01/21/2006 Operating Session
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Highlights of the January 21, 2006 Operating Session

The CSXT Shenandoah Division came to life once again on January 21, 2006. There were ten members (including me) of the operating crew present. Prior to this session, CSX signal maintainers had been hard at work installing the necessary signals and switch motors to implement  Traffic Control System (TCS) territory on the Covington Subdivision from MC Cabin to Shenandoah Junction. Having even a portion of the railroad represents the realization of a nearly life-long dream of mine, and the operating crew seemed to get the hang of operating via "signal indication" quite quickly.

The session started at 1:00 p.m. as usual with a briefing for the operating crew. This briefing was a little unusual in that it started with a rules "examination" to test the crew's knowledge of the changes to operating procedures resulting from the installation of TCS. The briefing for this session was a little longer than normal as a result of all the changes involved in switching over from DTC to TCS between MC and Shenandoah Junction.

This session ran our "AM" sequence (0700 to 1900), with the addition of two trains (R422 and R699) left over from the November session. Accordingly, there were a total of 20 trains on the lineup sheet for this session. We were able to get 18 of the 20 trains out on the road, and 15 of those completed their run! Completing the run of 15 ties the record set at the November 19, 2005 operating session, while getting 18 trains out on the road is a new record. The installation of TCS definitely helped reduce radio traffic (by eliminating the need to authorize and release DTC blocks on about 40% of the railroad), and once TCS extends farther north on the railroad, I anticipate throughput will increase, especially as the dispatchers and train crews get more experience with TCS.

Since I requested volunteers from the crew to learn the session "management" positions (Trainmaster and Dispatcher), I was able once again to serve in the Trainmaster position for only the first half of this session. Rich served as  Assistant Trainmaster during the first shift of the session in order to learn how to do the job. He then took over as Trainmaster for the second shift, with Larry as his Assistant Trainmaster. Thanks to these two guys, I was able to run two trains during the second shift, including K656, the northbound Tropicana Juice train; and T379, a southbound coal train. Being able to run through TCS territory was very realistic, and I'm definitely pleased with this step towards fulfilling the vision I have for the Shenandoah Division!  I'd also like to thank Marcus, Todd, and Dave for doing an excellent job dispatching. And, a big thanks to Rodney for CATS, as I know the dispatchers really enjoyed being able to remotely control the switch motors and signals from the dispatcher's office in "Jacksonville"! ;-)

I'm looking forward to extending TCS north of Shenandoah Junction and to bringing the railroad to life once again at our next operating session!


January 21, 2006 Operating Session Photos

About halfway through the first trick of the session, several of the crews are in the vicinity of New Castle and Laurel. Larry is waiting patiently on B741, the Black Cat, in the siding at Laurel for Al on the Q244 (northbound empty autoracks). Scott is on the B264 pushers helping Q244 to the summit. Jan is bringing the T386 into the south end of New Castle.


Dave has left Covington on Q695 after making a measured train length stop, and Jeff is copying DTC blocks on the V615, a southbound coal train, in the Covington passing siding.


Dave and Jeff seem to be having fun. :-)


Todd and Marcus are sharing the job of dispatcher during the first trick. Todd is using CATS to control three types of territory on the railroad: yard limits from SE Cabin to MC Cabin in Salem, TCS from MC Cabin to Shenandoah Junction, and DTC from Shenandoah Junction to the Alleghany DTC block north of Covington. In TCS territory, he can use the mouse to throw switch motors at the ends of passing sidings and to set signals to authorize traffic movement. CATS figures out the appropriate aspects to display on the actual signals on the layout based on the dispatcher's decisions.


On B741, Larry has finally managed to get a favorable signal indication to proceed southbound down Rich Patch Mountain from Laurel to New Castle, where he will meet T386. Scott has cut the B264 pushers off the Q244; B264 will then use signal indication to follow B741 south. Meanwhile, Al will proceed from the north end of Laurel on Q244 on signal indication from the dispatcher. He will also get DTC blocks in order to proceed north from Shenandoah Junction, the current end of TCS territory.


Jan has brought the T386 to a stop in the passing siding at New Castle according to the signals. He will meet B741 here before getting a B264 pusher to Laurel.


Marcus has flown in from "Jacksonville" to observe the moves he and Todd set up in TCS territory using CATS. At this point, Al has Q244 coming to Shenandoah Junction, and Larry has B741 past the intermediate signal at Rich Patch headed downgrade to New Castle.


Rich has momentarily stepped away from his duties as Assistant Trainmaster to watch Dave run Q695 upgrade at Pearson Curve. They're probably enjoying a remark made on the radio. :-) The Trainmaster/Assistant Trainmaster positions handle all trains into and out of Wadesboro, Connellsville/Winchester, and NS Roanoke to make crew changes on the visible portion of the layout. As a result, these positions do have some occasional lulls where railfanning can occur.


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


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