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Railroaders' Nostalgia > A Thanksgiving Story

Date: 11/28/19 08:12
A Thanksgiving Story
Author: Englewood

"A Memorable Thanksgiving" or "The Road to the Yard Office is paved with good intentions"
I assume most people not involved with a 24/7 industry have fond memories of one
special Thanksgiving shared around the dinner table with friends and family.
When I was growing up my father was a railroader who worked afternoons with
Tuesday and Wednesday off.  Our Thanksgiving dinner was more like a lunch with
Dad leaving for work around 230pm. No big family gatherings around the evening dinner table.
During my 40+ years on the railroad I rarely had Thursday off so I have very few warm memories
of Thanksgiving because most of them were spent at work.
I do have one Thanksgiving memory that comes back to me every year.
One road I worked for had a genuine “people person” as a leader. 
Every Thanksgiving he would order box dinners for all those working that evening.  It was very good. 
Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and a big slice of pumpkin pie.
The problem was in the execution.  Every year a holiday plan would go out which resulted in
only a skeleton force being on duty.  The dispatchers and yardmasters were all
on duty but just a handful l of T&E crews, clerks and carmen were required.   
Every year when Thanksgiving dawned transportation management would see a crisis on the horizon. 
“XYZ is going to send us trains even though they said they were shutting down”.  
So the yearly circus would begin.  Extra yard crews were called to put together trains and drag
them out to block the mains in order to make room in the yard. By the time we recovered from
the Thanksgiving fiasco it was almost Christmas.
Back to the Thanksgiving dinner.  Even though extra crews were called to pull trains out they never
called any extra clerks, carmen or utility men to handle the extra work.  The trainmasters would then
be chasing their tails hauling crews and bills to keep things running.  The only problem was that the
trainmasters were the ones who had to deliver the Thanksgiving dinners throughout the yard. 
Every year dinner got later and later.  One year there were not enough dinners to go around
because of the extra crews on duty.  The dispatcher’s office got to eat dinner out of the vending machines.
After a few years of bad execution I always brought my own dinner from home when working
Thanksgiving evening.  My wife made turkey lunch for me so she would pack plenty of turkey
and other good stuff for me to eat at work.
On the memorable Thanksgiving the utility man on duty was Paul.  He was a mountain of a man
who could barely fit in the jeep.  He was not in the best of health having succumbed to most of the
vices that find railroad men.  The utility job was the only job he could hold due to his health problems
but he was actually the best utility man we had.  He never got lost, blocked or went into hiding. 
About 830pm that day Paul stopped into the office to wish us a happy Thanksgiving.  The other DS
and I both had our just delivered, catered Thanksgiving dinners sitting to the side of the desks. 
Since we had eaten the dinners we brought from home we asked Paul if he wanted one of the
catered ones.  “No, last year I got sick as a dog after eating those things” he replied.  After a few
minutes the aroma of the warm turkey and fixins must have made it to his nose.  “On second thought
I think I will try one of those dinners” Paul said.  The first one went down well so after a few minutes
he spoke up and asked “mind if I take that other one?” The other DS and I both replied in the affirmative. 
Paul downed dinner number two and soon had to leave because the YM needed him.
About half an hour later Paul was on the phone.  “Ugh” he said “those dinners went through me
like s*** through a goose.  I had a crew in the jeep to take to the yard office and I couldn’t hold it until
I got there.  I had to pull over and let it go along the track 17 road.”
A Thanksgiving to remember for me, Paul and the crew in the jeep.
I would say the track 17 road was indeed paved with good intentions that Thanksgiving.
You all have a good Thanksgiving dinner today but I suggest you eat only one.

Date: 11/28/19 10:17
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: cewherry

Thanks for this picture of the human side of our jobs. I guess I was one of the lucky ones who managed, yes that's the right word,
managed to make it to most of our family gatherings. I soon discovered that if I really wanted or needed to be home for a special
event the best way to assure that was to lay-off, "personal business" or "sick", it didn't matter; whatever did the trick. Assurances
by management that "we're going to hold all trains" didn't cut it; until the later years of my career when, to BNSF's credit they really did 
manage to hold almost all trains until Thanksgiving or Christmas evenings when, by that time the family 'obligations' had been met by
most of the crews and we were ready to get back to work.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/28/19 10:26 by cewherry.

Date: 11/28/19 12:38
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: Shafty

I went to work on the U.P. in Los Angeles, CA as a clerk in Sept 1955. 

The afternoon shift on Thanksgiving was my first holiday on the railroad.  The holiday rate of pay for clerks was time plus time and a half. 

Later in the shift not much was going on in the yard office.  The Afternoon Chief Clerk could easily spare one of us.  I lost the toss of a coin for an "early quit" and had to stay to the end of the shift. 

However, not long after losing the toss of the coin, someone laid off on the midnite shift, which began at 11:59 PM.  Going through the proper procedures the Afternoon Chief Clerk could not get anyone to come out for the job.  Being at the very bottom of the seniority roster, the opportunity eventually fell to me.  I was very happy to work through a second shift and get 16 hours at the holiday rate of pay. 

Eugene Crowner

Date: 11/29/19 00:09
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: wpamtk

I remember getting to the hotel in Bakersfield late Thanksgiving night and just being thankful that the Carls Jr. next door was still open.

Retirement--the best job I ever bid in.

To all the guys and gals still out there, my empathy and best wishes on the days you wish you could be home.

Date: 11/29/19 00:17
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: aronco

I may have put this story out once before, but these stories here remind me only too well....

I was one of the 6 trainmasters at Barstow.  We staffed the high tower three shifts, and two trainmasters roamed about the yard or hid in the office handling paperwork.
About September one year, during a recession, we were reminded in a staff meeting that it was imperative that expenses be kept to a absolute minimum.  It was suggested that since Christmas fell on a Monday that year, by planning ahead, we could structure our holiday operations and only run the trains which had schedule committments.  It made no sense to run a manifest (boxcar) train to say, LA harbor on Saturday if the cars would not be switched or moved until after Christmas or New Years Day.   Somehow I ended up as the coordinator of the LA Divisions efforts to hold operations over the holidays to a minimum .  This would also allow us to get as many road crews home for Christmas eve and or Christmas Day, another goal we had.  Note here::  freight crews at  Barstow all lived in either San Bernardino, Needles, or Bakersfield, so they were all away from home at the point where most of the trains were made up, except thru trains such as intermodal.  After lots of train counting, schedule consulting, and several meetings and conferences, we devised a plan to operate as necessary but to hold some trains at Needles, Barstow, LA, Bakersfield or San Bernardino during the holidays.  My back of the envelope calculation was that we would save about $450,000 and still be able to get nearly every crew home for part of the holidays.  Writing up the plan was quite an exercise, because, for example, Needles really could only hold two Westbound trains, and San Bernardino could only hold two or three, and Bakersfield could only hold perhaps four trains.  I submitted my plan and it was approved by the higher ups.
I happended to be working in tower on Christmas eve.  About 400pm, the General Manager in LA called as he usually did just before he went home, asking "how the yard, Norm?"
I reviewed the yard status with him, literally track by track, and he humphed his apparent approval.  He then asked if all the crews had been deadheaded home for Christmas.  I told him of the plan he had approved and that we had deadheaded some crews home, but we had 7 Needles crews in town, for example, to staff the trains that had to run Christmas eve or Christmas day, but the all Needles crews would be home for most of Christmas day. "Well thats not we need to do here....I want all the crews home" 
"How will I run the three hot trains in the morning, sir?"
"You will have to use the inbound crews when they are rested"
"But we are holding lower priority trains at Needles or even further East"
I want all these crews to be home for Christmas!"
"Yes sir"  What could I say?
We didn't get straightened out until about the 5th of January, especially since, if San Bernardino or Needles didnt run enough trains, we had no crews to get a train out of the yard, so we held trains for days for crews.  I guess we saved a lot more than $450,000 but those were some of the toughest times I spent in the tower.....
At least the paychecks didn't bounce.....



Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/29/19 00:19 by aronco.

Date: 11/29/19 03:35
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: TAW

Republishing my most memorable Thanksgiving (not) shutdown debacle https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?18,4169031,4169031#msg-4169031


Date: 11/29/19 08:05
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: retcsxcfm

TAW Wrote:
> Republishing my most memorable Thanksgiving (not)
> shutdown debacle
> https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?18
> ,4169031,4169031#msg-4169031

I read your story and took note of a reply.
The reply mentioned that Thanksgiving was on a Sunday ???

Uncle Joe

Date: 11/29/19 09:14
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: TAW

retcsxcfm Wrote:

> I read your story and took note of a reply.
> The reply mentioned that Thanksgiving was on a
> Sunday ???

Looks like he blended Thanksgiving and Christmas, In freight pool and extra board service, when you've seen one day, you've seen them all. It all fades into a blur.


Date: 11/29/19 19:59
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: Drknow

Amen, Mr. White.

Posted from iPhone

Date: 12/03/19 12:00
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: Bob3985

"Boxed Dinners"? If that was on the Rock it probably broke the budget for November, haha.

Bob Krieger
Cheyenne, WY

Date: 12/03/19 16:36
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: LocoPilot750

I was working the KC- Wellington pool, I came in Thanksgiving eve plenty of times out to make dinner at home. Next morning, several had marked off or down and moved me up. But, they said they would hold trains until later in the afternoon so most of the guys could do dinner at least. Well, about 11:00 am the phone rings, and it was BNSF of course. I had about 30 people over, anxious to eat, and I just had to be there to help host. For the first time ever, I ignored the call. Later in the week, I got a letter about missing the call, and had to go to the office building for "alternative handling". To do that. I had to lay off a round trip, which they had to pay me for, about $900 back then. After that, I made a few more trips, and retired on Dec 2nd, 2010 !

Posted from Android

Date: 12/11/19 16:25
Re: A Thanksgiving Story
Author: displacedneb

It may have thanksgiving or Christmas. A long retired NOC manager in Fort Worth on BNSF actually issued a directive that the train dispatcher could have only one plate of food from the caterer. Never saw that notice again, so am assuming that someone higher up took an exception .

Posted from iPhone

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