At the throttle

Train Blog

April 27, 2011

OpsLog – LM&O – 4/27/2011

The problem with operations on a huge model railroad is, well, operations on a huge model railroad. It takes 15 people to run this thing. We might be able to double a couple of jobs but it takes some juggling. So I was already feeling like we might be understaffed when my dispatcher called in sick. Then another guy canceled. Got to dinner tonight and there were only three other guys at the table (some ops night there are a dozen). I was figuring we might manage a reduced session, or mother-may-I, or just sit around and yack. So the […]
April 25, 2011

OpsLog – Nebraska Division – 4/25/2011

Good to be in the dispatcher’s seat after a month away. I had the dual line Nebraska Division; UP trains on the low line, BNSF on the high. Things were running hot. My usual trouble spots weren’t. Most of the locals were on their way back. I figured the rest of the session was smooth sailing. How a cork can sneak up on us. Two BNSF freights coming down the long hill from Denver, nose to tail. I gave them clearance to Holeridge, no problem. Then a fast passenger train pops up on the grade approaching Denver. Hmmm. I duck […]
March 26, 2011

Signal Maintainer

If you think you just build a layout and your work is done, think again. Problems under the Salinas control panel (which controls turnouts through the fruit packing area). First off, crummy Radio Shack DPDT toggles, which must be being assembled in some hellhole factory in China. After a while, they stop working – you gotta wiggle them and try to coax a current through them. Perfect for engineers focusing on their timetable or waybills, a turnout that dosn’t go over when you throw the control. And second, somehow (and I curse the day it happened) I somehow got acid […]
March 23, 2011

OpsLog – LM&O – 3/23/2011

Harris Glen – a high bluff with scudding gray clouds, gloomy but for the occasional stabs of pure lightning. Circling vultures. Ominous. A grim place in any occasion, but especially for this railroad. Either ascent is steep, and the Glen’s only got a short passing siding. It’s the bottleneck, no question. In every session, that’s where the railroad balls up at. This time we had two sections of varnish east, two expresses, the coal train, two freights, and a trailer train that popped out of a spur, all demanding rights. Worse, I’d been latching warrants, meaning I’d clear one guy […]
March 14, 2011

Opslog – Longwood & Sweetwater – 3/14/2011

My old consolidation is popping and hissing on the Altamonte industrial branch lead. Five inbound cars behind the tender, then the tracks fan out into dual and triple industry placement. The back car (car five, we’ll agree) goes to the door of the Swift meat packing company. And that’s down a spur behind a casket company. What a combo that is. It would be an easy trailing-switch/backup move, if not for the fact that the casket company has a shipment of casket handles in a box car plugging the spur. Okay. I whistle back, push car five past the turnout, and yell […]
March 10, 2011

OpsLog – FEC – 12/10/2011

“I need three guys,” the FEC superintendent emailed. “Extra operators for this Saturday.” Christmas is just around the corner, all manner of obligations, and the sessions sometimes suffer. With access to our club base, I got four at short notice. It’s interesting to take club operators to a stand-alone layout. Club ops are usually informal and easy-going. Home ops tend to be a little more by-the-book. The FEC is fun, but its also a fully-signaled main line effort, lots of industry, lots of switching, lots of following orders tight and right. So the worry, when I bring my pals over, […]
March 6, 2011

Fences make good nieghbors

Okay, I’m putting together this special page so all the N-trakers (and others) can help me find the fence I need for the Jacksonville bridge area. We’re trying to model the cribbing that lines the main channel and keeps the boats from smacking the pillars. Here is the actual Jacksonville fence. Yes, someday I dream of mounting that tiny little manitee sign on the fence.                     Here is my San Luis Obsipo corral, which I think would do a good job imposturing it. The thing is, I think I got this […]
February 24, 2011

OpsLog – LM&O – 2/23/2011

I’m edging out of the haller at the Carbon Hill spur with a rusty cut of boxcars. Behind me, the setting sun glitters of the tin roof of the Champion Mine processing plant. Atop the embankment I’m climbing along, freight 247 squeals to a stop on the main, hissing like a leaky ball. I ease up to the turnout to enter the main just past him. While the brakeman scrambles down to lean against the switch stand, I ring the dispatcher. My orders are to hang out for train 68, varnish eastbound. Already I can hear his bell ringing up […]
February 21, 2011

OpsLog – Chicago Union Pacific – 2/21/2011

Tonight’s session found me running Chicago’s primary yard, a busy place that forwards loads to Proviso, North Platte, the coal fields and, eventually, Cheyenne. Yard working isn’t my big cup of tea. I can do it, I’m okay at it, but there is always that busy-and-now-interrupted feeling as trains barge in while I’m in the middle of shuffling a cut. Worse, I wasn’t on my game tonight. Twice I broke trains down and sorted cars onto receiving tracks, popping their identifying paperwork into the matching slots, only to find out I’d screwed up along the way. There is no gut-clench […]
February 19, 2011

Live or Memorex

How serious should modelers get with following their prototype? My first layout, Donner Pass, was correct in that it had pines and a mountain, and the names of the towns matched. I ran SP equipment (from all eras) and really didn’t worry about it. But it started bugging me. The more I learned the railroad’s history in that area, the more it chafed. I considered a change. Then, on a stop during a cross-nation train trip at the small Californian town of San Luis Obispo, I got out to walk the platform. And here I was hit with a sense […]