At the throttle

Train Blog

February 22, 2014

OpsLog – P&WV – 2/22/2014

I hate the idea of bucket lists. The thing is, if you are going to have an experience, it shouldn’t be an afternoon thing, something you do once without any expertise or knowledge or appreciation. It should be something you know and have studied and put an effort into. That said, I’ve dispatched dozens of railroads. I’ve run them with everything from mother-may-I to warrants to CTC. But I’ve never dispatched a railroad under timetable and train order (one of the most intensive and tricky ways to do it). And this is funny because I actually wrote code to dispatch […]
January 22, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 01/22/2014

It’s been that sort of day. We had an audit walkthrough today, all across lunch. And the weight measuring group thing didn’t go so good for me. Then that production failure and the process-dripping patch. Just problems problems problems. While driving towards the crete-heap of Oburg with its snarled traffic, I really felt the urge to get off at my exit and just go home, to have dinner and play Spelunky or read or whatever. I wasn’t in the mood for the scheduled ops. But we make our commitments and hold to them, so into the swirling hell of traffic […]
January 12, 2014

ShowLog – Deland – 1/11&12/2014

It’s four thirty in the afternoon and Frank and I have just about exchanged our life stories. It’s after two days of early setup, countless miles of model train running, of hundreds of little kids and answering questions and chatting with model enthusiasts. The Deland Train show always takes some effort but brings in some nice scratch, so we’re happy to attend. The thing is (and I’ve mentioned this before), we’ve got space-age modules now. They set up like a dream, and close up as fast as an umbrella. We can go from trains running to ‘away all trailers’ in […]
January 11, 2014

ShowLog – Deland – 1/10-11/2015

ome math… When I ran a train through John’s scale speedometer, I tended to hit 33mph or so. Given that one slow train (mine) tends to set the pace for everyone on our Jacksonville mainline, we can assume ALL the trains were hitting that speed. Note that this, as well as all my other estimates, are low-ball. There was an average of 3-5 trains on the layout at any time. We’ll lowball with that and say 3. That means, every hour, our three trains clocking 33mph were running 100 scale miles. Or 550 scale miles each day, for a total […]
December 1, 2013

OpsLog – TY&E – 12/1/2013

Big day on the Tipton, Youngstown and Eire – we’re running a timetable that JW and I both worked on. This is the great thing; playwrights feel it. Authors feel it (I’ve been told). The A-Team feels it. A plan comes together. More that a dozen trains moving across the division against each other, kept apart by time and location. No collisions. The railroad functioning as intended, its cargos moved, its passengers transported. But I’m really focused today on sand and logs. See, my train (my baby) is the Sand and Log run. I came up with this run and […]
November 20, 2013

OpsLog – LM&O – 11/20/2013

One of the pivotal (and poetic) moments of history is Sept 15th, 1940 during the Battle of Britain. This was the day the Germans threw their entire bomber and fighter force against the English Isles, and the day the English had everything (including their reserves, as it was famously stated) up. It’s one of those days you see coming, and then the storm breaks upon you. That was the club tonight. When I’d heard that two of our solid operators weren’t going to make it, I thought it was pretty much a wash. This close to the holidays, members start […]
November 4, 2013

OpsLog – Tehachapi – 11/3/2013

Final day of the two-day event. Long, long wait to get out of Mojave – 4 hours (real hours) to clear the yard (protecting me against for freights yet excluding any movement against the overdue passenger train doesn’t do me any good). Missed lunch but ran it down to Bakersfield. The last run was fun – worked with a guy named Jerry who’s a solid operator. We were talking while waiting for orders in Bakersfield – how we both like to blow the horn properly at crossings, do brake tests, stop to throw turnouts, all that authentic railroad stuff. When […]
November 2, 2013

OpsLog – Tehachapi – 11/2/2013

Out of Bakersfield on the third helper engine, a 2-10-2 ATSF steamer sixty cars back from the front end. We’re running as the fifth section of train 804 (meaning there’s four trains in front of us, and another one somewhere behind). And we’re rattling along the flatlands above Bakersfield, 50 mph, highball… …until we saw the ABS signals, yellow, then red. Pull back the throttle. Time to stop. And there is the caboose for the 804 section ahead of us. See, he’s got to wait for passenger train 51. That’s timetable stuff. But we know, according our train orders issued […]
October 27, 2013

OpsLog – – MRWD – 10/27/20123

The Milwaukee Road – Wisconsin Division is a comfortable layout of old-school design that offers some casual (and very fun) running. The thing was, this weekend I’ve run locals and through freights. But today I got offered a run I’d never done before – boats! Or more accurately, ferry operations. I knew a little of what goes into ferry steamer operations but had never simulated it. So here was the deal: I came on site to find a switch engine, a four track yard, three flat cars and a docked ferry (holding twelve cars). The first thing was to receive […]
October 26, 2013

OpsLog – DT&I – 10/26/2013

I‘ve known Terry Harrison for ten years and three layouts. He’s a sawed-off hot-head, an ill-tempered tosser who harangues his operators. He also designs some of the most realistic switching I’ve ever worked. I’ve worked setouts and pickups on layouts that were about as exciting as putting socks into a drawer. And then there are the layouts with owners who are so sadistically clever, they force their crews to work through complicated logic puzzles, as if the railroad is more a mensa club than a working transportation company. But Terry’s worked on actual railroads and knows what they do and […]