The first week of the course covered basics like safety, brakes, switches, communication (radio and hand signals), basic equipment types, and how to perform simple mechanical inspections. I breezed through most of the material because a lot of it overlapped the mechanical training I took last week. Next week gets more involved as we get into blocks, clearances, signals and the like.
As is usually the case when you get a number of senior railroaders together in the same room, everyone started with the war stories. Most of them involved people dying on the job in spectacular and horrifying ways. In almost every case, somebody could point to a new rule that had been implemented as a result to prevent it from happening to anyone else. The curious part of it is that the employees who were killed were almost all veteran employees. Our instructor mentioned that the statistics bear that out - rookies tend to be very cautious for the first few years on the job, and it is typically the years of experience that breeds the kind of complacency that can lead to serious injuries or death. I guess that's good for me then, because I'll still be a rookie engineer by the time I retire.
Midway through one of our training days, one of our classmates got a call and then calmly announced that our training train (the one that we will all take turns operating later in the year) just killed a pedestrian. Apparently it was just about as horrifying as you might expect a train-versus-pedestrian accident to be, so I imagine those trainees might have a bit of time off.
For the most part the week of training was uneventful, with the only real excitement happening when the airline apparently blew up my luggage on the flight home:
Fortunately nothing was missing, though much of it looks like it spent some quality time with the tarmac. We stopped by the airport today to file a claim, and the Westjet apologized and replaced the bag with a new one. The replacement is not quite as big, and it is not the fun purple colour, but it's a slightly better brand, so I am hoping it will be a bit more durable.
Last bit about the training. On Friday somebody (who we assume was a disgruntled employee) pulled the fire alarm in the training building at 15:30, forcing us all out of the building until the fire department could come in and give us clearance to go back in. It was very annoying because at the time we were working on a project that none of us wanted to carry forward to the weekend. As we all stood at the muster point, we heard the sound of approaching sirens and saw city emergency vehicles pulling up to the main entrance of the yard ... just in time to be blocked by a very long container train (watching it go past, I would estimate its length at about 10,000ft).
Like any good railroaders, we all burst out laughing at the ludicrousness of the situation. We watched the frustration of the fire crew as they sat there for a minute, obviously assessing the situation before they pulled out and did a complete circle of the yard (the Ogden yard is very big) to another entrance that let them bypass the train. It took them awhile to circle the yard - long enough that the train was just about to finally clear the crossing by the time they got back to the right side of the main roadway in. For some reason we found that funny too.
On a completely different, unrelated note...
I don't usually talk about dreams, but I had one the other night that was too strange not to mention.
In this dream I received what seemed to be an innocuous My Little Pony-themed image macro of some kind in Twitter. I found it moderately droll, so I re-tweeted it and gave it no more thought as I turned my attention to some work-related stuff. A bit later I noticed that my Twitter notification was going crazy, and when I had a look, I saw my in-box blowing up with messages. They were alternately messages like, "Dude, wtf?" or creepy things like, "Me gusta." I noticed too that I had picked up close to 800 new followers.
Puzzled, and a more than a bit concerned, I went back and looked at the picture I had re-Tweeted to see why it was causing such a reaction.
Apparently I had not looked at the picture very closely before I re-tweeted it (or, more likely, my evil little subconscious mind swapped it out for another picture). I have no memory of what the text on the image read, but the picture was as show-accurate (in terms of art, not content) rendition of Big Mac balls deep in Apple Bloom. Eeeeeyup. Keepin' it in the family.
I woke up at that point, and was thoroughly relieved to realize that it was just a dream. Don't expect to see anything like that in my Twitter feed any time soon.
(I'm not even going to bother with an image search because I can guarantee that it would return results.)