Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Last Run of the Atlantic Inland Railway - West

This last weekend I was privileged to be part of the crew on the Atlantic Inland Railway - AIR.  Paul Catapano's HO scale Little Rock Subdivision of the Atlantic Inland Railway is a freelanced eastern railroad set in July of 1952 in western West Virginia. The modeled portion of the road has a coal hauling base with industrial switching. Four coal branches coming out of staging drive coal traffic. A direct eastern interchange with the Western Maryland and a southern interchange via a secondary line to CRR, VGN, N&W, and INT provides a high level of interchange bridge traffic. Paul built the two story garage with the specific purpose of putting a railroad on the second floor. It is so large that he fondly calls it the “Garage Mahal.” The double deck 25' X 51' layout was built with a primary focus on operations. There is no helix but the second level is reached through a long grade requiring helper engines on all but the shortest trains. Stacked staging yards are beyond the modeled sections on both decks.
The layout has sparse scenery although Paul has put in some landforms and many structures or signs to designate specific industries. The operation uses TT/TO for traffic control and CC/WB for car forwarding. A Dispatcher is located downstairs, outside the layout room with a local Agent Operator in the layout room receiving and delivering train orders. Along with several yardmasters, road crews, mine runs and dedicated switching positions for a commercial district and freight house, there is a helper service crew for the grade between decks. Control is via wired and wireless CVP DCC throttles.
The layout has been operating since 2004, and last weekend was the last run.  I have been fortunate to run on the layout many times including a session as dispatcher.  Timetable and train order (TT/TO) operation is much discussed, but the AIR lives it.  It has interested and taught many of us in Southern California both the basics as well as the subtle nuances of TT/TO.  It runs on straight time - no fast clock to wreck havoc with switch crews.  Over the years, the dispatcher moved from the staging yard downstairs.  The Air added the operator position upstairs to copy train orders, issue clearances, and call in OS times at the various stations.  Train order signals were added at Summit, Pettigrew, and Athol, to inform trains of waiting orders they could pick up from the operator.
As with many model railroads, the crew enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow model railroaders.  We all learned together as Paul would always begin the sessions with reading the general bulletins and a "rule for the day".  We all learned rule 99 flagging to protect our trains.  Dispatchers became more expert and issued more complex orders, so as road crews we had to learn to keep up.  Members of the crew have moved to other areas but all keep in touch via the AIR Yahoo! Group.  
Paul and the AIR  participated in OPSIG and LDSIG events during the 2008 NMRA National Convention in Anaheim.  Model Railroaders from around the world came to visit.  The AIR was a major layout in both of the SoCal Ops events - 2012 and 2014.  But above all it was a place where serious operation minded model railroaders of Southern California would gather on a regular basis and lose themselves together in the hills of West Virginia in 1952.
We will miss the Little Rock Subdivision of the Atlantic Inland Railway, but Paul promises to build an eastern portion of the AIR  once he relocates and settles in.  We all look forward to that time and marking up once again on the AIR.
I took a couple videos of the last run.  They are over on YouTube.

Webster Springs Turn at Big Pool crossovers

Coal Train with Helpers upgrade at Salisbury

Final run of the AIR President's Special
Here are a few photographs of the last run.

Paul reads the Bulletin and the Rule of the Day before making crew assignments

Part of the last crew - Fred, Dana, Ted, Ray, Barry, Chris, and Bill.

The Spitoon.  Inside are numbered tokens which are drawn during the crew meeting to assign seniority for choosing crew positions.

Ted working Littlerock Commercial while President Paul looks on.

Fred working the Wingedfoot Yard

The operator - Barry - on the phone with the dispatcher

The dispatcher - Al - on the phone with the operator

Dispatcher writing train orders

Matthew with the Webster Springs Turn.  Note the operations clock which runs at one to one speed.  Upper deck is Western Maryland Junction, lower deck is the west part of Pettigrew Yard

Pettigrew Yardmaster Bill at work

A crowded Pettigrew with Chris (helper engineer), Bill (Pettigrew YM), Paul (AIR President/owner) and Dana (engineer). 

Crowded Wingedfoot aisle with engineer Matthew, YM Fred, engineer Dana and Operator Barry

Salisbury Depot, train order boards, and westbound on the siding

Spooner's Cove

Pettigrew Engine facility with Ray and Bill in the background

Pettigrew Depot and train order boards

Littlerock Yard

Littlerock crew Stan, Paul, Jerry and Ted

Littlerock Yardmaster Jerry at the yard throat

Smiling Atlantic Inland Railway President Paul with a special presentation in commemoration of the final operation session of the Littlerock Subdivision

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