At the throttle

Train Blog

February 19, 2012

OpsLog – SP Coast Line – 2/19/2012

There are three aspects of operations for me. Pre-ops: I get ready with this sense of tight-stomached dread. Things don’t run well, things don’t work right. I break open engines and try to fix them but they just won’t cooperate. It’s an endless struggle that has me going back in the room over later hours, turning everything on and checking it out. It’s never good enough, and like an actor playing a well-known role, I still feel like puking. I hate getting ready for ops! Ops: Everyone is tooling up, train 920, the Salinas crew, the yard master, everyone’s brake-testing. The […]
February 18, 2012

Getting ready

Well, I’m all set for model train ops (other than a few minutes of “beat to quarters” furniture moves). My wife is not. The dining table is straining under too many magazines, too many Walgreens receipts, her computer, all that stuff. I keep telling her she needs a system, something where things don’t end up piled a foot deep because she hasn’t gotten to them. But this is one of these “minefield” discussions. Married guys know this – I just went out to look at 10:13pm, she’s been at it (supposedly) for two hours and I don’t see any difference. […]
February 13, 2012

OpsLog – Longwood & Sweetwater – 02/13/2012

I remember back when I used to fly how rusty I could get if I didn’t get up into the air every couple of months. I’d get “behind the plane” as they say. Happens in model railroading, too. Tonight on the L&S, I took out the Hunt Club Local, a late little run that sorts around the main, hitting a team track and a couple of industrial spurs. No big problem. On the way in, I worked one double ended spur, setting my caboose so I could pick it up (with the car) on the way back to the yard. […]
February 11, 2012

Chipping off rust

According to my records, my last operation’s session was back in May of last year. After that, time slipped by as I worked to get the club’s traveling layout up, my book out, and my parents faced some medical issues. Time just moved on. With twisted guts, I decided to get this thing running again. Time to host. I hate getting ready but generally love the sessions. Getting ready involves cleaning all sorts of track (some of it in difficult-to-reach places), cleaning engines, checking paperwork. But really, its gone pretty well. My helper Mikado really didn’t want to go – […]
February 3, 2012

The TTX barrier

Well, I hit the invisible corporate-webspace-phonebox wall. We’re building a traveling layout for our club, a space-aged module effort that puts our creaky old N-trak clunkers to shame. Sets up quick. Breaks down quick. Moves easy. No duckunders. Fun to run. And we’re doing REAL modeling of real places (specifically the run from Jacksonville to Folkston). We’ve got the river area in at Jacksonville, the CSX building, the convention center, the Acosta bridge. While I’m working south towards the Aetna building, we’ll also need to cross under the I-95 double-span bridge and model the TTX shops. See, TTX has a […]
January 26, 2012

OpsLog – LM&O – 1/25/2012

Last night’s session started at 7:40pm and ran until 10:15pm. But not really. It actually started at 10pm a week before when Mark John and I worked the lading slips for every freight car across the line. The three industrial areas were easy; just flip whatever cars you wished to indicate their completed loading/unloading. The staging was a little more difficult: we had to inspect the car numbers to make sure the right cars were on the right trains, THEN replace the waybills in the correct cars. Martin Classification Yard was the worst; either an overwhelmed yardmaster or joyriding operators had scrambled things. […]
January 8, 2012

ShowLog – Deland – 1/8/2012

The Jacksonville lift bridge is rattling from a constant stream of rail traffic, so much so that the draw bridge has been down for two days straight. More amazing – if you looked into the cabs of the huge Genesis, Dash-9s and Big Boys, you’d find a 10 year old boy or girl at the throttle and a grinning older conductor sitting back in the brakeman seat, enjoying the ride. It’s our second performance for the new layout at Deland, a great showplace for our new techniques and efforts. Since last time, we expanded scenery 12 feet (the urban Jacksonville […]
December 5, 2011

OpsLog – San Diego & Eastern Az – 12/05/2011

Usually it doesn’t go this well. Doc had brought his secondary layout back into service, his tightly-spooled San Diego and Eastern Arizona. We’d run it a while ago, but not recently. And since it’s been slightly shortened and simplified, all to the better. So the boys milled in the train room while I set up the dispatching computer. A little fumbling with the clock, a scattering of radio checks, and we went hot. Timetables usually go out the window once the session starts. Sure, the railroad management might think a certain siding might be an ideal place for two trains […]
November 23, 2011

OpsLog – LM&O – 11/23/2011

I’ve had the grim distinction of being audited by Earnest and Young for Sarbanes Oxley compliance. Pretty much every changed line of workplace software code needs review signatures and unit tests. And here I was, sitting with my boss while E&Y scowled over the phone at us, realizing we didn’t have any testing at all on a change we’d made. Blood in the water… Image my relief when closer examination showed a note from myself to the coder, clearly saying, “Close after attaching test cases”. And what did he do? He just closed it. Suddenly the eye of Sauron swung […]
November 13, 2011

OpsLog – Nebraska Division – 11/13/2011

Hosting an ops session is a good example of Murphy’s law. I showed up at Docs a little early to set up the dispatcher’s office, eager to see his newest effort – a train-cam which an engineer would use to run the train from a cab-level-view from the dispatcher’s office. It’s been a subject of model railroad conjecture for years now. So it’s run for two weeks – Doc’s even got a video of an earlier test run. And now it’s showtime and the camera fails. Nothing. I can see he’s disappointed and I feel for him. I can remember […]