Saturday, September 28, 2019

Timetable and Train Order Ops at La Mesa: Day 1

It's Timetable & Train Order operations weekend at the La Mesa Model Railroad in San Diego's Model Railroad Museum. I've been here in March and got hooked on running trains with TT & TO procedures on a really big layout. While the signature scenes of the layout are the climb from Caliente to the summit at Tehachapi and the famous loop, there's much more to the layout than what museum visitors usually notice.

During job assignment in the morning I picked the Arvin switch job, which was not quite what I expected. The Arvin job serves half a dozen potato packing houses on the branch line to Digiorgio and Arvin south-east of Bakersfield. Over the course of the day and 3 departures from Bakersfield, I moved about 120 reefers, plus 10 express box cars in and out of the Arvin branch.

When I got my clearance for the 11:30am departure, I also got a rather verbose order about what else is happening around me.

Between runs to Arvin I worked as hostler in the ATSF Bakersfield yard.

Here's the third departure of Extra 195, the Arvin switcher, from Bakersfield with 10 express box cars and a string of reefers coming off the ATSF main line at Kern Jct just before 3pm. The Kern Jct tower operator is appropriately dressed for the job. In the foreground is the Southern Pacific yard at Bakersfield.

In Magunden Extra 195 leaves the joint main line, crosses Edison Highway and ducks through the backdrop.

The work on the Alvin branch consists of a fairly elaborate scheme of cars to be delivered in time for loading at the various potato packing houses, as well as pulls of loaded cars after certain cutoff times. Yes, what you do in practice here is move a bunch of orange cars back and forth, which can feel pointless. However, this becomes a fun exercise when adding some imagination and try to deliver the cars as requested by the packing houses, work with limited track space, pull cars only after the respective cut-off times. My first trip to Arvin started at 11:30am. I did the last pulls at the 5pm cut-off, and was back in Bakersfield before 5:30pm. 6+ hours of switching work with a 30 minute break for lunch.

Arvin is one of the rather unfinished areas of the layout. White Wolf Potatoes is in the rear with 3 loaded cars ready for pickup on track 3, while 7 more cars are being loaded.  Diamond Potato Packers with 10 cars being loaded is in the foreground.

When I was done with my work, all outbound cars were picked up and cars for loading where spotted at the various packing houses.

The somewhat odd track arrangement matches reality, and several of the packing houses still exist today.

To round out the day, I took No. 7, a westbound First Class passenger train, from Mojave down the hill to Bakersfield. As this is a westward train and First Class it has right over all other trains and I had a scheduled meet with No. 4 at Cliff. I better not be late.

As I made my way down the hill, all conflicting trains were out of the way in sidings and eagerly awaiting my arrival. I was a few minutes behind schedule, and got "you are late" comments from most crews along the way! Rightfully so. Woodford and Caliente were bustling with trains, and they all wanted to get moving again.

Here is No. 7 leaving Caliente, with an opposing freight already continuing their climb up the hill.

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