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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Cold!

Date: 01/19/17 19:05
Author: TAW

The story about winter http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?18,4179030 brought to mind the previous winter, when I was working the B&OCT third trick dispatcher job.

We were on the 3rd floor of Grand Central Station. the window to the left of the dispatcher's table http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,2150942,2151669#2151669 faced out over Harrison and Congress Streets, the east end of the Congress Street (now Eisenhower) Expressway. There was a big, digital clock/thermometer on the wall of a building on the other side of Congress Street. When I came to work at 1030p, it was above freezing, around 35 degrees, windy, and humid. About 1am, every time that the clock across the street changed from time to temperature, it was a degree lower than last time. That kept up until the temperature was somewhere south of 20 below. At one point a little after that, Ash Street told me that the Rock Island going to the CPT was stopped in the plant, frozen to the track with the brake shoes frozen to the wheels. The heat of the brakes had condensed moisture around the wheels and when they stopped at the statutory stop sign for the Santa Fe and IC puzzle switches, it all froze instantly. They were there a long time getting the train moving.

The next day, Tony Franicich, my mentor, called me. He was weekend Chief and couldn't cover 3rd at Harvey. Too many guys off for one reason or another, mostly sick. He told me to work 3rd at Harvey (that would be for 1 1/2 dispatcher pay) instead of working the trainsheet that night. Sure. I can do that.

Some time the year before, I was working at 75th Street and studying to be a train dispatcher. I was on my day off and was still at home before going out to see more railroad. Tony was also the Chief that day, working for the boss, who was off. He called and asked me if I could work 2d trick at Harvey Tower. I had seen Harvey tower and knew the track arrangement, but had never been in the tower, let alone worked the job. He said I didn't ask you if you worked there. I know you haven't. Can you go there and work 2d trick today?
Go on in an hour early if you want and find out about the phones and whatever you need to know about the moves.
With that, and much to the chagrin of the first tricker at Harvey, I worked 2d trick. http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,3810351,3811941#3811941

2d trick was pretty busy. There was the Heights Run, the Phoenix engine, a Southeastern, and several Grand Trunk passenger and freight trains.

In the B&OCT towers, the B&B (Bridge and Building) folks serviced the tower furnace once a year, in the fall. If it broke down, you were out of luck until next fall, so we always just left the thermostat on rock & roll and regulated the temperature with the windows. I showed up for third trick. The 2d tricker had his coat and gloves on. I never thought a thing of it. It was quitting time. The transfer was a nothing to report report. I signed the sheet and he took off.

A mechanical tower can be really cold in winter. There is a lot of cold air that gets in under the machine and all that iron can be really cold too. 49th was a nice, relatively new brick tower. McCook and 75th Street had been remodeled in the late 60s and were nice, even in winter. Both got a new oil furnace in the remodeling process. On the very coldest days at 75, if the furnace couldn't keep up, there was a big coal stove on the first floor for the gandys. The towerman could fire that up and the place would be comfortable. If course, on top of that, at any of the three, you were pulling iron all the time. The coldest days were just fine.

Harvey had never been remodeled. It was drafty. The tower was pretty much the way it was when the day trick dispatcher, Frank Rhode, worked it in the 20s and Tony had worked it in the 30s, except that an oil furnace had been added some time in the 40s or 50s. The tower was cold! No, I mean COLD! Fortunately my trip to and from work took me through 20 or so miles of really desolate area (For you Chicagoans, Route 66 & Willow Springs Road - Willow Springs Road to Route 83 to Harvey and back. Lots of forest preserve and undeveloped land. https://goo.gl/maps/xJHFseeVRKv). I had to be prepared to be out there a long time if I had trouble, so I was dressed to be out there a long time, including a WWII B17 crew coat https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/c2/59/ec/c259ec66e978f9490f2c5c47c0d71015.jpg, fleece gloves, scarves, hat, and long underwear under jeans.

I didn't have one train all night. There was nothing to do. The furnace was on rock & roll and the thermometer on the thermostat showed way below zero. Normally, wherever I worked, I kept the dispatcher on the speaker. Harvey didn't have one. I could sit at the table with the headset on, which I did for a little while. Uh...nope, that's not an option. I'm guessing that most of the operators kept a window open so that they could hear the phones and approach bell (actually, you could hear the B&OCT bell from miles away, but not the Grand Trunk buzzer.) and sat in their car with the heat on. Not me. My duty is to stay in the tower and that is what I did. Of course, the reasoning was somewhat influenced by the gumshoe (railroad cop), knowing that sometimes during slack time, one of the two guys on duty at 75th Street would leave, waiting until one of those times and arranging to have the leverman job abolished, making it a mankiller one man tower.

I wound up spending most of the night crouched on the floor over the heat register. There was kind of warm air coming out of it if you were within a few inches. Outside, the wind was still howling and it was still really humid.

First trick finally came. The sun was coming up on a really clear day. The first tricker signed the sheet and I was on my way, just not very far. The car wouldn't start. It had been parked into the wind all night. There was ice in the air filter intake and in the carburetor. Not good! The day man told me where to find a gas station. I had to walk there, get carburetor de-icer, walk back, and get my car going. At least I had lightweight winter oil. It wasn't fun, but I got the car started and headed home. I was still freezing when I got there, an hour later.

I didn't handle a train or answer a phone all night, but I really earned my 1 1/2 days of train dispatcher pay for working Harvey that night.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/20/17 12:21 by TAW.

Date: 01/20/17 12:04
Re: Cold!
Author: jst3751

I have a somewhat mildly related story, as a truck driver. This happened in 1985 or 86.

I was working for Leaseway Bulk Services out of South Gate, CA driving dry bulk tankers, mainly plastic pellets. I was on the extra board and got a call at about 8-9 PM on Dec 24. A call had come in for a hot shutdown load that was needed ASAP. It was raining and very cold outside.

(A hot shutdown load was one when the receiving plant needed the material ASAP to avoid having to shut down a machine. Depending upon the product being made, some molding lines required a 24 hour start-up procedure after being shut down. So companies want to avoid that if at all possible.)

I got to the terminal in South Gate about 10:30 and it was pouring rain. Called the on-call dispatcher to copy orders. Delivery required 80' of hose, normally a trailer only has 40' on it. No one at the terminal (since it was a holiday the 2 man 3rd shift yard crew was not there). So by the time I checked the assigned truck, hooked up the trailer, loaded 2 more 20' hoses, it was after midnight when I left the terminal. I had to load at the old UP team track that was just south of where the Los Angeles Amtrak engine house and yard is, off Washington and Santa Fe. (Accessed either from 15Th or 12Th I do not remember.)

I got the team track about 1:30 AM. (pouring rain, slow going on Atlantic Blvd, had to stop at Bandini Scales first) Very cold and pouring rain. Got out and started to setup. I was supposed to load 50,000 of reprocessed HDPE plastic pellets. Part of the process is climbing on top of the railcar and opening a hatch on the compartment I would be loading out of. Again, pouring rain, no light accept for my flashlight. Get up there and open up the hatch and look in. Something doesn't look right. Go down and get out my sample bags and go to the outlet tube at the bottom. Of course, this is a very old car with very old ACF center flow outlets and they are a b***h to turn. Get out my cheater bars to finally open the valve and get some product out. Its not pellets but flakes and fines. (Fines is like just as a result of blades cutting plastic up.) Check the other 3 comparments, all the same. Check the other 3 comparments from the top, same. (Again, all while it is pouring rain.)

I close everything up and lock my truck. I walk over to the Amtrak Engine house as there was a payphone there. Call dispatch (actually answered by an answering service) and waited to be connected to the on-call dispatcher. 10 minutes later he gets on the phone and I describe what I find. On hold again for about 20 minutes while he calls the person that sent the order in and then they call the customer. Finally comes back on the line with me and says to bring it back to the yard and go home, the customer is rejecting what I found. (Did I mention it is raining and cold and the payphone is outside the building?)

I get back to the yard about 3:30 AM, still raining. On my paperwork I turned in, I wrote across the top (HAZARDOUS PAY REQUESTED).

The next day the office was open I received a call from the terminal manager asking why I put in for Hazardous Pay. I explained the entire scenrio.  He approved it.

So for about 5 1/2 hours of work all in the rain, I got paid 11 hours (Hazardous pay was paid at one hour per one hour on duty) plus holiday pay.

Date: 01/20/17 18:26
Re: Cold!
Author: spnudge

Would love to hear about those "Armstrong" Interlockings. I know the pipes and off sets would be a real problem. Was there a gang out there to defrost them or keep them clear. ???

Thanks for the input,


Date: 01/20/17 20:48
Re: Cold!
Author: wa4umr

Did you notice???  It's cold and windy out there.  You find some kind of shelter, a building, or some kind of shack.  There's no heat in there but it's got to be better than it is outside.  You go in knowing there's no heat.  Even knowing this, you head wants to think that it is at least a few degrees warmer but it ain't.  Actually, it seems colder than it is outside, just without the wind.  Winters can be brutal.


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