Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thomas Week 2 or This Isn't Ground Hog Day

Al writes...

One other change from previous years that I forgot to mention last week is that the Great Wall of IRM no longer blocks the view of the rear end of the train from the boarding tent. In connection with the Chicago Fire filming the turntable bridge that conveniently divided the boarding area was moved south of the streetcar loop. The wide open vista was a welcome change.

This weekend didn't quite qualify as a Ground Hog Day candidate. Things were a bit different from last week. We started off Saturday with  a mechanical problem with the brakes on Thomas. By the time we got the problem corrected out first departure was about 7 min. late. We remained about that tardy throughout the morning. The situation was not helped with Thomas being briefly trapped at Jefferson St when one of the 4000s operating a Main Line train had a trolley rope separate itself from the pole. We remained running 5-10 min late throughout the morning. At about 12:30 we became aware of a major storm heading our way. We successfully loaded the 1:00 train just before the storm hit. When the train returned there were numerous lightening strikes near by so we held the passengers on board for their safety (remember Weather Channel tells us there is no safe place outdoors during a lighting storm). We did get a bit of push-back from a few that felt we were unfairly holding them captive, but most found the shelter welcome.

 In spite of our urging folks to get into one of the barns for protection the boarding tent became a place to go, even though it was still really outdoors.

About 1:45 the storm subsided to the point that we let the passengers detrain.   We did have some standing water in the boarding area but it quickly subsided. However we did have our version of an 1800s canal on the car line.

We announced that we would run the 1:30 trip at 2. However it was thought that running trains 30 min late for the rest of the afternoon would cause too much confusion so we made the decision to skip the 2:00 crew break and run the 2:30 train on time. Thankfully the crew took it in stride and we carried burgers and Pizza out to them on their return.

We filled out the rest of the day with the trains running on time. The last train of the day was operated at 4:30.  The 4 cars on the streetcar loop (the Hornet was put away briefly during the storm due to some roof leak problems) were sufficient to handle the crowds. Prior to the storm a fourth Main Line train was operated mid day and seemed to eliminate any turned away customers.

Sunday turned out to be a different beast all together. Throughout the day the Thomas train ran flawlessly. All departures were within a minute or two of schedule. However the kicker turned out to be the situation in the parking lot. As a result of Saturday's storm well over half of the parking area turned into a swamp. Arrangements had been made for parking at several other lots near the museum and shuttle buses were operated between them and the museum campus (not from our motor bus fleet but with local school buses). However many folks chose to park along Olsen Road and even as far away as downtown Union.

As the day progressed we had more and more folks missing their assigned train because of the parking situation. By the time 1 o'clock came around we had close to 300 missed connections. The situation almost got out of hand when some folks who missed the 1 o'clock were told that the next time we could accommodate them would be 5 PM. The decision was then made to operate an unscheduled train instead of having the planed 2 PM break. So for the second day in a row we asked the crew to skip their lunch break. Hamburgers and pizza slices were distributed for the crew along the train at 2:30. Th crew in the Thomas cab tied their white handkerchiefs to the hand rails for the 2 o'clock run to signify the extra.  Even after the extra train was operated there were still a significant number of missed connections for the remainder of the day, but we usually had sufficient space to accommodate them on the next train. The last train of the day was operated at 5.

The 4 cars on the streetcar loop kept up with the passenger loads there and once again a fourth train was operated on the main line during the peak hours. By all reports it was needed. The only trouble spot was a control problem on the 431 late in the afternoon that required a a rescue train to pick up the passengers.  The 431 was pushed back to East Union by the 409.

So much for Thomas until next year, now if I can just get that music out of my head!

Oh my  I just made a blog post without a single train picture!!  I promise it will never happen again.


Anonymous said...

You are forgiven; think of all that money that Thomas The Bank Engine deposited into the IRM bank account!

And all the future IRM volunteers that came though the gates to visit the little blue locomotive and his train friends!

Ted Miles
IRM Member

Joel Ahrendt said...

431 is also back in the land of the living with a little work on a wire that became bare.

Anonymous said...

To find map:

Go to IRM homepage, click on site index, read down to "tour the museum" and click on "map". Voila!

It should really not be buried. It is very informative.