Highlights of the January 21, 2006 Operating Session
The CSXT Shenandoah Division came to life once again on January 21, 2006.
There were ten members (including me) of the operating crew present. Prior to
this session, CSX signal maintainers had been
hard at work installing the
necessary signals and switch motors
to implement Traffic Control System (TCS) territory on the Covington
Subdivision from MC Cabin to Shenandoah Junction. Having even a portion of the
railroad represents the realization of a nearly life-long dream of mine, and the
operating crew seemed to get the hang of operating via "signal indication" quite
The session started at 1:00 p.m. as usual with a briefing for the operating crew.
This briefing was a little unusual in that it started with a rules "examination"
to test the crew's knowledge of the
changes to operating procedures resulting from the installation of TCS.
The briefing for this session was a little longer than normal as a result of all
the changes involved in switching over from DTC to TCS between MC and Shenandoah
This session ran our "AM" sequence (0700 to 1900), with the addition of
two trains (R422 and R699) left over from the November session. Accordingly,
there were a total of 20 trains on the lineup sheet for this session. We were able to
get 18 of the 20 trains out on the road, and 15 of those completed their run!
Completing the run of 15 ties the record set at the
November 19, 2005 operating session, while getting 18 trains out on the road
is a new record. The installation of TCS definitely helped reduce radio traffic
(by eliminating the need to authorize and release DTC blocks on about 40% of the
railroad), and once TCS extends farther north on the railroad, I anticipate
throughput will increase, especially as the dispatchers and train crews get more
experience with TCS.
Since I requested volunteers from the crew to learn the session "management"
positions (Trainmaster and Dispatcher), I was able once again to serve in the Trainmaster
position for only the first half of this session. Rich served as
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 Larry as his Assistant
Trainmaster. Thanks to these two guys, I was able to run two trains during the second shift,
including K656, the northbound Tropicana Juice train; and T379, a southbound
coal train. Being able to run through TCS territory was very realistic, and I'm
definitely pleased with this step towards fulfilling the vision I have for the
Shenandoah Division! I'd also like to thank Marcus, Todd, and
Dave for doing an excellent job dispatching. And, a big thanks to Rodney for
CATS, as I know the dispatchers really enjoyed being able to remotely control
the switch motors and signals from the dispatcher's office in "Jacksonville"!
I'm looking forward to extending TCS north of Shenandoah Junction and to
bringing the railroad to life once again at our next operating session!
January 21, 2006 Operating Session Photos
About halfway through the first trick of the session, several of the
crews are in the vicinity of New Castle and Laurel. Larry is waiting
patiently on B741, the Black Cat, in the siding at Laurel for Al on
the Q244 (northbound empty autoracks). Scott is on the B264 pushers helping
Q244 to the summit. Jan is bringing the T386 into the south end of New
Dave has left Covington on Q695 after making a measured train length
stop, and Jeff is copying DTC blocks on the V615, a southbound coal train,
in the Covington passing siding.
Dave and Jeff seem to be having fun. :-)
Todd and Marcus are sharing the job of dispatcher during the first trick.
Todd is using CATS to control three types of territory on the railroad: yard
limits from SE Cabin to MC Cabin in Salem, TCS from MC Cabin to Shenandoah
Junction, and DTC from Shenandoah Junction to the Alleghany DTC block north
of Covington. In TCS territory, he can use the mouse to throw switch motors
at the ends of passing sidings and to set signals to authorize traffic
movement. CATS figures out the appropriate aspects to display on the actual
signals on the layout based on the dispatcher's decisions.
On B741, Larry has finally managed to get a favorable signal indication
to proceed southbound down Rich Patch Mountain from Laurel to New Castle,
where he will meet T386. Scott has cut the B264 pushers off the Q244; B264
will then use signal indication to follow B741 south. Meanwhile, Al will
proceed from the north end of Laurel on Q244 on signal indication from the
dispatcher. He will also get DTC blocks in order to proceed north from
Shenandoah Junction, the current end of TCS territory.
Jan has brought the T386 to a stop in the passing siding at New Castle
according to the signals. He will meet B741 here before getting a B264
pusher to Laurel.
Marcus has flown in from "Jacksonville" to observe the moves he and Todd
set up in TCS territory using CATS. At this point, Al has Q244 coming to
Shenandoah Junction, and Larry has B741 past the intermediate signal at Rich
Patch headed downgrade to New Castle.
Rich has momentarily stepped away from his duties as Assistant
Trainmaster to watch Dave run Q695 upgrade at Pearson Curve. They're
probably enjoying a remark made on the radio. :-) The Trainmaster/Assistant
Trainmaster positions handle all trains into and out of Wadesboro,
Connellsville/Winchester, and NS Roanoke to make crew changes on the visible
portion of the layout. As a result, these positions do have some occasional
lulls where railfanning can occur.
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