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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Logs

Date: 03/24/20 13:19
Author: TAW

I was the night operator (bulletined 7p - 3a Mon-Fri and a call on Saturday to get the Tacoma train out of town after the Sumas locl arrived) for MILW in Bellingham WA for a couple of years 1974-75. I have written quite a bit about that experience in the past. It was...mmm...uh..interesting.

One of the large industries MILW served was the Georgia Pacific toilet paper plant (which is how this comes to mind at the moment).

GP put out (if I remember correctly) 18 60 foot box cars of TISSUE NOS (tissue not otherwise specified) because someone apparently thought inscribing toilet paper, rolls on the Bill of Lading was offensive or something. That was MILW's part of the business.

BN brought wood chips and chlorine (for bleaching the paper white) and took away lignin liquor (tree squeezin's) byproduct.

GP also used logs. Most came by ship, but some arrived on the MILW. How many logs and how many by rail was part of the usual industrial costing and purchasing process.

It was probably some time early in 1975 that GP planned to make a big purchase of logs, to arrive by rail on MILW. The guy in charge of ordering the logs, let's say A, was to go on vacation and be away at the time the logs were to be ordered.He would be relieved by another guy, let's call him B, for the duration. Their boss was a guy we'll call C.

Well, to be sure that there was no screwup, A made the log order before going on vacation. B got into the chair and noticed that the log order was due to be made...so.... Meanwhile, C decided that neither of these two guys is bright enough to remember to order the logs. To ensure there was no screwup he....(you guessed it).

The logs of each order were expected to arrive a few cars at a time. They would be spotted on a track adjacent to Bellingham Bay, dumped, and rafted for storage.

Well, the logs of each of the three orders did arrive a few cars at a time. In the aggregate, they arrived a lot of cars at a time. Pretty soon, the yard was full of logs almost to the point of being unable to work other traffic. We started stashing cars on inactive industry tracks and taking some out to tracks between Bellingham and Sumas. Still they kept coming.

GP wasn't aware of the magnitude of the situation. They would order in a few cars a day. There was what appeared to be a deal between the agent and local industries (and later, I found the same thing going on at BN). The industries would sit on cars or hold cars out and not be charged demurrage (payment to the railroad for holding cars for more than the allowed time for loading or unloading). Part of my job was demurrage billing, listing up the billing for the agent to make out bills . Demurrage was based on the agent's 7am yard check, which was done at any station that had cars on hand. The check showed the exact location and status (spotted, off spot RRC-RailRoad Convenience, off spot not ordered, hold RRC, etc.) of every car. The demurrage records had not been done for six months when I bid in the job. I was expected to use the records to calculate the amount of time cars were held in a status, etc. I started working the problem from both ends, getting the present current and keeping it that way, then work on the backlog when I could. Then, I noticed something. The 7am yard check that the agent did (at 8am when he came to work because I was supposed to be gone by 3am, although that virtually never happened) didn't match what I remembered from when I went home after making up the Tacoma train and seeing it out of town. Then I noticed that it wasn't just my memory the yard check didn't match. It didn't match the switch lists the day clerk made at 7am for the day switch job. The books were being cooked so the customers weren't being charged. Customers were supposed to be officially notified by a Constructive Placement notice that cars had arrived for them. That started the official demurrage charges clock. There were no CP notices and no official notice of the arrival of the logs. That way, the demurrage clock never started.

I didn't say anything because I didn't have enough to go on. It could just be ineptitude (of an incredible magnitude, but yeah, maybe). I did have a problem with catching up. I had six months of 7am yard checks to compare with switch lists. If I was going to put out a list for billing, it was going to be right. The trainmaster was complaining that I was lazy. I was putting in at least five illegal hours every night and fixing it with timeslips for two hour calls (if an operator was off duty and called to come to work, the minimum pay was two  hours). I would show off duty, then after a two hour break show on duty for a few minutes (for two hours of pay), then off duty for a couple of hours and on duty for a few minutes, and so on. That way, the official record was legal for Hours Of Service, but I put in for pay for all time worked. I learned to do that on MILW, where it had become an art form. In self defense, I would occasionally show up  at work late. If the yard engine hadn't called me at home for a derailment, screwed up list or some such, everything must be ok enough for me to take a couple of extra hours off after a string of 14 or more hour days. Apparently the trainmaster knew about the demurrage scam because one night he confronted me on the street at 10pm, three hours after I was supposed to be on duty. After listening to a tirade about how he should fire me on the spot but there had to be an investigation first, I calmly pointed out that I had a copy of the bogus timeslips, a record of my real time, and copies of corrected 7am yard checks. He quickly and quietly left.

All of this led to GP not knowing that we were sitting on three years worth of logs and unloading them at a rate much slower than the rate of arrival. Uh oh! GP had to figure out what to do. Apparently, they had no luck sending logs elsewhere, so they had to step up the pace unloading them. That part was good, but now, there were two or three extra tracks to go on the usually two or three track train for Tacoma every night.

I sent a wire to the Chief, warning of excessively large trains out of Bellingham for a few days (met the next day with You sent a wire to the Chief! Who said you could do that?). The Chief called the trainmaster, who knew nothing of the situation. He showed up at Bellingham to see to it that I didn't screw up getting the train out of town. That was mostly because there hadn't been a derailment, for which I would have been the lone ranger, and it looked like the Sumas local would make it home safely and the Tacoma train could be out by 11pm or so. Were it one of those nights where I came to work at 530p, right after the agent went home because something was screwed up, and was still there at 9am, an hour after the agent came to work, because getting the train out of town was my work, even if it meant a 16 hour day, the trainmaster would have been nowhere to be seen, but he might call on the phone to bark about my stupidity.

I didn't have time to heat a list (switch the cars on paper in the office and make up a train list instead of walking the train), so I had to walk three tracks of empty log cars and two tracks of commercial traffic. I got to the yard and found the trainmaster already there. He started barking that my screwing around was delaying everything. Get to work and list up this train. I walked right past him and went to work listing up the train. I got up on the middle track of log flats and walked on the cars, listing up the track to my left, to my right, and the track I was on (there are car numbers on the end of every car). I got off at the far end and walked back between the two tracks of commercial traffic, listing up the track on my left and right simultaneously. On one trip down and back, I had listed up five tracks. Back at the parking lot, I got in my truck to go back to the station. The trainmaster was screaming that I had work to do, get back there and list up those tracks. I showed him five lists and as he was screaming that's impossible, I drove off back to the station to get the bills and lists for the train, call the crew, get the orders from the BN operator, get the train out of town, OS to the BN and MILW dispatchers, and go home in only 8 hours for a change.

Another day done at Cheap, Mean, Slow To Pay, and Perilous.


Date: 03/27/20 14:46
Re: Logs
Author: Highspeed

So, how did GP handle three years' worth of logs? Did the logs sit in the river for all that time? Did GP pay demurrage for the years those loaded flats sat in the yards?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Date: 03/27/20 16:46
Re: Logs
Author: TAW

Highspeed Wrote:
> So, how did GP handle three years' worth of logs?
> Did the logs sit in the river for all that time?
> Did GP pay demurrage for the years those loaded
> flats sat in the yards?
> Inquiring minds want to know!

GP getting rid of the logs - don't know. All the cars left empty. There's a good chance that the excess left by ship. There were occasionally ocean freighters calling at the GP dock.

Demurrage - doubtful. When I left, the demurrage records were up to date kind of, for the current time but there was still the big gap from before I bid in. However, it seems that my version of the way the yard and industries were when I left still didn't match the agent's 7am version (and when I went home, there was no engine. Go figure).


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