing them, and occasionally running west to Huntington, less than six feet away (six real feet, but still). The layout ran smooth, the engines were fun to throttle about, and I even got to boomer on an industrial switcher up at Harris when I was all caught up.
Things really got hectic in the last forty-five minutes when the west Ashbury yard donkey took off for home. Our hostess asked if I’d do both jobs (“asked” is a polite word for it), but sure. Way-busy is fun too. Not only that, I got to actually push cars around. The final coal drag out, I readied the engine, built the cut, coupled up and rolled out of town – it was kinda like “A star is born” but with trains. I really had a good time.
So, yes, it was worth the long road trip over and back, and yes, I’ll gladly do the hostler job again. I’ve run twice there; hostler, helper, coal drag, industrial switcher, through freight – and they are all fun.
I hope they count me in for the next session (because, like I said, I didn’t put the RS into the pit).
Great fun! Great day!