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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Caught short


Date: 01/13/20 10:53
Caught short
Author: Cabhop

I was talking and laughing with a fellow rail of my vintage [that sounds better than Geezer] about laying over at our away-from-home terminal and sleeping in flop houses and eating in greasy spoon beaneries.  The discussion continued to the fact that we needed to have cash.  Today ATMs are so common that they are taken for granted but back it the day, you had to take enough cash with you to tide you over until you got back home. 

I hired out as a brakeman for the SP in Indio California.  Our pool freight run was to Yuma AZ but we also had to protect El Centro on 7 day stands.  In those days there was no rooming agreement so you were on your own for a crib at your away from home layover.  We could get a room at the San Carlos or Del Sol hotels, both long past their primes, for about $2.00 - $2.50.  [Bathrooms down the hall].  This was upscale, there was an old woman in town that would rent beds for $1.00 with only a sheet separating the “beds”.  For layover meals: a big breakfast at Harold’s Steak house was maybe $1.25, “set down” lunches about the same.  If you just wanted a burger and fries would be maybe 50c.  A chicken fried steak dinner ‘with all the trimmings’ at the most $2.50 with a nice tip for the beanery queen.  So when I got called for a Yuma run a “double saw buck” [$20] in my wallet would give me plenty of cash for at least a 24 -30 hour layover with a few bucks for a beer or two with the guys at Lute’s Casino.  [Not really a Casino like you maybe thinking but that’s another story]. Normally I would come home with maybe a fin unspent.  I know there were some terminals where you could buy “pie-books” that had chits for prepaid meals.  I never worked one of these locations.  Then there were the times I got caught short of cash.  Out of Yuma, again our away-from-home town, we could catch a “Sidewinder” these were turns usually of solid empty reefers that would have to be set at along the El Cento Branch and then pick up loads and return to Yuma.  We again would tie up and get our rest again.  So now we had to have $$$ like it was two trips.  OK no big deal, maybe I would have to skip the beers and not eat the big steak dinner.  If a crew caught a Sidewinder, they would go ‘first out’ for a pool freight back to Indio.  But here was a kicker, if there was no other rested crew at Yuma, your crew could get called on a second Sidewinder.  Now you had to stretch your budget to last like it was three pool trips.  In the height of the perishable season the SP might run two Sidewinders a day.  So catching a second Sidewinder was possible and did happen.  While it never happened to me, guys told me about catching 3 or more before finally getting home.  The other surprise that could leave you short was a derailment.  With a serious pile-up you could get stuck out of town until the line was reopened which could take 48hrs or more to get things moving.I can tell you I was not the first nor the last rail to have to bum a few bucks from a fellow rail to tied me over.  If they had it, most were generous to share as they had been there too.  [I’ve been on both sides of this.]  If you did have to get a loan from another rail, you better pay it back as soon as possible or the word would get out that you are welch and you would play hell getting some sympathy next time.  I remember an old head Hogger who loaned me a little gave me some advice as he showed me $50.00 bill he had stashed in his wallet for out of town emergencies and suggested I do the same.  For me $50 in your wallet was a huge sum of money to carry in your wallet.  In 1964 this would be like $400 today.  But I did start to carry an extra $10.00 ‘for the  just incase’.   JP 



Date: 01/13/20 11:49
Re: Caught short
Author: atsfer

Another problem that would crop up besides short of money was out of clean clothes.  Used to work up some branch lines in Kansas that would be out in the middle of nowhere.  If the chief dispatcher was out to get you or another crew member(being vindictive and vengeance was one of their specialties), you could find yourself stuck somewhere for days.   One crew had to ask the owner of the motel they were at to please wash their clothes while they sat there wrapped in towels.   Another guy I knew could not control his gambling and used up all his money(and maxed out his atm card) at the keno table.   He would then have to borrow money to have enough to pay for breakfast.   You are right about carrying enough of anything to be prepared for the unexpected.  



Date: 01/13/20 13:14
Re: Caught short
Author: trainjunkie

Been there, done that. At both of my AFHTs there is no convenient ATM so I'm always making sure I have cash before I go on duty. And yes, I also carry a few spare bills hidden away in my road grip just in case.



Date: 01/13/20 15:32
Re: Caught short
Author: LarryDoyle

Axiom No. 1.  "Better to have it with you and not need it rather than not have it and wish you did."

-LD



Date: 01/13/20 19:15
Re: Caught short
Author: 3rdswitch

Similar story here. Called on rest day for "Extra Harbor" turn LA to Watson yard ( thirty miles ) and return. Always a turn with no layover. It was summer, I pack my lunch and no money in my wallet. Arrived LA Hobart yard with lunch and t shirt on to find they were incorrect as we were called for a three day Oceanside work train. Fortunately for me I was used off a regular job on my day off so first rested engineer was sent to relieve me and I returned home on Amtrak that evening. The other guys had their wives meet them at Fullerton station with money and clothes. After that day I always had a twenty stashed in the wallet and a change of clothes in a baggie in the trunk. The pool guys ocasionally got stabbed at Barstow after an overnight with extra San Diegos, where they would have to overnight in San Diego, then take a train back to Barstow, overnight before catching a normal pool train back to LA. Life lessons learned working for the railroad.
JB



Date: 01/13/20 20:51
Re: Caught short
Author: Railbaron

Getting "caught short" isn't always about being short of money, sometimes it's not having clothes or supplies for a multi-night layover.

Many years ago while I was on the extra board in Eugene my phone rang early on a Sunday morning and I was called to deadhead to Coos Bay to protect the local down there. My first question was I going down just for the one day or was the regular engineer in vacation (I'd be there for the week, through Friday). The crew dispatcher simply told me the regular guy "laid off sick", which was not unusual for him since he had a boat and liked going out on the ocean. Since it was only going to be the one day in my mind I asked to have a shuttle van called to take me down so I could avoid a 2 hour drive. I get in the van at Eugene at the appropriate time and away we go.

Get to Coos Bay and I told the driver that we should only work 2 hours at the most, at least that was normal, and if he wanted to wait he could drive me back to Eugene. That was good with him as he could take a nap (we started the deadhead at 0500). That's when things went downhill fast.

I walk into the office in Coos Bay with only my "local freight" bag and what I had on. Almost right away one of the crew joked about how I was the lucky one to catch the job while Chuck was on vacation. Turns out the regular man laid off for this Sunday but he was going on vacation at midnight so I'd be there through Friday - and I have nothing with me other than what I have on. I went back out, told the shuttle driver so he could head back to Eugene without me.

Sunday was short and once done I had the clerk call me a cab to take me to the motel we stayed at. At least the motel was right in front of a mall so as soon as I got there I headed to the mall to buy toiletries and a couple of changes of clothes.

Fortunately the job was a good job and that made my time go faster. It was also really funny watching the taxi drivers and how they treated me. They knew that at some point I'd be going back to Eugene so one of them would get that long, and very good paying, trip. They went out of their way auditioning for me every day and giving me their name so I could request them. By the luck of the draw the guy I got on Friday afternoon was one of the best with a very good cab so he won the lottery and brought me home - with my "new" plastic road bag.
 



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/15/20 11:47 by Railbaron.



Date: 01/14/20 10:45
Re: Caught short
Author: DFWJIM

I imagine many crew members that are out on the rails nowadays carry credit cards and also use their phones to pay for things.



Date: 01/14/20 11:15
Re: Caught short
Author: PHall

DFWJIM Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I imagine many crew members that are out on the
> rails nowadays carry credit cards and also use
> their phones to pay for things.

Who doesn't carry credit/debit cards anymore?



Date: 01/14/20 12:21
Re: Caught short
Author: tehachcond

   Back in 1969, I caught a turn out of Los Angeles on the old SP West End pool off the brakeman's extra board.  While laying over in Indio, our AFHT, a flood took out the railroad and the highway between Beaumont and Palm Springs.  In short...we were stranded!  As we all were running out of money, the local trainmaster, I think it was Herb Hampton, arranged for us to be able to eat at a local Denny's and stamp the check with our pay stamps, and the SP paid for it all.
   Can you imagine a modern day Class 1 doing that now?

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO.



Date: 01/14/20 13:12
Re: Caught short
Author: PHall

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>    Back in 1969, I caught a turn out of Los
> Angeles on the old SP West End pool off the
> brakeman's extra board.  While laying over in
> Indio, our AFHT, a flood took out the railroad and
> the highway between Beaumont and Palm Springs. 
> In short...we were stranded!  As we all were
> running out of money, the local trainmaster, I
> think it was Herb Hampton, arranged for us to be
> able to eat at a local Denny's and stamp the check
> with our pay stamps, and the SP paid for it all.
>    Can you imagine a modern day Class 1 doing
> that now?
>
> Brian Black
> Castle Rock, CO.

No and there should be no need to either. As long as there is an open ATM people should be able to get money.
Things have changed just a little bit in the past 50 years. Heck they've changed a lot in the past 10 years!



Date: 01/15/20 00:25
Re: Caught short
Author: Greyhounds

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>    Back in 1969, I caught a turn out of Los
> Angeles on the old SP West End pool off the
> brakeman's extra board.  While laying over in
> Indio, our AFHT, a flood took out the railroad and
> the highway between Beaumont and Palm Springs. 
> In short...we were stranded!  As we all were
> running out of money, the local trainmaster, I
> think it was Herb Hampton, arranged for us to be
> able to eat at a local Denny's and stamp the check
> with our pay stamps, and the SP paid for it all.
>    Can you imagine a modern day Class 1 doing
> that now?
>
> Brian Black
> Castle Rock, CO.

Back in 1977 I was a newbie working in intermodal marketing for the ICG.  My father had cancer and was going to deteriorate and die.  I saved up my 10 vacation days and used them to help him and my mother.  I worked in the Chicago HQ and they lived about 180 miles away.  I'd work Monday-Thursday, then take a vacation day on Friday.  I'd make the drive down Thursday evenings and get up early on Monday and drive back.  He died in a nursing home on Dec. 17, 1977.  Mom and I were each holding one of his hands and saying the Lord's Prayer as he died.

So, I went back to work.  One day an "Administrative Assistant", remember them, came to my desk and asked when I was going to take my vacation time as the year was running out.  I replied that I'd already taken all of it.  She then told me that they had not taken one day off my vacation time for any day I took off to care for my parents.  I was appreciative, but just worked the year out without taking another day off.  

The ICG basically collapsed and I had to find other jobs in other non-railroad companies.  I'm now retired.  I never had any employer treat me as well as the railroad did.



Date: 01/15/20 11:24
Re: Caught short
Author: engineerinvirginia

Only once did I have to bum a 20 spot off a fellow rail....and I made sure I made him whole the next time I saw him. He was a golden fellow through and through as all from his original territory were, all of them now retired and all a bright spot in my rail memories. 



Date: 01/15/20 11:29
Re: Caught short
Author: goneon66

while in m.o.w. at lunch, a brother section worker realized he didn't have any money with him.  i covered his lunch.

the next day he brought me some marinated elk steaks.  i made out pretty well on that one............

66



Date: 01/17/20 09:40
Re: Caught short
Author: Chessie

I had one night I was called to deadhead to a terminal (we'll call it Point A) about 65 miles away to bring a train up the road to a terminal (Point B) about 35 miles from my house.  Was supposed to be deadheaded back to Point A upon arrival.  As was past practice I DH'ed personal vehicle to Point A for mileage plus two hours travel time.  Arrived at Point B and was told to go to the hotel which had NEVER happened before (I had done this numerous times over the years when they ran out of engineers at Point A, callers and chiefs always took care of me and remembered I had bailed them out of several jams).  The hotel was about 1/3 of the way from Point B to my house.  I reiterated what was agreed to when I took the call but said if you will transport me to my house I will protect the return trip and find my own way to Point B for same.  They agreed and 45 minutes later I was stepping out of a van at the foot of my driveway.  Got a lift back in to Point B that night with a yard engineer ... to deadhead back to Point A then another personal vehicle DH home!  Cha-ching! 



Date: 01/17/20 12:37
Re: Caught short
Author: AmHog

Back in the mid-seventies I was called off the yard brakeman's yard extra board to take a coal train from my terminal to a terminal 150 miles away.  The crew dispatcher said I would be deadheaded home after arriving at the terminal. This was a bald-faced lie. After arriving at the terminal I was informed I would be taking another train back home next day. I had no extra clothes and very little money. This was pre ATM days. So I went to bed and was awakened about 4 am and told we would be doing a local turn today. I complained about not catching a turn back home and was assured I would be deadheaded back after the local turn. I worked the local and came back to the bunkhouse was informed I would be working back home the next day. I was fuming. I marked off, hitchhiked 13 miles to a Greyhound stop and took the bus back to my home terminal. I marked back up on the yard board. Nothing was said but it was years before I acepted another road call off that yard board.



Date: 01/20/20 10:24
Re: Caught short
Author: Westbound

All of these “Caught Short” stories remind me of that day I met a train crew on the SP at Warm Springs (Fremont), CA that arrived with their train, ready to go off duty around 6 PM. Hours earlier they had been involved in a crossing accident and I could not respond because I was tied up on another matter that I could not leave. I had arranged with the Assistant Terminal Supt to hold them on duty until I released them as I needed to interview each one. 

When they came into the building they already knew what was to happen and that they would not be free to leave for a while. Whether he had planned this in advance or not, I never knew, but the Engineer, whom I had never met before did not hesitate. The first thing he said was “Well, we all need to eat, so you can just take us over to Denny’s and talk to us there!” Sounded good to me so we all got into my company car and went to dinner. Problem was that in order for me to be constantly asking questions and taking notes, my dinner was limited to ice tea while they all got to eat a nice meal. An hour later we returned to the terminal, all happy and full, but with a hungry host.
 



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