At the throttle

Train Blog

February 24, 2011

OpsLog – LM&O – 2/23/2011

I’m edging out of the haller at the Carbon Hill spur with a rusty cut of boxcars. Behind me, the setting sun glitters of the tin roof of the Champion Mine processing plant. Atop the embankment I’m climbing along, freight 247 squeals to a stop on the main, hissing like a leaky ball. I ease up to the turnout to enter the main just past him. While the brakeman scrambles down to lean against the switch stand, I ring the dispatcher. My orders are to hang out for train 68, varnish eastbound. Already I can hear his bell ringing up […]
February 21, 2011

OpsLog – Chicago Union Pacific – 2/21/2011

Tonight’s session found me running Chicago’s primary yard, a busy place that forwards loads to Proviso, North Platte, the coal fields and, eventually, Cheyenne. Yard working isn’t my big cup of tea. I can do it, I’m okay at it, but there is always that busy-and-now-interrupted feeling as trains barge in while I’m in the middle of shuffling a cut. Worse, I wasn’t on my game tonight. Twice I broke trains down and sorted cars onto receiving tracks, popping their identifying paperwork into the matching slots, only to find out I’d screwed up along the way. There is no gut-clench […]
February 19, 2011

Live or Memorex

How serious should modelers get with following their prototype? My first layout, Donner Pass, was correct in that it had pines and a mountain, and the names of the towns matched. I ran SP equipment (from all eras) and really didn’t worry about it. But it started bugging me. The more I learned the railroad’s history in that area, the more it chafed. I considered a change. Then, on a stop during a cross-nation train trip at the small Californian town of San Luis Obispo, I got out to walk the platform. And here I was hit with a sense […]
February 15, 2011

OpsLog – Pricthard & Charlotte – 2/15/2011

Nice to see the Pritchard & Charlotte up and running. Our club mentored this club in the basic of ops, a very easy-going format. No waybills, just a list of trains and an agreed-upon route (their twice around becomes a double-loop mainline). Ran them under warrants for a few months. Now they took over and are setting up their own sessions. A relief, just come in and run. Got to take 111 west out of Charlotte, way underpowered with a single GP38 on the front. It didn’t help matters that I pulled into Division Yard and sucked up another dozen. […]
February 14, 2011

OpsLog – Saluda Grade – 2/14/2011

Today I had to fix everyone’s little work problems, putting out fires, taking three hours of process training, and researching another ill-conceived tool. But tonight I worked the Marion local, pushing the cars into Dunn’s and Tricky Dick’s paints. The cars bang and clatter as they go together – just fine – because when I pull them out, they uncouple right at their docks, a satisfying trick. And now I’m done. I swing across the main, pick up my outbounds off the CSX interchange and roll out of town. I’ve even got two cars for Florida Chair at Old Fort […]
February 7, 2011

OpsLog – SP Coast Line – 2/7/2011

In my last two blogs I went over the ass-aches I went through to drag this railroad into operations. Let’s add one more – the cat got INTO the layout, crawling around inside the framework and walking along the hidden mainlines. I had to drag her out from under it – this stunt earned her a big squirt off the spray bottle. She’s still sulking. So there I was, bringing a new automated dispatching program online, unsure if I had track damage under the layout, wondering what was going to happen. And what happened was wonders. The trains ticked out […]
February 7, 2011

Logical mind meets Illogical line

Continuing the earlier posting… Got home early, everything in control. Moved things into place for ops, a very methodical process (in a little house, you have to do a number of things to make it ready for 8-12 operators). Anyway, was performing the final step, adding CRC to spots on the line and then running a set of F3s up and down the track to spread it out. The engines were running smooth and I was actually goosing them right along. On the first uphill, at high speeds, they piled up at the lower Serrano turnout. Odd. Well, I was […]
February 7, 2011

Isn’t this supposed to be a hobby?

I’m sweating bullets and biting my nails right now – I’ve got Ops. I hate hosting. Once it gets going, its generally okay. But until then, I’m like an actor before going out on stage. I’m wired, tight to twanging. Problems I dealt with this weekend: A corroded wire (again!) the in Salinas panel. A Watsonville turnout that wouldn’t carry power. A steam engine that worked fine until I added the front coupler, and now its dogging. My new sound-equipped E8s are jacked a little high, putting their pilot couplers out of line. And the Salinas switch engine, which no […]
January 26, 2011

OpsLog – LM&O – 1/26/2011

I have to smile when Everquack or World of Warplug folks brag about online squads who have been together for five, six months. My operations group has been together upwards of twenty-five years. I’ve got silent-service guys, ex-military pilots, software experts, a once-mayor, a veterinarian, former cops, linemen, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. I’ve gone to their weddings and funerals, loaned money, asked favors, exchanged Christmas cards and dirty jokes. As for train-running, we learned it together, from loop-counting to invitations to pro-rails, the superbowl of ops. Tonight it shows. People arrive on time, they dive in to clean our massive layout. […]
January 26, 2011

OpsLog – Florida East Coast – 2/26/2011

Short haul out of Points North down to Cocoa, where I’ll dump my four cars and shut down my unit. The main’s clogging – past the restrictions at Jay Jay’s, I find three freights holding at Titusville, watching their signals, eager to head home. Slip past that parade on the siding, then beg the dispatcher to give me a green, please! Finally get to Frontenac, where I’d pushed coal about a power plant early this night-session. There is a detector there. In reality, it would sniff up a passing train’s skirts, checking speed and hotboxes and such, then broadcast its […]