Saturday, December 01, 2007

Dispatcher: RTC

Here I am in Wichita dispatching the K&O railroad. The K&O has over 800 miles of track, all dark territory, operating under Track Warrant Control (TWC). I was working longer and longer hours in my job as a medical technologist. It got to the point that I figured I was making as much per hour as the french fry cooks at McDonalds. So, I decided to go back to work for the railroad. But not as engineer, mind you. I have still had enough of 100-hour work weeks. So, I decided to go back as a dispatcher. Dispatcher hours of service are quite different from engineer hours of service. I can only work 9 hours per 24-hour period. That boils down to a maximum of 63 hours per week. I was putting in about 80 per week at the hospital. So, goodbye hospital- hello Austin Western Railroad. My hours now work out to be 40 per week, although an extra day here and there does crop up. I haven't worked overtime in the last 2 pay periods, though, and I do value my off duty time more than the overtime pay. I got my dispatcher training at the Watco Dispatcher Center in Wichita. I dispatched every railroad they operate during my training. It was a blast. The Austin Western railroad is dispatched in Austin. The AWRR is different because it is the only railroad that will have daily passenger service, with 30 minute headways between trains. The dispatchers will be on site rather than in Wichita because of the commuter service- we will dispatch using TWC, but we will also have 32 miles of CTC (for the passenger trains).

Orders in the Hoop

Here I am scooping up the train orders at speed (throttle 8) as I run past the depot at Bertram on the Hill Country Flyer this summer (picture by my friend, Bradley Linda). I have picked up train orders in this fashion at 60 mph more times than I can count. The trick is to stick your arm through the hoop- not try to catch them with your hand. It is fairly easy to do (although you have to lean out quite a bit) when there is a standard hoop system like this one. It can get tricky if the operator is passing the orders up with a hand-held hoop, particularly if the operator is not quite experienced. I have had operators get cold feet at the last minute and step back, making it impossible to reach the orders, and then I have had operators misjudge the height and hold them up too low to reach. I had one operator think he had to loop my arm rather than the other way around, and we played arm tag, with me grabbing the entire hoop at the last second, raising a bruise on my palm that didn't go away for weeks.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR Trip

She'll be comin' round the mountain when she comes! It was a 4 hour climb to the top of Cumbres Pass on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR. This was a trip of a lifetime. I have never seen such beautiful scenery. The steam engine was an added bonus.

The 484 was our power for the trip from Antonito to Chama. the C&TSRR is narrow gauge (36"). The line is part of the old Denver & Rio Grande. The trip winds its way through and around several mountains, crossing Cumbres Pass at over 10,000 feet.

Steam ! ! ! I made a trip to the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which runs between Chama, NM, and Antonito, CO in September. My wife and I, along with Bob and Roberta Ward and Gary Hammon, rode from Antonito to Chama, 64 miles through the high mountains of Colorado and New Mexico. From Cumbres Pass to Chama, it is 14 miles downhill at 4% grade. Set the brakes!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Law School Graduation

July 30, 2005: Here I am graduating from law school with a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. I may or may not practice law- I haven't yet decided. But, first I am going to finish my railroad career. Anything I do with the law degree will be after I retire, although it does come in quite handy when dealing with the FRA. Not only do I know the FRA regulations; I also can intepret them thanks to my law degree.

I know- it's not a railroad picture. But, my oldest son got married, and the wife and I dressed up in our best. This is the third and last son to get married, and I am through putting on tuxedoes (I hope).

Merry Christmas! This was a Christmas run to Burnet. I had a miniature Christmas tree sitting on the AAR radio. Even when it is way below freezing outside, I like to run with the window open. The hat is a Stetson I wear in cold weather. It is extremely comfortable, and I like wearing it.

Sun kink! ! ! I was on the way to Austin, and I whipped around the curve coming up to MP 78 when to my surprise the rail in front of me was not quite what it should be. Temperatures had been hovering in the mid 110s, and the rail finally said enough- I am stretching out. This caused the S-shaped sun kink. I was able to stop short by making a full service reduction. The conductor and I gauged the track, and it was tight in some places but never wide. So, I eased the train over the sun kink at about half a mile an hour. The wheels of the cars climbed up on the rail and then dropped back down into the gauge. We made it over without derailing, called the superintendent, and a track gang had the rail repaired by the time we returned 8 hours later. This picture is me trying to straighten out the track. I thought I could yank it back into alignment, but the track didn't budge at all ;-)

Westbound at Bertram 6/12/06. I have one passenger to pick up. I made what I called a flying pickup. My passenger is Tex, the president of the Burnet Gunfighters Association. Tex likes to board while we are moving. I slowed to a stop, but never shut off on the throttle. I released the brakes just before I came to rest. As a result, the train made a split second stop and then began moving again. That way the gates didn't time out on the highway crossing. The rear of the train was moving 20 mph as it passed the platform. That's the way I like it.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

A friend, BNSF engineer R.J. McKay, snapped this shot of me pulling the Hill Country Flyer up a 2 percent grade headed back to Cedar Park. I stopped at Bertram to drop off some passengers, and he was on the platform. I waved him up to the engine, and as soon as he climbed aboard I took off. He rode with me to Cedar Park, and then I drove him back to his truck at Bertram. I thought he understood that I was offering him a cab ride, but he was really surprised when I left the platform with him aboard.

Here my wife Ruth relaxes in a director's chair with an adult beverage on the rear platform of our Southern business car, the Boonesborough, after a catered meal on an evening employee's special run from Cedar Park to Burnet and return.

Here I am ready to depart the civic center in downtown Austin after loading up passengers on a July 2005 Sunday. We will go a mile to another platform and pick up some more passengers, then give them a 2-hour ride through the city.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Here I am helping fuel ECRX 9055. We left Cedar Park with only 250 gallons of fuel, and the run takes 300 gallons. This was on 3/19/05. I also added 55 gallons of oil to the sump, 4 gallons at a time. Lots of fun!

My superintendent and I talked the local fuel jobber into fueling our engine on a Saturday by helping him mix and pour concrete for a sign foundation this past March 19 on the Hill Country Flyer. We left Cedar Park with 250 gallons. The round trip takes 300 gallons. Our option, if this kind man hadn't agreed to provide us with some fuel, was to fill up the diesel fuel tank on our hy-rail truck, 50 gallons at a time, and pump that over to the engine. We left Burnet on time because we were able to get 920 gallons from the local jobber. If we had to do it using the hy-rail, we might still be there ;-)

Monday, March 28, 2005

Alco RSD15 442 is back in service. We used ECRX 9055 as emergency backup power in case the 442 was unwilling to perform after being rewheeled. I was conductor on the train today. We had 8 cars and 400 passengers on a cold rainy day, but everyone loved it. This picture was taken climbing up out of the San Gabriel River valley on March 26.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Me at the throttle of AUAR engine 191, an EMD GP40 3,000 hp diesel, on March 4, 2005. I had 3 coaches and two lounge cars with about 125 passengers on a cool, rainy day. I am at the platform at Burnet, TX, having just brought the A&TC Hill Country Flyer into town. I tested the dynamic brakes out on our 2 percent grades, and they held as long as the rail was dry. I had wheel pickup coming down the Summit grade and had to back off the dynamics and set the train air brakes.