Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Re-Staging the Layout

This morning, I began the process of re-staging the layout.  I generated another session using my Excel spreadsheet.  The cool part is most of the cars to be set off in Op Session #10 are already waybilled and at the local terminals to be delivered.  Proof again that the system is working and freight is being moved properly.

It looks like next session will be heavy with pickups.  Tomorrow, I will start the process of turning waybills at the industries and processing the few set off waybills for the next session.  I then look at what will be required in Session #11 and start moving that freight toward the various terminals (but hopefully not arriving until after the locals have delivered in Session #10).  I had an issue with that on two industries this time where we had more cars than spots available.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ready to ROCK - Operating Session #9

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas everyone!  Operating Session #9 of the Rock Island: Illinois Division is in the books.

The session included veteran operators: Larry Keller, Marcus Neubacher, Jeff Lindstrom, Steve Holzheimer and myself.

We operated a total of 16 trains today between 4:30am and 11pm on a 4:1 fast clock.

Marcus marked up as the inaugural operator for the Kelly Yardmaster position.  After a quick briefing explaining the recent changes, the fast clock was set.  Time to ROCK!

The quick summary:
I was extremely pleased with the operations today.  There were a few mechanical issues, but not near as bad as last time.  Operations went very well.  The new yardmaster position at Silvis exceeded my expectations.  I was pleased to see locomotives being serviced for sand/fuel and maintenance on a regular schedule.  The "Joe Jack" report was a success.  Splitting the duties between two locals for Ottawa and LaSalle worked out well.  The crew instructions provided cut down on questions of how to handle a job.  Overall, the crew did a fine job at running prototypically, handling situations that arose with confidence, and most of all having fun.

One thing that gets me extremely excited is seeing cars move across the layout.  Knowing that the depressed center flat car was picked up at the Peru Power plant by Larry, taken to Ottawa and classified by Steve Holzheimer, then seen later on a train arriving in Chicago.  The railroad has purpose and moves freight according to the demand by the waybill system created.  That is exciting!

I would have to say this was the best op session I have had to date.  I can't thank Larry, Marcus, Jeff and Steve Holzheimer enough for coming over to run trains and bring the railroad alive!  It was a great time!

The Full Report

I'm not a writer, but I'm going to try something different this time and recap today's events in story format.  I wasn't able to monitor every situation on the layout, but this is a close representation of the events that occurred.  I hope you enjoy.

It is December 15th, 1977.  3:15am .   The Chicago Agent is on the line.  Time for work.  Jeff gathers his bag and heads out the door.  It's a foggy cold morning in Chicago (http://www.wunderground.com/history/).  The city is quiet as Jeff travels over to Burr Oak Yard.  Jeff parks his car outside the crew shed.  He looks over to see a powerful set of SD40-2s blowing steam up from the radiators.  Jeff reviews his paperwork, fills his thermos with coffee and boards his train.

At 4:30am, the calm is broken as Jeff throttles up the two SD40-2s departing Burr Oak Yard.  The windows in the store fronts along Main Street in Blue Island vibrate as the thunderous SD40-2s rumble down the street.

Larry arrives to work early at Joliet.  Shortly after his arrival, Jeff eases by UD Tower in Joliet on Main 1.  Jeff brings his train to a stop at the station to check in with the agent.  It looks like Jeff has seven or so cars to drop off plus roughly the same number to pickup.   Larry and Jeff exchange pleasant jabs at each other.  The two grandpas are among the most senior crew members on staff.  They have seen the ROCK at its best and at its worst.  Their experience and knowledge of the line is unsurpassed.  Before long, Jeff completes his work, throttling up on the SD40-2s.

As the markers from Jeff's caboose fade in the distance, Larry is quick to throttle up his RS2 and begin his work.  It looks like the handful of industries in town are still producing before shutting down for the holidays.  Federal Paperboard had more cars than spots available today.  Looks like Larry will have to find a vacant track to set off the car until a crew can switch it out tomorrow.

Over in Ottawa, Steve comes in from the cold after starting his locomotives.  He reviews his paperwork.  Although close to Christmas, production seems to be full-speed ahead as there is plenty of sand to move.  Libbey-Owens-Ford is making a last big push to get product out before the two week break when the factories shut down.  Loads of sand are plentiful as the yard is near capacity.

In Silvis, Yardmaster Marcus Neubacher digs into the data spread out in the reports on his desk.  It looks like it will be a busy day in Silvis.  Marcus quickly realizes there is high amount of traffic bound for Chicago.  No time to fret.  Marcus boards the lead unit of his all RS2 consist and gets to work.

As the horizon starts to show a faint glow of daylight, Steven climbs the ladder of his FP7.  Today's Quad Cities Rocket is stout with two locomotives and 11 passengers cars.  Wait, what's this?  Steven notices on his special bulletins, that he is required to pick up a few trailers of mail from the TOFC facility.  It appears the train is nearly sold out along the route to Chicago today.  Shoppers must be trying to score some last minute deals.

Steven slides open the window and wipes the dew off his mirror.  He peers into it watching for the hand signals of his brakeman on the ground.  Steven eases the train into the TOFC terminal track coupling to three flat cars.  Steven pulls back on the main and backs on to his caboose before performing an air test.  Marcus on the yard locomotives pull up beside the train on the yard lead.  The crews exchange pleasantries as they wait for the passenger train's departure.  Steven looks over his schedule glancing down at his pocket watch.  Looking over to his conductor, Steven announces it's time to roll.  Ripples are created in Steven's coffee cup as the thunderous locomotives vibrate the ground as they creep toward the East Moline station.

Crews scattered across the system take note of the time.  The first class passenger train is on the move.  They become acutely aware of their work window before required to clear up for the train.

Train #111, powered by Jeff has completed his work in Ottawa.  He eases down to LaSalle, checking his watch.  It appears he will have enough time to make his pickup, but not enough time to get down to Bureau.  Jeff performs his work and clears up in the siding.

The sun is up as passengers are whisked by the waiting train.  The screech of brakes are heard as Steven applies the brakes into the station at LaSalle.  Passengers hurried aboard the train as they grasp at their coat collars on this chilly morning.  Customers quickly realize that the conditions on the train aren't much better though.  The passenger cars are drafty as the ROCK is still using the "Al Capone" Standard Steel Car built coaches built back in the '20s.  What can you expect?  This is the ROCK!

At Silvis, Marcus crossed over to the mainline and made his pickups at all the local industries.  It was later in the morning when the assistant yardmaster Steven brought Marcus a bulletin that had been misplaced.  The bulletin stated that train #20 from Houston arrived late last night, but the night shift didn't have time to classify it.  The train was still sitting in the west yard!  Marcus raises his hand to his forehead and shakes in disbelief.  "Probably more of those Chicago cars too!"  It was going to be a busy day in the yard today.  "No time to worry about it now.  We have cars to classify!"

About that time, you heard a crackle on the radio.  "#111 calling Kelly Yardmaster."  #111 IL Shorts train from Chicago was sitting at the east abutment of the Rock River bridge.  The yardmaster's eyes kind of glossed over as he reached for the radio.  "Go ahead and pull in the A/D track, and take your power to the house."  #111 throttled up rolling into the yard with about 12 cars." Jeff marked off duty at 8:50am.

About the same time Larry idles to a stop in Joliet.  His work is nearly complete.  He has just the local grain elevator on the outskirts of town to work before tying up for the day.  He made great time as he only was delayed briefly by #6 making its station stop for ten minutes.

At 8:17am, the #6 Quad Cities Rocket pulls into the LaSalle Street Station in Chicago on time.

At 9:30am, Larry reported to duty for the new #118 LaSalle local.  The crew unions had lobbied with management to split the duties of the #217 Ottawa Local.  It was just too much for a crew to perform safely.  After lengthy discussions with management, they union succeeded in their request.  A new local would be based out of LaSalle.  The trainmaster was on duty to assist the crew with any questions they had.  The crew boarded their power which consisted of two GP7s today.  The locomotives made a run around move before headed off down the track to Peru to work the power plant.

At 10:00am, the sun is warming up Chicago to a balmy 35 degrees with a stiff wind out of the NW.  Jeff check-ins at the crew lounge.  He has been called out on train #1 bound for Tucumcari today.  His motive power consists of a RI SD40-2 and a Union Pacific SD40.  The locomotives will be pulling around 13 cars today.

Back over in LaSalle, Larry is busily working the power plant and Westclox plant.  It isn't long before his conductor notes it is time to clear up.  In TT&TO, the trains are required to clear up 10 minutes before the scheduled arrival time unless receiving a new order stating otherwise.  Larry clears up in the siding shortly before Jeff comes rolling by on first class train #1.

Marcus is busy working away at Kelly Yard.  His concentration is broken as the radio crackles, "#1 calling Silvis....approaching the Rock River bridge looking for clearance in the yard."  The yardmaster consults his morning power desk report and presses down on the floor pedal, "Come in on the pass track, cut your power, and take the west shop lead.  It looks like your power requires a 3,000 mile inspection today.  Tie down your power in the shop building."

Marcus calls over the radio...
"Neubacher to engine hostler Johnson over."
"The shop has released #20's power (GP7s 4446/4434).  Move them over to the fueling pad.  Move 111's power (SD40-2s 4785/4790) over to the ready track."
"10-4, engine hostler Johnson out..."

Jeff made such great time over to Silvis, that it looks like he can catch the counterpart train #2 from Tucumcari back to Chicago called for 11:50am.  The yardmaster was a little overwhelmed as he was trying to complete building train #2 when #1 arrived.  The yard was full.  #2 was on the A/D track, #1 on the pass track.  The only clear track was the mainline.  Jeff hostled his power (a solid set of three GP40s) over to his train as Marcus added the last Chicago cars.  Jeff performed a quick air test and departed 10 minutes behind schedule.  No worries for this veteran engineer as he will make up the time on the road.

Larry on #118 LaSalle local has made it up Utica, but is forced to clear up on the Philadelphia Quartz lead as #2 is hot on his heels.  Once #2 passed by, Larry completed his Chicago bound pickups from the chemical track and continued over to Ottawa yard.

Larry pulls up just short of the BN crossing.  "#118 to Ottawa yardmaster.  We're here at the yard board with four cars for you."  A pause on the radio and then Steve responds, "Good morning #118.  Pull up on the main stopping short of the crossover.  Drop your Chicago cars on track two.  Run around your train and pickup your block on track three on the west end."  "10-4, here we come."

After taking a lunch break, Jeff, striving for employee of the month, accepts the job for #221 Blue Island local.  He grabs his orders and walks down to track three to find his train led by two GP7s 1234 and 1208.  Jeff takes a different approach to the job today utilizing the empty old yard to block his train.  His plan consists of only taking what he needs out for delivery.  In the past, crews have taken the entire train out to find cars being left everywhere while sorting out the traffic.  It would really become a problem when a through freight needed to squeeze by the chaos.  Jeff gives the yardmaster the thumbs up as he rumbles by the yard office.  He yells out the window "I got it under control - no problem!"  The yardmaster just lets out a quiet chuckle.  Blue Island is a beast that is hard to tame.  Just when you think you're in control, Blue Island will turn around and screw you.

Before Jeff can get too deep into his work, Steven on train #43 bound for Council Bluffs departs Burr Oak Yard led by two GP40s 382 and 367.  Train 43 slips by on the main track with clear sailing ahead.

Larry on #118 has completed his work in Ottawa and has made the return trip back to Utica.  He works with a long string of sand hoppers to sort out his set offs and pickups at Philadelphia Quartz.  He glances down at his watch to see #43 is scheduled soon.  Larry pulls ahead into the PQ lead and calls out to his conductor to lock up the mainline switch.

#43 blasts by Larry with 10 cars or so in tow.  Before long, the radio crackles in the tower at Silvis, "43 to Kelly Yard, we have ten for you today."  Marcus replies back "It looks like you just require sand and fuel today.  Pull in on the A/D track, cut your power, taking the west shop lead.  Tie down your power at the service pad."

Steve marks up on the #112 Rock Island local job.  It doesn't look too bad today with only six deliveries.  Powered by a GP7 #1333 in the red/white stripe scheme, Steven walks over to the A/D track where Marcus has his train ready to go.  The train was delayed an hour from its scheduled departure time due to a crew shortage.

Steven makes a reverse move onto the siding, crosses over to the main and backs down to the TOFC facility.  He drops off two flat cars, couples back onto his caboose.

#112 pulls down to the station on main one to pick up his orders.  Steven looks over to his conductor "it looks like we're clear to Bureau Junction."  #112 throttles up.  Shortly after clearing the Rock River bridge, Steven notches up the throttle as the grade out of the river bed is steep.  Before long he sees Franklin Farms on the horizon.  Steven married the granddaughter of old man Franklin.  Although not producing as much as in the past, Franklin Farms continues to farm the land.  The Franklins are a beloved couple in the community.

#112 eases up to the west switch at Rock Island.  The brakeman climbs down the ladder and throws the turnout.  The conductor checks in with the station agent.  It appears we have one empty box to pick up at Sunrise Ag.  The brakeman lines the switch into Johnson Milling Company.  The crews must pull into the spur to back onto the rear Sunrise Ag track to pickup the empty box car.

Before long, 112 has completed its work in Rock Island and proceeds over to Bureau.  The crew drops its caboose on the siding, then pulls ahead to Daniel Grain Company.  Daniel Grain Company is Steven's family business.  Steven's father Dan Johnson ran the facility until his death three years ago.  Business is still steady as they ship 3-4 cars per week.  Today, 112's crew only has to pick up one car at the elevator.

#112 completes a run around maneuver and works the Farmers Grain elevator on the way out of town.    #112 had received orders at Bureau to take the siding at Rock Island.  It appears #118s light power will overtake the train back into Silvis.

#118 has completed its work in LaSalle.  Good thing management split the Ottawa Local's duties into two trains.  Today's work took nearly 8 hours to complete.  #118 has a special bulletin to take the power to Silvis for servicing.  Larry receives his orders from the station agent and heads west.

#118 slips by #112 at Rock Island and eases down to the Rock River bridge.  #112 throttles up and follows the markers on #118 down to the bridge too.

Kelly Yard still bustling with activity is interrupted by the call from Larry.  "#118 light engines for service."  "Come on down the yard ladder in the east shop lead to the fuel pad #118."  #118 rolls by the yardmasters office just as the radio crackles again.  "#112 calling Kelly Yard, over."  "Kelly Yard..."  "We have six for you today."  "Come down the A/D track, cut your power, take the west yard lead to the house, over."  "10-4, 112 out."

Back over in Chicago, passengers hustle back over to the LaSalle Street Station.  #5 Quad Cities Rocket bound for Silvis is due to depart at 5:30pm.  The trainmaster is on site to observe the train to ensure no difficulties are experienced.  While in the area, he catches wind of the grumblings of the Blue Island local.  Word on the street, the crew has renamed it the Devil's Island local.  "What were they thinking when they designed this?  What industry would have a lead that crosses the main from the siding?"  The trainmaster just chuckles.  "Blue Island strikes again."

#5 is delayed departing Chicago.  Evidently, there were a few ticketing issues preventing a large group of shoppers to board the train in a timely manner.  Larry was at the controls.  He will adjust his stop schedule to make up the time over the road.

Over in Ottawa, the crews have been quiet, but not from lack of working.  The Ottawa Local had an incredible amount of work to complete today.  The crew had to put in overtime today to complete the work due to crew shortages.  Even without the duties of switching from Utica to Peru, the job took 12 1/2 hours.  What a monster!  Ottawa, where sand is king!

Steve Holzheimer was called out on train #44 out of Silvis.  It's power today consists of two SD40-2s 4785 and 4790 that came in on #111 earlier this morning.  Train 44 is maxed out with Chicago-bound traffic.  Steve reviews his timetable to see he is scheduled for a meet with #5 Quad Cities Rocket at Bureau.  He glances at his watch to see they are departing 10 minutes late.  Time to go!

Shortly after the Ottawa crew went off duty, the Burlington Northern called on Ottawa Yard.  They are coming to town with 6 cars.  The train received permission onto the siding and pulled down to the crossover.  Minutes later, #5 Quad Cities Rocket rolls by the crossover easing to a stop at the Ottawa station.

Once #5 clears out of town, a BN crew member climbs down off the locomotive, and sets the switches.  The BN crew travels down to the east end of the yard, sets off the Chicago cars, runs around it's train leaving its caboose on the siding.  Drops it's Silvis cars on the west end, picks up the outbound BN cars and couples back to its caboose.  The train is in town for a little less than an hour before heading back up the interchange track to the BN.

In Bureau, #5 crosses the bridge at Hennepin Canal.  The engineers gives a special toot of the horn to the kids playing at the park along the river bed.  #5 waits at the station patiently.  Just as it is time for the train to depart, #44's headlight is viewed in the distance.  #44 clears up on the siding allowing #5 to continue its run.

#5 Quad Cities Rocket pauses at the Rock Island station for passengers to disembark.

Steve H on #44 continues his charge to Chicago until passing through Joliet.....  It looks like the cars came uncoupled five from the rear.  Steve brings the train to a stop, reverses and inspects for damage.  The crew on the caboose made some quick repairs delaying the train only ten minutes.  

That extra time earned allowed for #221 to successfully clear up on the old mainline track for #44 to slip by into Burr Oak Yard.

Although delayed twice, Larry manages to deliver the passengers and their cargo to East Moline on time.

Kelly Yard knew quitting time was soon and began clearing out the yard.  Crews were called for trains #110 Silvis to Chicago IL Shorts and an Extra Grain East.  #110 was powered by two GP7s 1201 and 1232 that arrived earlier on #118.  Steven's Extra Grain East was powered by two GP7s 4446 and 4434 in the new boom-time blue/white paint scheme.

Steve Holzheimer on the #110 departed Silvis at 08:10pm.  The train was nearly two hours late due to a crew shortage.  The trainmaster authorized for the train to go over tonnage taking 16 cars.  The thought process would be the train would drop most of his cars en route only picking up a few.  We'll see how well that works out later.

In Chicago, Larry was called out on train #23 Chicago to Houston freight lead by GP38-2 #4374 and U25B #208.  Train #23 met Steve on train #110 IL Shorts at Bureau as he was working to pick up two cars.  He's now running well over maximum train length at 18 cars.  

Steven departed 25 minutes after #110.  Orders received at East Moline were for clearance to the siding at Rock Island to meet #23 Houston bound freight.  

Marcus on the Kelly Yard job completed his deliveries to the local industries close to 10pm at night.  The industries had been calling all day to the local agent asking when they could expect delivery.  A typical day on the ROCK.  

Steve H on #110 IL Shorts encountered a broken knuckle situation pulling through LaSalle.  The trainmaster will have some explaining to do authorizing the additional tonnage to Chicago.

Steven on the Extra Grain East pulled up on the main at Bureau and waited while Steve made repairs to his train in LaSalle.

Steve H on #110 IL Shorts rolled into Ottawa on the main to make a pick up and set off.  This allowed the Extra Grain East to slide by on the siding track to continue on to Chicago.  

Extra Grain East slid past #221 Blue Island local as he was finishing up his work.  Steven marked off duty at 10:00pm with Jeff on #221 at 10:45pm.  Steven Holzheimer was right behind both trains tying down at Burr Oak Yard at 10:50pm with 19 cars!

After the deliveries were made and trains #110 and Extra Grain East departed, the yard was nearly empty.  Great job Marcus on moving that freight!

A previously empty Burr Oak Yard began to fill up as traffic began arriving in quick succession during the late evening hours.  

It was a long day on the ROCK, but crews managed to move the freight!  Great job guys!  Looking forward to doing it all again tomorrow!