Friday, June 3, 2011

"Too Much Work for a Friday"

Friday forenoon, lots of errands were awaiting me as Mrs. L4T was out of town for a few days and had left some domestic chores for me to clean up. One of the last things I did was stop at the insurance office on the east side of town to drop off the paperwork related our roof replacement. The Wadena local was sitting on Main 2 at the K line switch when I came out. I decided to play a bit of hooky and swing down to Drywall Supply and check out the makeup of this Friday's train. It was a doozy, for a Wadena local.

There were boxcars, an empty centerbeam flat, tankcars, lots of tankcars, and a covered hopper or two, along with a single coal gon making the lonely trip back to Dilworth. In addition to the eight tank cars in the consist of the train, four more were sitting on the former "K" line main. I've seen the engines run around the cars in this location, and they were planning to do the same thing today, but the four tanks were in the way. The engineer was also holding on to two boxcars on the south end of the power.

(If you want some idea of locations mentioned in this post, since I'm using names I have made up unless I've heard the crew using a name for the sidings, you can find a map I put together here.)

To make room for the runaround move, they grabbed the 4 tanks with the boxes, pulled them back toward the Staples Sub, and pushed them back down into the Drywall Supply spur. In a couple of minutes the trucker was back at work unloading what I think is magnesium chloride for dust control on roads as the engineer began his runaround by drifitng south on the K line main. Soon we'll come to understand the purpose of the pair of boxes tied onto the south end of power set. It was somewhere around this time that the engineer made the comment on the radio that the railroad had given them "Too much work for a Friday!" This was reinforced when the dispatcher called with the news of a pair of approaching Z trains.

I realized things were even more complicated when I headed uptown to wait for the local to set out the two boxcars that were now on the front of his train. It was then that I spotted an eastbound stacker sitting on Main 2 just west of the 2nd St SW crossing. Combined with the local now on Main 1, Wadena was totally blocked.

So I watched as the local, with a brakeman riding the boxcar protecing the front of the shove as the train slowly made its way down Main 1, until it was well clear of the crossing.

Then they uncoupled from the body of the train, ran ahead a bit, and backed into the runaround far enough to clear the switch into the bean track. When they were past the switch, the brakeman lined it for the spur and the engineer shoved the two boxcars into the track, backed out, and reversed the previous actions to get to the front of his train and couple up.

After a brief pause to charge his brake line, he was off as quick as could be, headed to Perham to clear for the Z trains just behind him. The first Zipper was already waiting at the plant in Wadena, and accelerated quickly as he got a green signal.

This was the most extensive work I have ever had the chance to witness the local doing in town, and it was interesting to see how they solved the various challenges, especially the problem of reversing direction at the end of the run. I also learned something, specifically that a switch off the main that I never knew about exists behind Hide and Fur.

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