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
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
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
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.
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.