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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Left turn at Wright

Date: 08/28/19 19:16
Left turn at Wright
Author: santafe199

Ok, so my thread title is just another goofy play on words. Coming west out of Wright, KS the BNSF (former Santa Fe) double main actually makes a slight swerve to the right, then passes by the Hi-Plains Feed complex at 116 Rd. The tracks run almost 3 miles out of Wright before making the sweeping left hand turn indicated by my thread title. This long graceful curve comes parallel to the current US hwy 283 (original US hwy 50 back in 1978) and descends toward the famous Dodge City stockyards. The 2 main tracks then make a much sharper right hand turn which sends them into Dodge proper, skirting around the north side of the yard.

In the summer of 1978, I was working my first year of train/yard service for the Santa Fe. I was furloughed from active roster on Middle Division seniority district #1. But Middle Division district #2 needed switchmen out in Dodge. The summer wheat rush was still going full guns! On August 24th I tied-up at 4:00 PM in North Wichita Yard. With my official furlough notice in hand I drove home to Emporia and gathered up all the clothing & other miscellaneous items I thought I would need. Early the next morning, with everything packed into our trusty ’76 Datsun 610 I kissed my wife goodbye and hit the US hwy 50 trail west into an unknown future.

With a little bit of excitement and a whole bunch of apprehension. I retraced the long trek west. After 4 solid hours, and 225 miles I was in Dodge City, USA. I had no idea what was on my immediate horizon. I had been there once before, passing through homebound from our 1977 vacation trip out to Grand Junction, CO. It didn’t take long to find the crew office in the huge Santa Fe/Amtrak depot (former Western Division HQ). I got marked up for work on the switchman’s extra board @ 10:10 AM. Then I explored my temporary new home turf. What’s the first thing a railfan photographer checks out? Well duh… railfan shooting locations, of course. At the roundhouse I got a nice consist shot with AT&SF 5702 leading. Unfortunately its former Bicentennial RWB paint job had already been covered over with regular blue & yellow.

The crew clerk had told me it looked like I would be working that night on an ‘extra’ job to be called for 11:30 PM. So I told her about my situation. And with no phone I would just check in regularly. I knew I would need some sleep sooner or later, so I looked around and found a couple of old bunk cars over in the mechanical department area next to the roundhouse. I drove right onto the property like I owned the joint, right up to one of the cars and “borrowed” a thin narrow mattress. This was right out in front of God & everybody! Indeed, I had no idea I was being watched*. I had boldly & brazenly stolen ATSF company property

On the east side of town I found a secluded spot a bit off the main line(s). I folded the mattress over and it kinda-sorta fit the back seat of the 610. I actually managed to get a sturdy nap in. (Amazing what a tired, 23 year old body can do…) I woke up with very little daylight left and drove into town with a growling tummy. I checked in with the crew office, and the afternoon crew clerk gave me my 11:30 PM call about 45 minutes early. “Close enough for this outfit, kid.” I don’t precisely remember my first official Dodge City meal, but I have a pretty good idea it involved a fast-food joint somewhere on the main drag. At 11:30 I met my crew and worked the whole night trying to learn a new yard in complete darkness. Being an ‘extra’ switch job we buzzed through our switch lists and got a 2½ hour quit, tying up at about 5:00 AM. I went right back to the same secluded spot and logged another nap in the ol’ back seat. But I also had an item engaging my mental attention buzzer. Amtrak #3 would be rolling into Dodge some time after sunrise. I woke up knowing #3 wasn’t by yet. I had parked in a spot where its horn for a preceding crossing would have woke me up with a start. At that place I would have had to shoot almost directly into the sun for a westbound train. So to get a better angle I drove west along a company access road hugging the north side of the long curve mentioned above. I don’t remember having to wait a real long time, and I ended up with images #1 & #2 below. Feeling pretty chipper, I moseyed back into town with breakfast as one item to take care of. I stopped by the roundhouse and took a couple of routine shots. Then I went inside…

For this saga, enter the Santa Fe Roundhouse Foreman, the unforgettable* Mr Gaylon Albright! (For those of you who have Joe McMillan’s classic tome “Route of the Warbonnets” go check out page #7!) I knew I would be working in Dodge long enough to be noticed by RH personnel whenever I shot at the ‘house. So I thought it would be a good idea to introduce myself. There were a couple of guys in there and I told them my name and shook hands. The second man I shook hands with had a thin, but not very warm smile. While looking directly into my eyes he politely asked if I “wouldn’t mind returning the mattress to the bunk car”. Just like a deer in bright headlights, I FROZE. In one efficiently sharp statement I received a trifecta of being stunned, busted and embarrassed into a quivering jellyfish. I finally exhaled a squeaky mouse-fart voice telling RH Foreman Gaylon Albright that I had just marked up on the switchman’s board, and that I was just using the mattress to sleep in my car. For 2 or 3 of the L-O-N-G-E-S-T seconds I ever endured, I thought I was terminated & right down the river from employment with my beloved Santa Fe! Mr Albright looked me over and said ‘wait a minute’. He went into to his office and came back out with a scrap of paper. It had a name and address on it. He told me he thought ‘this old lady’ might still be renting rooms to working railroaders. I thanked him, walked out and zipped straight over to the old bunk car. I couldn’t get the mattress back in that bunk car fast enough…

Then I wandered around Dodge and found the address he gave me. For $10 a week I ended up renting a nicely decorated single upstairs room, one of a total of 6 as I recall. It was on the third floor of an 80 or 90 year old, mostly white clapboard house just a convenient block away from the 24/7 noise of the main E-W drag in Dodge! I had community use of state-of-the-art swamp cooler air conditioning that had a timer which allowed it to only run at night. (Nobody sleeps during the daytime in the summer, right? … ;^) The common bathroom/shower even had running water! And it would occasionally rise all the way up to lukewarm!! I was very grateful & much relieved to be afforded such luxurious amenities. But… I came to a very quick conclusion: Nearly every minute I didn’t spend working or sleeping would be spent exposing K-64 slides. In fact, I went right out and shot image #3 below!

Upon my next visit to the roundhouse I once again thanked Mr Albright and met a few more of the guys working there. Nobody minded me shooting pictures. I got along great with everybody, which was all I was looking for in the first place. Ironically, this geniality would come in handy about 6 months later. I would go directly to work for my new-found friend Gaylon Albright. I would enter the expected 100% furlough over the winter of 78-79. But before being recalled to train service the next April 5, I would be offered work as a mechanical department laborer at Dodge City. I would actually become a paid extra hand at the same roundhouse I thought I was busted in! Once again I made the trek to Dodge, rented a room and went to work. Small world, eh… :^)

1. & 2. AMTK 526 hustles train #3, the “Southwest Limited” gracefully around the 75 MPH curve near MP 349 west of Wright, KS. In those days Santa Fe had speed restrictions on the curves between MP 348.0 & MP 349.8. It was 75 MPH for passenger trains on the North main track & 70 MPH on the South main track. It was 60 MPH for freight trains on both main tracks. In these images #3 is on the North main.

3. Several hours, and a new “official place of lodging” later I’m back out here to shoot AT&SF 3557 leading train 304 Y-1 down the same track.
(3 photos taken August 26, 1978)

Thank you, Mr Albright!
Lance Garrels

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 08/28/19 20:48 by santafe199.

Date: 08/28/19 19:31
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: dcfbalcoS1

        Do you recall meeting engineer Summerville, do not know his first name. Also worked out of Dodge CIty.

        And what about Mr. Don Fitzsimmons too.

Date: 08/28/19 20:05
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: santafe199

dcfbalcoS1 Wrote: > ... Do you recall ... Summerville ... and ...  Don Fitzsimmons ...

I vaguely remember the name 'Summerville', but I do remember "Fitz" very well. I worked with him a couple of times on the Boise City local (#1581-82). Here's a link to a story you'll like : https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?18,2650240



Date: 08/28/19 20:31
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: coach

That is a seriously super-elevated curve!  But that's what I expect to see on the fast Santa Fe!

Date: 08/29/19 01:17
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: LocoPilot750

Larry Jackson worked out at Dodge switching at times too. One night they were all done, rolling along toward the yard office to tie up, and just matched speed with one of the passenger trains coming up to the depot. It was still dark but right beside them a light came on, and there was well built young lady just getting out of her bed. She wasnt wearing much if anything, so they kept there speed matched,watching her. She had no idea there was anybody out there beyond the glare, looking. Long story short, this went on until they crashed into the other job which had already tied up on the same track ahead of them, at about 10 mph. Everybody was so busy watching the scenery, they didnt even see it.

Posted from Android

Date: 08/29/19 09:51
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: Trainhand

one Saturday morning I was going to work on the Jesup switcher, and a late 97 was stopped in the station. I was cranking the engine,and doing a calendar day inspection when I looked over at 97. There in the sleeper window was a well built young lady asleep with nothing much on, and the sheets kicked back. I stopped everything until 97 left.

Date: 08/30/19 08:26
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: tomstp

In the first picture, I am surprised to see a dwarf signal on the main line.

Date: 08/30/19 09:53
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: PHall

tomstp Wrote:
> In the first picture, I am surprised to see a
> dwarf signal on the main line.

Dwarf signal on the "against the flow of traffic" side. This was right hand running double track.

Date: 08/30/19 21:46
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: BCHellman

PHall Wrote:
> tomstp Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > In the first picture, I am surprised to see a
> > dwarf signal on the main line.
> Dwarf signal on the "against the flow of traffic"
> side. This was right hand running double track.

No. It was 2-main track CTC signaled bi-directionally. Dodge City to Kinsley was ATSF's earliest CTC installation, completed in 1930. The searchlights are early H heads. Sometime in 1984 or so, the ATSF deactivated the CTC and made this portion D-251 and ABS-APB from Wright to Kinsley. For some reason, bridge/cantilever happy ATSF did not install bridges or cantilever in this stretch, relying on dwarfs instead.

Date: 08/31/19 15:26
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: DFWJIM

Why does #3 have a baggage car on the rear end? 

Date: 09/01/19 23:00
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: OldPorter

> Why does #3 have a baggage car on the rear end? 

Great question; I can only think of 2 reasons. Maybe a dedicated baggage car for the Four Sleepers?
Or possibly a DH move. There is a main Baggage Car up in front of the old style low level Crew Dorm. 
This is a pretty impressive consist; kinda like the Super Chief and El Cap combined in the late ATSF era.
Lance-- thanks for the great story and images. Always good stuff (and a wealth of ATSF historic info about 
the storied Middle Division.) 

Date: 09/03/19 07:21
Re: Left turn at Wright
Author: Englewood

dcfbalcoS1 Wrote:
>         Do you recall meeting engineer
> Summerville, do not know his first name. Also
> worked out of Dodge 

Was that Don Summerville who later went to Amtrak and became a RFE ?

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