At the throttle

Train Blog

July 23, 2023

OpsLog – FEC – 7/22/2023

smell something burning.” I was working the out-n-back from Cocoa Yard to Frontenac, fussing over mismarked lading slips, trying to figure out what someone did and didn’t do a couple of weeks back in City Point (without a Rosetta Stone, either). And that’s when I smelled smoke. Engineer Chip was working the lower deck. When I asked him if his engine was on a switch, he told me no. But a car on his train was on a switch, one that had been set against him. And the truck of a wheel delicately placed with love between a rail and […]
July 21, 2023

On Sheet – Sound Check

ou know, DCC is a wonderful thing. Now we can drive trains and blink the lights and sound the whistle and bell. I’ve always wondered what those rheostat twisters in the ’50s would have thought of us now with all our digitalized magic. Just the options of not relying on electrical blocks allows us to run helpers and do all sorts of cool things. However, one thing that always bugs me is when, during operations, you see an engineer just driving along, toot-tooting his whistle in patterns only known to him, as cute yet pointless as Thomas the Tank Engine. […]
July 16, 2023

OpsLog – Tusk Hill (Annulled) – 7/15/2023

know that Kyle put in a lot of work for the first “true” run of Tusk Hill – instructions, tokens, switchlists, everything. And I know that some people drove a very long way (Jim from St. Augustine and Ben from Celebration, and, taken for granted, Greg from Satellite beach). So we handed out paperwork, got the briefing and began. Jim was working both the coal job and the tally sheet and he seemed to be getting his head around how the Tusk works and how things are represented. Greg was standing by to take the shunter position. I ran up […]
July 14, 2023

On Sheet – Peeps

remember the moment my doctor told me I had cancer. I remember life being normal and then it was not. The next two days I don’t remember at all. And two weeks later, I had to dispatch our club layout. At the time I was the only dispatcher. I seem to recall the guys running flawless. It was a good session. The goofs were minor and we worked around them. But I suspect that if someone did something stupid (it has happened) or back-talked me on the phones (this, also), I’d have lost my total freaking shit. I don’t know […]
July 9, 2023

ShowLog – Deland – 7/8/2023

e’ll start with wrist-slapping. Over twenty people were supposed to be at setup today. We got a handful. Fortunately the crew we had was top-notch and we had just enough people to get the basic assembly team in action. Others drifted in after the layout was up, siting various reasons (the coo-coo fell off Kyle’s European clock, it seems). We were still nowhere near the numbers we’d been promised. And here is my admonishment – you are only as good as your word. Done. The rest of the train show clicked out as if it had been timetabled. Trains surged […]
July 7, 2023

On Sheet – Divergent Evolutions

didn’t know I was actually setting up an experiment on evolutions of thinking and divergent game science. I was just making a small switching layout. As has been covered here ad nauseam, I’m talking about my own Tuscarora, a layout that started as a 2×4 switching puzzle and has turned into a operations empire. Our last session (NOTED HERE) ran with seven operators over three hours. I’ve given NMRA clinics on the design stage I went through (not preplanned in any way) that I used to come up with operations on this micro layout. Basically, it was basic switching, the […]
July 7, 2023

OpsLog – YVRR – 7/6/2023

fter dragging Jack Ferguson to one of my Tuscarora Sessions, he offered to host me on his own small railroad, the Yosemite Valley RR. Of course, he didn’t quite have operations, but sure, come on out anyway. And I was pleasantly surprised when Greg and I showed up and found out that he’d hustled up some actual trains, filling out their orders (and I’m touched – he adapted the TBL naming conventions). But yes, instead of us standing there oohing and aahing, he put us to work! It just shows (as it always shows) that there is a place in […]
July 2, 2023

OpsLog – TBL – 7/1/2023

t’s a lazy afternoon in Easton Depot. I’m fanning myself with a timetable, pushing away the humid heat that hangs over Western Pennsylvania. Distantly, a dispatcher who sounds a lot like me tells me that a coal extra is inbound, heading west to Tuscarora and the mines beyond. No orders. Nodding, I kick at the desk-mounted train order lever with my foot, setting the signal to green. Of course he’ll stop anyway, regardless if the signal was green, red or purple. There’s the westbound Easton Turn just airing up at Tuscarora, number 612 on the timetable. So I figure the […]
June 30, 2023

On Sheet – Size and Documentation

o I’m just going out on a ledge here and noting an observation  -the smaller your railroad, the more important introductions documentation is. At our club layout, it’s pretty basic. Yard switching information is hung on clipboards near the arrival tracks. Warrants are damn near self-explanatory. Guests who run with us usually need a conductor the first run or two, and then they have it. But if you are running a small layout (and mine is really, really small), you need more documentation to explain what has to happen. In large layouts, there are more sidings and room to sort […]
June 29, 2023

OpsLog – LM&O – 6/29/2023

helfton Turn raddled into Martin Yard, having done its work in respectful time. Its engineer called yardmaster Perry White, asking where he could drop these outbounds and grab the Zanesville Turn. White, old beyond his years but oddly lacking seniority, directed the drop and grab move. He mused at the rapidity with which the  engineer swapped out and accelerated out of the yard. It was like he was some sort of Superman. This engineer was not of this railroad or even of this Earth. The sole surviving member of a planet destroyed when its DC modules exploded, and who described […]