Sunday, October 25, 2009
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.