At the throttle

Train Blog

September 9, 2022

On Sheet – Diesels and Drawbars

ot a friend who shares my interests, in railroading and operations, but also in gaming. Both of us have designed and sold games in the past. Both of use have run roleplaying games over the years. For those readers among you who don’t know what a roleplaying game (or RPG) is, it’s a game where one player controls the world and tells the story. The other players (controlling characters with attributes generally randomly determined) listen to the descriptions and work together to express their actions, take their chances and pull a heist/kill a dragon/save a princess/gain lots of money. As […]
September 5, 2022

OpsLog – WVN – 9/3/2022

‘m in my hard wooden chair in a West Virginia Northern caboose, my coffee sloshing about my green company cup as I ride the rough rails down from Clifton Forge to Harris, a line of WVN green boxes banging along. I hear the head-end throw an uneasy four-note whistle as we reach the engine house grade crossing just outside of town. The engineer in the iron seat up front is a newbie. But it’s not what you would expect, not some gnarled tobacco-spitting local boy made good, no. It’s my wife. JB came along with me to run on the […]
September 2, 2022

On Sheet – Away Game

aybe this whole idea of operations seems too confusing and complex to you. You’ve got to figure a train timetable, jobs to be filled, a freight forwarding system, a crew-call system, so many things (I’m not talking you into this, am I?). So, if you are facing this daunting challenge, why not see if you can horn your way in on an existing operation session? Maybe you can wallflower and watch, sure, but any good host should push you in (presumably with an easy newbie job). But how to find a session where you live? There are many places where […]
August 28, 2022

OpsLog – FEC – 8/27/2022

‘ve been waiting to run on the Florida East Coast since forever. Well, since two weeks ago. Yes, that is when our club ran this line, as reported HERE. But yes, I wanted to run again. So we drove all the way to Palm Bay, met with people, I trained a new dispatcher, then my wife took me aside and told me her sister (who she was with on Wednesday) phoned her with the news she is positive with Covid. Da fug? We had this conference on the host’s front porch. Going back inside (with masks now on) we confessed […]
August 26, 2022

On Sheet – The Straight and Narrow

p front, I’ll admit that railroads made most towns. The rails would come through, the depot would be built, and then “Railroad Avenue” would parallel the line. The town grid would firm up off this, buildings in line with track, everything lain down as if on graph paper. Historically accurate? Sure. Interesting? Um…. Too often, small railroaders with limited space instinctively snap their sectional track on a bead two to three inches from the forward edge. And their town naturally follows, with ninety degree corners in the streets, everything placed to parallel the sides of the layout’s edge with geometric […]
August 25, 2022

OpsLog – LM&O – 08/24/2022

n the bad side, there were a number of near collisions, several (that I knew of/experienced) LAP orders, some running without paper, a lot of phones clutched to numb ears, a big boo-boo in the yard, and a passenger train that ran a half-day late. Okay. But on the good side, we did run all the freights, all the locals, all the coal and ore, and got to experiment with delivering cars to the Nazareth turn (well, now we know what doesn’t work). We started a little earlier and had a lot more people working throttles at the end. Everyone […]
August 19, 2022

On Sheet – Cork it

was at a local session a friend was hosting a while ago. And yes, I agree that model railroading can be, at times, frustrating. One of our members was having problems backing a cut into a siding – had a couple of derailments (and guess what – if you are in N-scale, get used to it). But he wouldn’t suffer in silence, no. He crabbed and carped in his frustration. I looked around and the host was catching every word. Told my buddy (as politely as I could) to cool it a bit. I guess nobody takes my advance. A […]
August 14, 2022

OpsLog – FEC – 08/13/2022

keep telling myself that I need to write a fun piece about the Florida East Coast where we ran operations today. But the owner/dispatcher looked exhausted after the session – he’d not dispatched in over a year. On the line we had ten operators from Orlando N-Trak, and even with our skills on the LM&O under warrants, this was an away game and the first time for these guys. The room was tight, nobody knew where anything was and how to do anything, and at one point the rain was hitting so hard I felt like we were going to […]
August 12, 2022

On Sheet – IDing the Perp

ne of those problems you might face on your first op session is where everything is, industry-wise. Sure, your waybills/switchlists/tabs might dictate that a car be dropped at Amalgamated Antimatter but it’s one of a dozen industries on your pike. How do your newbie crews find it? Well, there are many ways you can do this, all of them with pros and cons. Written Instructions: Sure, you can provide documentation for your operations, but generally one operator in ten will read them (and that’s only if he’s bored). Obvious Building Functionality: A fuel distributor and a stock pen are pretty […]
August 5, 2022

On Sheet – The Art of Operations

o I’m reading Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War. The applications of this are very interesting – just about every management style, political book or hobby how-to (from archery to gardening) makes an interpretation of The Art into their aspect. So let’s take the opening description, the rule atop all other rules, and apply it to hosting an operations session. After all, in this regard, you (as the host) are “the general” and your operators are your troops. And let me say that I apologize for any miss-interpretations in advance. I’m not that good a Taoist. So, the primary rule states […]