Weekend out with Thomas

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by Seaboard92, Nov 2, 2019.

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  1. Nov 2, 2019 #1

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Conductor

    Joined:
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    3,243
    Location:
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    Well as some of you and now all of you know. I work for a tourist railroad now in South Central Georgia on a semi-regular basis. So I figured I would write a trip report up for my most recent run.

    Day 1: Driving Thru Nowhere

    I left my house around 7:35 In the morning and took the route my family normally drives to the Low Country as my first leg. To keep myself entertained I had the 60s on 6 with Phlash Phelps on the radio. I counted that in the first hour I had driven thru four counties in my state. In the second hour I went by Bamberg which is where my parents actually met way back when before continuing south.

    I paused for a few minutes in Allendale to watch the CSX local back onto the ex Southern Railway C Line to service a customer before continuing on into Georgia on US 301. The first town I reached in Georgia was Sylvania. And really the second place I’ve really run into traffic. Due to road construction I was briefly lost for about five minutes till I got on the right road.

    Five over in Georgia’s two lane divided roads is 70 MPH which isn’t too bad. And I soon was headed again on a two lane road after Millen. On the two lane road I went via Garfield and Twin City before reaching Swainsboro. Shortly after Swainsboro I felt like I wanted to use the restroom so I stopped at a gas station in Soperton to go but they didn’t have one. About that time my friend Chris the GM of our railroad texted me to see when I was arriving.

    He said I had another two hours ahead of me. So he would go without me. So I continued driving needing to use the restroom but deciding to hold it till I reached Cordelle. Eventually I ended up alongside the Heart of Georgia Railroad and went west thirty miles alongside it. After arriving in Cordelle around lunch time I went to Carter’s Burgers for lunch. However the sign says Carter’s Chicken. So I had the fried chicken and fries and it was really good. And a bonus the seating overlooks the NS double tracked main.

    After lunch I drove over to the office. And proceeded to get the run down of the event and talk to my best friend. Around three we drove out to the shop for some reason but I really can’t remember why we did. I believe to throw brochures on the train. Then we drove over to the Ford Dealership to pick up rental trucks. Due to the inflatables and gift shop in our stations parking lot people would be parking on a nearby air strip. And because of this we borrowed trolleys from the Georgia Fair to shuttle people from the parking lot to the station area pulled by F150s.

    Now I have never driven a truck before in my life and they really put me in on the deep end. A brand new F150 49k dollar truck. That I had to take to the gas station by the interstate and then ten miles across town. Probably the only time I’ve had my hands at nine and three in a long time. Of course trying to get a convoy of trucks fueled was a small challenge. I arrived second at the Lake Blackshear Resort staging area and then got in the railroads crew van to go back to the dealership to fetch my car.

    Afterwards Chris and I went back to his apartment I settled into my room and we relaxed. After awhile his partner showed up, and some of our friends from East Tennessee. Then we had a home made dinner and proceeded to talk and tell stories till a bit after midnight.

    Day 2
    Chris and I had to be at the train at seven to get stuff ready so we stopped in the Chick Fil A drive thru on the way.

    Then I put my NS High Vision vest on, my CSX hardhat, and safety gloves to start working before the sun truly rose at our station. We inflated the welcome arch at our stations drive way. And then proceed to start inflating all of the inflatables and setting up for the event. I unlocked the consist and started preparing the train. Then I talked to the owners of the Dearing who were helping out a bit before going to the safety briefing.

    My job today would be overseeing boarding for the Americus, Archery, and Georgia Veterans cars at the far end of the platform. Honestly I sounded like a broken record all day “Welcome aboard watch your step”. I grew tired of some of the old volunteers who thought I knew nothing about how to do my job. Even though I’ve been doing this line of work professionally for ten years now.

    Trains departed every forty five minutes from 10-3 for a 25 minute four ish mile round trip across the Lake. I rode the vestibule off of the platform on each run to make sure we were leaving no stragglers and then I proceeded to walk along the aisles of the train answering railroad questions. Not Thomas questions, but about the equipment and how various things work.

    We had a short lunch break where I was able to get a ok ish burger before we started up again. Our last train left fifteen minutes late due to stragglers and we were back before four. We shut the train down for the night and Chris, Ian, Jason, and I went back to the apartment to shower before going to dinner at 16 East. The food was great and my knowledge of random facts with jeopardy over our heads really impressed some.

    We went back out to the train to move the audio equipment to an inside location then we went back to chris’s and proceeded to shoot the breeze again till midnight.

    Day three.

    Basically a repeat of the day except we stopped at Burger King for breakfast and then we went to the train. I did the same exact job the same exact way today as I did the day before. After the last train I started boxing up items from the gift shop, and loading them into our trailer. Thomas has a lot of stuff.

    I accidentally messed the counting of sales up for a moment because I was trying to unplug the Thomas music playing and unplugged the register instead. Oops. It took us roughly an hour and a half to get the stuff loaded onto our trailer.

    After that we all went to Dairy Queen for dinner and I had a cinnamon roll milk shake which was weird but ok. After that instead of being social I passed out at 730 and didn’t wake again till six thirty.

    Day 4: Strike

    We had to be down at the yard early because G&W wanted to switch the train out first when they went on duty at 8. My first job was to unlock the train and disconnect the cables.

    After that I had to take the picture platform off the track in front of Thomas which was way over built. I’ve been working in a theater lately so I know how to build a stage and doing so with 4x4s and a 4” screw every six to eight inches is way too much. It took me twenty minutes to find extension chords long enough to reach the platform. And I had it mostly un screwed when the drill overheated and started smoking. So the rest of the platform was broken apart with a crow bar and thrown to the side.

    Next year they should let us at the theater build the platform. Then we started taking apart the imagination station tent which took about an hour. Afterwards we started loading up another trailer with items to take to the storage location up the hill, and out container. And between points the six of us helping just rode on the trailer.

    After dropping everything off that stayed in the park off we loaded the trailer again with stuff bound for our downtown Cordelle Station and office. At that point four hours had passed and we were all Hungry so we went to the Lake Blackshear Resort for lunch and ate off the employee menu. We had a lovely lunch the six of us and I learned how the train is staffed. People who like to camp and want low living costs volunteer in various state parks around the country. If they come here for a month they get free parking and utilities for their camper. So they work for a month or more then leave.

    After that we drove the F150s back to the dealership and I had to stop along the way to claim a trash can that fell off our trailer. Then we went to the downtown station to unload the trailer after dropping the trucks off. Unloading didn’t take nearly as long. At about four I started doing my inventory of gift shop items. At five we all clocked out and Chris and I went to the Cracker Barrel for dinner and talked. Afterwards we watched Babylon Berlin on TV before going to bed.

    Day 5
    We had to be up early to load Thomas on his semi trailer. So we drove out to the ADM east of town and waited for the truck to arrive in the rain. We borrowed the track mobile, and a fork lift from ADM to load him onto the truck. The track mobile didn’t have enough traction to push the tank engine onto the trailer in the rain. So Chris has to pull Thomas with a chain with his truck while the track mobile pushed. And I rode inside Thomas to tie his hand brake down. So I have the rarest milage of them all. On a trailer

    After securing Thomas and watching him leave on the road we went to our downtown office. I did inventory for the gift shop while freights passed every fifteen minutes or so between the Heart of Georgia (G&W), CSX, and NS right outside our doors. Around twelve I had finished inventory so I drove back to Carter’s had lunch and hit the road.


    I went a different way this time and went via Hawkinsville, and Sandsrsville to get back to SC. I crossed the border on US 231 which goes north of Augusta. Before crossing my own state via Edgefield, Johnston, Monetta, Batesburg, and Lexington. This routing was far faster. However it could have been faster had I not landed in Lexington at rush hour.

    And then arrived home.
     
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  2. Nov 2, 2019 #2

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Conductor

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    Location:
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    CSX in Allendale, SC.

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    Carter’s Chicken.

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    Thomas the Bank Engine. I mean tank engine.

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    The view from Thomas.

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    You can’t beat an open vestibule.

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    Our train looking forward.

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    The old stage magic.

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    The actual magic that makes the train move.

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    The view over the lake.

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    Our Lake Blackshear Georgia Veterans Station.
     
  3. Nov 2, 2019 #3

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Conductor

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    Our station has two platforms.

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    CSX outside of our office

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    Thomas being taken away.

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    All of the items I had to inventory. They make a lot of Thomas items.

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    The first attempt at loading Thomas.

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    And he’s on.

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    Have to love panel track.

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    And Thomas’s builders plate.
     
  4. Nov 3, 2019 #4

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

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    I always wondered how they moved Thomas around. He gets up here once or twice a year. Event always sells out quickly, so your "bank engine" comment is spot-on.
     
  5. Nov 3, 2019 #5

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Conductor

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    It’s really interesting how Thomas goes onto a truck. It took us two attempts to get him up seeing it was raining.
     
  6. Nov 7, 2019 #6

    v v

    v

    v v

    Conductor AU Supporter

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    I was starting to feel tired by day 3... Also I was wondering why is Thomas so popular, is it the children or the adults who are most keen?

    Thanks for writing that, how would we know otherwise.
     
  7. Nov 7, 2019 #7

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Conductor

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    I was tired by day three I can tell you that.

    Honestly I don’t know why he is so popular. A lot of children watch his shows, movies, and play with the toys. And a lot of parents have grown up with him too. So really it’s a mixed bag.
     
  8. Nov 8, 2019 #8

    v v

    v

    v v

    Conductor AU Supporter

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    You certainly gave a sense of non-stop, almost felt breathless reading it.

    Hope you keep posting about your job, working in the rail industry you give an insight that some of us don't have.

    Thanks
     
    anumberone likes this.
  9. Nov 8, 2019 #9

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Conductor

    Joined:
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    Your welcome. I should post some trip reports from when I used to work for the Virginia Museum of Transportation. Those really were non stop days with a lot of 4 AM to 2 AM shifts over consecutive days.

    I love my job so much. Even though getting used to tourist railroading is taking a bit. Where I used to start the day before a trip and prepare for it. Now I’m writing press releases, and sending them. Handling interviews all before a train turns a wheel.
     
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