At the throttle

Train Blog

November 24, 2023

On Sheet- how does a CTC panel work?

ou might have seen my last posting HERE, where we ran Ken Farnham’s Florida East Coast. I mentioned we have fun and I mentioned his railroad is CTC. So let’s look a little closer at how it works. CTC means “Centralized Traffic Control”. For all that talk I’ve blabbered about TT&TO (Time Table and Train Orders) and Warrants, CTC is one of the newer methods. It requires that signals on the layout can be controlled remotely, and that turnouts have powered relays that can move the points (and also be controlled remotely). The dispatcher, possibly from a desk thousands of […]
November 23, 2023

OpsLog – LM&O – 11/22/2023

t’s a sliver before midnight on a cold, rainy evening in Martin Yard. I’m huddling close to my idling GP-9s, trying to soak in their warmth and shield myself from the drizzle. All I can say is, “Hell of the thing, Shannon. Hell of a thing.” My trains is on track 2, six cars going over to Zanesville and Carbon Hill. Shannon has the shorter run to Mingo but the thing is he’s hauling something like forty cars tonight. I mean, the usual summit-topper drag freights are shorter than that. Forty cars? Did they tear down Mingo Junction and are […]
November 19, 2023

OpsLog – FEC – 11/18/2023

t was Donald Sutherland who created the character of the World War Two proto-hippy “Oddball”, who smiles when presenting the coffee-swilling, hookah-puffing, woman-fondling tankers of his command with a dopey yet prideful smile. “These are my boys.” Today, me and some of the N-Trakers ran east to the coast to operate on the Farnham’s FEC. We entered their house in a blaze of gold, thanks to John’s club shirt. The guys (John DeVasto, Zach Bischoff and Jeff Chisholm) as well as myself and my wife, we took our jobs, sat down and did the shit out of them. I’ve run […]
November 12, 2023

OpsLog – WVN – 11/11/2023

on a golden ticket to run over on the Komar’s wonderful West Virginia Northern. Unfortunately, the night before the session I got a call from my rider – he was running a fever. A quick call to the Komars resulted in his ticket getting revoked and me facing the long solo drive to Tampa in my old aging beater. I mentioned that, if we were short, I could bring my wife instead. They thought they kinda said “Yes”, I thought they said “No” (after all, she is literally a frog in my pocket in ops, not adding to head-count). So […]
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 […]