At the throttle

Train Blog

June 14, 2014

OpsLog – FEC – 6/14/2014

hat’s four feet long, has dozens of lights and even more switches, and looks like the engineer station on a Russian bomber? Answer: The dispatcher panel for Ken Farnham’s Florida East Coast Railroad. Positions are always random (i.e. crew call is based on Ken’s whim) and today I got to be dispatcher. Haven’t run his massive CTC board for over a year (on the previous incarnation of the FEC, back when it was house-side). So today, I got the tag for the panel. Now, I know how these things work – I’ve run them before at the Silverstar club and […]
May 21, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 5/21/2014

ne of my favorite moments in history is when, at the height of the German air assault on London and the plotting board full of enemy planes, Prime Minister Churchill turned to Air Vice Marshal Park and asked what reserves they had remaining. He was told, “There are none.” That’s how I felt on ops night when I came into the club lot and found only a handful of cars. My dispatcher had lost a filling and wouldn’t be there. Several other people were out traveling or in hospitals. We were really, really short. And that’s when the club really […]
May 18, 2014

OpsLog – FEC – 5/18/2014

t’s wonderful to be really good at something. You scrape along the bottom edge of perfect. And Saturday’s run across the Florida East Coast was pretty much there. We’ve got a good crew. The owner is dispatching. Everyone has good jobs. And there aren’t newbies wandering about asking about where Palm Bay or the bathrooms are. We’ve all run this dozens (if not a hundred) times. I’ve already run 920 that day, a turn up from Miami that made stops in Palm Bay, Melbourne and a bit further north before turning around and running back. Interacted with a lot of […]
May 12, 2014

OpsLog – L&S – 5/12/2014

o here I am running a switch engine in the industrial yard I was born to run (or at least physically built to run), Altamonte Springs. The Longwood & Sweetwater RR is pretty tight here, something like a foot of headspace under the host’s backup N-scale layout (my long arms really help here). I’ve run this turn before and am just going into the drill. John is on the back end, tossing the throws and lining me up. Together we’re working the yard, bottom to top, cleaning it out a spur at a time. Then I tell him that I […]
May 4, 2014

OpsLog – TY&E – 5/4/2014

‘m on the Tipton Turn, sitting on the siding at Heiserburg in the God-awful middle of the night. I’ve just pushed two boxcars of ingredients into the brewery there and pulled two boxcars of beer out. With that, I roll my short local forward and walking speed, giving Jimmy on the crummy a chance to realign the turnout and hop back aboard. No rush – according to the timetable we’re supposed to meet a coal train here. So imagine my surprise when a refrigerated block (not an extra – I’ve got no orders for him) arrives and holds opposite me. […]
April 28, 2014

OpsLog – Cuesta Grade – 4/27/2014

When I’m cleaning my railroad, getting ready for a session after a long time off, I ask myself why I do this. Of course, during the session, when we’re running hot and on-the-dot, it all becomes clear. Since Don wasn’t at the session, that gave me a chance to jump into 3303, the soon-to-be-scraped mikado goating the reefer cuts around Salinas. It’s one of the cool jobs, working the refrigerated cars off the icing deck to the sheds for loading, then waiting for them to get topped off before hauling them back to the docks for reicing. What makes it […]
April 23, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 4/23/2014

It’s something when you are a part of a skilled production. And tonights’ operations on the LM&O was pretty much that. We had our newest operators, Paul and John, getting drag freights over the road (and working their switchlists) without a problem. Usually I have to progressive-taxi new guys across the division but they had it down. Then we have Yardmaster Frank, who is really getting the hang of our new switchlists. He’s only run this yard twice before and tonight he got just about every car in the right slot. And that’s a hundred cars (and nine trains) picking […]
April 13, 2014

ShowLog – Deland – 4/12/2014

The sectional layout (for our latest Deland show) went up with very few problems (a malfunctioning signal light that I cleared up with a little effort). But sometimes, if you build it, they don’t come. The show was pretty lightly attended – very sparse. We hardly saw any children come by at all. Most shows we’re jammed. But it was pretty dead, which we saw directly in our tip jars. Worse, a friend who runs a small railroad manufacturing businesses stopped by to chat – this is his last show. He’s having a hard time breaking even at the deal. […]
March 26, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 3/26/2014

I‘m riding the end of 298, grinding up the long grade to Harris Glen behind two gasping Geep-9s (if it wasn’t for the helpers, we’d still be back in Pittsburgh). My caboose is banging against a pair of fuel tankers and I’m thinking I’m one cigarette from going to the moon. This isn’t Yardmaster Frank’s fault – he’s only following my own generated switch lists. But really, the railroad is moving pretty well and the newbie dispatcher is moving us along pretty damn quick. My guest engineer Paul has everything down. We’re ordered to drop the helpers at Harris, just […]
March 16, 2014

OpsLog – TY&E – 3/16/2014

After we got the issues of the Bruces settled (a true “Bruce on first” moment), and after some of the slowpokes got in (you can tell railroaders by how they get somewhere on time), we got down to running trains. Superintendent JW has made a number of solid improvements to his layout: better lighting, some progression of scenery, and even squirrel damage repair. All to the good. But like any host, it’s never good enough. I wasn’t really noticing how the layout ran. I was rattling along in my favorite run, the Sand and Lumber train, a movement I personally […]