03/17/2007 Operating Session
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Highlights of the March 17, 2007 Operating Session

(NOTE: The report for the March 17, 2007 operating session has been delayed for a variety of reasons. Other priorities seem to keep cropping up, preventing me from posting the report until now.)

The CSXT Shenandoah Division came to life once again on March 17, 2007. There were seven members (including me) of the operating crew present. Because seven crew members is the absolute minimum size required to run the railroad, Cherie gracefully agreed to help run during the first part of the 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 photo, we 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 "AM" sequence (0700 to 1900). Prior to this session, the "AM" sequence would have 19 trains on the lineup sheet, but this session added 3 new trains. One of the trains will be a regular addition: B703 the First Covington Shifter. The other pair of trains was P992 (northbound) and P993 (southbound), the Skyline Special, a fall foliage steam excursion from Salem to Alleghany Junction and return, pulled by recently restored Clinchfield 4-6-6-4 670. 

With the addition of the B703 and having to accommodate P992/P993, we ended up running only 18 of the 22 trains on the lineup sheet in 12 hours and 31 minutes (3:1 fast clock). I think two issues were responsible: the Skyline Special round-trip steam excursion and the need for 1-2 more road crews to be present at the session. We were generally behind on the lineup sheet and I think with 1-2 more crew members present, we would have likely run all 22 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.

In addition to the Skyline Special steam excursion (P992/P993), this session also saw the debut of the B703, the First (shift) Covington Shifter. Larry handled this local which served industries in Covington and Laurel as well as interchange traffic for Virginia Eastman in Carpenter. B703 went on duty at 1145 and off duty 1805, so it was an approximately 6 hour 20 minute job for this session.

Dave started out at 0700 on B711, the First Catawba Shifter, which he worked until the mid-session break. Dave did the work in Catawba and Abbott and had just made it to New Castle where I relieved him at 1301 after the mid-session break. Dave would take over the dispatcher's chair while I ran B711. I worked New Castle and returned to Catawba to tie down about 1510, so it took the two of us about 8 hours 10 minutes to complete the work for this local. Even though it wasn't the full job, this marked the first time I've run a local on the Shenandoah Division.

I'd like to thank Marcus and Dave for sharing the dispatcher's duties during this session. And, I really appreciate Marcus volunteering to serve second shift as Trainmaster so I could run some trains for a change. :-) Jeff, Mike, and Jan rounded out the road crews during the session. Jeff started the session on B741, the southbound Black Cat local. This train set off for the first time at Covington so the B703 (First Covington Shifter) would have cars to spot.

Special thanks to Cherie for serving as an additional crew member to allow us to run the Skyline Special, including a photo run-by at Pearson Curve, in the first half of the session.

During the staging preparations for this session, I found I had several locomotives which had a variety of mechanical, electrical, or decoder problems. These locomotives had performed fine at the February 3, 2007 session, but for some reason, the gremlins were out in full force when restaging the railroad. Accordingly, I spent quite a bit of time prior to this session working on locomotive issues, and I was quite anxious about how the session would go.

However, the session seemed to be relatively smooth mechanically. The problem locomotives seemed to perform much better than I anticipated, so I ended up being really pleased with the session results. 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!


March 17, 2007 Operating Session Photos

Dave starts his work on B711 (First Catawba Shifter) on the Catawba Work Track, east of the mainline in Catawba.


Cherie has brought P992, the Skyline Special, into Salem to load passengers at Market Street Union Station. Meanwhile, Jeff is making his first set off from B741, the Black Cat, at Covington.


Dave watches as Larry runs northbound Q420 across the Catawba Creek Viaduct. Having finished what he can do for now with B703 on the Catawba Work Track, Dave will not get permission to go across the mainline to the Catawba Yard in front of the Q420.


Jan has brought the B264 pushers down to the south end of the New Castle passing siding to tie onto the rear of Q420.


Marcus served as the first shift "CSXT SD Dispatcher Jacksonville." A little over an hour into the session, he has the dispatcher's console "lit up like a Christmas tree." He's using the CATS software to control traffic movements over the Shenandoah Division


Jan couples the B264 pushers onto the rear of Q420 at the south end of New Castle.


Another successful push up Rich Patch Mountain as the head end of Q420 comes into Laurel under Larry's control.


The Skyline Special (P992) passing through New Castle, "...heavy on the bell and whistle" as per the Division Bulletins for this excursion.


After Q420 and P992 have passed, Dave goes back to work on B703. He's made a pickup in the Catawba Yard, and has begun to spot cars at James River Paper off the Catawba Work Track.


After B264 uncoupled at Laurel, Larry proceeds through Shenandoah Junction with Q420.


Pulled by recently restored Clinchfield Railroad 670, P992 comes around Rich Patch Mountain at the "Corkscrew."


Clinchfield Challenger 670 pulls the P992 across the Catawba Creek Viaduct.


P992 knocks down the signals at SE Laurel.


Jan enjoys an up close view of the CRR 670 as Cherie runs P992 through Laurel.


Q695 climbs the grade out of Carpenter and into NE Ridgemont at Pearson Curve.


P992 descending the grade at the horseshoe curve around the Pearson Farm.


After turning at Alleghany Junction, P992 received a new symbol of P993 for the southbound run. The bulletins issued for this train indicated a photo run-by was to be made at Pearson Curve if possible. The SD Dispatcher in Jacksonville and the Division Superintendent decided a break in the traffic would allow the photo run-by to proceed, so the Clinchfield 4-6-6-4 670 makes its run-by at Pearson Curve.


All of the crew seems to have ended up in the same aisle once again. This event seems to occur at every session, although it is usually in the shorter "Laurel" aisle rather than in the "Catawba" aisle as shown here.


The aisle congestion is a result of congestion on the railroad. There are two trains preparing to meet at Ridgemont, Va. on the upper level. Shown here are three trains meeting at Catawba, Va. T386 is on the mainline with Jan as the engineer. Jeff has B741 entering the passing siding, and Dave is still performing local work in the Catawba Yard on B711.


Larry is working B703 (the First Covington Shifter) in the yard at Covington. He's preparing to uncouple some cars in the yard out of sight behind R423 on the mainline.


Larry contemplates his next move on B703 at Covington, while Cherie makes the station stop at Salem with P993. Jeff is now on R423 preparing to head south once the dispatcher gives him a signal at SE Covington.


Crew photo 03/16/07. From left to right: Jeff, Larry (behind Jeff), Marcus (behind Larry), Bruce, Mike (behind Bruce), Dave, Jan, Cherie.


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


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