At the throttle

Train Blog

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 […]
March 1, 2014

OpsLog – FEC – 3/1/2014

So at the start of the week, I was dispatching on a middle-sized coal hauler. By midweek, I was dispatching a huge railroad stretching across several states, as well as running their freight forwarding division. And now, on Sunday, I’m sitting in a going-to-rust, unwashed FEC engine in Miami Yard, tugging cars back and forth, a lowly classification hogger. How did this happen? The author side of me wishes it was because of a substance abuse problem, a fight over a woman, or perhaps because I caused a wreck that killed innocents and this was the only railroad job I […]
February 26, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 02/26/2014

It’s been a paperwork sort of week. On Tuesday at work, we held the wall in an ISO audit, with me with two big three-ring binders full of paperwork details. But more importantly, this month I also wrote a switch list generator for our club. The problem we faced was with our waybills and people walking off with pocketfuls of them. And every time they did, we had to make new waybills and generate entire runs of switchlists. A pain, it twas. So now I generated full lists for every train. The trick here was the order things happened. Cars […]
February 22, 2014

OpsLog – P&WV – 2/22/2014

I hate the idea of bucket lists. The thing is, if you are going to have an experience, it shouldn’t be an afternoon thing, something you do once without any expertise or knowledge or appreciation. It should be something you know and have studied and put an effort into. That said, I’ve dispatched dozens of railroads. I’ve run them with everything from mother-may-I to warrants to CTC. But I’ve never dispatched a railroad under timetable and train order (one of the most intensive and tricky ways to do it). And this is funny because I actually wrote code to dispatch […]
January 22, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 01/22/2014

It’s been that sort of day. We had an audit walkthrough today, all across lunch. And the weight measuring group thing didn’t go so good for me. Then that production failure and the process-dripping patch. Just problems problems problems. While driving towards the crete-heap of Oburg with its snarled traffic, I really felt the urge to get off at my exit and just go home, to have dinner and play Spelunky or read or whatever. I wasn’t in the mood for the scheduled ops. But we make our commitments and hold to them, so into the swirling hell of traffic […]
January 12, 2014

ShowLog – Deland – 1/11&12/2014

It’s four thirty in the afternoon and Frank and I have just about exchanged our life stories. It’s after two days of early setup, countless miles of model train running, of hundreds of little kids and answering questions and chatting with model enthusiasts. The Deland Train show always takes some effort but brings in some nice scratch, so we’re happy to attend. The thing is (and I’ve mentioned this before), we’ve got space-age modules now. They set up like a dream, and close up as fast as an umbrella. We can go from trains running to ‘away all trailers’ in […]