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Railroaders' Nostalgia > You have a rider aboard.....
Date: 03/23/17 15:41
You have a rider aboard.....
Lance Garrels' account of Richard Stigall's ride on the San Francisco Chief evokes this memory from my past.
One evening I was at SP's West Colton yard awaiting our train, the BSMFF, one of the fastest if not the fastest train SP operated being allowed
Column One speeds at most locations. Column One on the track that we were running over between West Colton and Los Angeles being 70MPH.
After the inbound train from Yuma came to a stop one of our Road Foremen, Don Green, exited the front door and as he slid down the ladder
said: "You've got a rider up there, give him a good run". "Of course, I always do" came my smart-aleck reply. The brakeman and I climbed up and entered the cab.
The 'rider' introduced himself and as I settled into my seat and began to pull up for the caboose exchange the rider introduced himself as a
member of the engineering department and that he was out riding trains just to see what the railroad looked like. I busied myself with doing my
normal 'nest building' while keeping an ear tuned to the radio to make the crew swap. Soon we had our 'All aboard, Highball BSM" and were
off to the races. As we accelerated on the tangent, slightly descending grade I asked the rider how the railroad track was riding between Yuma and
West Colton. It was a loaded question; I knew the answer. "Oh, great, good ride.", came his reply. "Nice and smooth?" I asked. "Yep", he replied.
"Well, you can forget about that smooth ride. From here on to L.A. it's not the same railroad". He smiled and allowed a hearty guffaw. What I knew; and
he apparently didn't was that there were some soft pieces of track ahead, the first of which was fast approaching.
Since time immemorial the SP had a branch that departed from the main track at a point about midway between switches of the siding at So. Fontana.
Its original name was Declez but by the time of this story the branch no longer had a name and its status had declined to merely that of a long storage
track leading to where SP stored empty sugar beet gons during the winter months at a place once called, what else, Declezville.
For years the ties and rail around the main track switch at Declez were liberally coated with dried, or wet depending upon the season, yellow mud from the constant
pumping action of cars and engines passing over at high speed. The cross level of the track was seriously out of whack and each move over the switch
was an adventure. On most occasions the speed of trains was something less than maximum allowed and so was not a white-knuckler event.
Tonight was different. I had noticed that our guest was sitting in a rather relaxed attitude, right leg over left knee. As we began over the switch our SD-45 first pitched to the left followed by
a quick lunge to the right. I was prepared with one hand firmly grasping the right armrest. As the lead unit straightened I noticed the rider was now sitting fully upright.
A few miles beyond Declez we next passed over the hand-throw switch of the crossover at Kaiser Siding; another mud-pumping, heart thumping experience. Now I knew what
was in store and I will say that passing over this switch at 70 mph that night on that train was probably one of the most frightening experiences, other than near misses at
grade crossings, that I ever experienced in my career. The SD-45 again did the lateral dance first to the left then right but this time instead of dampening out the unit seemed
to like the experience and went for a second round of the dance. I honestly thought I 'd bought the proverbial farm and we were all going to die right there at Kaiser.
Obviously our time was not up, but now out of the corner of my eye I noticed the visitor was using both hands to hold on and the rest of the trip was comparatively tame.
As we approached San Gabriel, the track speed reduced from 65 to 30 mph and I chose to make a minimum brake pipe reduction for the first time on the trip.
BANG!...went the air into emergency. We had a dynamiter somewhere back in the train. As the rules required, the head man began walking back to meet the rear man, looking
for anything out of the ordinary. I turned on my overhead light and looked over at the rider. He was still holding on to his armrests.
I said: "Well, you can't say I didn't warn you". "My Lord, man there is a difference. I thought you were joking!". Soon the head man returned and we
had a much slower, less exciting run on into Taylor Yard. Knowing what I do now; no I wouldn't try a repeat performance.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/24/17 11:45 by cewherry.
Date: 03/23/17 16:26
Re: You have a rider aboard.....
Great story.. Thanks for sharing....
Date: 03/23/17 16:28
Re: You have a rider aboard.....
Charlie, I have a similiar story on the Santa Fe. Between Aikman and the "old" Chelsea (this is between Emporia and Wellington, Kansas) there was a "rough" section of main line track. When operating the Super C at 79 mph in this area the trailers would rock back and forth so much I could read the numbers on the end of the trailers. I don't know to this day what kept them on the rails. I thought "well, if they are crazy enough not to apply a speed restriction over this section I'm crazy enough to run 79 over it". A couple of days later I was visiting with some older engineers at the hotel about this rough section. They all said they didn't run track speed over it. The more I thought about it I decided they were more experienced than I was and were probably a lot smarter than I was and that I had better go a little slower in that area myself. It wasn't but a couple of days later they did apply a 55 mph restriction to cover the rough section.
Date: 03/23/17 18:26
Re: You have a rider aboard.....
I was on my way to Wellington, KS, my away terminal, with a fast little train. I don't remember what kind of engine I had anymore. We topped the hill at Rose Hill, over the west switch at 70 mph, and throttled down a little. After we passed the highway crossing, our engine started to do that same lateral dance, bottoming out hard left, right, left, for about a quarter of a mile. The only thing that settled it down was going back to R-8 as we crossed the river bridge. Coming home the next day there was a 30 mph slow order in that same spot, and we could see the track was knocked out of alignment in several places, left, right, left, right.
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