Ops Session: Yard Work in Grand Plains

Ivan handed the switch list over to Abhishek. “Light work today,” he said, “but get it done as soon as you can before CN comes to pick up their cars.”

Abhi, as his coworkers knew him, walked out to the cab of 4242 and climbed up to to his spot on the left side of the cab, opposite the engineer, Dan. He echoed the yardmaster’s words: “Light work today.”

“Good,” grunted Dan, “I don’t wanna be late for my kid’s recital. I’ll catch hell if I miss it again.”

After scanning the switch list, and making a few notes in the margin, Abhi said, “let’s get going,” and walked out the back door to take his spot on the rear of the locomotive. He stood with one hand on the rail and thumbed the radio with his other hand. “OK to back up.”

Dan released the engine brakes and eased the throttle up. The big ex Canadian Pacific MLW locomotive rumbled as it started rolling away from the engine house and toward the Grand Plains yard.

Model railway locomotive and caboose
Time to get started

Abhi was lean and wiry from his six months of being a conductor on the Central Prairie Railway. Climbing up and down the engine’s stairs and all the walking along the ballast and through the yard was good exercise.

He earned a few more steps on his FitBit by walking along the yard ladder, aligning switches to let the engine “out” onto the main line.

Model railway tracks
Yard view

The first job Abhi chose was to pull the loaded reefer at McCain’s. This was a simple “hook and pull”.

Model railway locomotive and track
Switching McCain

They pulled that onto the empty passing track in the yard and left it there. The plan was to assemble all the cars destined for the CN interchange in the passing track, then push them into the interchange once they were all there.

Model railway locomotive and cars
One down

The next job was to pull a loaded car from the Paterson elevator and replace it with an empty from the yard. The load was destined for the interchange, so that went into the passing track.

Here they are hooking onto the MTY to put at the Paterson elevator.

Model railway locomotive and track
Two down

The third car for the interchange was an empty scrap gondola at the scrapyard. They were to replace that empty car with a loaded CP gondola from the yard. Abhi and Dan ran down the main to the other end of the yard.

Model railway locomotive and track
Running around

After fetching the loaded CP gondola, they used that to pull the empty out of the scrapyard spur.

Model railway locomotive and track
Pulling the empty

The empty CN gondola was temporarily left on the yard ladder while they spotted the loaded CP car.

Model railway locomotive and cars
Spotting the load

As they worked, Abhi crossed out the work. Here all the cars have been pulled or spotted, except for the three destined for the interchange. Fortunately for Dan’s marriage, they didn’t have any cars to get from the interchange, so he was probably going to make it to the recital on time.

List of railway cars
Getting the job done

They ran down to the far end of the yard, got onto the passing track and started pushing.

Model railway locomotive and track
Ready to push

Once they spotted the cars on the curved interchange track, and set the handbrakes, all that was left was to get back to the shop.

Model railway locomotive and cars
Spotted at the interchange

Homeward bound…

Model railway locomotive and track
Back to the shop

As they pulled up to the shop, Abhi stepped off to finish lining switches back to the “normal” position. It wouldn’t do to leave a switch not lined for the main…

Railway switching list

Abhi signed off the switchlist and deposited it in the office. Time to head home and make some supper.

Dan made it to the recital with five minutes to spare.