At the throttle

Train Blog

September 1, 2023

On Sheet- Crowd Fumbling

o I used to play Sid Meier’s Railroad Typcoon . Loved it and stayed up too many nights playing it. It was great to have my own rail empire with little computer trains running through their assignments, flawlessly. So much order and control. And I’ve found that real world model train operations are anything but. To push the positive, model railroading operation on a club layout is one of the grandest games there is. In this crafted miniature world, we run our little trains along agreed-upon rules. It’s a massive cooperative effort, and unlike that lonely solo computer game, everyone […]
August 27, 2023

OpsLog – Tusk Hill – 8/26/2023

kay, it’s easy to cosplay some of our operators from yesterday’s session. Me, I’m the oily guy with glasses, the railroad gopher, usually called “The Professor” in such pieces. I scurry around and do a little of everything. I did just about every job (save dispatching). And usually I was on my rickety bicycle, cranking down country lanes with a satchel of tokens to deliver to Branch, Easton, Westly and Tusk Hill. And then there was Mathis, with a face (with apologies and a smile) that would look perfect under a slouch cap, powdered with coal dust, shouting things like […]
August 25, 2023

On Sheet – Foul Play

omething I’ve noticed on our sectional railroad we take to shows – we let the kids run trains. They have a blast since the signalling system is standard easy-to-understand ABS (which means a train in a block protects itself with a red signal behind it, and a red signal is protected by a yellow signal behind it). But the funny thing is that kids drive their trains like mommy and daddy do their minivans, pulling right up to the base of a signal as if it was a traffic light. “Kids,” I scoffed, laughing to myself. That is, until the […]
August 24, 2023

OpsLog – LM&O – 8/23/2023

eople say that when they run model trains, they go into their own little world. So true. Last night at the club, the LM&O was swamped by membership wanting to run trains. We filled the call sheet. And as we got ready, Frank (who usually acts as a porter on Greg’s passenger train, and who was unemployed under Greg’s absence) came and asked who he could run with. “I’ll make a man out of you,” I told him as I shoved him into the cab of the Shelfton Turn, tossed his bag in after, and settled down on the brakeman […]
August 21, 2023

OpsLog – WAZU – 8/20/2023

kay, so I’m told if you can’t say anything good about someone’s dispatching, don’t say anything. … … <crickets> … … … … Is that long enough? What’s the statute of limitations on this? I will mention that my first train into Umatila (ordered to the siding, and precious to me, given the long wait to get that warrant) had me on approach to find a bank of headlights from two facing trains (it looked like an alien mothership, so bright) shining at me in the early morning hours. Only that checkbox 4 (watch for trains (plural) ahead) kept me […]
August 20, 2023

RIPLog – TBL – 8/19/2023

t’s getting so the “Old Sweats” in the club are outnumbered. At one point, we were the club and when one of us passed on, there would be a full mob at the service. Now we are increasingly irrelevant. With Don Ziesig’s passage, only four of his oldest friends were there. Anyway, so Don did pass and the club received an invite to the service. We were also asked if we could bring a model train thing since it was such a part of Don’s life. We could have brought a sectional layout piece but (a) we couldn’t fit it […]
August 16, 2023

OpsLog – WVN – 8/12/2023

t was a great day on the WVN – a group of three N-Trakers (myself, Kyle and Zack) rode over to Tampa and the wife tagged along (she usually won’t run trains except at the FEC but she has run once before at the West Virginia Northern and the scenery and realistic engine control just makes that railroad the cat’s pajamas so she’ll play). And that we had two other engineers filling out the roster whom I’ve run with before (and know they are good), we had all the makings of a great session. And so that’s what we did. […]
August 11, 2023

On Sheet – Club Duties

very kid (and the kids in us) dream of advancing a throttle and running a mile-long train out of a yard, leaning out of that cab window and calling the signals, checking the flimsies and feeling the wind howl around our weather-beaten head. Nobody dreams of working the hostler job, keeping the boiler pressures up over the long cold night. Or clerking, typing waybills and train orders up. Or walking the track, checking the line. Or walking through the cars punching tickets. There are things that support those god-like engineers that just isn’t fun. Same goes true for being in […]
July 29, 2023

On Sheet – When Things Go Wrong

any of you might remember that incident we had on Tusk Hill (a division of my Tuscarora layout, where we run an English Midlands session rather than a western Pennsylvania one). Here is the disaster report. So the designer/builder Steve (a good friend whose help has been critical in the development of my microlayout) came out to the club (where we keep it) and took a look at it. He checked the obvious possibilities (particularly the solder joints) and after two hours gave up. It would take a lot more work. So he loaded it into his car (yay, microlayouts) […]
July 27, 2023

OpsLog – LM&O – 7/26/2023

ormally Frank runs a passenger train with Conductor Greg, but Greg was out of town and Frank looked like a lost puppy for ops night. From the cab of my idling geeps in Martin Yard, I saw him standing in dejection, so I offered him a run on the Zanesville Turn (with work up to Carbon Hill). “It’s not going to be varnish work,” I warned him. “There’s more to switching work than trying not to spill the passengers’ soup.” But he was game.  Since we already had a warrant, we were first out of the yard, pressing for Mingo […]