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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Frogs and Butterflies.


Date: 06/21/20 12:22
Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: eminence_grise

An explanation of the title, the small "Halco" brand rerailer carried on locomotives and cabooses was called a "frog" by the car department. The much larger rerailer was called a butterfly because it resembled a large iron butterfly.

One night in the 1980's, a freight train loaded with semi-finished lumber on bulkhead flat cars derailed thirty miles east of the terminal where I worked. Fifteen cars on the head end behind the locomotives had jumped the track on a curve. The cars were mostly upright, and the trucks were closely aligned to the rails.

Here's what I guess happened. The engineer got too ambitious throttling up from a meet on a hill, and "stringlined" the first few cars. He contacted the RTC, and said "we have a couple of cars on the ground. Nothing serious, just send a couple of carmen". The back story here was there was an ambitious assistant superintendent in charge of the terminal, and he was bound to make a huge case out of a minor derailment.

So it was that the car department showed up with their big truck, and with the help of the units from the train were making good progress rerailing the cars. 

After awhile, the train crew ran out of time and a relief crew was called. I was the brakeman on that crew. We carried on rerailing cars with the help of the frog and butterfly. Two cars were leaning at about a twenty degree angle. The car foremen was leaving them until last. They had heavy duty jacks to right the cars before rerailing them.

Gradually, the sky got lighter and back in town, the ambitious officer came to work. He noted the delay to the lumber train and that a relief crew had been called. The relief crew had simply been called to change crews, no mention had been made of a derailment. Quick quizzes of the traffic controllers and the car department bought out the truth.

Then, the supervisor got in his company car and raced to the derailment site. He had called the "hook" to pick up the derailed cars. He showed up at the derailment site, gave everybody a reaming out for trying to keep the whole issue secret, and pending the arrival of the auxiliary crane (derrick), took over control of the rerailing operation. By this time, only the leaning bulkhead flats loaded with lumber needed to be rerailed.  This guy had an MBA, giving him a knowledge of everything. The car foreman knew better than to question his wisdom, but he did feel responsible to his crew and others . "Stand way back and clear of Mr........ as he does his work".

Like Jamie Davis on "Highway through Hell", this was far from the car foreman's first wreck cleanup. He was well aware of the danger a leaning railcar can pose. The officer instructed the foreman to uncouple one leaning car from another. We were standing near enough that we could hear the conversation. "I strongly suggest we don't do that" said the car foreman. "Just do as I tell you" said the officer. A carman beside me said, "Lets get out of here" and we moved further away quickly. The foreman uncoupled the car, which instantly rolled over, dumping the load down an embankment and into a river. No one was hurt. The officer was dumbfounded. In time, the big hook arrived and righted the car. The load was written off.

The supervisor continued with his career, unblemished. However, his anger took its toll. Later in his life, still at odds with the world, he died of a stress related heart attack.

The car foreman had a much better life, living well into retirement, respected by his co-workers and others.
 



Date: 06/21/20 12:29
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: Drknow

The terminal superintendent must have had a few hundred sons and daughters as it seems like I have met a few of them in my career 🤔

Posted from iPhone



Date: 06/21/20 12:31
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: Trainhand

Usually the wrecker foreman quit at least once per derailment. He was usually fired and rehired once also by the suit types that knew everything.



Date: 06/21/20 13:15
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: TAW

eminence_grise Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>. The officer instructed the
> foreman to uncouple one leaning car from another.
> We were standing near enough that we could hear
> the conversation. "I strongly suggest we don't do
> that" said the car foreman. "Just do as I tell
> you" said the officer. A carman beside me said,
> "Lets get out of here" and we moved further away
> quickly. The foreman uncoupled the car, which
> instantly rolled over, dumping the load down an
> embankment and into a river. No one was hurt.

I came to work for 2d trick B&OCT 75th Street tower in January 1968 to find B&O No 7 piled up in front of the tower. The head E unit went airborne at the BRC diamonds and augered in north of the tower. The middle E unit, a B unit, was more or less upright just south of the lead unit. The third unit was kind of crossways just south of the tower with the head car on top of it.

B&OCT didn't own a hook and B&O didn't have one in Chicago. B&OCT leased the CGW hook to clear up the wreck. It was standing by on the south end of the Third Main, ready for action.

A smart (any doubt, just ask him), young recently-minted and racing up the corporate ladder Trainmaster arrived. He announced that nobody was rerailing the old fashioned way. Send that big crane back where it came from. He was going to prove that we didn't need it. Shortly after his proclamation, which made no friends among the Car Foreman and Road Foreman who were on hand, a truck mounted 50 ton crane drove up. The Trainmaster told the crane people where to set up and what to work on. The Road Foreman and Car Foreman told him that wasn't going to work. He basically told them that they were old school, just shut up and get out of the way. He proceeded to have them hook up the whole locomotive, both ends, the whole 140ish tons of it to the 50 ton crane. It was ready and he told them to make the lift. The road foreman and I were standing near the unit and had the same reaction you describe. The crane engine was wide open and the unit started to move a little. Then there was a loud long screeching sound of tearing metal and the cable went slack. When it did, the heretofore almost undamaged B unit rolled over on its side, taking out the signal pole line. the crane hoist was destroyed (fortunately it gave before the cable broke). Were the road foreman extremely upset, he would have been calmer than he was. I never saw that Trainmaster again. B&O probably sent him to some outpost in West Virginia, since the generally didn't fire management officials. The hook cleaned up the rest of the wreck.

TAW



Date: 06/21/20 15:38
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: PHall

And the sad thing is that this stuff just doesn't happen in the railroad industry.
Saw it happen way more then a few times at AT&T and in the military too.(i.e. 2nd Lt saying "In my experience...")



Date: 06/21/20 18:50
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: Drknow

The Newly Minted ladder climber TAW described must of been hired by UPRR INC to run their Choo Choo U. Been quite the hum dingers thrown at us by Omaha the last 20 odd years...🤯

Posted from iPhone



Date: 06/22/20 11:45
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: tehachcond

   On the Southern Pacific Los Angeles Division, back in the 1960's, there was a car forman namrd Baggs, who also was the "Big Hook" boss on derailments.  No one seemed to know his first name, it was always, Mr. Baggs.  The crane operator was a guy named Manza Sims, and it was something to watch those two work.  They just seemed to be on each others brain wave length.  Mr. Baggs was a genius at figuring lift points, blocking points, and the quickest way to clean up a mess.  If some "Lt. Fuzz" type Assisstant TM tried to intervene and tell Mr. Baggs how it was to be done, Mr. Baggs would warn him once; "Leave me and my crew alone!"  If "Lt. Fuzz" persisted, Mr. Baggs would gather up his crew and leave the scene.
   You did NOT mess with Mr. Baggs and his crew!.  Charlie Wherry, you remember these guys?

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO.



Date: 06/22/20 12:31
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: TAW

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Mr. Baggs would warn him once; "Leave
> me and my crew alone!"  If "Lt. Fuzz" persisted,
> Mr. Baggs would gather up his crew and leave the
> scene.
>    You did NOT mess with Mr. Baggs and his
> crew!. 

I was like that when I was dispatchin' and when I was chiefin'. If some manager persisted in telling me how it was to be done, I would warn them that there was only one person going to run the railroad I'm responsible for. If you're going to run it, you're responsible; I'm gone. I walked out more than once when I wasn't taken serously, invariably to be chased down and be begged to return.

In Havre, working a mankiller job that three guys got canned off of in the year I worked it, I had a couple of management in the office directing me. I had enough, jumped up out of the chair, hooking it with my heel and turning it over, yelling I DON"T NEED THIS SHHT! and throwing a pencil across the room. The pencil stuck into the accoustic tile on the wall; I walked out. I came back about 10 minutes later. The room was empty, the chair was upright, trains were standing here and there and about, and the pencil was still sticking out of the wall. That never happened to me (in Havre) again.

TAW



Date: 06/22/20 14:38
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: cewherry

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>    On the Southern Pacific Los Angeles Division,
> back in the 1960's, there was a car forman namrd
> Baggs, who also was the "Big Hook" boss on
> derailments.  No one seemed to know his first
> name, it was always, Mr. Baggs.  The crane
> operator was a guy named Manza Sims, and it was
> something to watch those two work.  They just
> seemed to be on each others brain wave length. 
> Mr. Baggs was a genius at figuring lift points,
> blocking points, and the quickest way to clean up
> a mess.  If some "Lt. Fuzz" type Assisstant TM
> tried to intervene and tell Mr. Baggs how it was
> to be done, Mr. Baggs would warn him once; "Leave
> me and my crew alone!"  If "Lt. Fuzz" persisted,
> Mr. Baggs would gather up his crew and leave the
> scene.
>    You did NOT mess with Mr. Baggs and his
> crew!.  Charlie Wherry, you remember these guys?

I remember the name. Is this him re-railing the Railroading-101 way at El Casco? I don't see any 'advisers' in this scene.

Charlie



 




Date: 06/22/20 18:23
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: ExSPCondr

I am pretty sure that is Wes Baggs, or at least it sure looks like his physique from behind.

Nobody messed with him, because they couldn't do it any better!
G



Date: 06/22/20 21:02
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: TAW

ExSPCondr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Nobody messed with him, because they couldn't do
> it any better!


That doesn't stop lots of them I have encountered; inability to do it better (or at all) is just an inconsequential detail.

TAW



Date: 06/22/20 21:18
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: Trainhand

What you called butterflies, we called batwings. If you look on the Cumbres and Toltec's tender there is a replacer, some have batwings, and they all have a piece of rail with bolt holes in it , the web cut out, and the head beaten down to the base for I bet a pretty good re-railer.



Date: 06/23/20 08:18
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: Drknow

Remember it’s the “Idea Man” that gets noticed and promoted. As a hogger I work with says about the carrier we work for “Oh, they always have plans or ideas. There never based in reality or good ideas/plans; but they got em!!” 🤷‍♂️

Posted from iPhone



Date: 06/23/20 09:49
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: PHall

Drknow Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Remember it’s the “Idea Man” that gets
> noticed and promoted. As a hogger I work with says
> about the carrier we work for “Oh, they always
> have plans or ideas. There never based in reality
> or good ideas/plans; but they got em!!”
> 🤷‍♂️
>
> Posted from iPhone

AKA The "Good Idea Fairy".



Date: 06/23/20 13:39
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: tehachcond

cewherry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> tehachcond Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> >    On the Southern Pacific Los Angeles
> Division,
> > back in the 1960's, there was a car forman
> namrd
> > Baggs, who also was the "Big Hook" boss on
> > derailments.  No one seemed to know his first
> > name, it was always, Mr. Baggs.  The crane
> > operator was a guy named Manza Sims, and it was
> > something to watch those two work.  They just
> > seemed to be on each others brain wave
> length. 
> > Mr. Baggs was a genius at figuring lift points,
> > blocking points, and the quickest way to clean
> up
> > a mess.  If some "Lt. Fuzz" type Assisstant TM
> > tried to intervene and tell Mr. Baggs how it
> was
> > to be done, Mr. Baggs would warn him once;
> "Leave
> > me and my crew alone!"  If "Lt. Fuzz"
> persisted,
> > Mr. Baggs would gather up his crew and leave
> the
> > scene.
> >    You did NOT mess with Mr. Baggs and his
> > crew!.  Charlie Wherry, you remember these
> guys?
>
> I remember the name. Is this him re-railing the
> Railroading-101 way at El Casco? I don't see any
> 'advisers' in this scene.
>
> Charlie

   I think you're right Charlie, but that was a long time ago.

Brian
>
>
>
>  



Date: 06/24/20 10:09
Re: Frogs and Butterflies.
Author: eminence_grise

A little back story here. The officer involved grew up in the town where this took place. In those days, the employment options were limited. Go to work for the railway or at the sawmill. His father was a train conductor. I never met the man but was told he was a man at odds with the world, specifically the railway. There were others that didn't like the job, but put up with it so they could enjoy their time off. In the case of the officers dad, it was his coworkers  he couldn't stand. Not just a few, but everybody. The officer was raised listening to tirades about who did what, and how the railway was being mismanaged and how the workforce were a bunch of stupid lay abouts.

The officer decided to get an education. The railway encouraged him to do so, and although his dad was a malcontent, they bore no grudge against his son. Sadly, the father passed away before his son completed his education. The son remembered his fathers views about the railway, and when hired as an officer was determined to be a person who would bring about changes and efficiency to the workplace. His zeal and enthusiasm impressed his seniors. What they didn't know is that he inherited his dad's lack of respect for his co-workers.

It was and still is a big railway, and it is common for officials to be transferred from one area of operation to another. In time, he was transferred away from where he grew up, in the hope that his disdain for his co-workers would not extend to strangers in a different part of the railway.
We lost track of him, but noted that in the appointment bulletins which appeared from time to time in company newsletters that his promotions were lateral and others promoted after him moved further up the corporate ladder.

Finally, he suffered a fatal heart attack. I remember talking to a friend of his family after his funeral. In the end, he suffered the same fate as his father. The son attempted to right the wrongs his father had described however he inherited his dad's opinions about his fellow workers.

It was sad for two generations of a family to be so bitter that their health suffered.



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