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Nostalgia & History > something is just so right about this shot...so missing now!

Date: 08/01/20 04:19
something is just so right about this shot...so missing now!
Author: Roadjob

Call me old school, but I loved being around lots of railroaders. Though I never worked for a railroad, I was schooled early by my mother's father about the importance of the human element in what he did. What he did, was run trains as an engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad between Baltimore and Harrisburg. When I was a kid he loved to tell me about the different people he worked with. Some good, some bad, but all interesting. Though I never chose railroading as a career, I assimilated well into the culture of railroading very easily. I dressed like them, talked like them, and even acted like them when in their presence. So much has been lost as technology is rapidly removing the human part of the industry. There is no stopping progress, but there is that soul that makes the trains seem like living things. And that is what is leaving the scene. On the occasions that I still get around the rails, it does not seem like there is a human even running the train. No open window, no wave, no contact. Yards look like mausoleums running on auto pilot, and even if there are people around, post 911, one feels like there is a sniper waiting to pick you off if you dare talk to anyone.

So all of that brings me to this photograph taken in 1979 at the west end of Enola Yard. It's one of those images that was just a fill in between trains, and is just now seeing the light of day. Why is it worth all of this verbage. Look at the two crewmen on the front of the locomotive. They are having a friendly conversation as their power makes its moves to back down onto their train. The converstion is surely involving somebody who did something that has them both laughing. Why does it appeal to me on a personal level...I didn't know them for sure, but I knew about them.... and that is what I miss.

Bill Rettberg
Bel Air, MD
commercial photography

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/01/20 13:23 by Roadjob.

Date: 08/01/20 05:50
Re: something is just so right about this shot...so missing now!
Author: refarkas

First-rate catch. The two crewmen appear to be happy perhaps even smiling. That makes this ever-so-much better.

Date: 08/01/20 08:06
Re: something is just so right about this shot...so missing now!
Author: perklocal

Great shot Bill !  You're right about the sense of loss of the human side of railroading these days. Those U23Cs sounded good working the west end of Enola.  I would wager that the GP30/GP10 combo on the left was probably the Steelton Local with scrap gons and rebar cars ready to head back across the river to the mill.

Date: 08/01/20 11:19
Re: something is just so right about this shot...so missing now!
Author: Interlocker

There is a book out there written by Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden, titled "The Game." Many consider it the best sports book ever written. Near the end of the text, Dryden -- who was to retire at the end of that 1978-79 season -- wrote about how he will miss "The Game," and by that, he wasn't talking about hockey. He was talking about sneaking beer onto the team bus after a game, various practical jokes played on each other at the team hotel, visiting with a veteran usher at the Montreal Forum two hours before game time, the private conversations with a teammate about personal lives, and on, and on.

I plan to pull the pin on this railroad gig in a little over four years. I can't say I will miss the actual railroad, despite my railfan/foamer status I have held since I was old enough to remember. I will miss the people, the laughs, the stupid, twisted bits of humor that kept all of us going when the job itself was anything but fun. I'm guessing the two guys on the locomotive in this photo were in the middle of a long tour of duty. But they obviously kept things in perspective during the work day. And when they left the railroad, I'm guessing this is the part of "Railroading" they missed the most.

Thanks for posting the photo.

Date: 08/01/20 13:43
Re: something is just so right about this shot...so missing now!
Author: ClubCar

I can relate to these stories.  I never worked for any railroad, yet I was involved with the operations of many excursion train trips which is a story in itself.  But I was around both the B&O (Chessie System) and the Western Maryland and knew many of the actual workers including some engineers, conductors, car men who maintained the passenger cars, and many of the trainmasters and road foreman.  Back in the old days they could tell you so many interesting stories, some hard to believe but still true.  Railroading was a very hard job in many ways, especially in bad weather, especially with ice and snow, it could be very dangerous and safety was always the most important thing all the time.
John in White Marsh, Maryland

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