At the throttle

Train Blog

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 […]
October 26, 2013

OpsLog – CD&P – 10/26/2013

To be or not TOFC, that is the question. The Chicago, Denver and Pacific is big. Bigger than big. Bigger than you can imagine. It’s frankly the largest home layout I’ve even seen. Remember what I said about the TC&C yesterday? This one’s bigger. I was running Train 41, a combo of coal (on at Denver) and limestone (to add at Sedalia). I was on the approach to the latter, walking allll the way down to the end of the long room, before walking down the other side, allllll the way back. I was unfamiliar with the layout so with […]
October 25, 2013

OpsLog – TC&C – 10/25/2013

The Tennessee Carolina & Coast is a wonderfully long and lazy railroad with a bittersweet background story, one I can’t really go into. But even given that, it’s an eye-popper when you enter its basement. The railroad aisle (between sightblocking backdrops) forces you into a corridor, layout shelves to either side, which you follow and follow and follow some more, lost in its convolutions. I am convinced this thing is a tesseract, folding over itself in real space. The runs were fun and very casual, the switching interesting yet not contrived. I really enjoyed it. Nice moment tonight – was […]
October 23, 2013

OpsLog – LM&O – 10/23/2013

Matthew, our cub dispatcher, is certain I’m going to write about him tonight. I’ll bet you think this blog is about you – don’t you? don’t you? (Between you and me, dear Reader, we did have an across-the-division slowdown in trains and a couple of the later runs annulled. But seriously, the kid was running noticeably more in control. I am aware of no cornfields, and he seemed more careful in his warrants. About the same speed, but better than last time). I was on 244, a freight out of Cincinnati, heading towards Bound Brook. Paul was filling out as […]
October 21, 2013

OpsLog – Longwood and Sweetwater – 10/21/2013

So I’m sitting in my little yard goat, chugging up the passing siding with four cars in front. All I gotta do to finish this job oh-so-slick is to take the four cars and the engine out the other end, run down the length of my train, shove everything back together, and home-we-go. So I’m pushing into the tail track off the end of the passing track, pushing in, watching the space between the front car’s coupler and that bumper drain away. And now it’s close, close, and the brakeman in the front swings his hands out – cut! No […]