Friday, May 25, 2007

Westheimer's Rule

You've heard of Murphy's laws, right? I say laws because Murphy expressed several "laws of nature" in his work. Beyond his classic law, "If anything can go wrong, it will," Murphy had an uncanny ability to translate into words what every renovator already knows, like:
If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the first one to go wrong.
So, my question is this: Do railroader's live by Westheimer's rule?
To estimate the time it takes to do a task: Estimate the time you think it should take, multiply by two and change the unit of measure to the next highest unit. Thus, we allocate two days for a one hour task.
This rule has application to the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 renovation project.

Remember the 1993 prediction that the locomotive could be steaming in 75 days? By my calculation, it's going to take somewhere between 13 and 35 years to seal the last rivet on the boiler. Since we passed the 13-year mark last year, the project has already entered its "target completion zone."

Here's how I calculated the two limits of the zone. Multiply 75 days times two. The product is 150 work days. That translates into 150 work months, or 12-1/2 years. The earliest our project can be completed is 13 years when rounded off.

But there's another way to interpret Westheimer's rule. Volunteers at the El Dorado Western only work one day per month. That means 75 work days represents 17.4 work months at a average rate of 4.3 work days per month. Multiply times two and you arrive at 34.8 months, or 34.8 years when translated into the next level.

I figure it'll take 13 years on the outside to complete the renovation. However, we passed the 13-year mark some 16 months ago, the El Dorado Western must be ready to accept that the project will go long.

At that rate, Logan and Jacob will be struggling in the work-a-day world and looking forward to Saturdays at the engine house. Retirement will be knocking at Garrett's door. Guys like Keith and I will be but a memory.

Of course, I can't tell you when we'll complete work on the Four-Spot. We keep plugging away on project at a time.

No comments: