Those three words rarely bring good news to follow!
Early in the morning of September 8, 1994, westbound train SEBU with four locomotives and 53 cars went into emergency as it passed upgrade through CP277 on the Onondaga Cutoff, just after 4 a.m. and still well before dawn. The train notified the dispatcher and came to a stop, and the conductor then walked back to see what the issue was, only to find the following scene:
All cars were on the rail, but between the 5th and 6th car of the train, a mechanical defect caused some slack action to literally tear the coupler and its entire mounting from the frame of CN 377249, an empty covered hopper headed to Buffalo for interchange. As the train was crossing over between tracks 1 and 2, this was a big mess, with both main tracks blocked. Delays to priority intermodal trains started almost immediately.
The train crew contacted the Mohawk Dispatcher, who in turn got in touch with the Trouble Desk, which immediately dispatched a mechanical crew with a boom truck to get out and clear the coupler from the railroad, as well as to assist the crew in getting the defective car set out. With no coupler on the west end of the remaining train, locomotives from TV-5 were commandeered to push the back to the SEBU's train west up to Onondaga Yard, with the conductor protecting the head end. The car was set out, and SEBU then started his scheduled work at Onondaga Yard, albeit with a conductor who wasn't too happy with how that run had gone! Meanwhile TV-5's power reversed to go back to their train and continue their run west, now several hours late.
Once the regular Mechanical Department guys came on duty at 7, they fired up their block truck and used its knuckle boom to repair the defect on CN 377249 at Onondaga Yard. The car will be added to an outbound freight later in the day. No injuries, just a team of railroaders working together to get the job done right.
For me, stories like this one - an actual mechanical defect leading to a very realistic emergency situation, in turn requiring a realistic response to keep the railroad open - are part of what makes Operating Sessions such a great part of the hobby. Having an HO scale railroad that can even generate prototypical problems is just a fantastic thrill - you never know what problems will pop up during a session on the Onondaga Cutoff, but rest assured the guys running will figure out how to deal with it!