A Tale of 3 Op Sessions

It’s been fairly quiet on this site recently. Don’t worry, I’ve been doing a LOT of photography, which is great for the ol’ train budget.

In April, I hosted 3 op sessions in 4 weeks, plus another in May. (The first session is chronicled in this post)  They were all markedly different!

Op Session the First

The first run was with non-train friends – two couples. It went very well, all the trains were run and, for the most part, everything went smoothly. Two hiccups…the crew of No. 81 ran out of cares to have, so they didn’t switch grand forks, instead leaving the drops unorganized in the yard. That wasn’t too bad.

The other problem was that X4104 East was switching Fife, which requires a handbrake at the end of the train to prevent a runaway. Unfortunately, the engineer, going dutifully about his work and unfamiliar with clearance points, left his train fouling the track he was backing down. With 6400hp of engines on his train to tackle the 2.7% grade to Farron, he sideswiped the first car, and pushed the whole train back into the tail end handbrake, scattering loaded ore cars left and right! It was then I decided to finish the scenery in that section.

All in all, it was a lot of fun, and I think these non-train folk will come back for another round! Unfortunately, I neglected to take photos. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Op Session the Second

The second run…where to begin. It was for out of town people attending Supertrain. It had 8 people, including 4 IRL railroaders – a CP engineer, retired CN engineer, SRY conductor, and CP trainmaster. You’d think this would be an asset, but it turned into a serious liability, very quickly.

The session started late due to slow service at a nearby pub. Things went immediately haywire after everyone arrived…I couldn’t tell you what we were running on, MBS or OCS, but it sure wasn’t timetable and train order.

In retrospect, I should have been tipped off by the piles of rejected and crumpled forms around the dispatchers desk. It told the story of how so few orders and clearances were issued.

At Nelson, Rob begs for the sweet, merciful embrace of death. Or a ride home.

Adam’s in the yard. It’s not going well for him, either. Never put a trainmaster behind the throttle.

In his defense, Nelson was PACKED. Here, the power for No. 87, the Kraft Switcher, is attempting to head out to the west end, but finds a flatcar in their path.

Ken, a former CN engineer who worked with TT&TO, knows how to wait, and wait he did. His Extra 8610 is ready to go with a full CLC consist, but won’t get clearance for another couple hours. Just like the real thing!

87 finally gets clearance to depart, thankfully – Matthew has a lot of work ahead of him. This was after the dispatcher hung up on him several times, breaking his heart.

A side note – there are two kinds of people: Those who would rather run anything than the Kraft, and those who talk big about how they’ll do it better and faster than anyone else.

Unsurprisingly, things went downhill from there. Turns out that despite the time it took to build the trains, nothing was blocked, so the kraft switcher had an extra ~3000 moves ahead of it. On top of that, it left a dozen cars behind at Nelson! An hour later, Matt said “I’m done, going back to Nelson!” which was wholly unbelievable, as it takes me an hour and a half to do the job, and I know all the tricks and shortcuts! I find out all he did was pull the mill and dump his train…that’s not how the game works.

Don’t get me wrong, this was the most fun op session I’ve ever had. The dysfunction only added to the hilarity of getting this group together.

In the end, it was a long day, and the only train that actually made it to its destination was the sleeper freight to Nelson, which terminated at 0500, so I made the choice to reset the session rather than run it to its conclusion myself. Considering neither of the wayfreights made it to Grand Forks, where the bulk of their switching is, I regard that as the correct choice.

Op Session the Third

I figured it was time to give ops a rest after that debacle, but Andrew, a good friend, was driving through Calgary one weekday evening, and on short notice I managed to scrape together a small but experienced operating crew. Andrew had dibs on the Kraft, and I, for the first time ever, got to run a train during my own session!

It went very well. Andrew methodically and efficiently worked the Celgar and Pope & Talbot mills, while the other trains got around the layout in good time. I popped off to make some drinks for the crews while I waited for the 1600 call for No. 12, the Kettle Valley Express. This took a bit longer than I hoped, so 12 ran 15 minutes behind.

I entered Grand Forks as Jon wondered out loud where 12 was. He was working in the yard and had cleared the main 30 minutes ago as per UCOR rules, so was itching to get back to work.


This is what I found after hearing those words…

I’ve never knocked a unit off the track before. 81’s crew neglected to line the switch to normal, and 12 came into the siding for a cornfield meet at track speed.

The face of embarrassment:

Aside from that, the run went well. Every train made it to its destination, even No. 96 on the Nelson sub, which I usually run after everyone’s gone.

And with that, I’m off ops for a few months, I’ve got so much on my plate! I’ll be doing scenery and potentially lighting work in the near future, and I look forward to telling you all about my adventures getting plastered. Til next time!