the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur (plonq) wrote,
the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur

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Choo choo

I spent all of last week working on a yard switcher behind our head office. There were two of us training on it, and they alternated us between operating the locomotive and calling instructions from the ground (I learned that they did not do that with the afternoon shift - they just traded them off at the controls).

In the morning, one of us would work on the ground, calling instructions to the other student in the locomotive. We were responsible for lining switches, hooking up hoses, applying handbrakes and the like. The person in the locomotive would practise following the instructions, and getting a feel for handling more and fewer cars as the day went on. In the afternoon, we would switch roles.

The job of the morning crew was to pull an assembled train out of the storage track, practice a few manoeuvres with it, and then take the train apart and secure it in the four yard tracks. The afternoon shift would gather up the parts and rebuild the train, practice starting and stopping on the main lead, then put it away in the storage track at the end of the shift.

It was both fun and terrifying at the same time - especially operating the locomotive - but by the end of the week my stress level had dropped to nearly normal levels as I grew comfortable with the handling. It is amazing how fast 9mph feels when you are blindly shoving a consist toward the dead end of a track, relying entirely on another trainee on the ground calling, "20 cars ... 10 cars ... 5 cars ..."

The highlight of the week was when the engineer trainer went out ahead of me on Friday morning to sabotage the locomotive, and I managed to find and fix all of his tricks without any prompting.

The lowlight of the week was when I injured myself on Friday afternoon.

I was driving the train in the morning, and then after lunch it was my turn to work on the ground and help put the train back together again. We had already hooked onto the first three tracks, and we were performing a slightly tricky bit where we needed to back the train into track 1 to tie onto some heavy ballast cars. What made the move a bit harder was that the loads were parked about eighteen inches from the stop blocks at the end of the track, and the leading car was on a curve. Worse, the car we were trying to couple to them had one of those long, cushioned drawbars.

I was bringing him back to stop him short of a join, but he came in a bit hot, and instead of stopping six feet short of a join, the cars crossed knuckles and the drawbars got pushed way out of alignment. I had him pull ahead a car length and asked for protection so that I could go in between the cars and visually line up the bars. The plan was to get them mostly lined up and then bring him back about 15 feet so that we could give a final visual check. As I say, that was the plan.

I lined up the short drawbar on the ballast car, then put my back into pushing the cushioned drawbar into place on the boxcar. I got it mostly lined up, then turned and braced it against my upper body so that I could shove it forward for the last couple of inches because I wanted to verify that it was lined right. I tested my footing and gave it a tentative shove. It did not budge. I took a couple of deep breaths, then gave it a much harder shove. The drawbar shifted a bit, but more significantly, I felt an ominous pop in the outside part of my left foot, just below and ahead of the ankle.

It did not hurt, but I decided to change up my plans again and turned to put my back against the drawbar. The moment I tried to push it, the left side of my left foot blazed up in a fire of pain. I gave a yelp of pain, stumbled across the tracks and fell back onto the gravel embankment beside the track.

Long story short: I spent the rest of the shift sitting in the training lab with my foot elevated on a bag of ice. I could stand, and I could walk if I hobbled in such a way as to not flex the foot, but I had to be careful how I moved or I'd end up with pain shooting through my foot. They were going to send me to the hospital, or at least to a walk-in clinic, but I declined because I did not want to miss my flight. My plan was to hit up a clinic if it had not improved by Tuesday.

It did not improve at all over Saturday. It did not bother me as much today, mostly because I had trained how to talk in a manner that would cause it to hurt less. atara and I actually did a lot of walking today in spite of that - rather, she walked and I limped along trying to keep up as best I could. After dinner tonight we drove up to the park to look for Pokemon. My foot was aching, and I was resting the sore side against my right foot, flexing it to try and find a comfortable position. At one point while I was flexing, I felt the same ominous pop that I'd felt on Friday, but this time the pain immediately abated somewhat.

When we got out of the car, I discovered that I could walk much more normally without pain, and tonight the pain is all-but gone. I don't know what I displaced on Friday, but I hope that I don't do that again. I'll give them an update when I get to work on Tuesday and let them know that the foot seems to have fixed itself without requiring medical attention. On the on the one hand I am relieved because the pain has stopped, but on the other hand I'd like to have seen a doctor and learned what happened. I may bounce it off my family doctor the next time I see him to see if he had any ideas.

I snapped this one up at Lockport a week or two back. I still don't know what was burning on the far shore, but I thought that it made for a striking picture.

I haven't shot a lot of close-ups with my phone, but I was impressed with how well it handled this one. The phone really gives my Canon a run for the money when it comes to picture quality, but there is no comparison with the Nikon.

This is the test stand in the back of our training lab out in Calgary. This was ripped from an old SD40 that has since been retired, and it is pretty primitive compared to what we have in operation now. Still, if you can learn to drive one of these, you can drive anything. This is the equivalent of being taught to drive stick.

We saw them playing with this out in Gimli harbour this afternoon. It looked like fun, but also looked like it would take way more balance and coordination than I have ever possessed.
Defying Gravity
Tags: work
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