Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Railroaded Writer

Deb says I need to post more frequently. She's right, but spare time comes at a premium & stress levels are off the chart. My day job (as you will see below) tends to keep me buried, & mentally exhausted. Being away from home doesn't do much to help the creative flow either. Writing is sporadic at best. Mickey Muse stayed home in St. Augustine for this latest excursion, far away from the South Florida sauna. We're living in a condo in Ft Lauderdale - working in Miami. Here are some pictures of what's got me bogged down - a ridiculously paced $30M railroad construction project that has to be finished in about six months, before liquidated damages (fancy words for fine) of $7000 per day kick in. No pressure. A walk in the park.

As a 16 year-old I remember telling my teacher that geometry was a useless subject. It was the first of many assumptions that turned out to be wrong. Above is a sampling of track geometry. (Click on it & do the math for me.) Track work ain't my favorite. Can you guess what happens to a train if the track layout is wrong? Again, no pressure.

A typical boring day.....

Working in the middle of an active train yard - forming foundation walls - very close to live tracks.
I get to deal with the best of 2 hardcore worlds Railroaders mixed with Construction Workers, all trying to out badass each other.

Pumping concrete beneath the water inside coffer dams

Sometimes we use divers, like this poor shlub. (Should be me, hiding from the Amtrak Reps.)

These guys get to go into the pit (there are 4) after we've pumped 500,000 gallons of ground water - per day. The equipment is being lowered with a crane. It's not a hovercraft with a bucket.

And while all of the concrete & pit work progresses - we're 'flying' steel.

So writing & blogging have taken a back seat for a while. Cut me some slack! I've been railroaded! 


Joylene said...

I am totally impressed. You are like my hero. Good gracious, no wonder you have no time to write.

Laura Best said...

I enjoyed the pictures. Thanks for posting them!Not something you see every day especially not in little old E. Dalhousie.

I agree, sometimes it's nearly impossible to fit writing into our lives. I'm all happy-go-lucky now, but once I get back to work in July, I'll be fighting to get some words down each day, and I know it's going to make me cranky..It won't be a pleasant thing..

Guess I can cut you some slack for this time, Dave..

Carol J. Garvin said...

Wow! That's some workplace! Sure beats a desk job, don't it??? ;)

Those of us not 'in the know' take what you do for granted, but I'm always in awe of the mind-boggling technical specs that guarantee my safety when I'm in a huge building, on a train, bridge or highway, etc. I'm glad your brain is fully focused on getting the job done right. But don't forget that brains need rest, too, or they sometimes stop functioning efficiently.

You may not be feeling creative right now, but this was a fascinating post, Dave.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Amtrak is surely keeping you busy. Your post certainly brought back memories, I'm sure Deb told you I retired from the railroad after 25 years. I worked in the budgeting and payroll departments. I sure am familiar with Amtrak though, NJ Transit ran some of its trains on Amtrak's NEC. Track geometry cars produce those printouts, don't they?

JaxPop said...

Hah! A hero, Joylene??? Definitely a crazy job - but no hero. Just a cranky old guy making the best of things. Job's okay - don't like living down here. Prefer medical work but most of that seems to be on hold, especially down here. Hope your flies are gone.

Laura - I've been fitting some writing & editing in. Blogging, eh, not so much - prioritizing my free time. Thanks for cutting me some slack. How close is E Dalhousie to Joggins & Springhill?

Carol - Unfortunately, I spend more time behind a desk than I'd like. Prefer to be out there all day but I aint gettin' any younger. (Doesn't help that the guys refer to me as "DAD".) The paperwork on Federally funded jobs (like ths one) is intense - all commas must be in order. I'm taking all of next week off - Jack & Isabel are flying into town with Micael this Saturday. Can't wait. Intend to write at night & button up Reckless. Not to worry - have never had one of my buildings collapse... yet.

Arlene - Busy ain't the word. It's a challenge - just wish it was north of here by about 310 miles. Th RR needs you back in the budeting department - thse guys are slow pay when it comes to extra work. They have about $2M tied up & contractors playing banker is not a good thing during these economic times. I don't know how they create the geometry - we just convert it to install track. GPS is a wonderful invention - which is what we use for most layout.

Hmmmm - 3 comments from Canada & 1from Arizona. Cool.

jaxnanny said...

Hey Babe,
Can't wait to spend time HOME this week with the kids & you. Lots of beach time. You might get to work on Reckless Yipee!!

Salt Life for sure.

Becky said...

Your comment about stress caught my eye b/c my hubby is a retired railroader and, believe me,we got the stress! He was too tired to think when he got home after 100 hr. weeks. Your project, though? He was in maintenance of way, and that would just have energized him.

Good luck with your writing. You are, I am sure, building up experiences to fill your pages.

JaxPop said...

Hi JaxNanny - Do I know you? Rumor has it that you're a real hottie. Yeah, gonna go north & enjoy a little Salt Life with you & the grandkids. Super stoked. Not stoked about the 5 hour drive.

Becky - It's really nice of you to visit. How didja find this obscure meaningless blog??? I'm actually building what the Feds call a "Progressive Maintenance Facility" - Amtrak has chided me for referring to their project as a "Jiffy Lube For Trains". Hah! I write for kids - but it would be cool to incorporate something about trains in a future tale. I did a building in Chicago (cold & lotsa snow) & the guys let me run an engine with this flamethrower rig on the front - they use it to melt ice. Shoulda seen the look I got when I said I wanted to "drive" the train. Not allowed to say drive, but they let me "operate" the train. Railroad guys are pretty tough - but way cool.

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JaxPop said...

Mike - I'm afraid an interview with me would be (yawn) boring, but thanks anyway.

Ronnie said...

Good Grief, Dave, you need to change your profile pic! I'll bet you aren't seeing that view often enough. Thanks for the look at your job site...a different world. I hope you had a good visit with family and wrapped up a chunk of the book.

JaxPop said...

Ronnie - Had a blast with Mike & the kids. Lots of beach time. Job progress died - rain. So I didn't miss much, but now have one less week to get things done. Did not write one lick, but did edit. The house in St Mary's looks great BTW. Retirement must be great (eyebrows raised). Say Hi to Joe.