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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned

Date: 07/30/19 13:13
Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: cewherry

The recent thread over on the Nostalgia & History forum about Southern Pacific's operations along Alameda Street in
Los Angeles; see :https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,4837708 brings back many memories of my early
railroading experiences along the same portion of track. Although I don't have photos to attach here I will try to paint a word
picture of one such memory. 

In the mid-1970's I was working the engineer's extra board at SP's Taylor Yard. One day I was called for a yard job with the on duty
location at the "J Yard", SP's name for its yard located next door the Pacific Electric's, by then former, Butte St. yard laying diagonally 
between Alameda St. and Santa Fe Ave. beginning on its south end at 25th St. 

The job was a regular assignment with a regularly assigned ground crew of a foreman and two helpers. Our engine for the day was one
of SP's ubiquitous EMD SD7's which could be found almost everywhere in southern California at the time. We did a little switching in the
yard after which the crew gathered in the cab while the foreman explained that we were next going to "head up the street a-ways", meaning
proceed compass northward on Alameda St.

Now, I had worked jobs on Alameda St. before and was familiar with the procedures such as having to be able to stop for traffic lights since they
were not coordinated with railroad operations, and there were train length and time-of-day restrictions but all of my prior experiences had been
from or to the north end of the Alameda St. trackage starting River Station. This move from the south was going to be a new one for me. 

The day was bright and sunny and as we proceeded northward the automobile and truck traffic were passing our SD7 with ease. I generally didn't
question my conductors or switch foremen about switching moves, especially the experienced ones and this foreman was experienced. I figure 
they know the territory and what's needed to accomplish the task. They don't ask me what I'm doing and I reciprocate.

Suddenly, the foreman says: "That'll do". I grab the 'jam' and we come to a halt at a facing point switch. "What's up, boss?".
"We'll head in here, got a car to pull". I look at the track leading across the northbound lanes of Alameda and disappearing
between two buildings. I'm looking at the curvature and thinking. "Are you sure about this track?, Looks awfully tight to me."
"Oh, we do this all the time." "With these engines? "Sure, why not?" "You know this one has 6 axles." By now the pin-puller has
the switch lined; "No problem, come ahead". I look more at track leading across the lanes and see the telltale flange marks
gouged into the pavement.  "Look at those flange marks, we'll never make it". "Aw, come on, we'll make it". Well, I'm the extra guy
on the job; maybe he's right, maybe we will make it. But those flange marks.....I ease off the "jam" and inch forward.
The helpers have the traffic stopped. The lead truck noses into the really tight part of the curve, the rear truck passes the switch.....and then plop.
The SD sways gently down to a stop. Both northbound lanes of traffic are blocked, the honking begins. Bad cheese. 

The ground crew make a quick walk around and determine only the lead truck has left the rail. We've got the world tied-up.
I reverse direction and inch back. Luckily the pavement holds up and the engine walks right back up on the rail leaving only
a fresh set of flange marks to add to the collection. "Come to think of it, I guess we've only gone in there with a little
engine before", offers the foreman as we head back south on Alameda St. "Guess so".

That was the first time I'd experienced first hand what in later years the roadmaster at BN's Murray Yard in Kansas City
pointed out to me as a fledgling trainmaster and car re-railer that, generally the best course in re-railing cars is to reverse
directions if you have track behind you. That won't always work, but it did that day in Los Angeles.


Date: 07/30/19 13:21
Re: Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: King_Coal

Trainmaster 201 must be: "If you don't want to be called out at night, don't schedule industry or yard jobs that work after midnight."

That was shared with me by a Trainmaster  "mentor" in Kansas City. I never did quite get the hang of that, but thought about it all the time.

Date: 07/30/19 15:36
Re: Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: cewherry

King_Coal Wrote:
> Trainmaster 201 must be: "If you don't want to be
> called out at night, don't schedule industry or
> yard jobs that work after midnight."

Don't I know that. Spent all of the night before Thanksgiving and until daybreak the following morning
in 1984 with an extra and section crew that went on the ground in the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant at Parsons.
Didn't need the cars and should have waited until after the holiday. Glad I had my insulated overalls though.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/30/19 22:15 by cewherry.

Date: 07/31/19 08:56
Re: Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: Zephyr

Charlie, your story reminds me of so many "experiences" I had on the LA Division after being promoted to Asst. Trainmaster in 1974 and thrown into the "mix" of Anaheim working 12 hour nights, not knowing a thing about how to be an Asst. Trainmaster.  I could go on and on about how I learned the hard way, but one of the earliest lessons I learned was to discover where the crews regularly hid and slept for a good portion of their duty to insure they got their 12 hours in.  Some crews found some really good places, like inside the Gold Key Furniture Warehouse in Costa Mesa (that was a hard one to discover!).  And then there were the easy ones like the night South Anaheim with conductor Johnny Nichols in the team track in plain sight at Santa Ana.  I carefully opened the caboose door, which was locked, walked into a snoring den of crew members and politely woke up Johnny.  He became startled and couldn't figure who I was or where he was located.  I asked him, "Johnny, where are you?"  To which he replied, "we're at Anaheim tied up"!  Well, no.  Johnny and crew were not at Anaheim, they were really at Santa Ana.  We had a good discussion about getting all of the work done each night and life went on.  I never fired anyone when I caught them sleeping.  I always turned the event into a win-win for the crew and myself, most often gaining the agreement to get the work done each night.  If I have more time this week I'll share some additional stories of early lessons learned on the SPRR LA Division.

Date: 07/31/19 22:00
Re: Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: 90mac

I never saw a 6 motor unit on Alameda Street, but I did see a lot of flange scars.
All memories now.
Good thing because the traffic on Alameda nowadays is ridiculous.

Date: 08/01/19 13:33
Re: Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: Shafty

If at all possible, my father always avoided Alameda St.  With the tracks and rough pavement, he considered driving on Alameda St. as too much wear and tear for the car. 

Eugene Crowner

Date: 08/03/19 10:18
Re: Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: rob_l

So in those days, did upper Alameda Street have twice-a-day service? The reason I ask is because of the weeknight "Rathole" job that spotted the loads of newsprint in the alley behind the LA Times. Sometimes, to properly serve the customers, night switch jobs are necessary.

More than once, the Rathole Job called the trainmaster for help in the wee hours of the night because they had trapped themselves in the alley.

Best regards,

Rob L.

Date: 08/03/19 15:34
Re: Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: ExSPCondr

My seniority was 2/24/66 as an LA switchman, so in the first 3 or 4 years there I worked Alameda St many times before the business started to taper off.

There were three jobs that worked Alameda St regularly.  The afternoon City job started in the Links at 3pm to go to the Old Coach Yard and be off the street by either 4 or 430pm per city requirement. Their work was essentially all between the East side of Alameda St, and the West side of Santa Fe Ave, between about 4th St and Butte St

No movements were allowed between about 430 and 7pm.  There was one movement of about 20 cars allowed between 9am and 11am, and again between 1pm and 3pm.

The "Rathole" job went to work in the Links at 11pm, and only worked the first five tracks on the West side of Alameda St  below the freeway which went back in for three or four blocks.  They went down lite engine, doubled up a couple of the tracks and pulled the whole works which could be 40 cars, back to the Links where they could switch in a yard with the luxury of high stand switches, and several tracks to spread the cars out in.  Also no crazy motorists.  All the cars weren't empty, so the empties had to be switched out, and the new loads cut in order between the setbacks, then they would pull the new cars down the outbound main to clear the rathole, leave the cars clear of the switches, and run on down to the next of many crossovers to run around the cars, then pick them up and shove them back into the rathole to spot up.

Then they would go to lunch at the Atomic Cafe, afterwards go back and pull the other three tracks back to the Links to do it again.

The "City" job went to work at 1159pm at the Links, and did all the rest of the work on the street on both sides between about 4th street and the last customer before Butte St which became J Yard.  Most of their customers only had one or two cars, except Young's Market.  Having to work on pavement and dodge automobiles all night, and throw old, worn out submarine switches was tough.

One through movement of 40 cars maximum was allowed between J yard and the Links as well as the switching movements between 11pm and 5am.

Due to freeway construction, many houses were sold to be moved, and Alameda St was the preferred North-South route because of the width and that all of the wires were high to clear the railroads.  The Links yardmaster got about a two hour notice of when a house was going to move, and he had to coordinate with the two night jobs to have them off the street when a house came up.

Date: 08/03/19 21:49
Re: Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: cewherry

ExSPCondr Wrote:

> "....There were three jobs that worked Alameda St
> regularly.  The afternoon City job started in the
> Links at 3pm to go to the Old Coach Yard and be
> off the street by either 4 or 430pm per city
> requirement. Their work was essentially all
> between the East side of Alameda St, and the West
> side of Santa Fe Ave, between about 4th St and
> Butte St....."

I fired the 3:00PM city job with engineer Frank Wells and foreman Bill Matzdorf for a few weeks in 1964.
George DeLellis was the afternoon Links YM. 

One day, as the afternoon curfew neared we were heading down the street headed for the 8th Street Team track with about 8 cars in tow. 
LAPD was in the process of placing the portable "No Left Turn" signs between the northbound and southbound tracks at all the intersections
that had electric traffic lights. Usually their placement was quite accurate but on this day one of the signs 'clipped' a main reservoir drain cock,
breaking it off in the threads and we began hemorrhaging air. 

Seeing the inevitable, Frank threw the throttle wide open on our trusty Baldwin and we were able to just get the last car of the drag clear of 
the sidewalk at the team track before the protesting brakes dragged us to a stop. Oh yes, many memories.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/03/19 22:58 by cewherry.

Date: 08/04/19 11:50
Re: Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: Topfuel

These are some great memories of SP Alameda Street operations.  I think most of us native Angelino's who are SP fans have a real soft spot for operations along this portion of the SP.  Looking forward to the upcoming article in SP Trainline about this topic.

Date: 08/05/19 10:48
Re: Trainmaster 101; Early lessons learned
Author: CimaScrambler

I've found this map useful in following Alameda Street operations history:
You can download the file and then view it at full resolution.  It has a list of customers all over town with an numerical index tied to locations shown on the map.

Kit Courter
Torrance, CA
LunarLight Photography

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