07/23/2005 Operating Session
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Highlights of the July 23, 2005 Operating Session

The CSXT Shenandoah Division came to life once again on July 23, 2005. Even though there were only seven members of the crew present at this operating session (including Cherie and me), this session was our best session yet! Since the previous operating session, management had instructed shop forces to focus on increasing operating reliability of locomotives and rolling stock. These efforts, along with management's agreement to eliminate some train movements for now, paid dividends as the July 23 session went much more smoothly, although there still were some minor issues to be resolved.

The session started at 1:00 p.m. as usual with a briefing for the operating crew. Updates to the Employee Timetable since the last session were covered as well as changes to operating procedures indicated in the Superintendent's bulletins. As the crew becomes familiar with the layout and the operating procedures, these pre-session briefings will become shorter, and the briefing at this session was indeed shorter than those at the previous two sessions.

In order to try to have more relaxed sessions, I had cut to 17 (from 20) the number of trains to be run for this session. Even though we had a smaller crew, we were able to keep up with the sequence fairly well, running only  about 1-1.5 fast hours behind the estimated departure times on the lineup sheets. I think this is awesome, and it is quite encouraging to me that we will eventually get the throughput of the railroad up to the point where I envisioned! I think with 1-2 more road crews, we likely would have been very close to on sequence.

After serving all of the previous two sessions as Trainmaster, I served in that position for only the first half of yesterday's session. Marcus took over as Trainmaster the second half, and I was able to run trains for the first time during a "full" operating session! What a blast! I had a great time running over the railroad I've spent so much time building! :-) I'd like to thank Marcus for "volunteering" for this duty yesterday. For future operating sessions, I definitely will continue to split the Trainmaster job into two shifts (as we do with the Dispatcher, pusher crews, and eventually the Yardmaster as well), so I'll be looking for other folks in the current crew to step up and assist in this role as well. :-)

One major change we made in this session was to change the duties of the Trainmaster, which makes the position either more interesting or more hectic, depending on your point of view. ;-) The change is to have the Trainmaster handle all trains into and out of the Connellsville/Winchester, Wadesboro, and NS Roanoke staging yards to crew change locations on the "visible" portion of the run. This procedure seemed to work well. The change keeps crews out of the staging aisle, and means that they don't have the "model railroad thoughts" associated with staging yards as they now begin and end their "day's work" at a crew change point on the "visible" railroad. I was very pleased with this change, and we will continue using this procedure.

Two other significant changes were made in regards to the operation of the Rich Patch Pusher. One change was to go back to having the pusher only assist northbound ("uphill") trains. We ran all southbound ("downhill") trains without the pushers, and I think we only had two incidents which were related to train handling. I believe making this change helped to increase overall throughput on the railroad. The other change related to pusher operation was to only assign DTC blocks to the head end train once the pushers had tied on. This change seemed successful as well by reducing the amount of chatter on the radios and by decreasing the amount of time necessary to get the train moving once the pushers tied on. We will likely continue with both these changes.

This session also marked the first session where everyone in attendance had a radio with a headset. It is simply amazing to me how much having the headsets reduces the ambient noise in the room and allows operators to hear the transmissions being made. Getting radios with headsets was definitely one of the best things we've done as an operating group!

Another first occurred at this session as well. For the first time, I had a car with a resistive wheelset on the rear of every train. As a result, the dispatchers were able to more closely monitor train progress over the railroad when using the CATS dispatching software. I have received a new version of CATS from Rodney, but I did not have time to upgrade the system prior to this session, so Marcus and Todd used the version we had introduced at the May session.

Of the 17 trains planned to run during the session, we managed to completely run 10 of them. An 11th had almost completed its run when we stopped the session for going out to supper as a crew. Three other trains were out on the road at the end of the session as well. Only 3 trains did not get out of staging at all.

Reflecting upon this session, I'm very pleased with the overall pace of operations and reliability of the railroad. I definitely feel like we're getting "on track" towards my vision for the layout.

Future Operating Sessions

Future operating sessions have already been planned, as have improvements to equipment, the layout, and operating procedures. Operations on the CSXT Shenandoah Division will continue to get better as these improvements are implemented and as the crews become more proficient, but I'm quite pleased with the fact that the railroad is operating once again!


July 23, 2005 Operating Session Photos

Scott brings the B265 (Rich Patch Pusher) onto the mainline at New Castle from the Apple Track. Jan, the engineer of northbound Q694, watches and waits for Scott to tie the pusher onto the rear this train.


Cherie makes a "Measured Train Length" stop on the northbound empty T466 at North Salem. She's informing the SD Dispatcher in Jacksonville that her train is too long to clear at New Castle but will clear at Laurel. New Castle and Laurel are the shortest passing sidings on the railroad, so it's important for the dispatcher to know if trains will clear in those sidings as he plans traffic movements over the Shenandoah Division.


Todd, on the B742 (northbound Black Cat road local), watches as Jeff slows the Amtrak P031 in preparation for its stop in Catawba.


This session was the "PM" session running from 1900 to 0700. Marcus served as the first shift dispatcher for the session from 1900 to 0100. He's seen here with a full CATS console about 1 hour and 45 minutes (3:1 fast time) into the session. During the early part of this session, he had to deal with three priority trains (Q694, P031, and Q421) in addition to local and unit train traffic.


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


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