Saturday, May 19, 2018

Inaugural Train Ops Session - Spring 2018

May 19th, 2018 found the gang out in the garden for our inaugural session of the season.
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Judging by the steam locomotives adorning the tracks of the IPP&W and RP&M rail lines, this first session was obviously of the narrow gauge variety.

Some handsome steamers.

A newly acquired locomotive.

"If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair!"

Henk was given the honours...

...of ringing the bell to get the first session of the season underway.

Malcolm sent along this video compilation of the session.  Simply copy and paste the link into your address bar.!ApuSckIj0HVCgcdZ7LjTOxInzEqpRg

Before Henk could tap the bell, pre-ops setup had to take place.

A nifty "railer".

Seanna shares with me the electronics involved in the putting together of a signal.

Fred and Neil meet and greet each other for another season.

Fred, at the table, reviewing the car lists for any discrepancies.

Neil is excited to receive his Canadian Pacific road switcher.

Paul had worked on it over the winter hiatus.

Lawrence reviews the car list with Fred.

Garry and Henk check the Nelson Yard car placement list as to the locations of freight in and around the yard.

Seanna and Steve unload their locomotive.

From its carrying case.

Lawrence will run the ore train on this day.  We spot him setting out the cars in the various ore locations around the railroad.

Steve and Chris have joined Neil and Paul to check out Neil's road unit.

Brian checks out his recently acquired steamer.

A test run in Craig Leigh.

It's still pre-ops and we find Henk in discussion with skipper Fred.

Bob chats with Seanna as Lela looks north.

Garry, Bob and Henk enjoy the camaraderie each session offers.

Ditto for Paul, Neil, Steve and Malcolm.

Train orders are checked by Chris and Pat.
Doug, in the red jacket, will be our dispatcher on this day.

Around the table.

Listening in on what Fred has to say.

Our dispatch genius, Doug, manned the dispatch booth on this day.
Due to the cooler temps, the windows were closed and I didn't manage to get a good photograph of Doug, so I "parachuted" this one in from last season!  Hehehe!

As well as this image of Doug at the helm.

That house in the background has come a long way since last season!

Steve and apron.

Steve will be the Craig Leigh yardmaster.   He spots future traffic at Douglas Yard.

The caboose track.

Steve readies Train 301.

Neil and I board 301 and are granted clearance out of Craig Leigh for our journey west to Mount St. Helens.

Passing Northland.

Arriving Mount St. Helens.

Neil uncouples the locomotive in preparation to run around the train as all of our sidings are of the "facing" variety here.

Meanwhile, Pat and Brian are spotted to the west of Peter's Pond with Train 327.

327 below 301.

Pat's gorgeous steam locomotive has the honours on 327 on this day.

Chris and Malcolm, aboard 302, are working the tracks at the end of the Cedar Rock branch.

Nice White Pass locomotive, Malcolm.

Yellow is the colour of their train's consist in the morning when they rise!

We spot Paul and Lela aboard 328 eastbound at Spruce.

Working the siding.

Then clearing the siding for a meet with a westbound freight.

Paul is the yardmaster at Firgrove.

He has his trains made up and ready to go in Ralph Yard.

Looking down the line.

The ore track in Firgrove.

The handsome lad.

Henk and Garry, earlier in the day, setting out cars in Nelson Yard.

They will be busy lads when the ops session commences.

Cars spotted to the many tracks.

"Ore Train Bob" has been given the passenger train to run on this day.

We spot him rounding the bend near the southeastern edge of the property.

Later, successfully attacking the grade to the west of Spruce.

Rounding the big bend.

Through a foliage tunnel.

Lawrence, in care of the ore train, glides downgrade at Watkins.

Through the siding.

Under Mount St. Helens on his approach to Peter's Pond.

Steve and Seanna are RP&M employees on this day.  We find Steve (to the right) down in Rat Portage.

Rat 71 in Rat Portage.

Hamer Manufacturing.  Hehehe!  Love it!

Check out Steve to the right.  It's magic.  He's making a green disc hover in the air!

Garry has arrived the interchange area in Bell aboard RP&M 65-66.

Later in the day, Neil and I met Garry up at Bell with our IPP&W train.

We both had facing moves to complete.

So-o-o...what better time to have two train crews assist each other.

In a well-choreographed move, we lift Garry's facing car.

And he spots our facing car!

This saves considerable time for both crews...a win-win situation!

Earlier, Neil and I are found descending the grade out of Mount St. Helen's.

We've arrived Ironwood and are running around our consist to handle the cars at the team track and the Larabie Fuels spur.

Then we are cleared into Spruce.

Where we meet 318 who earlier took the main to allow us access to the siding.  Much appreciated!

Neil and I are westbound up to Nelson Yard where we spot Chris.

Following our arrival in Nelson Yard, Chris and Malcolm are cleared to Blockhouse and Spruce.

We spot them downgrade at Lilly.

Earlier, 318 departed Spruce.

Where their crew found themselves in Ironwood.

Pat and Brian in Peter's Pond.

Check out all the dandelions trackside.

This crew gave of their time to assist our train later in the session...again a win-win situation for the railroad.  Their efforts in this regard were greatly appreciated.  You will learn of these moves later in the posting.

A nice station structure on the main table.

From the main table area, we follow Bob's moves with the passenger train in Spruce.

That's one colourful locomotive, Bob!

Railfan shot!

Lawrence has the ore train departing the Glenn Hammond/Nelson Yard area.

Through the bridge off in the distance.

Tackling the ruling grade and into the big bend just west of Spruce.

The tail end of Lawrence's train.

A nice shot at Spruce with a meet with 301.

Back at Nelson Yard, Henk drills the tracks at the western end of the facility.

Making up trains.

The new system.  Looks great, Henk!

Nelson Yard changes its identity every few minutes during an ops session.

Paul utilizes his diesel locomotive at Firgrove.

The environs around Ralph Yard can be quite busy at times as well.

Garry has his RP&M train working the interchange in Bell.

Some cool shots of the new turnouts and how they have improved operations in this area.
Doug, our ever trusty dispatcher, had a "front row view" of the happenings at this area of the line.  "The new trackage in Bell with the added crossover worked exceptionally well from the Dispatcher's perspective,"  Doug mentioned to me in an e-mail. "There was much greater flexibility in arranging to have two trains (and once three trains!) work in Bell simultaneously preventing some of the waits which often occurred in the past."

Parallel locos.

From above.

Henk's idea was a great one!  Now, as Doug indicated, two railroads (or two crews from the same railroad) can work alongside each other with greater ease at this choke point on the system.

Back in Spruce, Neil and I are on the roll aboard 301.

Exiting the foliage tunnel.

Ascending the hill at Lilly.

Through the trestle.

Under green clouds.

Malcolm railfans our train on its welcoming approach to the big yard.

On into Nelson Yard.

An overall view looking back at Nelson Yard.  We spot Fred with his observation chair.

Paul is heard to say..."Is it a it a plane?"

Neil and Moe confer and determine that it was a teeny mosquito!

Visitors are always welcome to the layout.

John came up from Burlington.

Paul and Lela work Mount St. Helens in the shade with 303.

Then later in Cedar Rock with 313.

Train 313 then meets Train 328 which has been in the hole at Watkins.

Earlier, 301 had arrived Nelson Yard.  The crew now changes roles aboard their continuing train, 311.

311 departs Nelson Yard.

Through the new trackage at Bellamy.  (Note:  To see images of the maintenance work that took place the previous week at this locale, simply visit the post immediately before this one or copy and paste the link below in your address bar.)

311 pierces the signals at Bellamy.

Entering the junction.

Rounding the bend.

Heading west.

On approach to Mercer Siding.

311 holds at Mercer.

304 arrives Peter's Pond with Pat and Brian just ahead of Neil and I aboard 311.  We have been given instructions to hold at Mercer.  Here is where great camaraderie and cooperation between train crews allows for the efficient movement of rail commodities across the line.

311 only had a single spur to deal with at Peter's Pond while 304's crew had multiple drops and lifts.  The flatcar with the load in the distance was our lift and we had to spot a single tank car to the same industry.

Pat and Brian offered to conduct this single set of moves on our behalf so that we could quickly by-pass them and be on our way westbound...similar to a move found on golf courses when a larger group allows a smaller group to "play ahead".

Two of the greatest railroad lads you'd ever want to meet...Pat and Brian.  Thank you so much for the huge "assist" along the Cedar Rock branch.

We gave them our tank car back in Peter's Pond and they gladly brought it up the branch for us.

Where they exchanged it for the flatcar.

The tankcar is our drop and the loaded flat is our lift.

Into the Cedar Rock supply spur.

The two handsome lads.\

Making quick time with their moves.

They've now spotted our car and lifted the one we require along with two other lifts they needed.

They have given us the flat and spotted it midtrain for us.

Neil and Pat are in awe of the carefully thought out exchange.

We thank the crew of 304 for their professionalism as we depart the Pond.

And head up to Watkins siding.

Later, the crew of 304 assists the railroad with some "brush cleaning". 

As they enter the newly renovated area of the line.

A nice "going away" shot of 304 at the junction.

Pat follows his train carefully in this newly maintained area while Brian investigates which track has been aligned for them in the big yard.

Later, we spot Pat and Brian, now aboard Train 314 eastbound in Ironwood.

Drilling the trailing sidings.

Still carrying that "flower in their hair!"

Working Ironwood.

Bob has the Pool Train arriving Bell.

Taking the mainline.

While 311 works the East House track.

Station stop.

A busy area of the railroad at the best of times.

Bob drills the West House track.

Back on his train.

On IPP&W trackage where RP&M trains are offered trackage rights.  Bob is stopped at Bellamy and will shortly approach Glenn Hammond.

Nelson Yard looks pretty clean by this time.

A relaxed yardmaster.

"Easy as 1-2-3!" Henk exclaims.

While Moe looks on.

Lela arrives Nelson Yard aboard 303.

She then departs as Train 313.

Steve and Seanna work the yard tracks.

Henk enjoys a well-deserved moment of respite.

A few more views of Garry aboard his RP&M locomotive giving an assist to Neil and I aboard our IPP&W train.

As earlier mentioned, we have already given Garry his "facing" car.

And Garry deposits our "facing" drop for us at Brunt's Brewery.

Our two trains near the interchange area.

Two lads with two great big smiles!

Steve and Seanna in Bell.

Later they take their train from Glenn Hammond.

And head up the newly-laid trackage at Bellamy.  This short stretch of line is part of the IPP&W but the RP&M has running rights. 

Near Bellamy.

Into RP&M territory.

Then back switching the trailing sidings at Bellamy.

Some shots of the newly developed area around Bellamy.

Thanks to Garry, Lawrence, Fred, Henk, Pat, Steve and Seanna for their hard work here over the past week.
(If I have left anyone out, please let me know!)

Great dedication from this crew meant we were able to get our inaugural ops session underway this weekend and not next.

Of course, there is still much scenery work to be completed.

It's testimony to the skillful hands of the many who worked the area that no trains derailed traversing these tracks throughout our first session!

Looks clean.

I like the new switching alternatives the new siding to the lower left offers as well as the ones just below Henk's outstretched arm...and another in the distance.

Two handsome lads.

And some very handsome track work.

Earlier, we catch up with the ore train in Spruce.

301 is in the hole for the meet with Lawrence on his unit train.

Rounding the bend out of Spruce.

Destined for Ironwood.

Much later, the ore train finds its way up into Bell.

A busy place, as mentioned earlier.

Through Bell, Lawrence navigates the ore train past the station, then further west up to Firgrove while Neil continues 311's work at the east end of Stuart Yard.

Earlier, Train 311 successfully navigates the trackage below Mount St. Helens.

On its approach up to Watkins.

Past the large Brunt's Brewery facility.

Bob radios dispatch while Neil follows his train up the ledges to Firgrove.

Along the ledges.

Arriving Firgrove.

About to turn the loco.

On the Armstong.

Ready to depart as 328 out of Firgrove for Glenn Hammond.

Much later, 328 rounds the curve into the Glenn just as the rains come.

Mike's locomotive gets tucked into bed.

 Malcolm railfans in Bell.  We love your videos Malcolm!

Chris relaxes in the lounge.

Moe gets the BBQ fired up!

Malcolm in Glenn Hammond.

Looking good Moe!

Always great to see Gord out!

Folks always ask, "Who is Mike...the author of the blog?  We hardly ever see him!"
Well, here I am, lads and lasses...involved in my other hobby...playing lead guitar!

Thanks, Fred, for such a great time!
Also, thanks to Doug for dispatching and to Lawrence, Steve and Henk for their input in organizing the session.

It's time to say farewell...


So long...until next time!
Mike Hamer, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


  1. Fantastic to see the railroad and crew in such great shape!
    Look forward to seeing all of you in July.

    Smooth Sailing, Ric Golding

  2. Wow, lots of photos and lot of work to caption everything. Thanks,Mike!!!

  3. Thanks, Ric and Bruce! So great hearing from you! Yes, our first session was a huge success. The weather cooperated perfectly with the raindrops arriving as the last train terminated. Couldn't ask for a better start to the season!

  4. A big thank you to Malcolm for the video link and to you, Mike, for the pix and commentary. It's great to see things up and running so beautifully. Let's all have a great summer, everyone!

  5. great to hear from you! Looking forward to you getting up this way when you can make it! Mike