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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Sideways
Date: 11/20/19 07:14
Being in a moving train that derails is something no one forgets...one day in the town of Concordia, Kansas, was a memory for me. The train I was on was southbound on the ATSF main with around 90 carloads of corn and four locomotives. We were in yard limits, so restricted speed rules applied, and I was at the controls with a student engineer and the conductor in the cab with the brakeman in the second unit. As we approached the depot in Concordia, there were several hand throw switches with high targets, plus several crossings, a few with crossing arms. About a half mile ahead was a diamond crossing with the BN main, so we were in dynamic braking about 15 mph and slowing preparing to stop for the red board at the diamond which was around a curve near an grain elevator. All was going well, until just before we got to the house track switch which took you around the back of the depot, I saw the switch handle on the switch stand sticking straight out, the switch was "cocked", not fully open or shut, not enough to turn the switch target, a nice trap, and a guaranteed derailment.
I put the train to emergency, but the lead unit headed down the house track off of the main. Then, the wheels of the engine passing over the points slammed the switch back to the fully closed posistion for the main and so the rear half of the four axle unit headed down the main. So, the lead unit was at a 45 degree angle half derailed being pushed along by several thousand tons of grain. We were taking out power poles, which gave us a spectacular light show, and we sheared off a telephone circuit box which wiped out phones for blocks. But, we stopped just short of wiping out a gated road crossing assembly. The second unit was draped with snapped power lines, but, at least the breakers had opened and the electricity was not a threat but we did not know that at the time.
Well, the officials all show up after about an hour or so, the superintendent,(who I had known for years) surveyed what had happened and asked if this incident had made me "cockeyed", a personal joke we had. The bottom line, a road switcher had been in Concordia the night before, and had not locked the house track switch. A boy on his way to school the next morning saw the switch lock dangling and so being curious pulled on the switch handle causing it to pop out of the slot and cock the switch. This scared the boy and he took off, and set up the incident.
After a cab ride and bladder busting wait to give a urine sample, the whole incident was written off to vandalism and no one on our crew was disciplined. Fifeteen miles per hour is nothing to some incidents I have had happen to other friends on the RR, but, it was enough for me.
Date: 11/20/19 09:03
Probably an incident that brought new and true meaning to the definition of restricted speed for you and the rest of the crew, especially the student! Those were the days when little incidents like that could be used as a learning experience and everyone kept their job.
Date: 11/20/19 09:10
You have painted an excellent word picture of this accident - I feel almost as if I had been there! Don’t know of anything you could have done differently. If one had asked the student engineer what he learned from it, I wonder what he would have said.
Date: 11/20/19 09:33
Undoubtedly the working relationship you and your superintendent shared aided both parties. I would like to think
the same outcome would happen today....but somehow doubt it.
I once ran over an unlighted, non-reflectorized blue flag, on a Seattle Saturday night down by the waterfront. The flag
was one of those permanently installed ones between the rails of a yard track that when no longer needed was simply
dropped down, out of sight. Revelers at a close by restaurant, unable to contain their urge show off their railroading prowess
decided to put up the flag just to see what would happen. What happened, of course was that the blue flag met its demise
that night. The on-duty old head trainmaster immediately saw the situation for what it was; a simple case of alcohol induced vandalism.
No report needed, have a good night. Today; probably not so simple.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/20/19 09:57 by cewherry.
Date: 11/20/19 11:40
So did the crew on the road switcher who didn't lock the switch get any heat for their omission?
Date: 11/20/19 13:51
I don't know, never heard anything more about it.
Date: 11/21/19 07:46
> I don't know, never heard anything more about it.
Once it's determined that a vandal was involved....everything else gets swepped under the rug.....that I can almost promise.
Date: 11/21/19 17:31
The UCOR 6/2/68 defined Restricted Speed as "...prepared to stop short of train, engine, obstruction, or switch not properly lined"
Date: 11/24/19 09:54
I never did feel totally comfortable riding through Concordia. That “main” track seemed to zip back & forth all over the place. Along about ‘85 I experienced a similar situation further down the branch at Talmage. I was westbound on (local) 1343 setting out a couple of hoppers at the main elevator. It was at night, and I just happened to notice a figure running away from the track. This person got into a car and sped away. Of course I was immediately suspicious and stopped short of a facing point switch. Bingo!! The handle was up and the switch was thrown halfway over. We would have split it and gone all over the ground. I was in control of that stove, but I sure dodged a bullet on that deal... 😥
Posted from iPhone
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/24/19 09:59 by santafe199.
Date: 12/05/19 09:36
Switch targets can be thrilling sometimes. Especially at night. I was on #16 coming down the hill into Topeka, in the 90 mph days. I was looking ahead and saw bright red. I shouted to the engineer, he just chuckled. It was the reflective lenses of the target on the high stand switch going to the old Sears warehouse area, near 37th street. I think the engineer was Carlie Madden, he said the vandals had lifted it off the pointed tip, turned it a quarter turn and set it back on, so it showed red instead of green. He said he had already turned it in, and it still wasn't fixed. I think my heart actually did stop beating for a second or two.
Posted from Android
Date: 12/06/19 06:25
I have heard of that being done before, it will make your heart skip a beat.
Date: 12/07/19 06:42
You have to know your territory......which targets are missing, which are backwards....and when you are on a stretch that requires you to be able to react to a bad switch.....in signalled territory, if I am running clear....I don't care about the switches...if they are wrong....I win the lottery.