At the throttle

Train Blog

January 24, 2015

OpsLog – FEC – 1/24/2015

t hunched predator-profile low in the shadows, its unblinking ball-turret eyes rotating independently, watching for prey. Its twenty foot body yearned to feast on a hobo or railfan – either would do (the camcorders it could regurgitate). Beneath the shielding fen of lichen, it watched. The dull roar of something even bigger and more unstoppable that itself made it raise its head, its throat-sack ballooning in alarm. Something massive and blue growled along the forest line. Panicking, the creature made its mistake, bursting from cover to flee, directly in the path of the oncoming FEC engine… The first I knew […]
December 17, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 12/17/2014

hort entry tonight. Not much to say about the sleepy week before Christmas. Everyone was in a good mood. The layout was purring. When it came to writing warrants, I had them pretty much figured when people called – no waiting. So here’s what I want to know. I ran on the L&N recently. In a four hour session, I wrote 84 warrants and was bushed at the end of it. And it was full-bore dispatching, working non-stop to get all those trains over the division. But on the LM&O (which is scaled as a longer railroad and has more […]
December 6, 2014

OpsLog – L&N – 12/6/2014

oday was one of my hardest dispatcher gigs ever. Was running the namesake side of John Wilke’s twin-route L&N Railroad (Bruce Notman held down the Southern), dispatching under warrants for four hours. I was doing it the hard way, running off actual train sheet reporting (keeping time like I had at the B&M a week past, but this time for something like twenty-plus trains rather than four). And I was starting to lose it. South of Norton Yard, there is a stretch with two sidings, some shared trackage (at Goodbee, and thankfully under my control) and then another siding. I […]
December 2, 2014

OpsLog – B&M – 12/2/2014

t’s a long haul over to Rockledge on a work night – 53.3 miles to be exact. And this is to run a layout so small, only four mainline trains get to cross it. (That’s like 25 miles of driving per train run – whew). But Kevin Loiselle’s Boston and Maine gets around these small room limitations. While some modelers talk about details in terms of handrails and bells, Kevin thinks in terms of ops. When the Bellows Falls switcher comes out onto the main, he has to physically unlock (with a key) the turnout controls, then call the dispatcher […]
November 22, 2014

OpsLog – FEC – 11/22/2014

ne of the ways to tell the difference between casual operators and intense operations is how they handle getting stuck in a hole (or a siding) for a long period of time. At La Mesa (in San Diego), it’s not unheard of to get locked in the box for five (real) hours. It’s happened to me, and guess what – that’s railroading. Wasn’t thinking that when I rolled out of Cocoa Beach at the controls of Train 930, a short (really – no cars) train that does sweep up work to Titusville and ducks into the small industrial yard there […]
November 20, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 11/20/2014

ou know it’s going to be one of those operations nights. There were only a couple of cars in the lot when I arrived. Before we started, a freakish mishap disabled our water supply (and I had to grope my hand in icy water for that shutoff valve). Then the confusion of getting everyone assigned to trains and getting everything set up. Finally, the clock was hot and I was out of the yard with Mingo Local, running sharp for my industrial area. All sorts of problems there. Turnout issues. My engines were whining (sounds like a bearing is going […]
November 15, 2014

OpsLog – WBR – 11/15/2014

e rolled into Dulce (on those tiny little narrow-gauge tracks), dropping our top-heavy caboose just short of the grade crossing (so as not to block any of those flatbed trucks with their boilable radiators). Then to work. With Conductor Richard working the paperwork and me the throttle, we’d just tugged a boxcar off a warehouse spur and slid another one home. The high Rockies seemed to scrape the sky, the pines were rustling in the cool breeze, and across the room, the dispatcher and superintendent were yelling at each other. “122, get off the main,” the dispatcher shouted at us. […]
October 26, 2014

OpsLog – FEC – 10/25/2014

itting in the lounge before the session, taking jobs handed out by Ken Farnham, host for today’s run of the Florida East Coast. 940, an out and back turn. Nothing hard, I figure. “Remember,” Ken tells me. “You need to be back in twenty-nine minutes. I did the switching part in forty moves.” Forty? Another guy chimes in. “Did it in twenty-seven, myself.” What have I gotten myself into? Turns out I’m heading out of the yard the moment the clock goes hot, a single FEC bluebox with four hoppers of limestone and a boxcar. Destination – The Rinker plant […]
October 24, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 10/29/2014

‘ve always known this was going to happen. A model railroad operations host’s worst nightmare. Came into the club parking lot today and there were only a small number of cars. Yeah, not enough operators. The club has been going through changes, namely painting the floors which took things down for over a month. Now interest has cooled. And for whatever reasons, a lot of our solid operators skipped the session. So, I managed to fill out the locals (myself, a member who’d never done it before, and a visitor with balls). The through freights I gave to new members, […]
October 14, 2014

ShowLog – Deland – 10/4/2014

y dad, a late-in-life Rio Grande Railroad fan, used to tell me about the railroad’s problems with the AT&SF. Back in the day, apparently both railroads wanted access to a strategic pass (not having the pass meant miles of tunnels and impossible grades). I think D&RG got into the pass first, and actually built a fort staffed with men of ill-repute to defend their right of way. Shots were fired and all that. Capitalism at its best. This was sorta what we faced when we showed up for set up at the Deland Train Show this morning at 7:00am. Turns […]