Ops Session: Interchange to Warrant

“Let’s get this show on the road.”

Tyler groaned inwardly. In the seven months that he’s been a conductor at the Central Prairie Railway, Tyler has worked with all of the eight engineers that the CePR employs. Some are better than others, but Rick is definitely the corniest. He has his standard phrases, and he uses them on every trip. At least he’s predictable.

The locomotive’s radio crackled.

“CEPR 4242, this is yardmaster Ivan.”

Tyler thumbed the TRANSMIT button. “Go ahead, yardmaster, CEPR 4242 here.”

“We’ve lined all the switches for you to depart the yard and we’ll put them back to normal when you’re out. Have a safe trip. Ivan out.”

“Thank you Ivan, Tyler out.”

Tyler had already obtained their clearance between Grand Plains and Warrant from the CePR’s dispatcher, and the train was put together and the brake test was finished. All that was left to do was for Rick to knock the brakes off and ease the throttle up.

“Time to rock and roll,” Rick intoned, as his practiced hands moved handles and levers to get the train rolling.

They eased out of the Grand Plains yard, blowing the horn for the crossing just outside the yard, then picked up speed as they passed the McCain plant on the edge of town.

Model train on a curve
Passing McCain’s

The old Montreal Locomotive Works locomotive rumbled along, still working well after more than 30 years in service.

Tyler reviewed the switch list as they rolled through open prairie. They had four cars and a caboose behind them. Two cars were for the Canadian Pacific interchange, one was an empty grain car for the UGG grain elevator, and the fourth was a Railbox boxcar to be spotted on track 1. The CePR was using the end of track 1 in Warrant as a kind of team track for companies without their own sidings to use. Shortlines have to squeeze every penny out of their infrastructure!

They had three cars to pick up – a loaded grain car from the UGG elevator, another Railbox boxcar from track 1, and an empty ballast car from the CP interchange track.

Rick and Tyler discussed the switching moves as they approached the Warrant yard limits. Rick was an experienced engineer and probably could do this job with his eyes closed, but the train was Tyler’s responsibility, and it was up to Tyler to call the moves.

Yellow model boxcar

The first order of business was to switch the UGG elevator. They left the boxcar on the rear of the locomotive, and ran around the rest of the train in the siding.

They used the three cars on the nose of the locomotive to reach into the UGG siding and pull the loaded grain car out.

They then pushed the loaded grain car, CNWX 107923, into track 1 and coupled it to the Railbox car that was already there.

Leaving those two cars in track 1, they spotted the empty grain car at the UGG elevator and then grabbed the empty ballast car from the CP interchange track.

They added that empty ballast car to the other two cars on track 1, then spotted two of the cars they brought from Grand Plains on the CP interchange track. One was a rather worn SOO LINE gondola, recently unloaded at the scrap yard in Grand Plains. The other car was a loaded CP ballast car.

The CePR recently opened a ballast pit on the other side of Grand Plains and CP has been testing the quality of the ballast by buying a few carloads. This was the second load to go to CP and the Central Prairie was hopeful that CN would get on board as well.

Tyler continued crossing cars off in the switchlist as they set them out or picked them up. By this time, they had the Railbox boxcar left to spot in track 1 and they already had their 3 pickups done and waiting on track 1.

Tyler asked Rick to run around the boxcar and caboose. As usual, Tyler was on the ground to line switches and “pull the pin” to uncouple cars.

Once they had the boxcar and caboose on the nose, Tyler had them drop the boxcar on track 1 temporarily. They then set the caboose off on the main line, ready to go on the tail of the outgoing train.

Tyler lined the switches so the locomotive went back onto track 1. He coupled it up to the boxcar, then they shoved forward until they coupled onto the three cars standing there.

Rick slid the reverser over and throttled the engine up, nodding at the clouds of black Alco smoke billowing from the stack. “They say smoking is bad for you.”

Tyler pretended not to hear and kept his eyes focused down the long hood as the locomotive led the four cars out of the yard and over the crossing. They shoved the last three cars back into town on the main and coupled them up to the caboose, then Tyler uncoupled the Railbox car from the rest and they shoved it into Track 1 and spotted it at the end of the track.

After that, it was time to rejoin the train and get ready for the return trip to Grand Plains.

As Tyler walked down the train, connecting air hoses, he went over his plans for the weekend in his head. He and a few buddies were planning on heading over to Estevan to celebrate a friend’s 25th birthday. It was going to be a good time.

“First things first,” he thought. He called Rick on the radio and asked him for a brake application so he could do a brake test.

“You got it, boss,” Rick intoned.

Tyler rolled his eyes.

Needs to be signed!