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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Practical Jokes - 5

Date: 04/01/20 19:20
Practical Jokes - 5
Author: TAW

There was a B&OCT engineer, let’s say B, who was an old down-to-earth, country guy from Georgia. He was the engineer for my first road familiarization trip in an engine cab. My dispatcher mentor, Tony, told me that it was time to learn the road from an engine, what the crew does, and how to run an engine. He told me to show up at Barr yard in time for Run 55, the Indiana Harbor PM (C&O Grand Rapids) auto connection for the IC and C&EI. I was at the roundhouse at on duty time. I introduced myself. B was expecting me. Tony told me to stay behind the engineer and pay close attention to everything. I did.
We were cab hop from Barr to Indiana Harbor, heading to Pine then shoving to Indiana Harbor behind the PM train we were connecting with. As we flew past Clarke Jct, there was a red train order signal adjacent to the outbound main. B called Red order board. The head man called Red order board. I saw it. It was there, so I called it too, Red order board. Approaching Pine Jct, B asked me about the red order board. Was I concerned about blowing by it? I told him that since we don’t use train orders on B&OCT and Wabash uses them east of Clarke Jct, it had to be a Wabash train order signal. I passed the rookie test.
Years later, I had a student. I was helping him with the preparatory work of learning the railroad. One day, I took him on his first road trip on an engine. We took Run 33, the Stock Run from Barr Yard to the CJ Ashland Ave yard and back. B was the engineer. I knew him pretty well by then. I told the student the same thing that Tony told me years before. Stay behind the engineer and watch closely everything he does. We made an uneventful trip from Barr to Ashland Ave. On the way back, the junction at 40th Street of the CJ, CR&I, and B&OCT/PRR Joint Track had several switches wrong.
At one time in the distant past, there had been a switchtender here. When the switchtender came off, the switches were made what we called rubber switches. Officially, they are called run-through switches or variable switches. They are made to trail through without damage if the switch is not lined for that route. Of course, having a mechanism that allows trailing trough the switch without lining it by hand first requires maintenance, so typically nowadays, if there are any left, trailing through them without lining by hand first is prohibited.
As we came up to the switches at 15 mph, we could see that the facing point switches were lined for us. Only the trailing point switches were wrong. B called out Switch wrong! Knowing what was up, I called Switch Wrong and so did the head man. After we got by the switches, my student came over (I was in the fireman seat) and kind of hesitatingly asked Did we just run through a switch?
Actually, more than one.
Oh. Thought so…but we just kept going.
Sure; it’s just yard track and nobody was around to see us do it.
He went back to the engineer’s side.
In a couple of minutes, we were by 49th Street on the main headed to Barr Yard. I went over to the engineer’s side, next to my student, and explained rubber switches. I’m sure that B got a kick out of the lesson that was initiated by his practical joke.


Date: 04/02/20 11:23
Re: Practical Jokes - 5
Author: TheIndianaConnection

In the mid 1980's, my father had befriended an operator at CJ, i always thought the semaphore train order signal was neat, but when 
i read your story i thought, now i know the full story on that signal!  By the time i was hanging around there, if i recall correctly
it was stuck in the stop postion.  I do remember that it was controlled by a chain that came in through the west tower wall i

I always enjoy your B&OCT stories, thanks for posting them.

Date: 04/02/20 21:50
Re: Practical Jokes - 5
Author: cctgm

Tom the other issue with the variable switches was that in the winter with snow, it would get in the points and would cause a switch point to gap so the next crew would come along on a facing point move and the open point would put something on the ground.  I once tried to explain that to a crew in the southern states and they had no concept of ice and snow in a switch point.  ATSF at one time had any variable switch  stand you allowed to run thru painted  white and these were the only ones that could be run through.  They take much more maintenance and need top be greased on a regular basis. They also need to trailed thru all the way or you could go on the ground.

Y'" Stay safe out there

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