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Railroaders' Nostalgia > BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 1/11

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Date: 09/18/18 12:26
BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 1/11
Author: TAW

One of my Seattle dispatchers office colleagues was a pretty good cartoonist. Back in the 70s, we had one of his cartoons in the office, depicting a Soviet satellite beaming stupid rays into the Bellingham station. It was appropriate to say the least.
Working for the MILW in Bellingham was bizarre enough. There was the wake of destruction left by the afternoon switch crew. There was the operator who created the vacancy I bid into by driving in Sumas while he was supposed to be working in Bellingham, and getting hit by the MILW local he was supposed to be working up when it arrived in Bellingham so the switch crew could build the Tacoma train. There was the immense amount of damaged freight MILW paid for but there was never any evidence of it around the station. There was the 7am yard check for demurrage that did not match the switch lists. Yeah, it was a Really Bizarre place.
One night, I got a taste of what I was going to see a year later. I called the BN dispatcher to fix the train to Seattle. He told me they would be at South Bellingham for 184, but he didn't know if the siding was clear. He asked if I would check, then come back and he'd fix my train. Off I went, drive to South Bellingham, walk the siding in a strong onshore wind in the rain and absolute darkness to find that there is nothing in the siding, walk back to the truck, drive to the station, call Spatch and fix the train. It's CTC. How could he not know? That was my first ever encounter with CTC that has dark sidings.
But wait. There's more.


Date: 09/18/18 12:27
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 2/11
Author: TAW

I hired out at BN and went to work at Bellingham assisting the Ferndale agent. BN closed the Ferndale station, moved the work to Bellingham, and cut off three jobs. The Ferndale agency, the agent was in one room of the station along with the clerks working the Bellingham industries, was the remaining position. The Ferndale agent was a union telegrapher position. The Bellingham agent was management. The Ferndale agent worked for the Bellingham agent. The Bellingham telegraph/ticket office was in the adjacent room, the operator / ticket office room of the station.
The first trick operator was only that. He handled train movements and Amtrak tickets. The second trick operator did that plus handle the Ferndale/Intalco/Cherry Point PICL (Perpetual Inventory Car Listing). All he did in the Ferndale side of the office was switch the IBM cards in the rack (one pigeon hole for each track, one card for every car) to match the lists the day local brought in, then print the lists and mark up the work for the night local. Other than that, the job was straight train orders and Amtrak (798 ran on 2d trick, so he had some tickets to sell and passengers to talk to). The telegraph office was closed on 3rd trick and there was nobody for Ferndale.
The Ferndale agent couldn't do all the work. I was assigned to be assistant agent. That's when I noticed that demurrage was not being charged on the CSD 145 assigned cars for Arco and Intalco. There were hundreds of cars that BN should have been charging demurrage on, but weren’t. On discovering that, I put all of them on Constructive Placement, starting the demurrage charges. The Bellingham agent was really upset about that. I was going to upset the customers. There were lots of bad lists and screwed up paperwork. With long days and hard work, the agent and I got the Ferndale agency into pretty good shape, but it still took two of us.
It turned out that the two locals couldn't do all the work either. BN added a new local, "Cherry Point," on duty at Burlington. The Cherry Point local would bring the Bellingham, Ferndale, and Canada traffic from Burlington, set out at Bellingham, set out the Canada traffic at Intalco for the New West minster Local), switch the Cherry Point industries, leave the Seattle and Everett traffic at Intalco for the Fern(dale) Turn (Seattle - Ferndale rest and return), Bellinghams to Bellingham and go home with the Burlington traffic. That sounds easy enough.
Oh wait. The agent already can't do the work. Now there was a new train to set up the work for and an almost impossible train order situation with no night operator at Bellingham. They created a 3d trick combined Bellingham and Ferndale operator job and I was assigned to it from the extra board.
Now there was somebody on 3rd, the night (830pm) New West(minster) local started complaining about bad lists and they couldn't even begin to do the work. They told me that it had been that way for some time and some nights, they'd spend the whole trip looking for cars. Sometimes, I could figure it out from the day local's lists. Sometimes I had to drive out to Intalco and/or Cherry Point and list up tracks because I couldn't figure it out from the cards in the PICL case.
After a while, I found the pattern. The 2d tricker wasn't switching out the cards. He requested new cards from COMPASS when he couldn't figure out the switching, and put them in the rack where he thought the local left them - without taking out the original card. Sometimes he would do that even three or four times and I would find the same car at three or four places. Sometimes the cars were not in any of the tracks that their cards were. Often, if a card he switched was in the right track, it was in the wrong place in the track.
That was bad enough, but I was getting a lot of Amtrak inquiries. Tickets was part of the job, but I had no train. Then passengers started telling me that they came in the evening and there was nobody in the ticket office. There was a drunk guy lying on a waiting bench telling them that he had been waiting for hours for the agent; he wasn't there. Well, it turns out that the guy on the bench was the 2d trick operator. That explained the lists too.
It turns out that it only partially explained the lists. An essential part of the PICL system of car management was that the clerks or operators did not mudhop the tracks when the work was done. The conductor was supposed to mark up on the list the work that was done. After a few mornings of getting unmarked lists from the conductor of the Night New West when he brought the train in, I confronted him.
No, I don't mark up the work I did. I'm not a clerk, you are.
Operator, actually. I'm not a clerk and you are not a brakeman.
OK, but I still don't do it.
How am I supposed to do my part of the work? I didn't close Ferndale and I have 10 hours of work to do in eight every night. I still drive out there and fix your lists when they're bad, don't I?
Well, yeah and nobody else has done that. OK; when I bring back the lists, if I didn't mark up the list, I did the work and you can switch your cards the same way as I handled the cars. If I didn't do the work, I'll say so on the list.
Deal. That's all I need.

Getting along with him could still be difficult at times, but we got along ok. Then in 1979, I got forced to Havre. No more third trick at Bellingham and working extra in the Seattle dispatchers office. On my last night, the New West called me on the radio. they needed me at the wye (Intalco). OK, I'll be right up. I asked out (with the dispatcher - operators could not leave the office without permission of the dispatcher), jumped into the ride and hit the road with the usual place to go.
I got to Intalco and took the access road crossing across the main and Straight Track yard track. They were nowhere to be seen. There was only a lot of darkness. I turned the car in a circle with the headlights on high beam, looking for the engine or caboose. The conductor's voice came over the radio speaker
North leg behind the trees middle of the wye, on the caboose.
That was getting a little scary. There were no lights on the engine or the caboose. I thought I managed to get along pretty well with the conductor, now they are hiding in the dark where they can't be seen from the road or anywhere else and want me to get on the caboose. OK, whatever. I had my lists with me ready to mudhop whatever was screwed up. I opened the door carefully, with this in mind: (Repost from https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,2183865,2183865#msg-2183865 Date: 05/04/10 23:13 Swamp Weasel Author: TAW) Our intrepid trainmaster is sure he has the goods on them now. They're in there sleeping! In order to catch them...he kicks the door in!!! In a split instant, he finds himself staring into the barrel of a .357 magnum to the tune of "Freeze a____e!!
The whole crew was in the caboose, engineer, conductor, and the two brakemen. The conductor did a little speech, telling me that they had really enjoyed working with me and were going to miss me. He handed me a bottle of Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey, telling me it was from the crew; something to remember them when I left. It served that purpose and I still remember them (except the name of one of the brakemen, who I can't remember). Thanks Marty Martin, Benny Banks, and Rae Maron. It really was good times.
The adventures so far were just the start.


Date: 09/18/18 12:29
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 3/11
Author: TAW

The new 3d trick job was a run, run, run, run all night job, especially with fixing the Ferndale PICL rack every night and making several trips per week out to Cherry Point and Intalco to list up tracks. The night New West local would come in just before quitting time. I would need to switch out the PICL rack and print new lists for the (Ferndale) agent. The Cherry Point local would be going back to Burlington just before quitting time - more lists to switch, and the track car lineup was transmitted at 630am (quitting time was 7a). There was wire traffic starting to come on the teletype, mostly stuff for the agent. Sometimes, I was still not finished with everything when the 1st tricker came in. He would complain, even though he had nothing better to do when he sat down.
The first morning of the new 3d trick job, the 1st tricker came to the Ferndale side and demanded to know why there was no coffee ready for him. I told him that if he wanted coffee, he could make it. He snapped back that he was the day man and he expected everything to be ready for him when he came to work (old Telegraphers agreement rule that in a station that had no agent, the 1st trick operator was the office manager…but Bellingham had not one, but two agents). I was instructed that everything ready for him included coffee, no failure. Back then, I didn't drink coffee, just tea. I protested that I knew nothing about making coffee. In a strategic move, I didn't tell him that I made my wife's coffee every morning. He told me to figure it out and be sure he had coffee in the morning.

 The next morning, I put the whole pound of coffee in the filter basket of the 10 cup coffee maker, filling it to the brim. Assuming that he might want two cups, I put in that much water, turned on the machine, and went back to work. You could have sealed a roof with that stuff. Just before quitting time, I was still switching the Cherry Point local. The 1st tricker came in, poured a cup, and went back to the telegraph office. Less than a minute later he was yelling at me from the telegraph table, 30 feet away and around a corner. I went to the door and asked me what he wanted; I'd be out to give him a transfer in a minute after I finished switching the Cherry Point. He was screaming about the coffee. I told him that I did what he told me and had the coffee ready - was something wrong? He let me have it about something wrong. I waited for the tirade to diminish and responded that I told him that I didn't know Shhhh about coffee and oh, right, yeah, my BN seniority date was a couple of weeks ago, but my first one was 1967. Don't do that to me again.


Date: 09/18/18 12:30
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 4/11
Author: TAW

As time went on...
The new local and the increased traffic screwed up life for the trainmaster. He had attempted to keep all of the local service on days so that he would not need to get up at night to deal with anything. Actually, he still only showed up during the day. It was just as well. The best example was running the switch engine during a strike at one of the industries. He tied onto the caboose so hard that it turned over the oil stove, which, because it was winter had a fire in it. When the fire was no longer contained within the stove, the caboose incinerated. When derailments or such as incinerating cabooses occurred, his instruction was "Don't tell the dispatcher."
The one smart thing I remember, or smarter than what had already occurred, was the morning after No 793 (Amtrak) was taken out by a cement truck at Grandview Road, between Bellingham and Ferndale. Amtrak was doing 70 and was hit in the side of the first car behind the engine by a cement truck doing over 50. Fortunately, the car was deadhead, about to pick up a scout troop at Bellingham. The impact spun the engine 180 degrees. It landed in the ditch upright and facing the wrong way. The head car was ripped open for most of the length of the car. The next car was crushed for about a quarter of the length as it accordioned against the head car. The last car was only slightly damaged. The biggest piece of the cement truck could be picked up in two hands. The next morning, the hook had 793’s equipment as on the railroad as it was going to get and left it in Bellingham on their way back to Seattle. They left the wreck… on the track called The Pass, directly in front of the station waiting room.

 On arrival in the morning, with a waiting room full of passengers waiting for No 793, he observed that it was a really bad place to leave those cars and told the switch crew to move them.


Date: 09/18/18 12:32
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 5/11
Author: TAW

There was the night yard clerk who was supposed to print the 7am (official for demurrage) yard check from the Bellingham PICL rack every morning. The PICL rack included a slot for every industry as well as the yard tracks. There were hundreds of cars at Bellingham at any time. The morning yard check involved taking all of the cards out of the rack, keeping them together by track in a certain order, feeding the stack into the 402 printer ( https://cdn3.techworld.com/cmsdata/features/3357777/ibm-402.jpg ), printing, then putting all of the cards into the PICL rack exactly where they had been. One morning, he had pulled all of the cards from the PICL rack and instead of stacking them in the 402 machine card feed, he had them stacked on the desk...and fell asleep with his feet on the desk.
The agent came in at 7am to find that the yard check was not on his desk. He went to the yard clerk's office and found the sleeping clerk and the at least a foot tall stack of IBM cards on the desk. He jerked the chair the clerk was sitting in, pulling his foot into the stack of cards - that had not been printed - knocking it down onto the floor. Hundreds of cards of formerly neatly stacked cards fluttering to the floor and scattering all over the room. The cost of the stunt was two clerks mudhopping all the Bellingham industries and the yard (one of them on overtime), no list for the 7am goat, oh, and the agent didn't get his 7am yard check on time.
Another clerk was tired of hearing the rants about the yard check being late and decided to test its importance. He made a dummy card for a covered hopped load of COCAIN (6 character field) and randomly stuck it into a track before printing the list, then pulled it out when he put the cards back in the rack. A few weeks went by and nobody noticed, so he gave up.
There was the night clerk who was driving the company car to check the yard. There was a team track with a car floor height platform. One night, he was driving on the platform listing up the track, not looking out the windshield. He drove off the end of the platform. The car landed on its nose. The rear end continued, and the car was upside down at the end of the platform when it quit moving.
There was a night yard clerk who got in the company car to check tracks and in the process of leaving, ran into his pickup truck. He put in a damage claim, stating "company car struck my truck."
The same guy came into the station from the platform and back to me at the Ferndale desk. Do you have a tire iron? I told him I did and asked if the car had a flat tire. No, it was something else. He wanted me to get the tire iron from my truck and help him with the door. The door? Let's see it. Where's the car? I followed him out to the platform. The car was parked in front of the bay window. The driver's side door was accordioned, only about a foot wide. I asked him how he did it. He was driving along between two tracks, listing them up. He pulled between but had to back out. He opened the door and leaned out to see where he was backing...and corned a box car, smashing the door down to a closed-up accordion. He was lucky he didn't kill himself. He asked me to get the tire iron and help him straighten the door. I told him that wasn't about to work. He asked if I had a rope. I do, but why? Let's tie the rope to the window post of the door and you can pull it with your truck. I assured him that wasn't going to work.

 This guy did the computer work by rote. He didn't understand any of it. Part of the job involved punching data into the car cards when the cars were spotted, released, or otherwise had a change in status. The data had to be punched into the exactly correct field of the card. When they were fed into the IBM 1050 terminal to communicate the changes to the computer, the terminal would print a rejection for improper data, consisting only of the content of the card with red question marks for every column that didn't make sense to the computer. The IBM 29 keypunch ( https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5518/9459101615_d50fc071a7_z.jpg ) had a drum that could hold a program card. The program card could be set to tab over to a specific column immediately or after punching in a specified column. The clerks had program cards made for various procedures. The card would feed and immediately tab to the field for that procedure (release, pull, spot, etc.). The 2d trick clerk would periodically substitute the program card for a procedure with one set to start one column off from where it was supposed to. The 3rd tricker would put a track of cards into the keypunch, punch in the data, put them into the 1050 terminal, and get a long printout of rejections. It wasn't funny. He would get so frustrated that he would throw a fit. I was afraid he'd have a heart attack. I finally made him his own set of program cards and taught him how to load them onto the drum, instructing him to be sure to do that every night and take his cards home in the morning.


Date: 09/18/18 12:34
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 6/11
Author: TAW

Waybills were getting lost, part of the Ferndale confusion. There was a makeshift sorting system for the Bellingham bills but nothing for the Ferndale bills. The Ferndale agent finally made enough noise that the agent ordered the B&B foreman to build a bill box. The system was sorting all bills by the last digit. That was a universal or at least almost universal system. The task was simple - build a box that was divided into two rows of pigeon holes: Bellingham and Ferndale, and on each row, a pigeon hole for each number that could be the last digit of a car number. Conventional wisdom tells us that such digits would include only 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0. If one had trouble visualizing, one might write down the possible numbers for that application and count them. After some time, we finally got our new waybill case. The B&B crew proudly mounted exactly what we wanted onto the wall in the yard clerk office. Yup, sure was a fine piece of work; two rows of ELEVEN pigeon holes on each row.
The track department was right up there too. There was the famous brush cutter incident. Operation between Bellingham and Blaine was train orders and ABS. MofW worked on lineups. There was a brush cutter working between Bellingham and Ferndale. The lineup showed New Westminster Local leave Intalco for Bellingham 301pm. About 315p, the brush cutter called the local on the radio:
Brush cutter to the local.
Brush cutter to the local.

With no answer, they assumed that the local was too far away to hear them.
Minutes after that, the local erased the brush cutter. Fortunately, there are several crossings between Bellingham and Ferndale and the guys on the brush cutter heard the whistle at the crossing right behind them and bailed out. It seems that their radio was not receiving. They thought nothing of the afternoon of radio silence.
The story of the Bellingham stupid rays could not be complete without the saga of the Ferndale telephone company. One night, the Fern Turn had a conductor who was like who was an awful lot like Joe Btfsplk in the Lil' Abner comic strip. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Btfsplk. Destruction followed him around like Joe Btfsplk’s rain cloud. His crew consisted of two Stacy Street switchmen who had never worked the road. The Ferndale station, now merely the locker room for the locals, was at the south end of the siding. In front of the station was a switch to the elevator spur. The spur was on a descending grade, something like 3 percent. If the elevator received more than one car at a time, the south car would be spotted. After unloading a car, the elevator would (carefully) roll them down to spot the car above.
On arrival, the Fern Turn ran to the east end of the siding, switched the train, sorting the Intalco/Cherry Point traffic for the Intalco Local and the Canada traffic for the Day New West. The Canada traffic went into the siding behind the Intalco traffic. The caboose and any cars for the elevator stayed on the main. When finished, the crew would shove back to the station, make a turn on the caboose to put the elevator cars in first, then spot the elevator, with the Intalco caboose and the power north of the elevator.
On this night, the conductor dropped off at the station, lined the switch for the elevator track, went inside and promptly fell asleep on the desk. Meanwhile the two Stacy snakes banged out the train up at the east end of the siding. They cut off the caboose on the main and went to work switching. They had two cars for Ferndale Grain. They belted them down the main against the caboose and kept on switching. Unbeknownst to them, there is a slight ascending grade from the south end of the siding to the north end. When they cut off the caboose, they bottled the air and didn’t tie it down. It stayed put when they cut off. OK, fine. After they finished switching, the last move was to put the power against the caboose and two grain cars on the main, but…they weren’t there!
Nope, they sure weren’t. When they belted the two grain cars against the caboose, the three cars started rolling, rolling, rolling. They rolled past the station and the sleeping conductor, through the switch into the elevator track, down the grade past the elevator, off the end of the railroad, across a vacant lot, and through the brand new telephone company electronic switching building, knocking out phone service in and around Ferndale for weeks.


Date: 09/18/18 12:36
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 7/11
Author: TAW

The night Bellingham switch crew ran for the quit every night. They did the minimum they could get away with on the lists and didn't want those pesky trains to get in their way. The first move of the night every night was to put a car on the main just south of the north holding signal (a controlled signal in yard limits) and one on the main just north of the end of CTC at South Bellingham. That way, if they went up the old NP main through the alley to the industries east of Bellingham or in the clear at Georgia Pacific, they wouldn't have a problem getting back out on the main. No 184 was a relatively hot overnight Seattle - Vancouver BC freight that had what remained of forwarder business. It didn't get through Bellingham unless the yard crew was tied up. Since their goal was on duty no more than two hours, there was often no problem. If they had more work than that, No 184 might sit. Then there would be the arguments on the radio between the dispatcher and the yard foreman...if the yard foreman bothered to answer. The crew knew that the trainmaster would never come out at night, so they didn't care. He wasn't there when they came to work and wasn't there when they went home.
One night, their quit got in the way of some pesky procedures. They pulled the GP chlorine track without bothering to wait for GP to answer them when they called to say that they were there ready to switch. It was taking too long. They tied on and pulled the track to fish out the car they were supposed to pull. There was still one tank car hooked up for unloading. Fortunately, GP had some serious leak prevention safety procedures in place and got the situation under control quickly enough that the effect was just one switchman taking a trip to the hospital. The rest of the crew managed to get their quit.
One of the Fern Turn crews ran for the quit every trip. In the process, they ran into the side of their own train at Burlington and at Ferndale. Both cases involved big white tank cars with a diamond placard bearing 1075. The list special handling column, in the cryptic code of computer lists, stated FCG DAN. (Flammable Compressed Gas Dangerous). That seemed appropriate as written. Both times, the crew thought the incident was funny. Of course, the trainmaster didn't come out at night.
They also get really upset with me when I found defects in their train when they went by. One night I tried to swing them down for a box car that had a door flapping in the breeze...from the bottom track, not the top one. They told me on the radio that I found too much wrong with their trains; they'd look when they got to Ferndale. The train got to Ferndale. The door did not. The door came off the bottom track at 40 mph as the train came up to the bridge over Main Street in Ferndale, cartwheeled across a field and impaled in an insurance office parking lot, standing there like a steel monolith.
One night, they were picking up at Bellingham on the way to Seattle. As they pulled by me with their handle (head end cars out of Ferndale) there was an awful racket. I went out on the platform to see what was up. There was a dangerous placard tank car with brake shoe slag coating the wheel tread to the depth of the flange. I told them that'll do right there, you have one to set out - carefully. I got the same you find too much wrong with our trains response. We argued. I told the conductor that if one of them didn't meet me in front of the station to see it, I would pull the pin as soon as they shoved in the slack. That did the trick. The head man walked up and demanded to know what I thought was so important. I showed him the wheel. He correctly observed that they probably couldn't make Seattle with it, but it took a long time to come to that conclusion. They set the car out. To get that way, it had to have been pretty bright red at some point during the trip, but noticing that would require looking out the window.
The satellite would regularly affect extra board trainmen when they came to Bellingham to work one of the locals.
There was the night that the Night New West had a coke train to unload at the Roberts Bank dumper. They didn’t check which end of the rear car had the rotary coupler. It was not the end tied to the caboose, which turned over in the dumper.
 There was the night that the extra board conductor on the Night New West hired a uh…working girl on the street in Bellingham and took her along in the caboose on the trip to New Westminster and back – smuggling her into Canada then back into the US!
There was the conductor on the Night New West who chased me around the office threatening to punch me out for threatening his life. How exactly did I do that? They were on the way back from New Westminster cab hop for a big quit. Arco had a hot move and being Sunday, the Cherry Point Local wasn't working. I sent a list to Blaine for the New West. That's how I threatened his life. Arco is a dangerous place (that was worked by a BN local two shifts a day and all they had to do was straight shove or pull past the gate and Arco did the rest). A man could be killed in there and you sent me there with that list. I'm gonna get you. There were two doors on the platform side and one on the street side. I kept the street side waiting room door locked at night. This was getting really old. The Bellingham clerk was out in the yard, so there was just me and the conductor crazed by not getting as much quit as he wanted. I let him chase me out of the telegraph office, around the Ferndale part of the station, back through the telegraph office and waiting room, and out on the platform. I ran in the door to the Bellingham yard clerk office, turned the lock, slammed it shut in the conductor's face, and ran back through the office to lock the platform side waiting room door. I went back to work with him pounding on the windows and doors for a few minutes, yelling Let me in. I'm going to get you. You'd better let me in. I ignored him and he finally went away.

 There was no sense in calling the trainmaster; he didn't come out at night.


Date: 09/18/18 12:38
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 8/11
Author: TAW

There was an extra board operator who was also an awful lot like Joe Btfsplk.
One Saturday, he went to Intalco Aluminum to get the bills for the morning pull. The plant was closed on Saturday except the traffic office, which closed after BN picked up the bills for the Friday night production. The round trip should have taken about an hour. Hours later, he wasn't back. The telegraph office called him on the radio. The bills were needed to get the Fern Turn ready for the trip back to Seattle and he was now really late bringing them in to the bill clerk. He said that traffic was extremely heavy in Ferndale and he was stuck behind a lot of really slow traffic. Turns out that he had driven past the barricades into the staging for a parade and was driving the (unmarked) BN company car in the parade.
On another Saturday, he drove out to Intalco for the bills. The acres of parking lot were empty. He could have parked anywhere. He picked out a space adjacent to a wide puddle several inches deep. He opened the door to get out and...uh, oh. What to do now? Did he respot the car to another space? Nope, he got out, twisting around to stand on the door sill, and made a leap across the puddle. Success! Then he came back with the bills. Uh oh. There's the big lake in front of the still-open car door. How to get in? He took a running leap, diving for the open door, hits his head on the top of the door and fell into the water, dropping the loose bills into the water in the process.
When I-5 opened, he had never seen a freeway. He had to go to Mt Vernon for some reason and drove down on the newly opened freeway. On the way back, he couldn't imagine why they built two roads so close together, but to be sure, he drove back on the one he came down on. Eventually, the State Patrol encountered him and gave him some instruction on how a freeway works.
Another operator took a very big check for an Amtrak ticket and, since it was way over the amount of the ticket, gave the presenter his change. It seems that the guy who wrote the check didn’t have his ID with him, but being the captain of a fishing boat, he was certainly good for it. He wasn’t (good for it – not sure about the captain part). The operator wound up paying Amtrak back.
Some of the effects of the Soviet rays could be felt as far away as Mt. Vernon, where one of the operators missed handing orders on to No 133 because he didn't set the train order signal to 19 when the dispatcher instructed. He thought that the yellow train order signal would slow the train down too much. He didn't want to be responsible for delaying a train.
The Anacortes Local usually got back to Burlington on 3rd trick. The conductor never had a list of his train, expecting the operator to list up the train when they arrived. The 3rd trick operator would usually drive to the north end of the yard to sit in the car and list up the train as it pulled into the yard. One night, he got busy with the dispatcher and was late to get to Burlington to see the local. He jumped into the ride and sped off like a NASCAR driver. Just before the driveway to the yard, the Anacortes Branch crossed Highway 99, his route between the station and the yard. The gates were down. Oh no! He's late. If he doesn't get to the switch to see them pull in, he'll have to walk the track instead. He didn't want to do that, so around the gates he went...getting hit by the local in the process. There were no injuries, but the company car was totaled. Folks around there were hard on company cars. Of course, had he stopped at the crossing, his headlights would have illuminated the train and he could have listed it up at the crossing, but that wasn't the way he did it every night, so he didn't think of it.

Of course, the trainmaster didn't come out at night.


Date: 09/18/18 12:41
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 9/11
Author: TAW

To finish the series and demonstrate that the Soviet Satellite could be effective on folks not regularly assigned to Bellingham: (Respost excerpt from https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?18,3361911,3361911#msg-3361911 Date: 03/26/14 10:56 Conversations with the boss-6 Author: TAW)
I was third trick operator at BN Bellingham WA in oh...probably late 1978. Train 184 was the "hot" night Seattle-Vancouver BC freight. Standard power was F7s and/or GP9s - three of them. The train was usually full tonnage, or more, for the ruling grade, 1%.
The ruling grade began at the north end of Bellingham yard, about a mile north of the station. A quarter mile south of the station was a six degree curve. The speed limit was 20 mph because of the proximity of trucks in the Georgia Pacific paper mill that the main track bisected. During the day, they had a nasty habit of getting out to foul while turning to back into the bays. Truck shipping and receiving was closed nights, so there were no trucks. South of the curve, the speed limit was 35 mph.
There were three grade crossings, just crossbucks, no signals, between the curve and the south end of the yard, just north of the station. The municipal speed limit was 10 mph over the crossings. Track speed was 20 mph over the crossings then 40 mph north of there.
If 184 went through Bellingham at the speed limit, they would stall on the grade north of Bellingham and need to double to Ferndale, about 8 miles. The regular engineers were well-known for...uh...getting across the road, let's say. It's been a long time and I remember this crew well so I'll mention them - Conductor ES Berget and engineer Gene Tasche.
It was easy to hear 184 coming through South Bellingham, about 3 1/2 miles away, from inside the telegraph office. I went out on the platform when they were showing coming through GP, at the north end of the curve. A habit left over from B&OCT days, where we preceded signs with an identifier sign to make sure that everyone understood that they were looking at the right light or hand sign, I preceded a highball with a kick sign, my regular identifier for years, and kind of appropriate for the location and situation.
184 started by at about 40 mph, a glimpse of the engineer's hand out the window answering my highball and the rest was the noise of three 567s in the 8th notch and the rattle, bang, squeak, of a freight train going by at 40 mph. Cars were rocking and bouncing as they did every night, and staying on the railroad as they did every night.
About a quarter of the train was by me when I was blinded by a rising star. This guy was standing next to me with shiny new work boots and pressed khakis, was (obviously) a freshly minted management trainee trainmaster. He had a brand new lantern. As he was watching the show, he was crouching and standing and crouching and standing and shining his light in different places on the running gear.
About 3/4 of the train was by; I could see the markers out of the curve. He got close and said, What's the speed limit here?

I didn't mention the municipal speed.
How fast is this train going? raising his voice even more to be heard over the din.
The conductor on this job used to ride the steps coming by me. I could see his light appearing as he was about 30 cars away. As I gave a kick sign and a highball, I replied Hell, I don't know. I'm just an operator, I'm not qualified to know that.

 In a flash, there was a highball from the conductor as my visitor gave a very proper highball. I gave another kick sign - have a good trip. 184 would make Ferndale in one piece again tonight and be in Vancouver in about three hours. My visitor said Oh, ok and disappeared into the night as quickly as he appeared.


Date: 09/18/18 12:51
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 10/11
Author: TAW

Mmmmm...not quite finished yet. There was the seeming spread of the rays along the line.
One stormy night, I was sitting at the telegraph table (operator’s desk) with the cans (headset) on, listening to the dispatcher phone as I did any time I had nothing going on in the Ferndale side of the office. The Chuckanut slide patrol (motorcar between South Bellingham and Blanchard along the section of the line called The Chuckanut on the shore line and at the base of cliffs of Chuckanut Mountain, hundreds of feet high, looking for fallen rocks) called the dispatcher from a phone south of South Bellingham. There was a rock on the main track. It was the size of four motorcars. The extra board dispatcher responded
Let me know when the track is clear.
I can't move it dispatcher.
Well, what good are you?
Dispatcher, it's the size of FOUR MOTORCARS!
I don't know why you're even out there. OK I'll find somebody who can move it.

I could only laugh. Any shock or dismay I had for operation around Bellingham was gone.
I had already learned to watch out for such idiocy on that line:
(A partial repost of https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?18,4053630,4053633#msg-4053633 Date: 06/15/16 11:58 Re: Where's 1008? (3/6) Author: TAW)
I went to work as an operator at Bellingham WA on BN in 1976 and discovered that the second trick operator would clear the night switch engine as soon as 794 (passenger) passed, walk to the freight house and leave the orders on the table in the switchmen’s locker room. The switch jobs would leave their orders (usually just a check on No 793 or No 794, the passenger trains) on the table for the convenience of the next shift, so there was sometimes a pile of orders and clearances on the table. Sometimes, they even took a set from the wrong date, merely looking for something saying that No 794 has passed Bellingham. I started cleaning them up every night and had asked the switch crews to not leave the orders on the table at the end of the shift. Going home and telling the dog would have been more effective.
Orders on the table in the locker room just about resulted in a disaster one morning when I had the orders for the morning switch job on the telegraph table in the office, they came to work, found the orders for the night job on the table in the locker room, and took off. I had a form Y (track maintenance limits) that the night job didn’t have, the railroad was missing on a bridge just south of the station. The engine was tied up on a track between the red flags.
I got the switch job stopped just short of diving into the abyss. I had managed to get on at around 10 mph and was in the cab yelling PLUG IT! because the engineer was on the other side of the engine from me, looking back for hand signs, not looking forward. As the engine came close to the end of the railroad, it was firsthand experience of the edge of disaster.

There was another extra dispatcher who almost stuck out a big fat lap. I found later that "breaking in," learning dispatching, in Seattle often consisted of some basics and the instructions that if in doubt, copy yesterday's orders. Everything on the line was pretty much rubber stamp, the same thing happening at the same time almost every day. This morning was different. It was Monday. Yesterday, the Intalco local didn't run. Today it did. I knew that Spatch had been struggling all night. I listened as much as I could in case something I could catch and fix happened. (Good operators always did that anyway, not just former dispatchers). That was just professional courtesy (I was merely an operator then and had not yet started in the dispatchers office). Spatch had already fixed the Intalco Local:
I would deliver it on my way home, since the local started in Ferndale and I lived in Ferndale. The order was hanging on the hook on the top edge of the table kind of cabinet structure. There was one hook for each live order that had not been delivered. Now I was listening to the dispatcher fixing No 133 from New Westminster to Bellingham with nothing on the Intalco (Local). I realized that a while ago I had to have Spatch bust the original order for the Intalco because the engine number was wrong. Something just wasn’t right. As soon as it was obvious that they had nothing on each other, I interrupted

BK HM (break Bellingham)

Spatch kept on sending

BK HM Sure you want to do that? (The most powerful words an operator could say to a dispatcher, but that wasn't taught to the new folks in Seattle) The only reply was stop interrupting!

I was still trying hard to not be obvious on the dispatcher phone where the world could hear. I called the dial phone number. The phone was put on the table as New Westminster repeated.

There was one last chance without going public. Hoping to be heard even with the phone lying on the table, I yelled


Spatch picked up the phone

What do you want? Why do you keep bothering me? Can't you hear that I'm trying to fix 133?

Hell yes I can! That's why I'm trying to stop you. 133 - Intalco - nothing - look!

Then came the clue

Intalco? That didn't run yesterday. I looked at the orders.

No. It doesn't run Sunday.


Then there was the night at Blaine. I sat down to orders on the hook for the New West northbound against 183 and 183 against the Fern Turn. The New West pulled in, did the customs paperwork and was ready to go. I had one order - 123. I read the clearance and Spatch said

No, he doesn't get that one

Sure he does; flat meet with 183 at Colebrook

No he doesn't it's for 183

No 183 has right and wait is...
I reach up and pull the order off the hook... 123!

Then I hear Harrington announcing an east man. He clears the east man on one order, No 123. Holy shhhh. This guy has put out at least three orders 123. I try to compare orders with Spatch

I've got 183 has right and wait. What order is that?

He has his foot on the pedal and I hear pages in the train order book turning


OK 123. I've got a flat meet at Colebrook for the New West with 183. What's that one?

(more pages turning)


OK 123. I'll give that one to the New West then?

Right. That's the one, 123

I cleared the New West on one order, No 123, and they went on their merry way.


Date: 09/18/18 12:57
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 11/11
Author: TAW

Getting forced to the Havre West relief job was not fun in some ways. It was really hard on my family. Since I was technically not forced, although in reality I was, I had to pay for it myself, no expenses. However, it was good railroading that served me well in the ensuing years...
...and it got me away from that Soviet satellite. Maybe working my way down from B&OCT and SP to MILW then down to BN made me immune to its beam.
But after a year in Havre, I had enough seniority to hold the extra board in Seattle with a regular job coming into the picture with five guys due to retire. I was back in Seattle handling the Coast Line (Everett - Vancouver BC / Sumas / Anacortes). One really stormy night, in preparation for No 143 from Sumas to Everett, I called the roadmaster in Bellingham to order a track patrol. The line between Nooksack and Thornwood ran through lowlands that were subject to flooding and, in places, mudslides. I told the roadmaster that I needed a track inspector to run immediately ahead of the train to be sure that the track was safe for the train. He objected. He wasn't going to spend his budget for overtime to inspect the track for a train (it was the 80s. The new era of railroading had started.). It wasn't needed. I countered that with no inspector ahead of the train, I'd bust the train. He told me that I couldn't do that, I countered try me and we argued more.
Finally, he gave in, BUT he didn't want to waste his money on overtime for the inspector to drive to Sumas to get a lineup (MofW's authority to occupy the track). The inspector would set on at Nooksack and the train could meet him there. I told him he wasn't going to tell any of his people to run with no authority on my railroad. No 143 wouldn't leave Sumas until the track inspector had signed for the Lineup at Sumas. Again, he told me that I couldn't do that and I once again offered the opportunity to try me.
He gave in. I stuck out a lineup at Sumas, showing 143 following the track inspector and a train order instructing 143 to follow the track inspector at Restricted Speed. Done! Back to other stuff.
A while later, the roadmaster called. The track inspector had reached Deming with 143 behind. Water was over the rails on the Nooksack River bridge (that is a LOT of water - see the picture). The Roadmaster told me that he wanted me to have No 143 cut off the power and run it across the bridge to see if it was safe for the hyrail. I didn't know whether to laugh or go ballistic.

Did you just tell me what I thought you told me? You want me to run 143 out onto the bridge to see if it is safe for the track inspector who is out there to see if the track is safe for the train? Really?

We had a, let's say...animated conversation about his insane instruction. I had 143 back into Sumas and tie up, told the Roadmaster to send the track inspector home, and listened to his rant about spending his budget on the useless excursion before the conversation ended (Bummer, the line went dead. I don't know what happened.).


Date: 09/18/18 15:31
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 11/11
Author: retcsxcfm

Again,I say there is nothing better than
a railroad story.I love to read your very
interesting sagas.I cannot believe what
you wrote,but I know it is true.Some of
the stories make me laugh while others
say "Holy S--Batman"! I wish I had some
like yours but there is no way I could match
them.Keep it up.

Uncle Joe
Been gone from CSX 31 years,enough
for another job.

Date: 09/18/18 15:40
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 11/11
Author: GN599

Only on the railroad. We definetly used to have some characters out here. There are a lot of them that have retired and I think there is no way they would have hired them on today’s railroad!

Date: 09/18/18 16:55
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 11/11
Author: hoggerdoug

Great stories.  Image of BN 1703 at Bellingham,  Oct 1985.  Doug

Date: 09/18/18 23:49
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 11/11
Author: BoostedFridge

Its stories like this that make my TO membership worth it.  Thanks for sharing!

Date: 09/19/18 07:39
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 11/11
Author: goneon66

GN599 Wrote:
> Only on the railroad. We definetly used to have
> some characters out here. There are a lot of them
> that have retired and I think there is no way they
> would have hired them on today’s railroad!

ain't that the truth..........


Date: 09/19/18 10:52
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 11/11
Author: DeadheadFRED

Another excellent story.
G.I. Warren = Ferndale telephone company.
G.I. Warren = Big derailment  English,WA.
G.I. Warren = Derailed entering Eastend Cascade tunnel. Finally stopped about half way thru the tunnel.
I have been retired 13 years now and have enjoyed it everyday.
Have lived in Skykomish for last 20 years and would not ever want to live any place else.

Good health you


Date: 09/19/18 11:05
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 11/11
Author: Shafty

The mention of the covered hopper load of "COCAIN' mentioned above reminds me of the time we did something similar to the daily and weekly "Jumbo". 

The car numbers in the daily and weekly "Jumbos" were sorted into numerical order.  The weekly "Jumbo" took several hours to sort and print. 

While not many passenger cars showed up among the freight cars, and since some did not have a number, their names printed out at the top of the first page of the "Jumbo". 

In the U.P. Yard Office in Los Angeles, one of the IBM clerks was a dedicated horseplayer.  

 Among the few passenger IBM cards we slipped in an IBM card that said "Bar Pest in the fifth", at the time one of the horseplayer's favorite horses.  It duly printed out at the top of the daily and then the weekly "Jumbo", but neither the horseplayer or anyone else happened to notice it.  That saved us from having to attempt to explain to anyone, much less a supervisor, where that came from. 

Eugene Crowner

Date: 09/19/18 11:09
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 11/11
Author: TAW

DeadheadFRED Wrote:
> Tom
> Another excellent story.
> G.I. Warren = Ferndale telephone company.
> G.I. Warren = Big derailment  English,WA.
> G.I. Warren = Derailed entering Eastend Cascade
> tunnel. Finally stopped about half way thru the
> tunnel.

10 mph through the tunnel for weeks - what a pain!

This one includes the tale of GI's last trip: https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?1,1089086,1090516#msg-1090516 Date: 01/30/06 07:35 Re: Question to the Old Heads Author: TAW - going over the side at Bellingham.

> I have been retired 13 years now and have enjoyed
> it everyday.
> Have lived in Skykomish for last 20 years and
> would not ever want to live any place else.
> Good health you

And to you.



Date: 09/19/18 12:55
Re: BN Bellingham - Soviet Satellites and Stupid Rays 11/11
Author: Waybiller

Yep, Bellingham is my hometown...  Different pace of life, that's for sure.

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