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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Life's Treats & it's Tricks


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Date: 09/06/18 19:50
Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: crackerjackhoghead

  When I was almost ten, we moved, from the city, to a house in the country, which would open a whole new world to me. Canyon Country, California, as it was known then, was a small town where the major intersections were still protected by only a stop sign and the local liquor store sold ammo, from the glass display case, beneath the register, and no one thought anything of it. The place was surrounded by sagebrush and grass covered rolling hills, punctuated by large oaks and side canyons and bottomlands that were shaded by stately old cottonwood trees.  My mother used to have a rule that, after school, we could come in the house to get a snack but then, we weren't allowed back in the house until dinner time, a rule which we, my friends and I, were only happy to oblige. All we really wanted to do was spill out into the hills, in search of adventure. Whether it was climbing to the top of highest peak or digging for some, perceived, buried treasure, many times, we'd find ourselves so far out in the hills that dinner was missed and I'd lay in bed, that night, my empty stomach growling, maybe even grounded but, our adventures were always worth it!

  If my friends were not around, my explorations, often, turned to railfanning. At the time, the country was in a recession and the Southern Pacific's Saugus line was all but abandoned, seeing only one or two trains a day and those usually passed at night. I didn't let that deter me though. I walked mile after mile of right of way, exploring. Around every bend was another mystery, something new to be discovered, another signal, another motorcar set-off, a block indicator, a tool shed, a tunnel. I talked to the signalmen. I talked to the Gandy dancers. I got to a ride on work trains and, several times, I would be invited to ride the helpers down to Sylmar and back. If my parents made a shopping trip, to nearby Saugus, I'd run down to the depot to see what was going on there and, maybe, I'd catch a Piru turn. Soon, I discovered the Saugus local. In the summer, I could ride my bicycle over to Newhall or Saugus and watch them switch. I decided that I wanted to be the engineer on that job, someday.

  When I got out of high school, I tried to hire on with the Southern Pacific, but the recession lingered on and the Espee was not hiring. I worked several odd jobs before getting on with the local short line, which was fine, but I really wanted to be working that Saugus local. I worked at the short line, for a few years, before one of my Espee friends told me that the Union Pacific was hiring, so I went down and applied at the U.P. and got hired. I'd been at the U.P for several years when the Espee did, finally, start hiring. Although my job was good, I really wanted to work that Saugus local. So, I went down the the Espee and applied again but, again, I didn't get on. You see, the railroads had a handshake agreement, that they wouldn't "steal" each other's employees. Eventually, the merger came, along with the merging of our seniority rosters. Again, I thought of that Saugus local but, as you can imagine, the seniority on that job was sky high so, still, It would have to wait.

  It's now been forty years since I last chased the Saugus local, on my bicycle, and much has come to pass. For the past few months, I've had the privilege of being the regular assigned hoghead on that job and, for the first time, in many years, I enjoy going to work. The job has been an emotional journey for me. Each day, we pass the former site of General Motor's Van Nuys assembly plant, where my father, and his brother, spent 34 years of their lives and we pass the site of Lockheed's Vega plant, where my grandfather worked until his passing. Each day, we pass my parents first house, where I spent my early childhood, and we pass the house were my parents would divorce, and where I became a man. And..., we pass the cemetery were my brother was laid to rest. There is much to mull over. Mostly, though, I recount the mile after mile of track that I walked. I note which side canyons and dells I've explored, with friends, long lost. And, I note those which I never explored, and wonder why not.

  Switching at Saugus, the limbs of the large cottonwoods brush along the side of the engine. I reach out and touch their leaves, as if greeting an old friend. The inconsequential landmarks, which went unnoticed, as a kid, seem, now, to carry great importance. Returning from Humphreys, as the engine leans into the big curve, wrapping around the hill, at Saugus, I stretch far out of my window, taking survey of the metropolis attempting to masquerade as my boyhood town. I don't recognize the place. Now that I'm working the Saugus job, I realize that, what I REALLY want, is to be that kid down on the right of way, running around, exploring the hills of a place that no longer exists.
 



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/08/18 08:52 by crackerjackhoghead.




Date: 09/06/18 20:17
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: trainjunkie

Who says you can't go home again? Nice one Jeff. Congrats on finally holding the seat on that job. It's amazing the local even still exists after all the changes that UP has made to So Cal.



Date: 09/06/18 21:36
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: roustabout

Nice story well told.  Thanks for sharing it!
 



Date: 09/07/18 05:40
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: RRTom

I think many of us think along the lines of your last sentence.  I know I do.



Date: 09/07/18 05:44
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: LocoPilot750

A different place, different time, different road, but my story exactly.

Posted from Android



Date: 09/07/18 06:03
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: twjurgens

Great story!  Glad you were able to realize your dream.  Thanks for posting.



Date: 09/07/18 08:08
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: DLM

Great story and sounds like this should be the job you retire from if you can hold it.



Date: 09/07/18 08:27
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: DeadheadFRED

Sounds like my life. As a kid hung around thee railroads when ever I could. 
My dad was also a conductor so rode many trains with him in an era when you could take you kids to work
and people looked the way.

Started on the GREAT NORTHERN at 17 when I was a senior in high school and retired at 60.
Would not have changed in my life.

DHF

 



Date: 09/07/18 09:03
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: jbohdan2

Really nice account.  Thanks for sharing.
 



Date: 09/07/18 11:30
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: symph1

Beautifully said. Thank you.
 



Date: 09/07/18 17:10
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: mapboy

As kids, we stayed many times in our grandmother's trailer in Acton, uphill from Solemint and Canyon Country.  Seems like we ran down to the tracks and greeted every train.  We climbed into the ice bunker of the bad order reefer that was set out.  We hunkered under the creek bridge for the approaching train, but ran down the wash when we couldn't take the noise and sight of the train towering above us.  And like you, we explored amazing distances, and that brother is in the cemetery, too.  We can't go back, but I can still hear Grandma in winter saying, "You boys close the door!  Are you trying to heat up the desert?"  Thanks for the reminder!

mapboy



Date: 09/07/18 19:11
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: cabsignaldrop

Wonderful story told very well.  Thank you for sharing with us.



Date: 09/08/18 11:27
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: UPNW2-1083

Great story, Jeff. You should post it on your FB page so everyone can read it.-BMT



Date: 09/08/18 15:10
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: TAW

crackerjackhoghead Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I realize that, what I REALLY
> want, is to be that kid down on the right of way,
> running around, exploring the hills of a place
> that no longer exists.

Sure doesn't, as with so many places we knew.

TAW
 




Date: 09/08/18 15:24
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: CraigM111

Great stroy!  Thanks for sharing.



Date: 09/09/18 09:26
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: SP4360

 I'm going to have to go out to Saugus and see an old friend. Too bad you wern't on the local when i was Signal Supervisor out there. Even my conex isn't there anymore, just the fence around an empty yard. I used to ride my bike from palmdale to Saugus to ride around with the local crew, switching Thatcher Glass and other places. It was fun, then that ride back home up Soledad Canyon was a slow one.



Date: 09/09/18 16:00
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: Margaret_SP_fan

Wow.... That is a very well-writen and enjoyable and alsotouching story,  I felt as thugh I ws there with you, walking mile after mile, exploring the railroad and the countryside.  Those were truly good time for you and a lot of us,

I am so glad yo finally got to be the regular hoghad for the Sugus Local, after all those years.  I, too, am amazed that that local still even exists, and I am very glad it does, both for its customers and for you.

Your story is so good it should be published i a book.  Really!

Thank you very much for writing this wonderful story and for sharing it with us. Please do try to get it published, so that many others can enjoy it.  Or at least, as has been suggested, please post it on FaceBook.  Just remember -- nothng that is ever posted on FaceBook is ever easy opr even possible to find later, That is why I want this story, and any others you might write, to be in a book.



Date: 09/09/18 16:32
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: icancmp193

That's quite a "before" and "after" which provides ample evidence of how this State has been ruined with humanity and sprawl.

TJY



Date: 09/09/18 17:33
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: crackerjackhoghead

SP4360 Wrote:
. I used to ride my bike from palmdale
> to Saugus to ride around with the local crew,
> switching Thatcher Glass and other places. It was
> fun, then that ride back home up Soledad Canyon
> was a slow one.

Dale, you're a more dedicated railfan than I am. When I was 17, I had a girlfriend who lived in Lake Los Angeles. I rode my bike from Canyon Country to there a couple times but I had a lot more to gain out of it! Don't think I would have done it to see a train.
How's retirement treating you?



Date: 09/09/18 17:36
Re: Life's Treats & it's Tricks
Author: crackerjackhoghead

Margaret_SP_fan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Thank you very much for writing this wonderful
> story and for sharing it with us. Please do try to
> get it published, so that many others can enjoy
> it.

Margaret, Thank you for your kind words. I have slowly begun to write down the stories of my career, and the life that comes with it, with the idea that there will be a book someday.



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