At the throttle

Train Blog

May 9, 2011

Opslog – Longwood & Sweetwater – 5/9/2011

It’s feast or famine with ops attendance sometimes. This weekend’s session, we had a number of no-shows. Tonight the L&S looked like a popular nightclub – the room was packed, close, and very hot. Trains were going out with two-man crews (or husband-and-Kimmy crews) to get their work done. I crossed my name off the engineer’s list, picking instead to run over to Hunt Club with Engineer Steve. He was an old hand at ops, so mostly my job was keeping the paperwork straight and lining turnouts from a distant panel. Easy enough. We clattered home with plenty of time. […]
May 7, 2011

OpsLog – Southeast Virginia Division – 5/7/2011

Imagine two railroads, competitors forced by narrow river valley geography to wiggle together like snakes in a drain pipe. That gets you in the spirit for John Wilkes’ Southeast Virginia Division, a joint operation of the L&N and Southern Railroads. Its really neat to dispatch – the two lines cross and recross each other, actually sharing a long section of right-of-way. When two dispatchers work it, they have to clear such moves back and forth, keeping the traffic rolling but not into each other. Today we were short (pregnancies and diarrhea cut back our staff). I ran both desks. Great […]
May 1, 2011

Signal Maintainer 2

Why do I do this to myself? I’ve built two small layouts and worked on our club layout for years. I’ve wired and rewired as parts failed and needed replacing. There were all sorts of problems in my last ops session – four failing Radio Shack toggles as detailed HERE. The first two (in Salinas) I replaced quickly. The next two in King City… I put off. For months. Every night I was too tired, something came up, whatever. For the last two weekends I’ve been meaning to do it. Never got to it. So finally, like Black Bart of Blazing Saddles, […]
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 […]