At the throttle

Train Blog

August 23, 2014

OpsLog – FEC – 8/23/2014

very time I drive to Ken Farnham’s Florida East Coast railroad, something happens on the trip. Once, a ladder came off a truck in front of us, spinning and sparking along the road like some giant spin-the-bottle game. Then there was the truck tire that blew up like a bomb right in front of us. This time, a four foot long stuffed fish toy (yeah, read that again) came off a pickup and rolled down the passing stripe. There wasn’t much room (barriers on either side of the road, so no runoff). While everyone else braked, I tucked my tiny […]
August 18, 2014

OpsLog – Saluda Grade – 8/18/2014

ronically, the last time I ran on the Saluda line, it was March of 2012, two and a half years ago. The ironic bit was that what I wrote here was a complaint about the changing club dynamics, the economy and general aging that was making a session here so difficult. Happily Jim brought his layout back after years and years down. And happily we had crew enough to run all the trains (except one local). But for its part, the railroad did what it was supposed to do: simulating running two branches of the N&S lines around Asheville (the […]
August 3, 2014

ShowLog – Orlando Fairgrounds – 8/3/2014

‘ll admit that a two day weekend show is tough. We need to run for six hours a day and then pack and go. And that’s six hours of running with kids, of asking people not to touch (or, ferchristsakes, lean on) the layout. But today, while long, was easy. Had a sizable crew show up on time. Steve brought donuts*. Everyone there grabbed a rag and some alcohol and cleaned their way around the layout. Fifteen minutes until open, trains started coming out from Bowden Yard and the NS North Jax. When people came in, we were running. And […]
July 30, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 7/30/2014

ve run operations on this railroad for something like thirteen years, which comes out to about 130 sessions. Yeah, I know how things work. And that’s why, when I backed my favorite GP-7s onto the front of the Silver Bullet One, out of Bound Brook and running three hours late, I knew things were running hard outside. See, I was in staging, a hidden yard in the back of the railroad which is pretty much “backstage” to our little drama. A double-ended yard, it simulates both ends of the division. A train leaves one end, drives all the way across […]
July 13, 2014

ShowLog – Deland – 7/12/2014

f you want to see a BUSY mainline, look no further than the Orlando N-trak sectional layout. We’ve got a train by on our double-track mainline every 30-40 seconds or so. Which is why, when your equipment takes a dump, it’s such a mega-pratfall. Was running north through the bottom of the “U” (what is geographically just north of Jacksonville bay, just beyond I-95). I was pulling 40 mixed freight cars behind two dinky Geeps. Now, these four-axle jobs have a unique deal – if you load them up, they don’t just wheel-spin, they conk out. Reasons abound for why […]
June 29, 2014

OpsLog – TY&E – 6/29/2014

here comes that moment in a session where things go wrong. Anyone who has been to a session has been there. Every host has too. Usually its at the beginning – when everything turns on and the booster chirps, the clock won’t run, a bank of turnouts won’t throw, everything stops. Something’s gone wrong. And everyone gets really quiet and helpful until it’s fixed. Happened today at the TY&E – engines started shorting a booster for no particular reason. The boys all stopped their jokings and everyone got really helpful. Bill and I watched the trip lights to see if […]
June 25, 2014

OpsLog – LM&O – 6/25/2014

kay, so everyone knows the feeling of biting off more than you can chew. But I should have known my little GP-9’s wouldn’t get that long heavy string of hoppers over the summit. We were stalling and sanding into Hellertown siding. Picked a set of helpers off 244 as it rolled by and tacked them to the front end. Two Dash-9s (in unlikely LM&O green) really made a difference. Soon we were climbing pretty as a picture through the long curves and spiral tunnel leading to Harris Glen. Down below us in Carbon Hill, little Sean was banging and sorting […]
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 […]