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Nostalgia & History > WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!

Date: 06/23/22 08:02
WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: santafe199

It’s amazing how you can scan a slide, but its visual impact waits a while to jump off the screen at you. I scanned this slide in 2018, but just today got an inspiration to compose a thread around it. Judging by the thin coat(s) of dust here I would bet heavy that this is a typical scene that can be found at any roundhouse facility in the country. It’s a timeless scene any train service railroader will recognize in a heartbeat. One that I saw countless times in my career.

Interpretation: This is the Wabash yard in north Kansas City. I’m pretty sure it was an ‘away-from-home’ terminal, at least for engine crews. For train crew members laying over the company is responsible for their lodging. Exact arrangements may differ from carrier to carrier, but for local transportation other than to & from on duty points the employees are usually on their own. Hence, they acquire some inexpensive car to give them that mobility. The classic term for such a vehicle is “roundhouse car”. Even a car owned by conductors or brakemen that may be parked near a yard office could be called a roundhouse car. Other terms I’ve heard are beater, banger, jalopy, jitney & wheels. And some RH cars that take a frustrating amount of maintenance to keep running may acquire names not fit to print here... ;^)

1. General scene, most likely at the Wabash RH in Kansas City, MO in October of 1964. Anyone need a ride?
Original Kodachrome slide by William A. -Art- Gibson (WAG) Jr.

Thanks for looking back!
Lance Garrels (santafe199)
Jim Wilson (jtwlunch)
Remembering the late Art Gibson, aka ‘wag216’

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/04/23 03:03 by santafe199.

Date: 06/23/22 08:05
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: refarkas

Fascinating historical photo and caption.

Date: 06/23/22 08:41
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: jtwlunch

I remember the roundhouse/crew on duty point cars stashed at Wellington, KS, Waynoka, OK, and Seligman, AZ on the Santa Fe.  They helped individuals and whole crews get around town for better food, flop houses, rented rooms, hunting-Seligman, sand racing events-Waynoka.  Sligman had bycicles-the crew caller went around town on a bycicle rousting crews for trains.  Now replaced by a smart phone line-ups and calls and crew haulers from the crew motel.  I wonder how many crew owned cars are still used at away from home terminals? 

Date: 06/23/22 08:43
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: Gonut1

I once overheard a CP Rail crew heading for South Philadelphia, when they ran there, "The truck is there, the keys are on the visor" this was in an urban area where car theft was rampant. Amazing that any vehical could be parked there and not stripped of tires, battery and other items any night of the week. The keys must have been for a totally trashed vehicle no one would even notice.

Date: 06/23/22 09:20
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: LocoPilot750

I had a car at Ark City, but moved it on over to the Wellington when I could stay in that pool. I went through a couple there. One I sold to the junk yard, then walked from there back to the yard office. Bought one here in Lawrence at a yard sale, took it to Wellington, rode a train back. When I retired, I put a "for sale" sign on it, and it sold next day to a Wellington west guy who took it to Amarillo.

Date: 06/23/22 10:22
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: ironmtn

Folks working in other transportation modes have them too. I had one during my Greyhound driving days at my terminal in Effingham, Ill., which was 100 miles east of my hometown in St. Louis. I didn't have the seniority to hold the St. Louis extra board, so for my first two years I had to move to Effingham seasonally, a busy intermediate terminal on what was then a very high-volume Chicago - Memphis route. There were a few other guys who also worked there until they could gain the seniority to hold the extra board in their own hometown city. We all had second cars at Effingham. But the 'Hound term (with no roundhouse, only a repurposed Army-surplus quonset hut garage) was to call them an "away car".

Great photo of another slice of railroad life that many railfans probably don't give much thought to. Thanks.


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/23/22 10:28 by ironmtn.

Date: 06/23/22 10:51
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: kenN

Lance, this shot has an uncanny resemblance to my picture of CB&Q train #36 (and a flock of pigeons) two-and-a-half years later on Feb 22, 1967, in the company of Art's dad Bill.  Two of the autos may even be the same.  Same vantage, pointed a bit to the left from Art's shot.

Ken Nagel
Grand Rapids MI

Date: 06/23/22 11:05
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: santafe199

kenN Wrote: > ...  picture of CB&Q train #36 ...

Yessir! You're definitely in the same neighborhood. Small world, again... :^)


Date: 06/23/22 12:44
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: Copy19

I remember being educated by the friendly publisher of the Marysville Advocate  in Kansas over this issue.  He told me railroaders were cluttering up the neighborhood near the Union Pacific station with junker automobiles they used as "away" cars making local residents complain.   I had never heard of this before and appreciated his filling me in.  I couldn't do much about it but it was good to know as part of my early railroad education.

JB - Omaha

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/23/22 12:47 by Copy19.

Date: 06/23/22 17:53
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: Xtra276West

santafe199 Wrote:
> kenN Wrote: > ...  picture of CB&Q train #36
> ...
> Yessir! You're definitely in the same
> neighborhood. Small world, again... :^)
> Lance

Hmmmm.......whut are we to make of 'dat 1963 Chevrolet Impala in the middle background?

Just more GM junk?   Nyuk.   That's NOBODY's away-from-home car!

Great stuff all 'round, gents!   Thanks to all, past and present.

Pat from Littleton, Colorado


Date: 06/23/22 17:54
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: sfbrkmn

For those of you who may not have known him, L.M. "Mike" Hurley is my late father-in-law. Santa Fe West side Newton trainman who pulled the pin 8/31/86. He had a roundhouse car @ Dodge City (or station code "Dodcit") . This was a cream colored '62 Dodge Dart which originally belonged to my wife's aunt who named Agness who lived in Dodge (For many yrs, Mike stayed @ Agness house in leiu of the hotel on his layovers).  He named this car "Betts". The day after Mike retired, he deadheaded on Amtrak back to "Dodcit", grabbed Betts and drove her home to Newton which became the new stompimg grounds for the set of wheels. This became the "driving around Newton ride". After Mike passed away in 2001, my sister in-law obtined Betts and kept it until around 5-6 yrs ago when my wife  bought it. She entered it in a July 4th classic car parade in Burrton and won 3rd place. 

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/23/22 17:57 by sfbrkmn.

Date: 06/23/22 18:39
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: santafe199

sfbrkmn Wrote: > ... you who may not have known him, L.M. "Mike" Hurley ...

In the summer of '78 I put in 2 months switching at Dodge City after being cut off the brakeman's board at Emporia. Then in later years, in all of the road trips I made into Newton, or in Switch shifts I worked at Sand Creek I'm sure probably I "bumped into" Mike some time or other. But because neither one of us knew the other was a railfan we never connected. No doubt a great opportunity missed. Before my good friend & fellow KS Gang member John Arbuckle passed away he gave me his copy of Mike's book. And I'm really glad to have it! :^)

I never built up enough seniority to have a RH car anywhere in my Santa Fe days. When I got on with MRL in '87 all of the lodging we were put up in had courtesy rides, so there was no need to contribute to an automobie junk yard... ;^)


Date: 06/23/22 18:44
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: santafe199

Xtra276West Wrote: > ... whut are we to make of 'dat 1963 Chevrolet Impala ...

I was wondering when somebody would notice that! I really don't know what to make of the suspicious parking job. Unless the famously near-sighted Mr Magoo parked it there... ;^)


Date: 06/23/22 21:19
Re: WAG Running Late (#5): Wabash roundhouse cars!
Author: KskidinTx

I bought a '56 Chevy from Kenny Stauffer (Bob Stauffer's father) for $75.  Kenny was an Emporia switchman.  The car ran real good and I took it to Wellington, KS for a "work car".  This was before separate pools were established out of Emporia so was still lacking transportation at Ark City and Newton.  George Randall had a car at Ark City so we swapped keys.  A little while later found out Dick Lyon had a car at Newton so we brought him into our group.  Now when going to work we just had to check to see where the other two had gone if they were not at Emporia.  It was sure nice not being stuck in a hotel for hours at a time.  I had a brother living in Wellington and one living in Argonia, 20 miles west) so I could go and visit them.

Later when I was a RFE at Marceline, Mo. I moved the '56 Chevy to AY Tower at Argentine so didn't have to depend on other people for transportation.  I could be at the hotel getting my rest while the train crew was still yarding their train.  Having a work car at the away from home terminal was a "must" in my book.

As to the '63 Chevy in the picture, when I first saw it I just figured it was a couple of rail fans waiting on a train.to go by.  If it was dark out I may have had different thoughts as to why it was out there.


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