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Railroaders' Nostalgia > The last locomotive fireman ?


Date: 11/14/19 09:11
The last locomotive fireman ?
Author: eminence_grise

Recently, "Bev", a co-worker on CP in Canada passed away in his mid-80's after an active retirement.

His career with CP was interesting. In 1953, CP management announced that when all steam locomotives were retired in favour of diesels, there would be no locomotive firemen.
N.R.Crump, the President of CP at the time was known for his uncompromising stance on labour relations issues. As parts of the rail network became fully dieselized, CP would simply dismiss the firemen.

This caused a Canada wide strike in 1953, as CN had decided to follow CP's lead. The strike lasted a few days, but it shut down both railways completely. Finally, a mediator convinced everyone to go back to work on the condition that the issue was resolved within the life of the just negotiated collective agreement. The issue remained unsettled.

On the expiration of the agreement in 1955, the railways ceased to call firemen for service on diesel operated trains. The locked out firemen picketed most operating points, and for about two weeks, the other operating employees respected the picket lines. Slowly, trains began to operate again as locomotive engineers and train crews went to work. There were incidents of violence. Finally, the Canadian Government appointed an arbitrator, Justice Kellock to rule on the issue. Pending his decision, the firemen returned to work.

His decision was that persons employed as a locomotive fireman before a date in June 1955 would remain employed provided they agreed to three provisions, 1. To take the promotion to locomotive engineer when it became available, or 2. remain as a locomotive fireman until retirement (protected work for "permanent" (disabled) firemen), or 3, take $2200 and leave the service.

This decision was rendered in mid 1956. At some locations on CP, locomotive firemen were still being hired during the period of the dispute.

"Bev" and a few others were hired at a terminal in BC after the June 1955 cut off date for protected fireman status. Although top management made a show of dismissing all the surplus firemen not protected, at a local level, work was found. Bev became a switchman.

By the late 1960's, CN and CP were experiencing shortages of locomotive engineers, and CN and later CP came up with the "Engine service brakeman" program where candidates for locomotive engineer training would be selected from the ranks of conductors and trainmen. They would continue to retain train crew seniority while working in engine service.

This all took place as the UTU was being formed out of the BRT, BLF&E and SUNA.  Somehow, when the ESB program was set up on CP, switchmen were excluded from eligibility to train as locomotive engineers.

"Bev" took the issue to arbitration and won the right for switchmen to be eligible for the engine service brakeman position. The old boys in the UTU were not pleased at the decision and made sure his seniority followed that of trainmen and conductors who had entered the program.

It didn't matter much, because in 1980, the eligible age to retire on a full pension was lowered to 60 and finally 55, and Bev and others enjoyed full time work as engineers.

A feature of the ESB program was than when a trainman/yardman was promoted to engineer, his/her position did not need to be filled. In freight service, this resulted in the elimination of tail end trainmen very quickly and later, also the head end trainperson position.

Bev was one of the very last persons hired as a locomotive fireman in Canada. He had the courage to dispute a decision and have it overturned.



Date: 11/15/19 22:33
Re: The last locomotive fireman ?
Author: 3rdswitch

Santa Fe filled fireman positions as late as the mid eighties. When I got my engineer date in '80, I also had a switchman seniorty number, brakeman seniority number and fireman seniority number. When I hired out in '78, all engineer jobs in the Los Angeles area had a fireman position to go with it but were only filled when all engineer positions were filled. It was nice while it lasted.
JB



Date: 11/16/19 09:04
Re: The last locomotive fireman ?
Author: cewherry

3rdswitch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Santa Fe filled fireman positions as late as the
> mid eighties. When I got my engineer date in '80,
> I also had a switchman seniorty number, brakeman
> seniority number and fireman seniority number.
> When I hired out in '78, all engineer jobs in the
> Los Angeles area had a fireman position to go with
> it but were only filled when all engineer
> positions were filled. It was nice while it
> lasted.
>
It's interesting how different properties implemented the provisions of Arbitration Award 282, the national fireman-off dispute in the U.S.
Following my return from military service in December 1968 to the SP in Los Angeles, I found that firemen were used only on passenger
trains, which was stipulated in the award; hostling--which had historically been considered part of the fireman's craft and those
so-called 'Veto' jobs; up to 10% of the total amount of firemen's jobs that the carrier had decided to 'blank' or otherwise not fill and and that
the union was empowered by 282 to keep filled with firemen remaining or hired subsequently to the award.

In practice this meant that of the roughly 30 pool-freight jobs between L.A. and Indio at that time, only 3 or 4 firemen's jobs were 'Vetoed'.
Naturally, the firemen's local chairman chose to Veto those jobs that were considered 'plum' assignments by virtue of either earnings, days off,
job location or a combination of all the above. 

Not until sometime in 1970 did the SP and the union come to an agreement that provided that once you had an engineer's 'date', you could
not be furloughed. My own experience was that owing to a downturn in business I was furloughed, "on the street", sometime in the Spring of 1970.
I got a call one afternoon from the chief engine crew dispatcher telling me that the agreement had been signed and that I could choose any midnight
"goat" fireman job I wanted to mark-up (work) on. I made the point that all yard goats paid the same, midnight, daylight or afternoon and asked him
why just a midnight goat?. "Oh, OK pick any goat you want", he shot back. I never could figure out his logic; as if my pay was coming out of his pocket.
Just a management mind-set, I suppose.

Charlie
 



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/19 11:42 by cewherry.



Date: 11/19/19 13:09
Re: The last locomotive fireman ?
Author: engineerinvirginia

cewherry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 3rdswitch Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Santa Fe filled fireman positions as late as
> the
> > mid eighties. When I got my engineer date in
> '80,
> > I also had a switchman seniorty number,
> brakeman
> > seniority number and fireman seniority number.
> > When I hired out in '78, all engineer jobs in
> the
> > Los Angeles area had a fireman position to go
> with
> > it but were only filled when all engineer
> > positions were filled. It was nice while it
> > lasted.
> >
> It's interesting how different properties
> implemented the provisions of Arbitration Award
> 282, the national fireman-off dispute in the U.S.
> Following my return from military service in
> December 1968 to the SP in Los Angeles, I found
> that firemen were used only on passenger
> trains, which was stipulated in the award;
> hostling--which had historically been considered
> part of the fireman's craft and those
> so-called 'Veto' jobs; up to 10% of the total
> amount of firemen's jobs that the carrier had
> decided to 'blank' or otherwise not fill and and
> that
> the union was empowered by 282 to keep filled with
> firemen remaining or hired subsequently to the
> award.
>
> In practice this meant that of the roughly 30
> pool-freight jobs between L.A. and Indio at that
> time, only 3 or 4 firemen's jobs were 'Vetoed'.
> Naturally, the firemen's local chairman chose to
> Veto those jobs that were considered 'plum'
> assignments by virtue of either earnings, days
> off,
> job location or a combination of all the above. 
>
> Not until sometime in 1970 did the SP and the
> union come to an agreement that provided that once
> you had an engineer's 'date', you could
> not be furloughed. My own experience was that
> owing to a downturn in business I was furloughed,
> "on the street", sometime in the Spring of 1970.
> I got a call one afternoon from the chief engine
> crew dispatcher telling me that the agreement had
> been signed and that I could choose any midnight
> "goat" fireman job I wanted to mark-up (work) on.
> I made the point that all yard goats paid the
> same, midnight, daylight or afternoon and asked
> him
> why just a midnight goat?. "Oh, OK pick any goat
> you want", he shot back. I never could figure out
> his logic; as if my pay was coming out of his
> pocket.
> Just a management mind-set, I suppose.
>
> Charlie
>  

He probably had an issue keeping midnight jobs filled and was trying to get you on one to lessen his troubles....when you pointed out that it should not make any difference, he had to relent. Wouldn't be the first time management tried to steer a man to job he did not want, and had the seniority to pick better. 



Date: 11/19/19 14:58
Re: The last locomotive fireman ?
Author: 3rdswitch

Santa Fe must have had a similar no layoff of promoted engineer agreement as in the mid eighties ( I don't recall the exact date or duration ) a few of the bottom engineers in Los Angeles were furloughed for a year or so, all eventually reinstated with full back pay.
JB



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