At the throttle

Train Blog

October 30, 2016

OpsLog – FEC – 10/29/2016

ight trains. Outside of the interesting imagery that phase produces, it can make for some interesting running potential as well. And even more interesting since my entire day (and all the hobbies that filled it) involved night stuff. See my astronomy blog for the connection. In this case, the Florida East Coast was going to try something new. We ran the first half of the session, 1pm to 6pm, under daylight conditions. I’d agreed to splitting the shift with Ken for this – we’d swap out the DS job half-way through. And we had a good front-end run – a […]
October 26, 2016

OpsLog – LM&O – 10/26/2016

rom: Rufus Biggest, President, LM&O c/o Union Station Hotel, Penthouse Suite, Cincinnati, Ohio To: Board & Division Officers, Harris Division, LM&O Subject: The State of the Railroad   Gentlemen; I stood on the drafty platform of Pittsburg Station, watching Bithlo (my private business car) being tacked on the tail of train 66, an eastbound passenger express. Little that I know that the true state of our bridge route would be revealed by this overlong, overdue passage. First, we came nowhere close to meeting out published 11:30am departure time. In fact, the station workers seemed curious about 66 in that it […]
October 23, 2016

OpsLog – Makers Faire – 10/22-23/2016

eople always talk about the romance of trains, of rails humming and whistles blowing long into the night. Well, that was us at the local Makers Faire, an event held at the Orange Country Fairgrounds. We ran and ran and ran trains. Saturday, 10am to 7pm, Sunday 10am to 5pm. And these are long hours when you spend them slowly walking along your train (like sentry duty in a way), answering questions, watching your signals and gripping the throttle. But we did it. We were placed square in the opening area in the main hall where most people came in, […]
October 19, 2016

OpsLog – FEC – 11/11/2016

eah, Dog! Ken let me run the panel again! And it’s the FEC holiday party – a full lunch followed by hours of mainline action. And everyone is there – open invitation – so we’ve got the cores, the casuals and the crazies in the cabs. And now we can really answer the Universal Question: How many ways can you cut a caboose off? Well, if you are a dispatcher, there are at least three ways. See, engines and cabooses light the block on the DS panel, letting you know where they are. Ken even said in the briefing – […]
October 6, 2016

OpsLog – B&B – 10/2/2016

f there is a grand finale for the weekend, it would be the Brandywine & Benedictine, a beautifully massive railroad that sprawls all over. Sadly, progress has overcome this fine line – it is no longer Time Table & Train Order controlled, and now runs on CTC. Traffic lights aside, it’s still a delight to operate with two dozen engineers to make this all work. And my part in this drama begins at 2:30pm, rolling downslope from Sulphur Springs to the town of Allegany at the controls of a massive articulated steam engine, a long string of black coal hoppers […]
October 5, 2016

OpsLog – PCD – 10/1/2016

t’s a long run from Trinidad to Denver, mostly double-track main, one for passenger, one for freight. All down its length, industrial centers, mines and cities sprawl along the desert route. And unlike the SPR, this time I wasn’t bashful. I gave everyone a quarter second to opt for dispatcher and then my hand shot up. “I’ll do it”. The pace of this railroad is pretty easy, and if you look ahead you can pretty much route them from track to track to keep everything moving. Of course, I’m always surprised by how many operators don’t call in control points […]
October 4, 2016

OpsLog – CNW – 10/1/2016

new position for me. Ran on the basement-packing Chicago & NorthWestern, miles of main line with industry all the way, all fed from the massive Proviso Yard. Zoom in on that yard. Dozens of tracks. Zoom closer. At one side, engine facilities and fueling decks. Zoom even closer. See him? The guy who runs engines out from the shops and puts them on the ready track? And who plucks them off the arrivals, inspects them, services them, and refuels them? Yeah, that’s me. Low-class dirty in my suspenders and grubby ball cap. And that’s what I did – moved engines […]
October 3, 2016

OpsLog – SPR – 9/30/2016

dispatch a lot. And usually I have no problem taking this position. So when we were all loitering in our briefing for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Railroad and the super called for the DS, I was standing there doing my “Ah, shucks, sure, I can do it” modest number when someone snatched it right out from under me. Blink blink. Wait. What just happened? It ended up biting me in the ass, too. I was a heavy coal job straining out of Pittsburgh, entering the main (in hidden staging, controlled by the dispatcher). I called. He cleared me and (supposedly) aligned […]
September 28, 2016

OpsLog – LM&O – 9/28/2016

ou know it’s going to be a bad ops night at the club when you get into the lot and there is one car sitting there, all by itself. You really know it is when that one person tells you that Calypso Yard is dead. No power. No trains can move. Yikes. Calypso is a collective yard on the eastern approaches to our steep mountain district. Cars from several different lines are gathered here, to be tacked onto westbounders boosted through the high pass. And descending trains do the opposite, dropping cuts to be parceled out to other roads. We […]
September 18, 2016

OpsLog – FEC – 9/27/2016

I guess it’s about pattern recognition. When you first sit down in front of Ken Farnham’s FEC control panel, you are struck with the idea of just what sort of idiot you were for taking on this job. I always feel this way. After all, the panel wraps around you, something like four or five feet across, with a bewildering number of toggles and lights and this long, long layout. And once that clock goes hot, everyone wants to move, there are trains marked with secretive red lights (with no obvious indication of who they are) idling impatiently, all wanting […]