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
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
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!