At the throttle

Train Blog

November 11, 2023

OpsLog – Tusk Hill – 11/10/2023

o in management positions on the Midland’s railroad we call Tusk Hill, we had Oxford graduates acting in all the positions governing train movements – controller (dispatcher) and leverman. That would be myself and Kyle. We were focused and studious in our efforts to keep trains moving. And in the “Morlock” positions (as we call them), the engine drivers, we had Greg, Jim M and Pete. They were boisterous, rowdy and common as dirt. So what a session this mix made for. Management wanted to see if Tusk Hill could actually run following solid rules – official communications and token […]
November 11, 2023

On Sheet – Sampler Platter

art of the operations game is getting to the point where the layout you operate on is burned into your brain. You know all the switching tricks. You know the how the line is dispatched and know what your authority to proceed is. Everything makes perfect sense. Everything is logical. And with this, I’ve actually known people who have learned our club system but will not go into another layout cold. Worse, they might tell the host that they’d like to “come and watch”. (No host wants this – aisle space is always limited, and we don’t need a lump […]
November 3, 2023

On Sheet – Sailboats

as out with a person I know the other day. He was going on and on about his RC sailboat club. Now, I remember when they’d have a half-dozen or more hulls in the local lake on Sundays, even more. But their members have been dying or moving away. So now there are two people (sometimes) or just him (more often or not). One thing is for sure – if you are the only boat out there, yes, you win a lot of regattas. I listened to about fifteen minutes of carping about this and finally noted that I’m a […]
October 30, 2023

AirLog – 10/29/2023

kay, model railroading has brought me a lot of things. It brought me together with my dad (which, besides reading and old movies, was pretty much all we had). It brought me Orlando N-Trak Club, to which I’ve been a member for thirty-five years. It’s brought me some close friends (and, well, some interesting people). And it’s gotten me into some interesting operational layouts, from La Mesa in San Diego to Steve King’s old Chicago layout to massive weekend sessions in St Paul, Asheville, and Atlanta. And it’s got me as a fixture in various railroads across the state: The […]
October 27, 2023

On Sheet – The Booby Prize

y Jewish grandmother once told me something (for the record, she really isn’t my biological grandmother but we’ve shared a close friendship for forty years). She said, simply, that Knowledge is the Booby Prize. It took me a number of years to understand what she meant by that. But as I get older, many of her observations become ever truer. Recently our club had the biggest operation session to date, detailed HERE. As noted, I had more trains than I knew what do do with. At one point I was just fleeting them over the summit, collecting them at the […]
October 26, 2023

OpsLog – LM&O – 10/25/2023

y the time the session was over, and then the hour debrief by the hard-core hoggers done, the lights off, alarm set, and the slow drive home, after all that, I sat on my sofa and watched something dumb on the tube and drank a beer. I mean, insert your expletive, but what a session. The club came together Wednesday night for a big monthly ops session. We were going to try the racks and stacks again after the chaos of last time (with trains going to the wrong way and one intermodal being attacked by the mole people in […]
October 22, 2023

OpsLog – FEC – 10/21/2023

ot home after a long late drive from the east coast to find, on the aptly-named “Discord”, that my friends who also attended the Farnhams’ FEC session were chortling about long waits. Really? I was on the big green panel that day and, in all honesty, I was playing it like a virtuoso on a grand piano (just saying). We started out late because of a pre-session chat. Once I took my seat and the clock started, I was looking at four trains on the layout and two holding in the wings of staging, waiting to come out. In short […]
October 20, 2023

On Sheet – Train Order Boards Revisited

don’t want to get into all the details. Recently, when attending a huge TT&TO session at the La Mesa  Model Railroad club in San Diego, I thought I saw a train order board being misused. Later, while hanging out at another station with an old SP guy running it, I mentioned the “mistake” I’d witnessed. Turns out, as he explained it, I was wrong. Great, and I’ve written multiple blogs and given two clinics (as well as did it on my Tuscarora) incorrectly. So I’ll correct it now. Train order signals (as shown in the photo to the right) tell […]
October 18, 2023

OpsLog – La Mesa – 10/15/2023

e were sitting in our uber on Park Boulevard in Balboa Park, looking to our left. “What the crispy crap…?” There is an endless scarlet flood streaming past, agitated and churning. Lava? No, it’s a breast cancer awareness march. And our event is on the other side of it. “We’ll get out here,” Steve tells the driver. And if there is one moment I’ll always remember, it’s Steve Hooper, man’s man, pushing through a sea of pink tutus. What a crazy start to the day. But we’re here to run trains, right? Having learned a lesson yesterday, I stuck tight […]
October 17, 2023

OpsLog – La Mesa – 10/14/2021

ur first day on the railroad. We started with the crews gathered and the home hoggers telling us what we needed to know and what was expected. The first was a two-man job up in Walong, just below the famous loop. Looked at Steve and asked if he wanted to start out together. Sure. So we grabbed the job, our bags, and headed out into the sun-fried hills of central California. We found ourselves on a PFE (Pacific Fruit Express) reefer block, just starting to thaw. It worked out that he’d get the front end (and the conductor duties) and […]