At the throttle

Train Blog

October 4, 2016

OpsLog – CNW – 10/1/2016

new position for me. Ran on the basement-packing Chicago & NorthWestern, miles of main line with industry all the way, all fed from the massive Proviso Yard. Zoom in on that yard. Dozens of tracks. Zoom closer. At one side, engine facilities and fueling decks. Zoom even closer. See him? The guy who runs engines out from the shops and puts them on the ready track? And who plucks them off the arrivals, inspects them, services them, and refuels them? Yeah, that’s me. Low-class dirty in my suspenders and grubby ball cap. And that’s what I did – moved engines […]
October 3, 2016

OpsLog – SPR – 9/30/2016

dispatch a lot. And usually I have no problem taking this position. So when we were all loitering in our briefing for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Railroad and the super called for the DS, I was standing there doing my “Ah, shucks, sure, I can do it” modest number when someone snatched it right out from under me. Blink blink. Wait. What just happened? It ended up biting me in the ass, too. I was a heavy coal job straining out of Pittsburgh, entering the main (in hidden staging, controlled by the dispatcher). I called. He cleared me and (supposedly) aligned […]
September 28, 2016

OpsLog – LM&O – 9/28/2016

ou know it’s going to be a bad ops night at the club when you get into the lot and there is one car sitting there, all by itself. You really know it is when that one person tells you that Calypso Yard is dead. No power. No trains can move. Yikes. Calypso is a collective yard on the eastern approaches to our steep mountain district. Cars from several different lines are gathered here, to be tacked onto westbounders boosted through the high pass. And descending trains do the opposite, dropping cuts to be parceled out to other roads. We […]
September 18, 2016

OpsLog – FEC – 9/27/2016

I guess it’s about pattern recognition. When you first sit down in front of Ken Farnham’s FEC control panel, you are struck with the idea of just what sort of idiot you were for taking on this job. I always feel this way. After all, the panel wraps around you, something like four or five feet across, with a bewildering number of toggles and lights and this long, long layout. And once that clock goes hot, everyone wants to move, there are trains marked with secretive red lights (with no obvious indication of who they are) idling impatiently, all wanting […]
August 27, 2016

OpsLog – FEC – 8/27/2016

e all can’t have good days. Well, I had a great day. First, I tugged out a cut of rock cars out of City Point. Ran them down to Frontenac, ran around the train then cruised the layout on greens, a neat run. Also got to brief a first-timer in the Eau Gallie shuffle, explaining the trick of it. And he did just fine. Smiles all around. But then I was on the Buenaventura Turn, a clean run down without any interruptions. Since I’ve done this job before I had no problem sorting out the cuts and putting everything where […]
August 24, 2016

OpsLog – LM&O – 8/24/2016

razy night at the club house. First, after all the work we did on electrical things over the last month, another failure, this time caused (we think) by a bad toggle or turnout motor in Martin Yard. So, rain delay until Fearless Frank and Big Bob could root around in the catacombs and bypass it. If we had to lose a turnout out of the dozen in the throat, this was the best. So, lucky break for us. I ended up on the dispatcher panel again. The night was fun but weird – trains weren’t sequencing like I usually see. […]
July 30, 2016

OpsLog – FEC – 7/30/2016

itting in Palm Bay on a hot Florida day, up in the cab of 208 (a through freight with a sprinkling of setouts), looking at a red board. Not going anywhere. Turns out a train up the line in Melbourne has tripped the new automatic detector, identifying something dragging, hanging, or on fire. So his conductor is out walking the train. And for the thirty minutes that takes, we’re waiting for the line to clear. Finally, finally, finally I see blue boxy engines pushing through the heat simmer, running south towards me. I nod to the crew of the delayed […]
July 27, 2016

OpsLog – LM&O – 7/27/2016

as shaping up to be a good night. Came in and the lot was filling in front of the clubhouse. Everyone cleaned. We had all sorts of improvements ready to try. A bunch of new people upshifted their jobs to more difficult ones. The crewcall sheet filled up. I set up in the office, got everything running, and we were off. A good flow. The Harris Glen summit was packed and along the river route, a general freight, a passenger train and a coal drag chased each other along the winding route. The newbies picked up the warrants pretty well […]
June 25, 2016

OpsLog – FEC – 6/25/2016

nother big day over at the FEC. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and in retrospect, I got some pretty sweet jobs – just easy run throughs with a minimum of switching. And that’s fine – sometimes I like the air-traffic-control nature of dispatching, sometimes I like the stress-puzzle of industrial switching, but sometimes I just want to run trains, blow the whistle correctly at crossings, ring the bell while passing stations and yards, just doing everything by the book. Funny, but my buddy Bob got all the jobs I had last time, the tough limestone trick, the […]
June 22, 2016

OpsLog – LM&O – 6/22/2016

ummertime, and the ops are uneasy… Yeah, summers – we always have a dip in attendees. Our roster drops off. Worse, some of our good operators are off to college soon, so we’re screwed in the near future. It was pretty light tonight – had all the opening train warrant moves figured. Then I got one of the weirder calls from the Mingo Turn, just out of Martin Yard, crossing over to track two to work the quarry. “Snakes on your train?” I had to ask, not sure what I heard from him. “No, snakes in my house. Wife called. […]