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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Urban legends or no....you decide


Date: 11/07/20 12:52
Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: cewherry

With the recent passing of Vince "The Godfather" Cipolla, a man that seemed larger than life among the railfan community,
these two stories came back to me. 

Even though these supposedly happened in different locations that Vince worked during his career the details give rise to
the feeling held by some that working 'rails' of the past seem to have been more, shall I say daring or at least outlandish
in their behavior on and off the job. Such is the case in these two examples, both of which take place on
Southern Pacific's Los Angeles Division.

The first story involves a road freight crew that had delivered their iron ore train which they had just brought from Indio, overnight, on SP's
Beaumont Hill to Kaiser Steel Corporation's plant at Fontana, California, 50 miles east of Los Angeles, their home terminal. 

After parking their units as instructed, the crew assembled in the yard office while the conductor inquired of the clerk on duty about how
the dispatcher wanted them to proceed to L.A.. The clerk said he didn't know and that he needed to leave the office to check some 
car numbers. The conductor picked up the phone and called the dispatcher. The DS was apparently busy and told the conductor to 
call back in a few minutes. On his next call, the DS, evidently over stressed and with little time to discuss such trivial matters with
a mere conductor ended the conversation with "....I don't care how you get to L.A.!!" and abruptly hung up the phone.

The conductor sat there for several minutes thinking the DS would surely reconsider his words. He told the crew what the DS had said
and someone suggested since they were already on overtime and since it was a such nice morning; why don't we teach that guy a lesson
and walk to L.A.! 

And that's just what they did; at least part of the way until a few hours later when the DS, or his relief, got to wondering about that crew
and what had become of them. The rest of the story is mum about how they were intercepted somewhere west of Ontario, 7 miles up the 
line, still trudging along the right of way, taking smoke breaks and stopping to rest as needed.  

The second story involves one of SP's El Centro based 'Roustabout' jobs in the Imperial Valley of California. During harvest seasons, which
seemed to be most of the year, SP fielded a fleet of Roustabouts that, because of the labor agreements with the Brotherhoods paid 100 miles,
overtime after 8 hours. As might be expected of railroad men, if there was a way to make any "real money", i.e. overtime, an enterprising crew
would find a way to maximize their earnings even if they had to stay out all day (or night) to do so. Likewise, local managers, if they had any
burning desire for higher position would take it as a personal challenge to minimize the overtime. Nothing new about this.

One particular job drew the attention of the local trainmaster by their whopping paychecks and he decided to make it his first priority to
put a stop to, or at least minimize, the O.T.. He began 'bird-dogging' the crew and discovered they had recently taken to stopping at Holtville,
on the Sandia Branch, after completing their switching and before heading back to El Centro. This stop varied in length depending on the
hour of the day and how much overtime they had, or wanted to have. This went on for a few days before he decided to put a stop to it. 
On the night he decided to 'strike', he waited to see that the engineer had joined the crew in the caboose; better to get all the culprits.
The trainmaster crept silently up the steps, burst into the caboose where the card game was underway and triumphantly 
announced; "I got you all now and you're all fired!".

Without a word, the crew picked up their belongings and departed into the darkness leaving the trainmaster alone in the silence.

What the trainmaster failed to consider was that he had violated each of the crewmembers rights to a "fair and impartial" hearing under
their labor agreements before discharging them. He also failed to consider that one of the crew had an acquaintance that lived in Holtville
and was willing to drive the crew to El Centro to pick up their cars. The biggest surprise for the trainmaster came when he was unable
to contact the crew to have them return to work because, it just so happened, that each of the crew had 'friends' that lived just across
the border, in Mexico to which they hightailed it and remained as they say; incommunicado until the SP was able to 'ask' if each would
please return to the US, with all pay for all time lost. The story holds that the time was 'substantial'.

As I say, these stories may be just so much hot air or 'legends' I really don't know, but knowing some of the 'rails' that I worked with in
my career, I'm not quite able to dismiss them. For your consideration.

Charlie








 



Date: 11/07/20 13:55
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: tehachcond

   Hey Charlie, how about the conductor who went nuts at Guadeloupe in the Coast Line.  He thought his crew was out to get him, so he was waving a gun around as he locked himself in the caboose.  His crew didn't know what else to do, so they went cab hop into San Luis Obispo.  When they got there, he slipped away and hired a Yellow Cab to take him all the way to LA!  Cost him $200, which was real money in those days.
   I worked with him one time, and he told me that one day, the devil was going to come for him.  He would also sit at the conductor's desk and read a paperback book, except, he would never turn the page!
   Definitelya different stroke!

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO



Date: 11/07/20 15:15
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: WAF

Great sandhouse stories



Date: 11/09/20 03:27
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: SanJoaquinEngr

The real and famous ending to PJ Poulis s career. I think Ted White was the brakeman On that fateful trip.

Posted from Android



Date: 11/09/20 11:27
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: tehachcond

SanJoaquinEngr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The real and famous ending to PJ Poulis s career.
> I think Ted White was the brakeman On that fateful
> trip.
>
> Posted from Android


I think you're right on that Dag.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO



Date: 11/09/20 18:59
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: SanJoaquinEngr

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> SanJoaquinEngr Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > The real and famous ending to PJ Poulis s
> career.
> > I think Ted White was the brakeman On that
> fateful
> > trip.
> >
> > Posted from Android
>
>
> I think you're right on that Dag.
>
> Brian Black
> Castle Rock, CO

Ted White told me the story first hand..



Date: 11/09/20 20:26
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: TAW

cewherry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> On his next call, the
> DS, evidently over stressed and with little time
> to discuss such trivial matters with
> a mere conductor ended the conversation with
> "....I don't care how you get to L.A.!!" and
> abruptly hung up the phone.

That sounds awfully familiar. Did that happen prior to late 1972?

TAW



Date: 11/09/20 22:13
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: cewherry

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> cewherry Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > On his next call, the
> > DS, evidently over stressed and with little
> time
> > to discuss such trivial matters with
> > a mere conductor ended the conversation with
> > "....I don't care how you get to L.A.!!" and
> > abruptly hung up the phone.
>
> That sounds awfully familiar. Did that happen
> prior to late 1972?

I believe sometime in the 1960's. 

CEW



Date: 11/10/20 10:38
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: TAW

cewherry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> I believe sometime in the 1960's. 
>

Thanks. So, dim memory of hearing it in Bakersfield is probably accurate. My colleagues in Bakersfield were singularly unimpressed with much of that the LA office did and how they did it, referring to it as Nighswonger's Nursery.

TAW



Date: 11/10/20 17:46
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: SanJoaquinEngr

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> cewherry Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
>
> > I believe sometime in the 1960's. 
> >
>
> Thanks. So, dim memory of hearing it in
> Bakersfield is probably accurate. My colleagues in
> Bakersfield were singularly unimpressed with much
> of that the LA office did and how they did it,
> referring to it as Nighswonger's Nursery.
>
> TAW


Don't forget the next Chief after him was Bob Gregory. RMG. Better known as Rocks Marble and Granite. When Bob was ATM at Tweets his nickname was Chicken Little.. The sky is falling ! Another day on the SP!

Posted from Android



Date: 11/11/20 10:09
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: Zephyr

Hey!  I was part of "Nighswonger's Kindergarten".  I remember that nickname for the younger group of dispatchers that were filling the LA Division office.  Even Jack Breen (remember him?) in San Francisco's General Office used that nickname for us fledgling dispatchers.  Well, guess what?  We all matured and turned out to be quite a great group of train dispatchers under the watchful eyes of Bob Thruston and Arnold Bays.  Arnold was a legend in his own time.  I remember him coming into the "East-West" dispatcher's office (operating the CTC between Aurant and Colton and between Indio and Yuma) one morning wanting to know where the HOT BSM was on the territory.  Not wanting him to know that it was in the siding somewhere around Acolita, I pointed to a train around Mortmar and boldly proclaimed how well the train had done from Yuma so far!  No one could tell the difference in those days, unless they looked closely on the CTC machine graph.  Then there were always those spills of coffee on the graphs...!!!  I could tell a hundred stories about those who made up "Nighswonger's Kindergarten"!

Pete
Clio, California



Date: 11/11/20 10:22
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: TAW

Zephyr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>  Then
> there were always those spills of coffee on the
> graphs...!!!

Goes right along with the cigarette burns in the train order book.

> I could tell a hundred stories
> about those who made up "Nighswonger's
> Kindergarten"!

In the context of the Bakersfield office making that reference, Peter Josserand was considered an idiot by some of them.

TAW



Date: 11/11/20 21:18
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: ExSPCondr

How about Andy, Randy, Mary, Maria, and the "Night Stalker"?
G



Date: 11/12/20 10:30
Re: Urban legends or no....you decide
Author: Zephyr

Ha!  Those were all RM Gregory's students that I had to deal with.  We used to call them RMG's "Harem"!  Some of them turned out to be pretty good.  It was a good example of diversity in motion at the LA Division Dispatcher's Office.



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