When it comes to getting rail cars over the hump and onto outbound trains, yardmasters at Bellevue Yard do everything by the numbers. Incoming rail cars are assigned classification codes – cars destined for Lafayette, Ind., for example, are “2s” – and yardmasters often do quick calculations to ensure that cars headed to the same destination will fit on a particular class track.
So maybe it’s no surprise that yardmaster Jessica Mosley was a former high school math teacher, or that yardmaster Joe Schettine was planning to teach math before joining the railroad three years ago.
Mosley, who hired on as a conductor in 2007, works in the yard’s Route 4 Tower, a four-story command center that overlooks the hump – a hill where inbound rail cars are scanned and then sorted into class tracks. Perched at a console packed screen-to-screen with computer monitors, she coordinates the work of conductors who shove blocks of cars up the hill and then cut cars loose at the top of the hump. The cars roll into class tracks Mosley assigned them based on their destination code – in January, yardmasters had 60 destination codes to work with, up from 43 before the expansion.
Schettine works on the yard’s opposite end in the Ranger Tower, where he overlooks conductors who pull blocks of cars from the class tracks to build outbound trains. He monitors a bank of computers he uses to coordinate the work flow of up to five “pullback” crews on his shift.
On each of three daily shifts, the Route 4 and Ranger tower yardmasters share responsibility for hitting an important number at the expanded yard – the total count of cars that are processed and sent on the road each day to customers.