Highlights of the July 23, 2005 Operating Session
The CSXT Shenandoah Division came to life once again on July 23, 2005. Even
though there were only seven members of the crew present at this operating session
(including Cherie and me), this session was our best session yet! Since the
operating session, management had instructed shop forces to focus on
increasing operating reliability of locomotives and rolling stock. These efforts,
along with management's agreement to eliminate some train movements for now,
paid dividends as the July 23 session went much more smoothly, although there
still were some minor issues to be resolved.
The session started at 1:00 p.m. as usual with a briefing for the operating crew.
Updates to the Employee Timetable since the last session were covered as well as
changes to operating procedures indicated in the Superintendent's bulletins. As
the crew becomes familiar with the layout and the operating procedures, these
pre-session briefings will become shorter, and the briefing at this session was
indeed shorter than those at the previous two sessions.
In order to try to have more relaxed sessions, I had cut to 17 (from 20) the
number of trains to be run for this session. Even though we had a smaller crew,
we were able to keep up with the sequence fairly well, running only about
1-1.5 fast hours behind the estimated departure times on the lineup sheets. I
think this is awesome, and it is quite encouraging to me that we will eventually
get the throughput of the railroad up to the point where I envisioned! I think
with 1-2 more road crews, we likely would have been very close to on sequence.
After serving all of the previous two sessions as Trainmaster, I served in that
position for only the first half of yesterday's session. Marcus took over as
Trainmaster the second half, and I was able to run trains for the first time
during a "full" operating session! What a blast! I had a great time running over
the railroad I've spent so much time building! :-) I'd like to thank Marcus for
"volunteering" for this duty yesterday. For future operating sessions, I
definitely will continue to split the Trainmaster job into two shifts (as we do
with the Dispatcher, pusher crews, and eventually the Yardmaster as well), so
I'll be looking for other folks in the current crew to step up and assist in
this role as well. :-)
One major change we made in this session was to change the duties of the
Trainmaster, which makes the position either more interesting or more hectic,
depending on your point of view. ;-) The change is to have the Trainmaster
handle all trains into and out of the Connellsville/Winchester, Wadesboro, and
NS Roanoke staging yards to crew change locations on the "visible" portion of
the run. This procedure seemed to work well. The change keeps crews out of the
staging aisle, and means that they don't have the "model railroad thoughts"
associated with staging yards as they now begin and end their "day's work" at a
crew change point on the "visible" railroad. I was very pleased with this
change, and we will continue using this procedure.
Two other significant changes were made in regards to the operation of the Rich
Patch Pusher. One change was to go back to having the pusher only assist
northbound ("uphill") trains. We ran all southbound ("downhill") trains
without the pushers, and I think we only had two incidents which were
related to train handling. I believe making this change helped to increase
overall throughput on the railroad. The other change related to pusher operation
was to only assign DTC blocks to the head end train once the pushers had tied
on. This change seemed successful as well by reducing the amount of chatter on
the radios and by decreasing the amount of time necessary to get the train
moving once the pushers tied on. We will likely continue with both these
This session also marked the first session where everyone in attendance had a
radio with a headset. It is simply amazing to me how much having the headsets
reduces the ambient noise in the room and allows operators to hear the
transmissions being made. Getting radios with headsets was definitely one of the
best things we've done as an operating group!
Another first occurred at this session as well. For the first time, I had a car
with a resistive wheelset on the rear of every train. As a result, the
dispatchers were able to more closely monitor train progress over the railroad
when using the CATS dispatching software. I have received a new version of CATS
from Rodney, but I did not have time to upgrade the system prior to this
session, so Marcus and Todd used the version we had introduced at the May
Of the 17 trains planned to run during the session, we managed to completely run
10 of them. An 11th had almost completed its run when we stopped the session for
going out to supper as a crew. Three other trains were out on the road at the
end of the session as well. Only 3 trains did not get out of staging at all.
Reflecting upon this session, I'm very pleased with the overall pace of
operations and reliability of the railroad. I definitely feel like we're getting
"on track" towards my vision for the layout.
Future Operating Sessions
Future operating sessions have already been planned, as have improvements to
equipment, the layout, and operating procedures. Operations on the CSXT
Shenandoah Division will continue to get better as these improvements are
implemented and as the crews become more proficient, but I'm quite pleased with
the fact that the railroad is operating once again!