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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Pigeons - really "flying rats"


Date: 11/29/16 16:01
Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: aronco

A recnt post on TO commented on an underpass being closed to remove pigeon dung covering the underside.  That comment reminded me of an incident that occurred at  Barstow a few years after the new yard opened in 1976.  The design of the yard included a 85 foot tall tower located in the center of the yard where two supervisors would be stationed to oversee the traffic flow and yard operations.  The top of the tower was about 40 feet square with large windows on all sides.  The air conditioning/heating units were located on the roof above and the units and ductwork were open to the elments including the summer desert heat and the biting cold winds of the winter.  It didn't take long before the pigeons discovered the feast of grain which leaked from hopper cars.  Soon, thousands of pigeons were every where in the yard, and many of  them chose the roof of the high tower for their residence.  They seemed to love the half wall that enclosed the top of the tower to keep the A/C equipment out of view.  It also blocked the wind and sheltered their nests.
Now that was fine - who is going to interfere with nature?  The problem is that pigeon droppings are known to cause diseases in humans, including a virulent respiratory disease.
You do not want to be around large quantities of pigeon droppngs, and the roof of the tower was quickly being buried.   Soon the odor was obvious and climbing up to the roof through the hatch inside the tower was disgusting.  Something had to be done!
There were many discussions among supervision.  Poison was not legal.  Shooting them was illegal with Barstow city limits although many Santa Fe folks volunteered for that solution.   One pundit suggested "No Trespassing" signs.  Finally, someone found a guy who would trap the pigeons and remove them.  He showed up to begin his chore one day while I was working.  He brought about 6 large cages, perhaps about the size of a casket (appropriate?) made of heavy chicken wire.  Each cage had to be brought up one or two at a t
me in the small elevator, then manhandled up the stairway to the floor of the tower, then handed up thru the hatch and secured to the structure.  A bait was placed in each trap and the hired killer er., pest control man,  left the scene, not to be seen for several weeks.  By the time he returned, the scratching and squaking noises had increased greatly.  I did look up thru the hatch one day and the traps were rapidly filling with pigeons.  They could get in but not out!
When the fellow showed up to remove his traps, they all were filled with about 200 birds, some alive, and some deceased.  It was not a pleasant scene.  He and his assistant tried to lower the first trap down thru the hatch, the down the stairway, and into to elevator.  Obviously, the stinking mess was far heavier that they had planned.  Taking the cages back down would not work. 
The car foreman and I continued our work, with the hatch open but to our backs.  The pest control man and his helper were up on the roof, struggling with the heavy cages.
Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I saw an object fall from the roof toward the parking lot below,    "Yeah, that's what we'll have to do, Luke!" I heard from the roof.
Soon all the remaining cages were dropped over the edge, creating the most awful mess you can imagine on the sidealks below.  The two men were there for many hours cleaning up their problem.  It was ironic that some pigeons were watching this whole scenario from the top of the tower, their heads bobbing in unison.  Later, the entire top of the tower was covered in a elaborate screen of wire mest to keep the pigeons away.
The new yard at Barstow was built over the sandy Mojave river bed.  Millions of tons rock were blasted from the North side of Barstow Hill, hauled across the main line to a crusher, then hauled back to the construction site by truck, and later by mini unit trains.  Within a few months of the opening of the yard February 2, 1976, nature began returning to the area.  First were mice and rats, feasting on spilled grain.  Chipmunks and squirrels soon appeared.  No self-respecting owl or hawk would miss this chance, and soon there were burrowing owls in the hillsides, and hawks prowling the skies above.  Switchmen told of seeing kit foxes and bobcats prowling the yard.  The rocky sides of man made fills were homes to king and Mojave green rattlers.   I actually saw a sidewinder rattler eating a tasty mouse along one of roadways thru the yard.
In short, building the yard seemed to enhance the wildlife, in lieu of disturbing it has some might have claimed.

TIOGA PASS
  

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/29/16 16:05 by aronco.



Date: 11/29/16 18:42
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: mococomike

Interesting story.



Date: 11/29/16 21:55
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: wpamtk

Here's another pigeon story: I went to Los Angeles Union Station for a interview with Amtrak in 1988. Arriving early, I had a seat in the waiting room and read a book. Being late morning (and LAUPT being much less busy back then) there were very few people around. In walk two guys from LA Animal Control; one was wearing a camoflage cap and immense rainbow suspenders, and carrying a .22 rifle (not a pellet gun). He drops to one knee, braces himself against the end of a bench, and opens fire at the pigeons roosting on the chandeliers. After each "pop" (he was using those short .22 target rounds), a bird would land with a "splat" on the stone floor, and his assistant would run over and toss the deceased into a big sack. At one point, he missed and a flurry of ceiling plaster dust drifted down. Another time, his victim keeled over into the chandelier, no doubt to be entombed there forever. Although I never actually worked in Los Angeles, it made an interesting start to a 28-year career.



Date: 11/29/16 22:19
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: CR3

We had a guy come to West Colton Yard back in the 90's to rid the place of pigeons.  They put out grain somewhere in the yard and fired big nets over the feeding birds.  He said they had just come from some place in Texas on the SP.  He asked me if I knew where there were more pigeons and I told him about the place between W.Colton and Kaiser Yard where there were some grain silos.  His eyes lit up and they took off in that direction.  He said they were paid about two bucks per bird by somebody.  Never heard anymore about him.

CRS



Date: 11/30/16 07:54
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: LocoPilot750

And how about the flying rat that picked up a burning cigarette, flew up to his nest in the old Emporia , KS depot, causing the fire that burned it down ? (I know, I know, couldn't happen, but that was one of the more humorous rumors "flying" around at the time)



Date: 11/30/16 14:00
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: dpudave

CR3 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> We had a guy come to West Colton Yard back in the
> 90's to rid the place of pigeons.  They put out
> grain somewhere in the yard and fired big nets
> over the feeding birds.  He said they had just
> come from some place in Texas on the SP.  He
> asked me if I knew where there were more pigeons
> and I told him about the place between W.Colton
> and Kaiser Yard where there were some grain
> silos.  His eyes lit up and they took off in that
> direction.  He said they were paid about two
> bucks per bird by somebody.  Never heard anymore
> about him.
>
> CRS

Stir fry. d



Date: 11/30/16 14:19
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: WJEX

  Also often called  SKY RATS!!



Date: 11/30/16 14:31
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: gandydancer4

Didn't UP's "Big Blow"turbines get the reputation of being pidgeon killers? I remember stories while attending UPHS meets that when a "Big Blow" would enter a yard at slow speed and had to go under a highway overpass, the exhaust gases would scower the underpass and if pidgeos were underneath, they would drop like rain afterr being burned alive.  Is this true or is this just crapola? 



Date: 11/30/16 18:54
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: PHall

gandydancer4 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Didn't UP's "Big Blow"turbines get the reputation
> of being pidgeon killers? I remember stories while
> attending UPHS meets that when a "Big Blow" would
> enter a yard at slow speed and had to go under a
> highway overpass, the exhaust gases would scower
> the underpass and if pidgeos were underneath, they
> would drop like rain afterr being burned alive.
>  Is this true or is this just crapola? 

You would figure the noise of the turbine would have chased them out from under the overpass long before they were close enough to the exhaust to even get warmed up a bit. 



Date: 12/01/16 11:04
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: jtwlunch

I seem to recall in the early 1980's in the Fe Bakersfield Roundhouse of three people who used to take a 22 cal rifle with a flashlight duct taped to it with a case of 22 short rounds would eradicate the flying rat population at night.  They would line up on the edge of the upper interior roof and just drop down when shot and their buddies just stayed in place.  This would happen quarterly after some safety meetings being held there.



Date: 12/01/16 15:58
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: rabidcats

Old First Street Yard at Los Angeles had its share of pigeons living under the 1st street overpass.  One evening around 1969 we came out of beans and had to make a few moves before hauling the SP transfer up to Downey 1.  There were some dead pigeons on the ground and we heard that poison grain must have been scattered to reduce the population.  The other helper on the job (who eventually became an ATSF Road Foreman) picked up one bird that was staggering around and put it on the front deck of the locomotive -- a big Alco, possibly the 602 -- where it sat hunkered down.  I was in favor of leaving the bird where it had been but the other helper was insistent on our giving it a farewll excursion: "The fresh air will do him good." By the time we finished our yard chores and came against the SP cut the bird was was up and walking around a bit.  Again, I suggested this was a good time to set the pigeon out.  "No, he likes it, it makes him feel good."  So off we went up the Cudahy Lead, passed Mission and lined in at Downey 1.  By the time we neared First Street our rider was looking pretty good and doing the pigeon head-bob.  This had been our "go home" move and I lined the 'gine toward Passenger 7 to tie-up.  As we passed beneath the 1st Street bridge, our guest of the evening flew off.  It was home again.



Date: 12/01/16 19:31
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: KskidinTx

jtwlunch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I seem to recall in the early 1980's in the Fe
> Bakersfield Roundhouse of three people who used to
> take a 22 cal rifle with a flashlight duct taped
> to it with a case of 22 short rounds would
> eradicate the flying rat population at night.
>  They would line up on the edge of the upper
> interior roof and just drop down when shot and
> their buddies just stayed in place.  This would
> happen quarterly after some safety meetings being
> held there.

It sure is very strange that you seem to know all the details..............heh, heh, heh.
     Mark



Date: 12/01/16 22:25
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: aronco

JTW - Did the next safety meeting includes a few moments of firearm safety??  Did you pay close attention?

Norm

 

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar



Date: 01/18/17 21:14
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: DNRY122

And to quote Tom Lehrer, "It's not against any religion...to want to dispose of a pigeon."  Dr. Demento (who is a railfan as well as a master of "mad music and crazy comedy") used to mark the start of springtime on his first show after the Vernal Equinox by playing "Poisoing Pigeons in the Park."



Date: 01/19/17 06:36
Re: Pigeons - really "flying rats"
Author: LocoPilot750

The was an uproar in Topeka decades ago when they started putting out a pigeon feed that wold cause them to lay eggs that wouldn't hatch, redducing the population.



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