On Saturday, September 4, 2010, four members of the regular CSX Shenandoah Division crew helped me host nine visitors for an all-day operating session as part of NC RailRun 2010, a three-day Operations SIG operating weekend. The nine visitors came to North Carolina representing five different states: California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, and North Carolina.
While I’ve hosted operating sessions on my current layout since 2005, I had never before attempted an all-day session. Steve Benezra, the organizer of NC RailRun 2010, asked me to host two sessions for this year’s event. I agreed to his request, so I held my two operating sessions back-to-back on Saturday with a lunch break in-between. NC RailRun 2010 presented the opportunity for a couple of personal firsts: (1) I’ve never run two sessions in the same day on the Shenandoah Division, and (2) I’ve never hosted a session beginning in the morning—we usually operate on a Saturday afternoon with occasional evening sessions.
The day started with the arrival of crew members (regulars and boomers alike) around 9:00 a.m. with a crew briefing at 9:15 a.m. followed by an orientation tour of the Shenandoah Division.
After the briefing, we took a group picture including both the regular crew and the boomer operators. I began taking group photos at the start of operating sessions after my first visit to my friend Pat Lana’s Cedar River and Iowa Central Railway (the CRANDIC Route) in 2006. [Pat jokes that he takes group photos so he’ll have a list of “suspects” if any of his locomotives are missing. But it is nice to know who attended a session when looking back years later.]
I followed my friend John Parker’s lead by having crew members draw numbers to select operating assignments. Once the visitors selected positions for the first half of the day, the session got underway a little after 10:00 a.m. and was proceeding smoothly until a mysterious short occurred. With some much-appreciated help from Dave (one of my senior operators helping out for the day), we isolated a short-circuit in the turnout at the north end of New Castle. Dave and I replaced the turnout just in time for the lunch break between the morning and afternoon sessions around 1:00 p.m.
After everyone chowed down on grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, the visitors selected positions again in the reverse order from the morning. We resumed operating, and the session was proceeding quite nicely. Unfortunately another mysterious short happened; Murphy definitely decided to pay a visit to the Shenandoah Division on this day as the railroad usually runs well. Following some additional attempts at isolation, we found an autorack which had lost the bolster pin on its lead truck. The truck was being dragged along under the autorack, causing an intermittent short when its wheels would rub against the metal underframe.
In spite of the delays caused by these issues, the visiting crew did an awesome job moving traffic over the division. At the end of the session, we had completely run 24 trains with 6 others out on the road; we did annul one assignment, the Eastman Switcher. We stopped running trains at 6:00 p.m. (real time) for a group supper at a local restaurant where we enjoyed good food and good company.
At the end of 2009, I revised the sequence of trains to have the railroad constantly re-staged to reduce the time I spend preparing for sessions. While I had run three op sessions earlier in 2010 with the revised sequence, this all-day session served as the biggest test as there was only a slight bit of re-staging needed during the lunch break. In fact, we began operating again at 2:30 p.m. rather than the planned 3:00 p.m. I’m quite pleased with how the sequence of trains allows minimal re-staging work.
I really enjoyed the session, and the visitors did a great job running the Shenandoah Division. A big thanks to Al, Dave, Jan, and Rich for helping me host John, Rodney, Bill W., Doug, Barb, Bill R., Chuck, Seth, and Travers!
[Click on any of the images in this post or other posts on the CSX Shenandoah Division blog to see a larger image.]
Depending on circumstances at each session, I usually take pictures throughout the session. At this session, I didn’t get the opportunity to take many, mainly because I was working with Dave to try to debug the short at New Castle. Travers Stavac sent me some of the pictures he took during the session and graciously agreed to let me use them here.