Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hoghead Training

Lesson #1:

Two miles is only two minutes at 60 mph.

Lesson #2:

There's no cocky at at "Clear to Stopee."

Lesson #3:

Don't forget your thermos lid.

No Cocky at a Clear to Stop

For the last five weeks I've been training to become a locomotive engineer. At 48 years old I don't want to seem like a kid, but sitting at the throttle on a giant diesel locomotive with a 13,000 ton train behind me is pretty exciting stuff.

The first three weeks of training were in the classroom and the closest I got to running a train was sitting at a simulator console looking at a computer generated screen. It was interesting enough, but it wasn't really until I kicked the brakes off a real train and let it start rolling downhill toward a signal that the power and responsibility of it all started to click.

I was lucky on my first couple of trips; I had relatively light trains during daylight hours and I could see where I was going... and the lay of the land. That gave me a sense of the speed and power of a train that I'd never had before as a conductor... sitting in the 'other seat.'

Although there have already been a lot of lessons, the most impressed on me so far are:

1. At 60 mph, two miles is only two minutes (as obvious as that is... it now means something completely different to me).

2. There's 'no cocky at a clear to stop' (for non railroaders this won't mean much).

3. You gotta make the train do what you want it to do (I'm still working on what this really means and how to do it... but I like the idea of being in control of the train rather than letting it control me).

4. I gotta learn to trust the equipment; it will stop if I do things when I should.

It's been a long road standing near the tracks at my grandma's house as a six-year old, with a lot of detours... but doing this really something I've always wanted to do... and to be honest... I kind of feel like I'm six again.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Enough of Ed

Okay, I will come clean!

I bought a provincial Progressive Conservative membership back in 2006 so that I could vote for... yikes... Ed Stelmach. At the time, I thought he was the best candidate out of the bunch, and the only one who appeared to want to reach out to others.

Okay, okay, even back in 2006, I recognised Ed was not the most articulate of the leadership candidates. But maybe that wasn't a bad thing, I thought. We'd had an era of leadership from a guy who was a "pro" at handling the media and speaking to people. After Ralphie, maybe having a shy guy who would stay at his desk working rather than running around the planet shooting his mouth off might not be such a bad thing.

Well, I guess I was wrong. After watching the lacklustre informercial our premier bought with our money, I admit defeat. Ed Stelmach may still be a nice earnest guy, but he doesn't have what it takes to lead Alberta.

With Danielle Smith looking as if she will win the leadership of the Wild Rose Alliance Party (WAP), it looks like it is going to be a very interesting November. On the 7th, the Progressive Conservatives will vote (in a secret ballot) whether to keep Ed Stelmach on as leader or not. My guess is that if they do, this will be the last PC government this province will ever see. If they vote non-confidence and then go on to select a new leader, then the whole scene will become more interesting because they may survive but split the right vote and leave more Liberals and NDs in the legislature and Alberta will have a real democracy... with different parties and all.

Either way... wow.