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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Don't bite off more than you can chew


Date: 12/08/16 14:49
Don't bite off more than you can chew
Author: Copy19

One day I received a telephone call from a reporter who thought it would be a great idea to ride a coal train from a mine in Wyoming's Powder River Basin to a power plant in Texas.   I laughed.  

The request took me right back to my early days in Utah when I was working out of our public relations office in Salt Lake City 1980-82.  This was a great learning time for me as I became famililar wilth railroad reality.  I mean we didn't hesitate to show off the railroad, warts and all, but there were limitations.  I remember one time I was looking for a train to ride with a newsman south out of Salt Lake and came up wilth the PLA (Pocatello-Los Angeles).  I checked with Road Foreman Doyle Godden who immediately answered:  "You don't want to do that!"  Doyle explained that the PLA was supposed to be a daylight run but explained it was a notorius drag that did a lot work enroute and....  Lesson learned.

I learned over time to screen requests.  In many cases I had working relationships with reporters in my working territory and could decide if a ride would be productive.  I was burned one time when I took a Salt Lake TV crew for a short ride in connection with crossing safety.  When we finished the trip I asked them when the piece would air.  "Oh, we'll wait until the next time you kill somebody," the reporter answered.   Lesson learned.

But getting back to the request to ride a coal train from Wyoming to Texas I clearly remembered the time I agreed to host a reporter aboard a coal train from Provo Utah to Long Beach, Calif.  At that time coal out of Utah going for export was a big deal with proposed coal ports seemingly being suggested all up and down the West Coast.  It was a big deal in the news for all concerned.  I said we'd do it.

We left Provo on Jan. 19, 1982 in thick fog at dawn following the markers of the caboose of a leaving ahead of us in dark territory.  Finally we popped out of the fog into a brilliant snow scape with no sign of the train I had been worrying about rear-ending.  We made a quick meet with a northbound, still in Train Order territory, and slowly rumbled south until we finallly reached the main line at Lynndyl.  We pulled into Milford to make the crew change.  While we were waiting the photographer wanted to shoot a picture of our train and I posed for him on the front of our power.

Underway again the day grew long and I pulled out a sack with bunch of fried chicken my wife Pat had fixed for us in case we got hungery.  Boy howdy!  We wolfed it down.  Onward into Nevada and down into the Rainbow Canyon where we had long wait for a meet at Richmond where our student engineer was challenged by our heavy train as it pushed us around a rock cliff that obscured the signal until the last moment.  It got a little tense.   After that I don't remember much after passing through Caliente until we saw the lights of Las Vegas from the hilltop at Apex.  My guest had grown pretty quiet and the rest of the cab chatter had pretty much died down. 

Rolling into Las Vegas around 1 a.m. the radio came alive with voice of Jack Sanford, South Central general superintendent.  "Hey, you got John Bromley on there with you?"   We confessed and Jack said he was sending a special agent over to pick us up and take us to a hotel.   My guest was thrilled and declared, "I've had enough."  I was quiet but Jack became my new best friend.   As it turned out I learned much from him during my Utah years.   Lessons learned.

That's why I talked the reporter out of the Texas trip request.  I explained what such a ride would take and told him if we tried it it would be survival story, not a transportation piece.   That's the voice of experience.

JB - Omaha



Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 12/09/16 15:42 by Copy19.




Date: 12/08/16 16:56
Re: Don't bite off more than you can chew
Author: justalurker66

If you are traveling further than the crew it would be better to be on a passenger train.



Date: 12/09/16 08:55
Re: Don't bite off more than you can chew
Author: TAW

Copy19 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>  I explained what such a ride would
> take and told him if we tried it it would be
> survival story, not a transportation piece.  
> That's the voice of experience.

I did Whitefish - Seattle on an intermodal, Vancouver WA - Klamath Falls OR on a theoretically hot freight, and Fresno CA - Tracy CA via Los Banos - Fresno via Modesto on Dirty Ol Freight Trains. Those were a sufficient survival experience. I can't imagine WY - TX or Provo - Long Beach on a coal train.

TAW



Date: 12/09/16 11:58
Re: Don't bite off more than you can chew
Author: Copy19

In retrospect I should have added a business car on the Provo-Long Beach coal train.   I did that in following years after I transferred to headquarters in Omaha where my boss didn't hesitate about making requests for equipment I never would have considered in my Utah "freshman" days.   For example I hosted a husband and wife writing team from the Smithsonian Magazine on a multiple-day trip from Council Bluffs to Seattle involving three freight trains.  The only way to travel!

JB-Omaha



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/09/16 12:03 by Copy19.



Date: 12/09/16 22:14
Re: Don't bite off more than you can chew
Author: crackerjackhoghead

Back when a "hotshot" was inded a hotshot, I rode a Z-train from L.A. to Salt Lake and back again and it wasn't too bad. It took 19 hours going up and 15 coming back, but those days are long gone!



Date: 12/12/16 08:43
Re: Don't bite off more than you can chew
Author: kk5ol

rantoul Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Interaction with crews make the ride.

That depends entirely on the crew you draw . . .

RailNet802, owevaaaah
 



Date: 12/13/16 08:52
Re: Don't bite off more than you can chew
Author: Copy19

kk5ol Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> rantoul Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
>
> > Interaction with crews make the ride.
>
> That depends entirely on the crew you draw . . .
>
> RailNet802, owevaaaah
>  
I had great experiences with crews.  Sometimes they were initially reserved about "a suit"* riding with them but they usually opened up and were eager to talk about the railroad and their lives.  I always enjoyed listening to them.

JB - Omaha
*I never actually wore a suit on my freight train rides.



Date: 12/16/16 22:55
Re: Don't bite off more than you can chew
Author: wpjones

Great story John. How's the book coming? ;)
Steve



Date: 12/17/16 09:28
Re: Don't bite off more than you can chew
Author: Copy19

Thanks for the kind words Steve, but no I'm not planning to write a book.

JB - Omaha



Date: 12/17/16 11:50
Re: Don't bite off more than you can chew
Author: PHall

Copy19 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Thanks for the kind words Steve, but no I'm not
> planning to write a book.
>
> JB - Omaha

Many of us think you should.



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