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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!


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Date: 01/17/19 09:39
Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: santafe199

One of the most unexpected interactions between mankind & the animal kingdom would have to be “stand up” comedy. What I’m about to describe to you is the most singularly funny act I’ve ever witnessed an animal perform with my own eyes. And it’s an absolute true story! The unabashed star of this bizarre episode is one Mr Odocoileus Hemionus, aka North American mule deer. And I gotta tell ya: in my train service experience this one is by far the Rodney Dangerfield of all known mulies.

But first I have to set up the scene for you. Take a look at the image below. I was on a now-forgotten train heading the same direction as this one, about to enter the siding just as this one has already done. Look at the tunnel portal and imagine a headlight & noisy diesel behemoth suddenly popping out of that darkness right into blazing bright sunshine. Now we merely place our hero Mr Hemionus on the north (left) side of the siding where it makes that slight sweep around the taller of the 2 signal masts. Mr Hemionus is peacefully tending to his own business, which is grazing on the tasty right-of-way grass just inside the fence. Now that the scene is all set, I’ll provide one more small but vital description which ultimately adds to Mr Hemionustotal embarrassment & loss of respect. In 1991 the prescribed turnout speed for the west Garrison siding switch was 12 MPH.

Enter the villains. I was riding on the fireman’s side while my (forgotten) partner was running the train. We knew by previous signal indication we were going to take the siding at Garrison for a westbound. My partner had our train down to a perfect 12 MPH as we emerged from the tunnel. When my engineer suddenly gasped a quick “oh, no” I involuntarily stood up to see what was up. A rather large mule deer had obviously been grazing, but was now in a full gallop across the tracks directly in front of us…

Let us pause here for a second. Throughout my 3+ decades in train service I’ve seen countless deer and other animals of all sorts from a train in the wild, as it were. And I’ve seen several of them, mainly deer, on a dead run culminating in a long and graceful jump over some fence. I distinctly remember the very first full-of-grace leap I ever saw! It was from a 70 MPH hotshot atop the Kansas Flint Hills near Cassoday, KS. Seeing such a sight made me almost burn with admiration at the sheer beauty of such animal athleticism. I was wishing I had my camera at the ready, but I just wasn’t quick enough.

…back to our hero. As our train continued forward the mule deer sprinted over to my side and completely out of my engineer’s scope of vision. End of story for him. Being from Montana he’s seen this story 100s of times. But now I had a perfect 50 yard-line view of the inglorious finale. That Cassoday episode from years earlier flashed through my mind. But I knew I didn’t have enough time to reach down, unzip my grip, dig for the camera and get the lens cap off in time. So I just sat there waiting for another graceful leap that would surely come. And there it was. Mr Odocoileus Hemionus lifted off the end of his runway and…

Let us pause one more time, leaving our hero in mid-flight. Considering the many animal-train incidents I’ve been involved with -several of them with tragic results- I’ve come to a concrete conclusion. An animal which is standing near a live RR track in an otherwise safe spot will nearly always run to the other side of that track. The only thing I can offer is animal mentality which decrees: “Uh oh, I’ve been spotted. I’ll be safe if I go to the OTHER side!”

…once again I was full of jealous respect, admiring this animal in flight. But something went wrong! You should have seen my engineer’s reaction when I launched into involuntary peals of convulsive laughter! I was so consumed with alternatively laughing and catching my breath, it took me a few seconds to come back down to earth and describe what I had just seen.

Mr Hemionus had just reduced his grace & respect level down an animal version of Rodney Dangerfield. This poor mulie was probably so scared by our train he mis-figured the vector math he needed to clear the fence. His graceful flight was rudely interrupted when his front hooves both caught the uppermost wire on that fence. In wonderful living technicolor, slow-motion his large torso did a not-quite-full front flip. He landed on his back in an awkward, heavy oomph I swear I could hear through the cab window. And right here is where the “stand-up” comedy really took hold. He quickly rolled over, now facing back toward our 12 MPH train. He scrambled and managed to attain an upright posture. Sorta. His front legs were now spread just like a camera tripod. And his head was bouncing rapidly left & right. I will SWEAR to my dying day that the look on Mr Odocoileus Hemionus’ red face was saying:

God, I sure hope nobody saw that!!!

1. MRL 216 leads eastbound main line local train ML (Missoula ~ Laurel) into the siding at west Garrison, MT on February 16, 1991.

Thanks for listening!
Lance Garrels
santafe199



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/17/19 14:27 by santafe199.




Date: 01/17/19 10:56
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: CimaScrambler

Lance, you sure do know how to tell them.  Keep 'em coming!

Kit Courter
Torrance, CA
LunarLight Photography



Date: 01/17/19 11:10
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: highgreengraphics

Was on a coalie on a BN Loading Crew out of Gillette in the PRB going upgrade. We came upon a herd of antelope that flushed and one by one, they all jumped the right-of-way fence. Except for one. It hit the top two fence wires, twisting the wires and reversing them, so that the antelope was suspended upside-down, and with its body weight the fence wires gripped his legs like a vise. Still had cabooses then, I called back to the Conductor to see if he wanted to stop. When he saw the scene of the antelope still hanging upside-down by all fours, he said there was nothing he could do anyway and he didn't want to get injured and NO don't stop because we might not be able to get the train going again. He called the Dispatcher who called the Track people, but when I went by there again a week later, it was still hanging upside-down and had died that way. A month or so later, it was just a barely-discernible skeleton. Not a pleasant way to go... === === = === JLH



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/18/19 15:35 by highgreengraphics.



Date: 01/17/19 13:44
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: cuontv

Great story Lance.  I recall being on a train and spooking a deer out of the woods and into a clearing that paralleled the right of way behind a manufacturing business.  We were doing 30 mph and watched as he ran along beside us on the other side of the ditch perfectly matched to our speed.  I expected it to veer off away from the train at any moment but instead it turned its head sideways and looked right at me in the cab window.  I have never seen a frightened wild animal do this. As it looked back ahead it realized too late it was running out of clearing and plowed into a chain link fence head-on at full speed tearing the chain link loose from the frame.  It was now in the backyard of the manufacturing plant so I'm sure that was an interesting find for the company employees.

Tom Kline
Houston, TX



Date: 01/17/19 13:46
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: SD45X

LOL! Last week a spike Bull Elk did
the same thing next to me. He was still wiggling on his back like somebody was tickling him when we went around the corner and lost sight.
Down south the Antelope dive under the fences. Rarely over. Anyhow this lone critter ran around in circles at the fence before running at the train and making an about face and full speed under!! As he cane out the horns snagged and all four feet went up. I was laughing so hard I almost fell out of the seat! He crashed down and managed to flip himself upside down twice more before he came undone. He then sauntered off like it never happened

Posted from iPhone



Date: 01/17/19 13:46
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: santafe199

highgreengraphics Wrote: > ... A month or so later .........

Yucch! Mama Nature can be a real witch when she wants to be... :^/



Date: 01/17/19 14:45
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: monaddave

The 216 is an ex-C&S/ BN unit. It went to IMRL as their 216, then returned. Suffered an electrical cabinet fire in Mullan Pass helper service 2004, and scrapped in 2006.
The second unit, the 6445 became MRL 351 and is still on the roster as one of the four SD45s left on MRL. Stored serviceable in Livingston.
Dave in Missoula



Date: 01/17/19 14:57
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: twjurgens

Great story!!  It would have been great to have video of that!



Date: 01/17/19 15:03
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: santafe199

twjurgens Wrote: > ...  would have been great to have video of that ...

All these years I've felt pretty certain that if I could have captured a video, and hired the right voice to provide my last line as a caption it probably would have won some grand prize or something on one of those "funniest videos" TV shows... :^)

Willie W



Date: 01/17/19 17:04
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: PCCRNSEngr

One afternoon southbound on the Corning Secondary (ex-NYC) at Beaver Dams, NY a cow crossed the track right in front of us.  We were doing 30mph as the rear hoof of the cow caught the footboard (just before the were removed) and it did a perfect somersault and cleared the track. We were laughing and it was tough calling in to the Operator at YD Corning. A MofW crew was near by and went to find the cow which was out in the pasture with no noticable injuries. 



Date: 01/18/19 07:32
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: Northeaster

Back in the 1960's, my collage law professor, a former lawyer for the NYNH&H RR, related a case he won for the railroad wherein, as apparently was common practice in past days, a farmer sued the railroad for destruction of a small herd of cows (surprisingly, only old and failing cows) which had gotten through a right of way fence. The farmers claim was that the engineer should have blown the whistle several times for each cow on the track. The court ruled that the railroad's engineer was not required to warn each animal individually!



Date: 01/18/19 09:43
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: engineerinvirginia

Came around a curve to see a bald eagle sitting between the gauge and acting quite drunk......obviously had been knocked down but not killed by the previous train, unfortunately in his state of consciousness he did not notice us and we likely finished him off. 



Date: 01/18/19 09:59
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: Rmosele

Northeaster Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Back in the 1960's, my collage law professor, a
> former lawyer for the NYNH&H RR, related a case he
> won for the railroad wherein, as apparently was
> common practice in past days, a farmer sued the
> railroad for destruction of a small herd of cows
> (surprisingly, only old and failing cows) which
> had gotten through a right of way fence. The
> farmers claim was that the engineer should have
> blown the whistle several times for each cow on
> the track. The court ruled that the railroad's
> engineer was not required to warn each animal
> individually!

There's a Faulkner short story where a sharecropper in the south in the 1920s made a living doing just that: leading some of his old, worn out horses to a point on the railraod where there was a blind curve, letting them get smashed to a pulp and then collecting a settlement from the railroad. But one time he hired another man to lead the horses to do the deal and that guy got run over along with the horses. The railroad gave the widow $10,000 for the loss of her husband who was a no acount and who she did not miss in the least. Karma, I guess.

Also, one summer day in 1973 I was driving to a summer job in rural Indiana and noticed a deer in a corn field next to me running along at exactly the same  speed as I was driving. We made eye contact for a brief moment and then he ran straight into a woven wire fence he didn't see because he was looking at me. His antlers stuck in the fence, he somesaulted over it and broke his neck and died instantly. I called Fish and Wildlife when I got to work because they would go get the carcass and donate it to a shelter or something. He was gone when I went home that evening.



Date: 01/18/19 21:17
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: roustabout

A long time ago on Portland & Western's Toledo Hauler, we'd made the turn in Toledo and were neaded home at the allowed 20 (at that time).  There's this place at MP 755 that always has some really tired looking horses grazing in his pasture but this night, as we came around a curve, we found them on the right of way.  No way to stop but I'm sure I tooted for what that was worth but I guess we killed one of them.  The railroad ended up dispatching an MOW crew  with backhoe to bury the nag and paid the owner some multi-thousand dollar compensation.  Since then, the crews call this spot the 'dead horse ranch.'



Date: 01/19/19 06:45
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: atsfer

Great story Lance.  I had things similar to that happen once in a while to break up the monotony of a trip too.   



Date: 01/20/19 05:11
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: SPDRGWfan

Great story.

You sir have a promising second career as a writer. If you need to supplement your income this is a possibility!

Cheers, Jim

Posted from Android



Date: 01/22/19 05:51
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: SPDRGWfan

While I never worked for the RR, I did see something funny from a train.  I was riding the Amtrak California Zephyr in western Colorado and the train was rounding an oxbow of a stream which has some rafters floating down it.  On one of the rafts, a guy stood up and mooned the train as it rounded the oxbow, pointing his derriere at the train for a good long time.

Cheers, Jim



Date: 01/22/19 12:59
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: santafe199

SPDRGWfan Wrote: > ...second career as a writer ...

Aw shucks (shuffling my feet)... I dunno...... A second career might interfere with my first career of being retired... (modest cough... ;^)
But I surely do thank you for those most kind words!

Lance



Date: 01/26/19 09:22
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: SPDRGWfan

santafe199 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> SPDRGWfan Wrote: > ...second career as a writer
> ...
>
> Aw shucks (shuffling my feet)... I dunno...... A
> second career might interfere with my first
> career of being retired... (modest cough... ;^)
> But I surely do thank you for those most kind
> words!
>
> Lance

Hey, if you are good with words, and some extra $$ might not hurt if fixed retirement income could be supplimentented.

Posted from Android



Date: 01/26/19 13:48
Re: Funniest thing I ever saw from a train!
Author: agentatascadero

santafe199 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> SPDRGWfan Wrote: > ...second career as a writer
> ...
>
> Aw shucks (shuffling my feet)... I dunno...... A
> second career might interfere with my first
> career of being retired... (modest cough... ;^)
> But I surely do thank you for those most kind
> words!
>
> Lance

"Aw shucks."  Doing your best Will Rogers here, Lance.

AA

Stanford White
Carmel Valley, CA



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