09/17/2005 Operating Session
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Highlights of the September 17, 2005 Operating Session

The CSXT Shenandoah Division came to life once again on September 17, 2005. There were nine members (including me) of the operating crew present for this session. Continuing an initiative started after the May 21 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 September operating session was similar to the July 23 operating session in terms of reliability and throughput, 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. This briefing primarily covered changes to operating procedures since the previous session as 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 main portion of the briefing at this session was indeed shorter than those at previous sessions. In order to get more crew members qualified to serve in the Trainmaster and Dispatcher roles, I did ask for folks to try either of these positions or assistants to the Trainmaster and Dispatcher. As a result, we spent a little more time after the briefing making sure everyone understood the roles.

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. At this session, we were able to only get 11 trains out on the road, and only 9 of those completed their run. We're still trying to figure out the throughput on the railroad, as we were able to run more trains at the July 23 operating session with fewer crew members present. I'm beginning to realize throughput may continue to be constricted until some of the CTC signals are installed. Based on reports from other friends' railroads, I'm hopeful that capacity will increase when the signals are installed.

Since I requested volunteers from the crew to learn the session "management" positions, I was able to serve in the Trainmaster position for only the first half of this session. Jan volunteered to be Assistant Trainmaster during the first shift of the session in order to learn how to do the job. He then took over as Trainmaster for the second shift, with Rich serving as his Assistant Trainmaster. As a result, I was able to run a train during the second shift. As luck would have it, though, I was called for a northbound empty train (T478); and I only made it from Wadesboro to the siding at New Castle, where I sat while higher priority traffic such as K656, P050, R423, and P032 met or passed T478 there. Nonetheless, I had a good time running over the railroad I've spent so much time building! :-) I'd like to thank Jan and Rich 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. :-)

We continued with the change in the Trainmaster's role started at the last session The Trainmaster handles 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. After experimenting with this procedure for two sessions, management has decided to make it a permanent change, as it keeps crews out of the staging aisle, and means 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.

A couple of days prior to this session, I installed a new upgraded version of the Computer Assisted Traffic System (CATS) software used by the dispatchers to control traffic movements over the division. This new version provides support for Direct Traffic Control (DTC) to reduce the amount of mental tracking the dispatchers have to do. Scott served as the dispatcher for the first shift with Dave as his assistant, and Dave took over for the second shift with Al as his assistant.

This session was the "AM" sequence from 0700 to 1900, although we actually ended the session a little early at about 1800 on the fast clock. Of the 17 trains planned to run during the session, we managed to completely run 9 of them. Two other trains (T478 and G227) were out on the road at the end of the session as well. Six trains did not get out of staging at all.

We ended this session a little early so I could fire up the grill for our annual cook-out for the crew. This cookout was the 8th Annual "ShenDiv ShinDig", which Cherie and I host to thank the crew for the participation in bringing the railroad to life.


September 17, 2005 Operating Session Photos

Jeff has the Q420 headed upgrade on the Rich Patch grade near the steepest part of the climb in the "Corkscrew." He'll meet B741, the Black Cat, at Laurel. Larry is on the B741 waiting in the siding at Laurel in the background.


Todd spent the session working on the B264, the First New Castle Pusher. His first assignment of the day was to push the northbound Q420 from New Castle to Laurel.


Jeff, on the Q420, is about to get to the summit of the Rich Patch grade at Laurel after being pushed by the B264 under Todd's control. Larry (on B741 at Laurel) and Al (on Q695 waiting at Ridgemont) have walked over to watch the action at Laurel.


Jan served as the Assistant Trainmaster for the first shift of the session. Here, he's acting as the outbound crew of the B741 heading south from Salem to Wadesboro.


Q trains meeting at Catawba. Al is holding the mainline at Catawba with the southbound Q695. Jeff is observing the 10 mph speed restriction over the Catawba Creek Viaduct. He's running the northbound Q244 empty autorack train, and he'll take the siding at Catawba to meet Q695.


After finishing his run on B741, Larry hopped on board the V615, a southbound coal train. He's entering the siding at Laurel to meet the northbound Q244. His lead unit, the SBD 8531, has a microprocessor which keeps shutting down, making it a challenge for him to keep his train under control. With his skill as an engineer, V615 descended Rich Patch mountain with no incidents.


Scott's observing the action at Salem.


Dave served as assistant dispatcher during the first shift of the session, and he took over as the dispatcher for the second shift, with Al serving as his assistant. This session was the "AM" session running from  0700 to 1900, so second shift began at 1300. Dave and Al are shown here early into their shift, where they've inherited a CATS console lit up "like a Christmas tree."


This page was last updated on 01/01/11.


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