Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snow Days

Another long round-trip with crummy weather just to make it interesting. This is how these things tend to go:

I got a very early call and got caught a little with only about an hour of sleep. That alone makes for a miserable trip, fighting the heavy lids through the wee hours and trying to be coherent. After enough years of this though, I'm pretty used to it as long as I don't try to do too many all-nighters in a row. It's not the end of the world, just not my favorite thing to do. One of my old conductors used to call me 'the Iron Engineer' for my ability to hold off sleep and function like almost like a human on very little shut-eye but it ain't getting any easier as I get older.

To make the trip more exciting, the weather guys had been forecasting a 'historic' snowstorm for about a week so I was sort of expecting a long drive. It was supposed to start before I left but not much was going on all the way out. I drove the van so I'd have good tires just in case but there was almost nothing for the commute. In fact, it was mostly rain and wet snow on the trip and solid rain the whole time I was in the hotel. Temps. went up into the 40's and everything turned to slush and mud. I figured that was too good to last as a call to the Home Office reported heavy snow and closed school in my neck of the woods.

Unfortunately, the railroad gods deemed that it was our turn to take an extra long stay in the bag which turned into 27-plus hours before the phone finally rang to head for home. Between the snow piling up at two inches per hour everywhere to the south and west of us and a hopper train that pasted a car stuck on a crossing, it was an almost endless holding pattern. Even though nobody was hurt in the collision and the snowplows making headway, they still held us for an extra six hours while they sorted it all out and got things moving again.

Once we launched from the yard (still in the rain), things deteriorated pretty fast. The downpour turned to snow before we got 25 miles out and just kept coming. Apparently, all the rain in the valleys was snow on the hilltops because in a matter of about 10 miles, the snow was a couple of feet deep and still coming fast. By the time we made the top of the first hill, we were plowing snow and wondering how bad it was going to get. The stuff was heavy, wet and stuck to everything. It just got deeper by the mile until I had some doubt as to our chances of making the next grade. It's been a long time since I pushed snow very much. It hasn't changed.

It let up some after a while and the visibility improved but the track was still buried. We just happened to not be overloaded for a change and had 11,500 hp to work with so climbing the hills wasn't too bad, all things considered. I guess those weather geniuses do know what they're talking about.

The funny thing is...after we crested the last hill, it pretty much fizzled out. It was like stepping into another world in a matter of a few minutes. Still snow on the ground but nothing like that stretch of about 40 miles with the crap up to the third step. From one end of the trip to the other it went from pouring rain to out-and-out blizzard back to just plain old winter in one day. Like they say...if you don't like the weather around here, wait a few minutes and it'll change. Now if it would only change to spring in the next few...

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