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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer


Date: 03/28/19 16:44
Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: Railbaron

In response to "SantaFe199's" post:

While I agree being trapped in the cab waiting for movement instructions can be boring, there are times being "stuck" in the cab is a good thing. 

What seems like a million years ago now I was coming out of the siding at Lenz, Oregon, when we went into emergency with the train almost on the main. Now during the summer this would give a conductor a reason to go for a nice stroll. Unfortunately for my conductor, this didn't happen in summer, it happened in winter and there was about 2 to 3 feet of snow on the ground. So my young, and relatively new, conductor jumps up, puts on this bright orange snow suit, and off he goes to do his inspection. Now since I didn't see him step off, out of curiosity I looked out on the fireman's side and saw him, in his bright orange suit, boogieing along the train like there was no tomorrow. As I resumed my "waiting posture" I thought to myself how nice it would be to be young again. 

After a while he called and told me he found the problem, a separated air hose. Once he repaired that he continued to the rear of the train, crossed over, and started back up the engineer's side as part of his inspection. As he came forward he was very easy to see even at a great distance in his bright orange snow suit. As he got closer I noticed the snow had become a great equalizer between young and old as he was to the point of walking at most 1 car at a time and then stopping to catch his breath, leaning against the car to do it. From the confines of my nice and warm, relatively comfortable seat, I actually felt sorry for him knowing I had been in that same position many years before - but this day I was the warm, rested one. 

Gabe finally managed to get back to the lead engine, somehow found the strength to climb into the cab. As he entered I simply asked, "Are you ready to be an engineer now?" Between gasps he managed to say "yes"; indeed he was in the next engineer's class. We had many laughs about that adventure over the years and today he may very well be the one sitting in that warm cab while his young conductor goes for a long, snowy walk of his own - maybe in an orange snow suit.

 



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/29/19 18:32 by Railbaron.



Date: 03/28/19 17:43
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: trainjunkie

Been there, done that. It would probably kill me now. 



Date: 03/28/19 17:58
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: CA_Sou_MA_Agent

I'm glad I worked mostly in Southern California where I didn't have to contend with all that.  The closest I came were several "dog catching" assignments in northern Arizona, where it was basically a matter of walking from the crew van to the train.  Working in the rain wasn't very fun and I had my share of that. 

 



Date: 03/28/19 18:51
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: sphogger

The standard intercraft rivalry joke.  Engineer to Trainman: “Could you speak a little louder into the handset please?  I can’t hear you over the heater fan”.  ;)  Sphogger. 



Date: 03/30/19 08:26
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: joeygooganelli

Best retort I've read on here in years!



Date: 03/30/19 08:43
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: ExSPCondr

The trainman gets his revenge by standing close to the cars when it is raining and making the engineer lean out the window to see him.
G



Date: 03/30/19 10:05
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: santafe199

Railbaron Wrote: > ... there are times being "stuck" in the cab is a good thing ...

Oh... I totally agree! And I'll take the engineer's seat over ground work every day of the week & twice on Sunday. It's just that when I wrote that thread I felt like I should be democratic and present both sides of the coin... ;^)

​And to sphogger:  That's a great RR anecdote, one I'd never heard before! And here might be the trainman's retort: "Oh yeah?!! Well (pointing to his lantern) with this 50-cent light bulb I can TELL YOU what to do & where to go!!!"  (been there ~ done that, too!)

Lance/199



Date: 03/30/19 15:04
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: Railbaron

santafe199 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And here might be the trainman's retort: "Oh yeah?!! Well (pointing to his lantern) with this 50-cent light bulb I can
> TELL YOU what to do & where to go!!!"  (been there ~ done that, too!)
>
> Lance/199

Funny thing is he might be able to tell you when to go but not how fast to go. It's amazing how tired a guy can get riding the side of a car for a long distance at 3 or 4 mph! Or how frustrated a guy will get if you stop, per the rules, every time his light goes out of sight. You can be assured a truce will be called, and egos reeled in, real soon after a little of this. 



Date: 03/30/19 20:27
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: santafe199

Railbaron Wrote: > ...  when to go but not how fast ...... how tired a guy can get riding the side of a car ...... or how frustrated .........

(chuckling) ...yeah, and few seat-jarring crashes into long joints will cure an engineer of trying to make the ground man's job more difficult than it already is. Personally, I never got into ANY situations that needed truces, verbal or otherwise. Playful joshing back & forth was a very common thing, even cherished. But to purposely hinder a fellow rail's job was absolutely unheard of. On every switch/local crew I ever worked in my 32 years there was professional respect from both the ground & engineer's seat positions. And whenever I occupied the engineer's seat I considered it my professional obligation to make the groundman's job as easy as I possibly could...

Lance/199  



Date: 03/30/19 20:46
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: Railbaron

I agree. There were a number of times I got pissed at a conductor / brakeman but I'm sure there were plenty of times they'd get pissed at me also but in reality we all got along - except once when I had my fill of one conductor who was a pure a-hole towards engineers. Funny thing is that once I rang his bell we got along perfectly after that even though he still hated all other engineers. 



Date: 04/04/19 05:30
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: Jim700

Railbaron Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> - except once when I had my fill of one conductor who
> was a pure a-hole towards engineers. Funny thing is
> that once I rang his bell we got along perfectly after
> that even though he still hated all other engineers.


As a fireman in the '60s I had a situation like that except it was engineman / engineman instead of engineman / trainman.  I worked with a few hoggers who were fireman haters because the engineer pay rates in all classes of service were $4.00 (later $6.00) per hundred miles higher without a fireman. One engineer in particular stood out. Leonard (Lannie) C. Wood (fireman date 07/31/41, engineer date 12/15/52) lived two blocks east of me in Wishram when I was a kid. Later in his career he moved to Portland and worked east to Wishram. He was a really nice guy off the job but he must have sucked on a dozen lemons before he went to work each trip. He was very vocal about "money stealing firemen" and generally made the trip miserable for any fireman who had to work with him.  Because the cushy, high-seniority, scheduled freight job he worked was blankable for firemen, we tried to avoid his assignment and generally could until slow times of the year when it meant the difference between working or not working.

I had never worked with him but always knew it was bound to happen someday. That day came on 05/19/68 when he made the mistake of answering the telephone on his assigned rest day.  Because the Portland engineer's extra board was exhausted the crew board clerk shanghaied him to fill the engineer's job on the weekly 42-mile round trip steam-powered passenger train on the Vernonia branch. I was the regular fireman assigned to the weekly job because I was the only SP&S fireman working who was steam qualified. We were called for 1145 to report to the Hoyt Street Yard Office in Portland to deadhead via auto to Banks for 1300 to work a single round trip Banks to Vernonia and then deadhead back to Portland. I elected to drive my own car to Banks and I arrived at the engine perhaps five minutes after Lannie had boarded. Because of his reputation on the job, I definitely wasn't looking forward to the day. As I threw my grip up into the gangway he started right in about "money stealing firemen". It suddenly dawned on me that I had the perfect opportunity to call his bluff and I shot back at him "Lannie, there's two sides to this locomotive today; now you can run it or both run it and fire it at the same time and I really don't care which". You know what? It actually worked! He calmed down and we had a great day working together. That was the only time I ever fired for him; I never did work with him on a diesel.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/04/19 05:37 by Jim700.




Date: 04/04/19 14:59
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: CA_Sou_MA_Agent

Regarding that last story, I heard a story where, sometime back in the 1960s when the railroads were abolishing firemen's positions, the D&RGW put out a system-wide bulletin detailing all the fireman's positions that were going to be abolished.  A Road Foreman or Trainmaster in Alamosa had to contact Denver and advise them that the bulletin was a little too inclusive and ambitious.  They had to remind headquarters that firemen's postions should NOT be abolished on the narrow-gauge operation.  They were most definitely needed!  



Date: 04/05/19 01:31
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: santafe199

CA_Sou_MA_Agent Wrote: > ... had to contact Denver and advise them that the bulletin was a little too inclusive ... firemen's postions should NOT be abolished on the narrow gauge ...

Damn pencil-pushers will NEVER change...

;^)



Date: 04/05/19 08:20
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: sphogger

“money stealing firemen” also known as “belly robbers”.   Remained a sore point with a handful of penny pinching hogheads to the end of the Fireman craft  The $4 payment didn’t amount to much as a percentage of the daily rate in the 80’s.  Usually the same engineers that would call the timekeeper every pay day to argue over a couple pennies they felt they had been shorted.  Sphogger



Date: 04/05/19 10:47
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: Railbaron

sphogger Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> ... Usually the same engineers that would call the timekeeper every pay day to argue over a
> couple pennies they felt they had been shorted.
>  Sphogger

Are you talking about little, old me, Geo?  LOL  Although in my case it wasn't anything involving fireman stuff but I'd often walk into their office on Brannan Street when I worked the commutes - until they put a guard out front.



Date: 04/05/19 14:39
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: sp3204

It was always interesting working with those types of Hogheads who counted every penny! The few times
I got cut back to firing and caught one of those guys, I always thought I should have had a tee shirt made
with the inscription $4.00 a hundred. Alas I never got around to it, but it was in my mind and always smiled
when I handed the Hoghead my time stamp to be put on the time slip!
 



Date: 04/05/19 19:14
Re: Sometimes it IS good to be the engineer
Author: KskidinTx

We had one of those hogheads on the Santa Fe Middle Division who wouldn't even speak to the fireman, except for one night.  We stayed at the old Antlers hotel in Wellington for $1.50 or $2.00 a night.  I was getting very sick upon our arrival, tossed and turned the entire time in bed, then got ordered for around 2 am.  I was really sick by this time.  Our engines were on the train at the east end of one of the yard tracks and it was about 10 degrees out.  I noticed the water jug was only about 1/3 full but it would be enough for our trip.  Then the engineer spoke to me!  Told me to get that water jug filled up!  It was one of those 5 gal glass jugs  So I went over to the shanty in that 10 degree weather, filled it up then lugged it back to the engine, almost shaking from the fever I had.

After we were on the move the brakeman whispered to me that if the engineer didn't get a drink on the way to Emporia I ought to pour the entire 5 gallons on him.  Of course no one took a drink the entire trip.

Even when this engineer had to go to the bathroom he wouldn't let the fireman take over.  We were converting to the paper water cartons at this time and we would see the engineer scoot forward in his seat for a few seconds, then open and close his window, knowing what he was doing behind the control stand.

I'm sure there were other engineers who didn't like loosing the $4.00 but they never spoke about it to me except maybe in a joking way. 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/05/19 19:52 by KskidinTx.



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