07/21/2007 Operating Session
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Highlights of the July 21, 2007 Operating Session

(NOTE: The report for the July 21, 2007 operating session has been delayed because of other priorities preventing me from posting the report until December 9, 2007.)

The CSXT Shenandoah Division came to life once again on July 21, 2007. There were eight members (including me) of the operating crew present for this operating session.

The session started at 1:00 p.m. as usual with a short briefing for the operating crew. After discussing a few changes in operating procedures and taking a group photo, we started the session at about 1:30 p.m. We took our normal mid-session break of about 30 minutes for some snacks and social time around 3:30 p.m., and then we resumed operating around 4:00 p.m. before ending the session sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m.

For this session we ran the "PM" sequence (1900 to 0700). Prior to this session, the "PM" sequence would have 19 trains on the lineup sheet, but this session added 2 new trains--B703 (the Second Covington Shifter) and T636 (the northbound Laurel Turn)--for a total of 21 trains in the lineup. 

We ended up only running 18 of the 21 trains scheduled, with 2 of those 18 still out on the road at the end of the session. We might have been able to run more had we had 1-2 more crews present and if we hadn't had a couple of issues with equipment shorting out: 1 pulpwood car had a bad resistive wheelset and 1 locomotive had a decoder which would intermittently short circuit whatever power zone of the railroad it was currently running in.

Even so, this session did see several "firsts". Two trains ran for the first time: T636, the northbound Laurel Turn serving the APCO power plant at Laurel; and B704, the Second Covington Shifter. B742, the northbound Black Cat road local, set out for the first time at both Catawba and Covington. Finally, another first was that Jeff ran a shifter for the first time--he did an excellent job with B712, the Catawba Shifter, which is a challenging job!

As we started the session, I recalled from the last time we ran the "PM" session that the sequencing of trains at the start of the session needs some work. If I can remember, I will plan to make some adjustments before the next time we run "PM" as I think the start of the "AM" session generally flows much more smoothly. The sequence is actually set up as part of a "master" 24-hour schedule which factors in the yard at Salem needing to handle many of the trains we run. However, I will plan to make some changes to the "PM" sequence to help things flow better until Salem Yard comes on-line.

As a result of the sequencing and electrical issues, we were generally behind on the lineup sheet. I think with 1-2 more crew members present and without the "short circuit" issues, we would have likely run all 21 trains. In any event, I still think it was a very good session, and the problem of not having enough crews is prototypical, so I'm more concerned about having quality train movements than completing the lineup.

As I mentioned, this session saw the debut of the B704, the Second (shift) Covington Shifter. Larry handled this local which serves industries in Covington, Laurel, and High Meadow as well as interchange traffic for Virginia Eastman in Carpenter. B704 was supposed to start working at 2245, but did not go on duty until 0045 on account of crew availability. Larry was able to do all the work at Covington and Laurel as well as make the setout at the VA Eastman interchange in Carpenter. When the session ended at 0800, B704 tied down at Laurel. I finished the work for B704 at Laurel and the pickup at Carpenter after the crew dinner after the session. (As an aside, I normally crash after a session, but for some reason I wanted to finish running this session that night.)

This session also saw the debut of the T636, the northbound Laurel Turn. In the "AM" session, T635 (southbound Laurel Turn) would head south to Laurel, run around its train and shove loaded coal hoppers into the Appalachian Power Co. plant at Laurel. The power and caboose would tie up there. Then, in the "PM" session (such as this one), a crew would taxi to Laurel, get on board the power, assemble their train and head north. The first run of this train would have worked well if the dispatcher had "apparently" given a signal to the crew at Shenandoah Junction and if the train crew had "apparently" followed the signal. :-) Seriously, we now know that a train working APCO will need a signal at Shenandoah Jct. to do its work. Thanks to Todd A. for serving as the crew of this train and working out the kinks in its operation.

Jeff ran a shifter on the Shenandoah Division for the first time. He ran B712, the Second (shift) Catawba Shifter, like a veteran. This train was "scheduled" to start work at 2100, but Jeff wasn't able to get on board until 2300. He completed all the work at Catawba, Abbott, and New Castle, going off duty at 0630 for a total of 7.5 hours of work, which is quite good for the Catawba Shifter. Of course, he received some excellent advice before and during the course of running this train. :-)

Another first was the debut of 12 "old school" Kato locomotives which had Digitrax DZ123 decoders installed by the Peconic Shops. These locomotives include 6 SD40s, 3 C30-7s, and 3 U30Cs. Four of the units are in the CSX "Bright Future" livery, but the others are a mix of older CSX schemes, Family Lines, Seaboard System and Chessie paint. It was great seeing these units in operation and helping to cement my era in the late 1980s/early 1990s with the hodgepodge of paint schemes CSX ran then. The units performed flawlessly except for the one Chessie SD40, and the Peconic Shops later determined the motor brushes were out of adjustment and repaired the unit. Thanks go to Larry for agreeing to complete this project for me as I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get around to "decoderizing" these units. I was really glad to see them in operation yesterday!

Todd H. volunteered to serve as the Trainmaster so I could run trains during the second shift of this session. I really appreciate his willingness to help out. Several of the crew members in addition to myself are now qualified on this job. This is a good job since you get to work with the dispatcher to control traffic flow on the railroad and you get to run all the trains on the layout (with the exception of the shifters). I don't mind doing it myself, but I also want to be able to run on my own railroad since I've put so much effort into it's construction, maintenance, and session preparations. I also like getting out on the road to see what kinds of operational challenges crews encounter to help with tweaking future operations.

Marcus served as our dispatcher again for both shifts of the session and did an excellent job. Thanks go to Jan and Mike for rounding out the crew. Jan, Mike, Todd A., Todd H., and I all ran as road crews, and Larry and Jeff were the pusher crews in addition to their duties on the shifters. Everyone did a great job at this session, and I know I really enjoyed operating the Shenandoah Division once again! I truly appreciate the participation of the entire crew in helping me achieve my vision for each operating session!


July 21, 2007 Operating Session Photos

Jan is departing the south end of Covington on Amtrak P031, while Todd looks like he's just received the news that he's not leaving Salem for a while on B742, the northbound Black Cat road local.


Todd A. brings northbound Q694 into the south end of New Castle. Larry is helping him get oriented to the railroad since this is his first time participating in the crew. Jeff is the crew of pusher B265 and will push Q694 north over Rich Patch Mountain.


Jan, Todd, and Mike are having a discussion as Jan brings P031 through Carpenter and Todd is still waiting to leave Salem on B742.


Marcus is dispatching the railroad using the CATS dispatching software. It's only a little over an hour into the session and the panel is already lit up with trains moving over the busy Shenandoah Division.


Todd brings Q694 to a stop at the north end of the New Castle passing siding to prepare to tie-in on pushers for the climb up Rich Patch Mountain.


Jeff appears to be having a good time as he prepares to couple the B265 pushers onto the rear of Q694.


Jeff discusses the pending move up the mountain with the head-end crew of Q694 as Amtrak P031 descends the grade at Rich Patch.


Larry looks on as Todd A. makes some notes while waiting to meet Amtrak P031 at New Castle.


The B265 pushers are hanging out at the south end of New Castle. As soon as the dispatcher gets the head end of Q694 moving, the rear end pushers will clear up to allow Amtrak P031 to proceed.


Now that the pushers have moved into the clear, Jan waits for a signal at the south end of New Castle on P031.


Todd A. and Larry observe the slack as Q694 rounds Rich Patch Mountain at the "Corkscrew."


B265 shoving hard on the rear of Q694 at Rich Patch.


Larry and Jeff check out the slack at the rear of Q694 as it is being pushed up the mountain.


Todd A. concentrates on running Q694 around the "Corkscrew."


CSXT 8416, a SD40, leads 3 other SD40s on the head end of southbound loaded coal train V649 at Pearson Curve. This session marked the debut of some older power such as this lash-up on V649.


It seems that at least once in every session a majority of the operators present end up the same aisle at the same time. For this session, Todd A., Todd H., Mike, and Larry all end up in the short aisle at Laurel as the action converges there.


Todd H. has finally made it out of Salem on B742. He's setting out a block of cars in the yard at Covington for the B704 (Second Covington Shifter). Larry has already gone to work on B704 making pickups but now will be able to make setouts after B742 finishes his work here.


Jeff ran B712, the Second Catawba Shifter, for the first time at this session. He's working the yard at Catawba in this view.


We always take a crew photo before the start of the session, so here's the crew from 07/21/07. Clockwise from front: Bruce, Jan, Jeff, Mike, Todd A., Marcus, Todd H., and Larry.


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


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