Home Open Account Help 259 users online

Railroaders' Nostalgia > You didn't notice?


Date: 03/28/20 18:57
You didn't notice?
Author: TAW

Yeah, it can be long and boring out there. Hard to stay awake? It sure can be. I have had to fight off sleep working the operator and dispatcher extra board, standing by for a call three times a day and being rested for all of them (yeah, T&E, I've been through it). In the Bakersfield dispatchers office, one of us would run out for a "liquor store turn" to the store on the corner across the street for a supply of the sugariest, highest caffine pop available and lots of high sugar candy. Of course, virtually every dispatchers office had the bottomless coffee pot. In the towers, like in T&E service, we had to bring to work whatever we were going to have. In my times on the road, I didn't usually have a problem staying awake, largely because I knew well in advance when I was going. But I sympathize because of fighting sleep on trips that covered multiple districts. I rode Fresno to Fresno in one trip, via Los Banos and Modesto (two crew districts) and Whitefish to Seattle (three crew districts), and Vancouver to Klamath Falls (three crew districts) all because I wanted to see my railroad and that's all the time the company would let me take to do it. By the end of those trips, I was as out of it as you guys can get.

On the Fresno to Fresno trip, I went from fighting sleep to being wide awake when around Ceres (if I remember correctly - near Modesto somewhere), we didn't get a knuckle or a lung, we tore out the end of a raggedy old covered hopper. I bailed off with the head man to walk the train when the air went. A couple of cars back, we found the culprit, a car without ladders, cut lever, drawbar, draft gear, or end sill. All that junk was piled behind what was at the moment our rear car. It was a cold night and there was no problem staying awake after clearing the iron from the track, chaining up the car with the wrong end out of it, finding a place to leave it, putting it back together, and leaving town.

On the Whitefish to Seattle trip, it was starting to be a long day by the time we got out of the Cascade Tunnel. 40 minutes later, just by Baring, we got what you might call a wake up call. A cab heater (hose, pipe, core, don't remember exactly) broke and the cab was sprayed with water. Then it was cold. The engineer decided to keep going on to Seattle instead of stopping to make a turn on the power. We only had a couple of hours to go. There wasn't another one facing west anyway. He, the head man, and I took turns going to the second unit to get warm, as we were soaked like everything else in the cab. So much for fighting off sleep.

So, it happens. I sure understand it. However, folks being out of it in unison has brought about some interesting situations.

I was MILW 3rd trick operator at Kent (WA). I was holding a flat meet at Auburn for a west MILW and UP east man. The MILW was shining but not blowing the crossings. The orders were hanging. The head end went roaring by with no sign of life. I pulled a fusee out of my pocket, made a big washout, threw the fusee on the platform, lit another and threw it as high as I could throw it, hoping somebody would look back. As I was doing that, I was running into the office to call the MILW train on the radio. No answer. I could see the rear end showing. I went out on the platform and could see no sign of life as the caboose got close. I lit another fusee (there are already two burning on the platform) and threw it at the rear end of the caboose, landing it on the rear platform. I ran back inside to try the radio again. No luck. The third tricker at Tacoma Jct. was an extra dispatcher. He figured out from my first attempt to get the MILW on the radio what was probably up. The UP was going by him. He told them to head in at Sumner just in case. The MILW crew woke up just by Auburn and asked of someone was calling them. That was what was getting to be just another MILW kind of day.

Long before, when I was working B&OCT 75th Street, I had a southbound NKP job going by, going to Calumet via Pullman Jct. The 79th Street switchtender told me the conductor thew off a note saying that the north end of the 75th plant was really rough. I went out to look. There were springs, brake shoes, and marks on the ties between the third main switch on the outbound main and the north (trailing point) crossover. They derailed then rerailed on the crossover (good thing it was trailing). I told the Rock Island train director at Gresham (by now, it was on his railroad) who stopped the train at Pullman Jct. It turns out that the derailed car was the caboose. Yeah, I bet that rough track was a rude awakening.

I was at North Harvey tower (really a boxcar "temporary" tower put there in the 30s to replace the tower that burned down) on the way home, talking with the operator. There was an east Harbor heading into the north lead (of Blue Island Yard). They were moving at just over walking speed and the clunking of the wheels on the diamond just outside was kind of droning on and on. There was a really loud bang and the tower shook. The S&F mechanical machine appeared to jumped off the floor (but it was securely bolted to a large beam under the floor). The droning of the diamond stopped. Whatever it was, it was the rear end. I went outside to look. The Harbor's caboose was stopped just east of the diamond. West of the diamond, the destruction looked like it had been done by retreating German soldiers in advance of the Allies overtaking them. There were bent and broken pipelines, broken ties, and bent rails. Looking back east, the caboose appeared to be still on the railroad (or on the railroad again), but there were three auto racks right ahead of the caboose, leaning at more than 45 degrees.There was no sign of life on the caboose.

I knew better than to get on a caboose in the middle of the night in the Chicago area https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,2183865,2183865#msg-2183865. The solution was to stand next to the rear of the caboose and pound on the wall, yelling HELLO HARBOR. After several minutes of that, the rear door opened. One guy came out to demand to know what I wanted. I told them they were on the ground. He responded "Bullshht." I told him repeatedly it was the real thing, just lean out and take a look. He did, saw the leaning racks and yelled to his colleague inside "Hey, Charlie, come out here and take a look." As they both gazed at the sight from the caboose, the racks fell over on their sides. As I walked back to the tower, I could hear the first guy exclaiming How about that. We should go take a look.

A few years later, I was working the third trick SP Bakersfield Lathrop dispatcher job. I was meeting a west man and an east at Lodi. Even given his five car train (to fill at Stockton), the west man outran what I figured and wound up stopped on on the main before the other (big) train got there. As the meet was going on, the Stockton operator told me about a conversation that went like this:
(East man) You guys notice anything?
(West man) What?
(East man) Your train's on fire.

(West man) Our train's on fire?
(East man) Yeah, you oughta take a look.

Yup, in the middle of a five car train was a fully involved flat car of lumber.

By that time, the fire department had figured it out too and were on hand to put an end to the debacle.

TAW



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/30/20 02:09 by TAW.



Date: 03/28/20 19:50
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: Railbaron

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> ... I have had to fight off sleep working the operator and dispatcher
> extra board, standing by for a call three times a day and being rested
> for all of them (yeah, T&E, I've been through it). ...

I'm sorry, but with all due respect you have not been through it. You say you had to stand by for a call "three times a day and being rested for all of them...".  I've got a news flash - you have not been through it only having to protect three calling times a day.  You are trivializing what the T&E people do on extra boards all the time except they are on call 24 hours a day and have to be rested for all 24 hours - there are no calling times or shifts like you "went through".  On top of that their calls are often based on horrible line-ups put out by dispatchers who will not update things as things change so crews can be ready.  Or worse, a dispatcher who calls a train that should not even be called but it still burns a crew unexpectedly.

I'm sorry but I just couldn't let your comment about "going through it" pass without a comment.

 



Date: 03/28/20 20:20
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: goneon66

i've been on BOTH a conductor and dispatcher's extra-boards.  

on the dispatcher's extra-board i was expected to be "on-call" for all 3 shifts AND any UNFORESEEN vacancies that occurred during those 3 shifts due to sickness, family emergencies, or rules violations.  when not covering a scheduled vacancy, we were usually "on-call" 24 to 48 hrs.  we were expected to be rested during ALL of the hours we were "on-call" just like ty&e crews.

i didn't have to  deal with line-ups but i called a few trains that were delayed for reasons i could not control.  believe me, most dispatcher's don't want short time crews on their railroad............

66



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/28/20 20:22 by goneon66.



Date: 03/28/20 20:44
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: trainjunkie

Railbaron Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I'm sorry, but with all due respect you
> have not been through it.

Well, Thomas definitely got a taste of it. Maybe not the full experience, but enough to know how hard it gets for TY&E. More than most mere mortals know, for sure. LOL

Nonetheless, this all goes to show that we are sometimes our own worst enemies.



Date: 03/28/20 21:16
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: norm1153

TAW, thank you for the very, very informative and well written post. 
In every trade, there's always someone who will say "you think YOU got it hard?  You ain't seen nothin' yet!"  And then someone else will attempt to top that one.
 



Date: 03/29/20 11:25
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: TAW

Railbaron Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> TAW Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > ... I have had to fight off sleep working the
> operator and dispatcher
> > extra board, standing by for a call three times
> a day and being rested
> > for all of them (yeah, T&E, I've been through
> it). ...
>
> I'm sorry, but with all due respect you
> have not been through it. You say you had to
> stand by for a call "three times a day and being
> rested for all of them...".  I've got a news
> flash - you have not been through it only having
> to protect three calling times a day.  You are
> trivializing what the T&E people do on extra
> boards all the time except they are on call 24
> hours a day and have to be rested for all 24 hours
> - there are no calling times or shifts like you
> "went through".  On top of that their calls are
> often based on horrible line-ups put out by
> dispatchers who will not update things as things
> change so crews can be ready.  Or worse, a
> dispatcher who calls a train that should not even
> be called but it still burns a crew unexpectedly.
>
> I'm sorry but I just couldn't let your comment
> about "going through it" pass without a comment.
>

That's fine. However, when it comes to trivializing...

I agree that a few years of operator and dispatcher extra board is not the same as a career in T&E, but the effect is similar. Three shifts a day is not as easy as it sounds if you're not doing it. As goneon66 stated, the three times a day includes during the shift in case someone doesn't show up, goes home sick, or is thrown out of service. My first call for train dispatcher work on BN came 30 minutes into 3rd trick. That happened a few times on the B&OCT towermen extra board, the SP dispatcher extra board, and the BN operators extra board.  It's the same kind of thing that happens to T&E. We never had to deal with lineups because there is no projected need. Projected needs are vacation and requests for days off. In that case, first out is assigned the job in advance, making that person effectively an assigned employee, not extra, for the duration. No lineup and crap lineup are roughly the same thing. Making that comparison and maybe giving a glimpse into our reality is not trivializing yours. I'm taking a wild guess that my experience on your end of the phone/radio exceeds your experience on my end.

You might review what I've written on trainorders about lineups and rest. I have been crusading on the subject for 40 years. BN management threatened to investigate me (which means convict, just to be clear to folks on the outside) over spending too much time developing lineups. When the Tacoma office merged into Seattle, the lineup standard was only trains that are already on duty on the division. Lineups projected six hours. That's it. I continued to put out a 24 hour lineup, spending a lot more time on it than my colleagues. They wrote me up. I bet the chief my job that I could get as close 24 hours away as they could 6 hours away (the chiefs, not the terminals or a bureau of some sort still ran all aspects of the railroad back then). I agreed that if my lineups were not as accurate 24 hours out as theirs 6 hours out, he could charge me with insubordination and I'd not fight it.

One example: https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?18,3894388,3894388#msg-3894388

Every time there is a wreck involving some apparent error on the part of the crew, I complain about the inevitable finding that they were rested because they were off duty so many hours. I would like to see copies of every lineup that was in effect between the time they were off duty and the time they were called included in the evidence. I haven't heard anyone else demanding that.

I have written about crappy lineups not only on trainorders, but also in some academic papers and presentations and in all three of my books. The content includes not only the importance, but how to develop accurate lineups.

There is plenty to criticize about dispatching. However, consider what the railroads are putting into it. What is called dispatcher training is the equivalent of hiring a Modoc "graduate" locomotive engineer and on the first day calling said person's first pay trip alone on a north man out of Klamath Falls to Eugene. You're going to say that there is no way that person is qualified to do that. It works the same way for dispatchers. They have to know how to put out accurate lineups before they can do it, even if they know why it's needed (which they typically don't).

Anyway, these incidents came to mind after something in a recent trainorders discussion triggered their recall. T&E working conditions are not trivial or inconsequential.

TAW



Date: 03/29/20 11:38
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: tehachcond

   In the first part of your story, you wouldn't by any chance be referring to the Metropole Liquor store across the street there in Bakersfield would you.  Hard to believe we used to stay in that flophouse Metropole Hotel  on the second story on our layovers in Bakersfield.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO.



Date: 03/29/20 11:53
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: TAW

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>    In the first part of your story, you wouldn't
> by any chance be referring to the Metropole Liquor
> store across the street there in Bakersfield would
> you.  Hard to believe we used to stay in that
> flophouse Metropole Hotel  on the second story on
> our layovers in Bakersfield.

That's the one.

TAW



Date: 03/29/20 12:14
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: goneon66

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>    In the first part of your story, you wouldn't
> by any chance be referring to the Metropole Liquor
> store across the street there in Bakersfield would
> you.  Hard to believe we used to stay in that
> flophouse Metropole Hotel  on the second story on
> our layovers in Bakersfield.
>
> Brian Black
> Castle Rock, CO.

a retired s.p. conductor just told while staying at the metropole he actually enjoyed the food at "frenchy's," especially the peach cobler.............

66



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/29/20 12:14 by goneon66.



Date: 03/29/20 12:50
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: TAW

goneon66 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> a retired s.p. conductor just told while staying
> at the metropole he actually enjoyed the food
> at "frenchy's," especially the peach
> cobler.............

Heard abut it but never ate there. I usually went to a place around 18th & Chester, closer to home (6th & Chester). I don't remember much else except that they had really good strawberry pie.

TAW



Date: 04/01/20 11:46
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: tehachcond

goneon66 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> tehachcond Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> >    In the first part of your story, you
> wouldn't
> > by any chance be referring to the Metropole
> Liquor
> > store across the street there in Bakersfield
> would
> > you.  Hard to believe we used to stay in that
> > flophouse Metropole Hotel  on the second story
> on
> > our layovers in Bakersfield.
> >
> > Brian Black
> > Castle Rock, CO.
>
> a retired s.p. conductor just told while staying
> at the metropole he actually enjoyed the food
> at "frenchy's," especially the peach
> cobler.............
>
> 66

Early one morning, I was called to go east out of Bakersfield and had a 300a meal at Frenchy's.  By the time I got to Sandcut, I was on my hands and knees and running at both ends.  Watching the ways some of those cooks/servers would prepare the meals would definitely put you off your feed.  You're right though, about the cobbler.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO



Date: 04/02/20 01:38
Re: You didn't notice?
Author: aronco

Brian, I hired on to SP on June 30, 1961 at Bakersfield.  I got a room at the Metropole for $2.50, then took a room there for a week at $9.00 per week.  Such luxury I was unaccustomed to!  It really didn't matter that there were no doors on the rooms, just a blanket nailed to the top of the door frame.  What was the name of the chinese restaurant around the corner on Baker Street - they had a nightly special there - all you could eat chow mein or chop suey for $1.35.  I lived on that slop for a couple weeks.

Norm

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar



[ Share Thread on Facebook ] [ Search ] [ Start a New Thread ] [ Back to Thread List ] [ <Newer ] [ Older> ] 
Page created in 0.1636 seconds