At the throttle

Train Blog

August 11, 2023

On Sheet – Club Duties

very kid (and the kids in us) dream of advancing a throttle and running a mile-long train out of a yard, leaning out of that cab window and calling the signals, checking the flimsies and feeling the wind howl around our weather-beaten head. Nobody dreams of working the hostler job, keeping the boiler pressures up over the long cold night. Or clerking, typing waybills and train orders up. Or walking the track, checking the line. Or walking through the cars punching tickets. There are things that support those god-like engineers that just isn’t fun. Same goes true for being in […]
July 29, 2023

On Sheet – When Things Go Wrong

any of you might remember that incident we had on Tusk Hill (a division of my Tuscarora layout, where we run an English Midlands session rather than a western Pennsylvania one). Here is the disaster report. So the designer/builder Steve (a good friend whose help has been critical in the development of my microlayout) came out to the club (where we keep it) and took a look at it. He checked the obvious possibilities (particularly the solder joints) and after two hours gave up. It would take a lot more work. So he loaded it into his car (yay, microlayouts) […]
July 27, 2023

OpsLog – LM&O – 7/26/2023

ormally Frank runs a passenger train with Conductor Greg, but Greg was out of town and Frank looked like a lost puppy for ops night. From the cab of my idling geeps in Martin Yard, I saw him standing in dejection, so I offered him a run on the Zanesville Turn (with work up to Carbon Hill). “It’s not going to be varnish work,” I warned him. “There’s more to switching work than trying not to spill the passengers’ soup.” But he was game.  Since we already had a warrant, we were first out of the yard, pressing for Mingo […]
July 24, 2023

OpsLog – WAZU – 7/23/2023

don’t think I’ve every run warrants so fast and so long. In three hours, I wrote ninety-three of them. Yes, it was a busy day on the WAZU railroad. Not without goofs, of course. Writing that fast, you can get in trouble. I did clear a train into Spokane when the Lumber Jack run was coming out – a bit of a headlight thing there. But then again, I did have some phenomenal meets. Twice I got five trains past each other at single sidings (by cramming two in tight on the siding while three ran past). Of course, even […]
July 23, 2023

OpsLog – FEC – 7/22/2023

smell something burning.” I was working the out-n-back from Cocoa Yard to Frontenac, fussing over mismarked lading slips, trying to figure out what someone did and didn’t do a couple of weeks back in City Point (without a Rosetta Stone, either). And that’s when I smelled smoke. Engineer Chip was working the lower deck. When I asked him if his engine was on a switch, he told me no. But a car on his train was on a switch, one that had been set against him. And the truck of a wheel delicately placed with love between a rail and […]
July 21, 2023

On Sheet – Sound Check

ou know, DCC is a wonderful thing. Now we can drive trains and blink the lights and sound the whistle and bell. I’ve always wondered what those rheostat twisters in the ’50s would have thought of us now with all our digitalized magic. Just the options of not relying on electrical blocks allows us to run helpers and do all sorts of cool things. However, one thing that always bugs me is when, during operations, you see an engineer just driving along, toot-tooting his whistle in patterns only known to him, as cute yet pointless as Thomas the Tank Engine. […]
July 16, 2023

OpsLog – Tusk Hill (Annulled) – 7/15/2023

know that Kyle put in a lot of work for the first “true” run of Tusk Hill – instructions, tokens, switchlists, everything. And I know that some people drove a very long way (Jim from St. Augustine and Ben from Celebration, and, taken for granted, Greg from Satellite beach). So we handed out paperwork, got the briefing and began. Jim was working both the coal job and the tally sheet and he seemed to be getting his head around how the Tusk works and how things are represented. Greg was standing by to take the shunter position. I ran up […]
July 14, 2023

On Sheet – Peeps

remember the moment my doctor told me I had cancer. I remember life being normal and then it was not. The next two days I don’t remember at all. And two weeks later, I had to dispatch our club layout. At the time I was the only dispatcher. I seem to recall the guys running flawless. It was a good session. The goofs were minor and we worked around them. But I suspect that if someone did something stupid (it has happened) or back-talked me on the phones (this, also), I’d have lost my total freaking shit. I don’t know […]
July 9, 2023

ShowLog – Deland – 7/8/2023

e’ll start with wrist-slapping. Over twenty people were supposed to be at setup today. We got a handful. Fortunately the crew we had was top-notch and we had just enough people to get the basic assembly team in action. Others drifted in after the layout was up, siting various reasons (the coo-coo fell off Kyle’s European clock, it seems). We were still nowhere near the numbers we’d been promised. And here is my admonishment – you are only as good as your word. Done. The rest of the train show clicked out as if it had been timetabled. Trains surged […]
July 7, 2023

On Sheet – Divergent Evolutions

didn’t know I was actually setting up an experiment on evolutions of thinking and divergent game science. I was just making a small switching layout. As has been covered here ad nauseam, I’m talking about my own Tuscarora, a layout that started as a 2×4 switching puzzle and has turned into a operations empire. Our last session (NOTED HERE) ran with seven operators over three hours. I’ve given NMRA clinics on the design stage I went through (not preplanned in any way) that I used to come up with operations on this micro layout. Basically, it was basic switching, the […]