At the throttle

Train Blog

March 14, 2024

OpsLog – WVN – 3/9/2024

fter a good West Virginia Northern ops session with my friends Jeff and Kyle, we’re rolling home contentedly (from Tampa to Orlando by way of Atlanta, it seems). And while we’re all grinning like smug Buddhas, someone asks, “So, what are you going to blog about, Robert? Nothing really went wrong.” Well, there are moments. One of my favorites was when I was working Ashbury West End and Kyle was Hostler, lugging a massive steam Saturn V out of the roundhouse and onto the turntable, destined for an outbound train. The Keystone coal train had just come in, five hoppers […]
March 12, 2024

OpsLog – TBL – 3/11/2024

uick one tonight. Apparently Steve finally got a handle on the Tuscarora issue. He swapped out the chips under the tower and that seems to have fixed it. Big relief. To test this, I ran a full session by myself, going through the freight paces, working a basic session all the way through. The only thing that went wrong is that my BLI SW-7 (bought from Mike, weathered by Chris) suddenly lost throttle control. I’ve seen this before and just re-addressed. And now, for some reason, the rear headlight is always on. Kyle had hung around late and helped me […]
March 11, 2024

OpsLog – WAZU – 3/10/2024

guess operations can be like getting an old violin in tune. You turn the tuning peg one way and it sounds like a goose being choked (nothing out of you, JW). The other way, and it’s a fart in a wet suit. But if you get it juuuuuust right, the music is beautiful. That’s what happened on the WAZU today. For months we’ve been tinkering with this line, trying to get it to work right. See, the WAZU (simulating high speed rail traffic between Seattle and Portland) never quite hit that right note. The dispatching was too slow, the staging […]
March 8, 2024

On Sheet – Advice (Part 1)

kay, I’m a firm sixty-five years old. Been in the hobby since I was five. Been in the club for thirty-five years and running ops on the layout (the original dispatcher) for twenty-five years. Yeah, I’m a fixture. We just picked up a new kid, looks like mid-twenties. He knows it all and makes comments about the other members openly (pretty ballsy, given that he’s been in the club for three weeks). But the real ass-chapper came last week during ops. Was at the panel (as I usually am). This railroad now runs on high volume – in this evening, […]
March 3, 2024

OpsLog – C&A – 2/27/2024

rouped all my errands down the east coast of Florida into a big pile so I could work them all in one day. And one of these was a visit to Mark Svendsen’s Chicago & Alton Railroad. This one was a tidy little HO layout in a small room over a garage, perfect for two-man operations (well, with John Ligda and myself there, it was three-men, ourselves and host John pulling his hair out at our operational inefficiencies (yeah, I like using those bells and whistles). In truth, this line shows that you can squeeze all sorts of layout operations […]
February 29, 2024

OpsLog – LM&O – 2/28/2024

ake a moment to put it into perspective. The famous La Mesa club at San Diego has op sessions on their two-story (not two level, two story) HO railroad. It’s 25 scale mile s long, runs 16 scheduled trains and maybe the same number of extras (so about 30 trains total). They host this with 30 to 40 engineers. They manage a 25 hour session 4 times a year. Orlando N-Trak runs its sizable N-scale layout with 15 miles of mainline, runs 25 scheduled trains and a possible couple of extras. We run with 25 people, hosting a 2.5 hour […]
February 26, 2024

OpsLog – TBL – 2/25/2024

uscarora has been inoperative for two months now. The interlocking started fritzing; I got the last good interlocking session on 12/30/2023 (Happy New Year!) and then a massive failure in a status run (1/21, aborted). So my electrical engineer reworked the cheater box so that I could run only turnouts, no interlocking effort. And that’s a pity, because that’s where the pike shines. Still, a basic session is better than no session and so my friend Greg came over for the day and we ran the way we did years back; a coal guy, a local guy and a lot […]
February 16, 2024

On Sheet – Mirror image

ne thing about railroading, there are always new things to learn. For example, I remember reading in a rulebook where a switchman, after aligning a turnout to the main, must stand on the opposite side of the track from the stand. I read that and was puzzled. Why such a rule? Finally someone answered it for me – there was apparently some horrible wreck that occurred somewhere when a brakeman aligned a switch to the main for an oncoming train. At the very  last second, he got confused, was certain it was misaligned, and he threw it point-blank in front […]
February 12, 2024

OpsLog – WAZU – 2/11/2024

e started the session with my drive over, running things like I do on my trains in session. I run on time. I run exact. So my drive over involved picking up all the pizzas (five boxes of them – Andy does a great lunch). I was there in the pizza lobby (siding) fifteen minutes before the meet (or with pepperoni, is that “meat”?). Got the pies into the trunk of my Mini carefully. Then a couple of miles along the mainline, over roadbed as bad as the EsPee’s (that is, three miles of constant speed bumps). Didn’t even toss […]
February 9, 2024

On Sheet – Elbow-room TT&TO

ne of the real problems with TT&TO (Time Table and Train Order) operations is the problem of running late. Let’s face it – true TT&TO means that the superior train does not wait for the inferior at meet points – he just blows on by. And given the problems with model railroading, it’s not uncommon to derail short of the meeting point with a superior train and suddenly you are sitting on single track with the Cannonball roaring your way. A lot of people actually shy away from TT&TO for this reason, the fact that under a fast clock, times […]