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Railroaders' Nostalgia > November 22, 1963


Date: 11/22/18 18:16
November 22, 1963
Author: aronco

Wow!  All the postings on TO and elsewhere about the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination made me recall where I was on November 22, 1963.  I was working for Southern Pacific in Los Angeles, and was called to work a night switcher at Tweedy Yard and 92nd and Alameda Street in Los Angeles.  Tweedy Yard served a large GM assembly plant that made Buick, Oldmobile and Pontiac.  Switch engines worked both ends of the yard in a frantic rush to get all the inbound loads of auto parts lined up in proper order to go into the plant at the 500am spot time.  About 200am, my job was working the North end of the yard.  The yard is on a continuous downgrade from Los Angeles all the way to LA Harbor, about 20 miles, so as the cars were switched, my job as the "field" man was to catch the cars and secure them with hand brakes lest they roll out the South end all the way to the Harbor.  A car approached me rolling free and I boarded the trailing end of the car SP 650666, ( I guess I will never forget that car number) and climbed the ladder to the high brake platform.  By the time I reached the platform, the car was moving faster, so I grabbed the hand brake wheel to set the brake, but guess what?  The brake wheel will not turn.  The car is picking up speed.  I jerk the brake wheel a couple times to try and free it but she ain't moving at all.  Standing on the brake platform, I can see over the opposite end of the car and it appeared thru the fog there were cars far down there in the other end of the track.  I knew it was time to leave - quickly -  I started down the ladder and apparently, lost my grip or the car hit other cars in the track, but in any case, I came to on the ground, stunned, lost my glasses, hurting, but I remember wondering if I was between the rails or between the tracks.  Somehow, I arose, found my glasses, and slowly walked North toward the conductor who was still letting cars go, not knowing of my predicament.  The fog was thickening as I approached, and I suppose I startled him, what with little cuts bleeding where I landed on the ballast.  After a quick trip with trainmaster. Mr. Tierney, to the emergency room, I was told I had broken both elbows.  The trainmaster asked me if I thought I could finish the shift.  When I told him I couldn't, he sent me home in a taxi with both arms in slings.
I got home before dawn, and laid down to see if I could sleep a bit.  I was awakened by a phone call about 900am.  It was the SP clinic in the PE building in downtown LA calling.
They said I had to be at the clinic at 10am for examination.  I told them I couldn't drive with both arms in slings.  The biddy on the phone told me it was my responsibility to be there on time or else!  Great I thought - do these folks know what happened, or do they even care?  I called a yellow cab, and it transported me the 20 miles or so to downtown LA.  The driver followed me upstairs to the clinic office where I told that same biddy to give the driver an SP taxi voucher.  With a smile, she did!
A while later, I was lying on a examining table while a nurse drained and treated a huge bruise on my left thigh.  Another nurse entered the room and exclaimed " He's been shot!"  "My" nurse excused herself,with "Nuts - another gunshot wound!".  In about 5 minutes she returned, her eyes red and tears on her cheeks.  "It's President Kennedy.  He's been shot and killed."  That moment is etched firmly in my mind.
Later that day, I was sent to the SP company hospital; in San Francisco.  I was given a bedroom on the Lark, and two friends accompanied me on the trip.  I spent the next 4 weeks in that delightful hospital across the street from Golden Gate Park.  After a week or two, my elbows regained some motion.  I spent the next 3 weeks trying to seduce, er.....get to know as many of the class 54 student nurses who arrived there the day after me!   After release from the hospital, I was told it would be a few months before I could return to work so I returned to college for a semester.  All in all, that was quite an adventure keyed to a very historic date and moment......

Norm
I  

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/22/18 18:34 by aronco.



Date: 11/22/18 18:21
Re: November 22, 1963
Author: trainjunkie

So you’re the reason for the “Always test the handbrake before using it” rule, eh Norm? ;-)



Date: 11/22/18 18:35
Re: November 22, 1963
Author: PHall

trainjunkie Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So you’re the reason for the “Always test the
> handbrake before using it” rule, eh Norm? ;-)

He did test it, it failed, he bailed!



Date: 11/23/18 16:59
Re: November 22, 1963
Author: trainjunkie

PHall Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> He did test it, it failed, he bailed!

I don't know if you're being facetious but if the car is already in motion, the brake wasn't tested.



Date: 11/24/18 00:35
Re: November 22, 1963
Author: aronco

Better to say he tested it, it failed, and I sailed!

Norm

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar



Date: 11/27/18 10:58
Re: November 22, 1963
Author: ubee1964

B &O 3 O'Clock Bat Out at DeForrest Jct. Ohio could have been my last assignment.  Early quit of 3 to 4 hours was primary goal.   Conductor had already made cut on empty coal hopper with high brake when I climbed ladder to brake platform and discovered brake didn't work.  I was able to descend ladder and jump just before car slammed into one car that had been anchored at end of track.  I landed on my left knee and it has bothered me to this day.  I was lucky because I know of other trainmen who have been severely hurt operating high brakes.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/27/18 11:05 by ubee1964.



Date: 12/02/18 23:48
Re: November 22, 1963
Author: Alco251

I was in first grade, Norm....



Date: 12/03/18 00:14
Re: November 22, 1963
Author: CA_Sou_MA_Agent

Switching is dangerous work.  As soon as I had enough seniority to get out of the yard and on the road, I did.  

Working the graveyard shift on a rainy night was no fun.  I remember protecting a shove on an Amfleet car at 8th St. Yard in Los Angeles.  I was on the point and we were doing a pretty good clip up to where we wanted to go.  I gave the engineer a stop sign and we came to a halt.  What I didn't calculate was that a lot of rain water had accumulated on the roof of the car.  When the car came to a halt, the rainwater didn't and it cascaded like a waterfall down onto me. That incident, and some others, convinced me that "riding the cushions" was a better way to go.

And I was in the second grade on November 22, 1963.  I still remember it vivdly.  One of the saddest days in American history.  

 



Date: 12/03/18 10:10
Re: November 22, 1963
Author: Westbound

On that day in 1963 I had just entered what was then "Gene's Market" through the side door by the butcher's counter and was delivering milk for Foremost Dairies. The butcher, a co-owner of the grocery store, had his table radio on as usual, and kept saying "Damnest thing I ever heard". I asked what was going on and he said that President Kennedy had just been shot. I was shocked as was the entire nation. Shown below is an SP photo of the Broadway crossing in Salida, CA from 1920. Gene's Market is just over the tracks at right.



https://cdn.trainorders.com/attachments/fullsize/536000/SalidaSP5_006.jpg



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/03/18 10:24 by Westbound.




Date: 12/09/18 10:42
Re: November 22, 1963
Author: wjpyper

On that day in 1963 I had only been out of the Air Force for a year and was operating a printing press at Perry Printing Service near Wilshire and Western in Los Angeles. I looked up and saw that our (female) shipping clerk was crying. I went to see if she was OK and she told me that The President had been shot. Sad day.
Bill Pyper
Salem, OR
 



Date: 12/09/18 16:34
Re: November 22, 1963
Author: march_hare

Hmm, I was a 6 year old kid, living with my family in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia where my dad was involved in the construction of a power plant.  We wouldn’t make it home to the US for almost another year.  

JFK was immensely popular in Eastern Europe, and our neighbors treated the situation as if it were a death in the family. Food and treats just showed up magically for days afterward, all delivered by local ladies dressed in black.  The funeral was on all TV channels, including both the in-country broadcasts and the weaker ones from Italy that we could pick up over the Adriatic. 



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