At the throttle

Train Blog

January 24, 2011

OpsLog – UP Chicago – 1/24/2011

I love going to Dick’s ops. Its been down for a while, but its a handy little railroad with a casual session. Best thing is that its a mile or so from my house, an easy bike ride. Good group showed for the Grand Reopening. Took a job footplating in Cheyenne yard, cleaning up the paperwork and getting the crew rolling. But Don’s clever so I leave him to it, hooking a freight out of the yard, a flat run to Chicago. The layout’s live around me and I’m enjoying the nice scenery, passing trains and watching for open turnouts […]
January 23, 2011

Toys or Else

You know you are a Model Railroader when… Look, I’m kitbashing up the bunker-like building between the CSX HQ and the Jacksonville terminal for the traveling layout. Gray, slablike, etc. Got lots of pictures outside (dull pictures because it’s a dull building). And then I looked on LiveSeachMaps to see what the roof looked like. The concrete slabwork, I can do. The AC boxes, I can buy. But there is a big circular skylight that had me stumped. I went through Colonial’s Walther’s catalog – nothing. Looked all over the house. Nothing. Looking at it again, I realized how much […]
January 21, 2011

Night Probe

This tale has a number of possible starting points. It could possibly start years back when I read some Clive Cussle yarn about an old steam engine missing for years in a river. Where could it possibly be? A more likely start was back in November when I dropped my own Mikado steam engine from my layout to the hard, hard floor. Unlike Cussler’s story, my engine’s location was obvious – it was all over the place! Another start could be where Tiny, with his jewelers’ fingers, rebuilt it from scratch. All it was missing was the forward truck set […]
January 17, 2011

OpsLog – UP – 1/17/2011

Doc Andy’s got a double garage of layout, a sprawling run of Union Pacific and Santa Fe from Council Bluffs to Denver. Half of it is shared trackage, half parallel mainlines. It’s massive and fun and impressive. I’m there for the session but I won’t see a single car move. I’m in the main house, upstairs in the den. I’ve got a timetable in front of me, a repeater clock, the timetable and my computer. On its screen is a schematic of the railroad in Excel with colored cells containing train numbers. I’ve got a radio in my hand and […]
January 9, 2011

ShowLog – Deland – 1/9/2011

We had a disaster of train show a year back. We have an aging set of interchangeable modules which formed a looped three-track mainline. The scenery ranged from beaten to aged. The wiring looked like something on a telephone pole in post-war Italy. The trackwork was rocky. And it get into the crew area, you had to get on your knees on a cold concrete floor and crawl in. So, that disaster of a show – for setup nothing worked right; non-stop repairs, fixing this, grunting with that. It took us something like 12 hours to build the basic layout. […]
January 1, 2011

OpsLog – UP – 12/31/2010

Last session of the year, over at Docs. It was supposed to be a casual get together over hot dogs followed by a clean-n-stage, but Doc with his remarkable boyish enthusiasm had gotten everything ready beforehand. And so there we were, literally thrown into a session without a dispatcher, just running in look-ahead rules, casual fun. Took the Sterling Turn out of North Platte (flipping industry waybills as I went). Lots of traffic on the line, people poking ahead to negotiate meets with each other. Strange moment – Doc dragooned my wife to run, so here she comes in control […]
December 30, 2010

Model Railroading vs MSTS

I wrote this bit ages ago, a rebuttal for some smarty who gave ten reasons while Microsoft Train Simulator was better than model railroading. Isn’t it amazing what you can Google up on the slow work week between the holidays when the boss is on the other side of the world?   Why model railroading is better than MSTS. 1) I can buy engines or rolling stock, take them home, set them on the layout and run them in any way (and in any activity) I want. I don’t have to modify files to make them work. 2) When people […]
December 23, 2010

OpsLog – LM&O – 12/23/2010

Good session at the club tonight. One of our experienced dispatchers took a trainee (who is about to graduate it seems) to run the board. That put me out on the road. Good enough – I don’t get to run enough trains. First run was an unlikely lashup of old passenger E-8s (daylight colors) pulling modern TOFCs. Okay. Grabbed a newbie who was thinking of wallflowering and put him into the cab (I’d conduct). Picked up orders and off we went, east out of Martin Yard. It looked like it was going to be one of those nights. The two […]
December 16, 2010

The Great Panel of China

“You said you wanted to dispatch sometime,” Ken said with his usual friendly demeanor. “How about today?” “Sure,” I smiled. Holy crispy crap, I thought. Ken’s three-room layout represents sixty miles of Florida East Coast mainline – huge! He’s also got a a half-dozen serious operators taking their starting positions, reviewing their train orders, checking out their paperwork, as serious as career engineers. This is not the place to screw up. He walks me through the CTC board, essentially that big black 2001 monolith bristling with lights and toggles. I’ll be the dispatcher today, setting switches and signals in to get the traffic […]