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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?


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Date: 12/13/20 17:19
Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: Zephyr

During the cold fall and winter months up here in the Sierra, I've been organizing some of my railroad career "tools of the trade" and ran across my old SPRR Rule Book and Efficiency Test manual.  How many of you former SP officers remember these little gems?  I opened the manual to what I thought were the easiest tests to make and to meet monthly quotas.  Yes, there were testing quotas on the SPRR when I was in management ranks from 1974-1985.  If an employee failed the tests I've highlighted in the manual, it was usually a verbal reprimand.  Other more severe failures could result in discipline like demerits or time off.  There were times where I thoroughly enjoyed testing because it gave me a chance to get out and kind of be with the crews.  There were other times, especially with the General Manager or VP of Operations where it wasn't so much fun.  This all got me to thinking whether efficiency testing was viewed as a necessary friendly activity or was it viewed as a negative activity by crew members and/or management.  I'll never forget the time when we were on an audit with Bill Lacy, VP of Operations at the time, and tested the Buena Park Hauler at Bartolo on the Puente Branch of the SPRR.  This is where SP trains came off the Puente Branch on the UPRR mainline between Los Angeles and City of Industy.  The poor conductor on the Hauler had no idea where he was, couldn't tell us how he made his air test prior to leaving Buena Park, didn't know how to flag a red CTC signal, didn't have a railroad approved watch and didn't have the current timetable or book of rules in his possession.  He knew one thing, however, that the crew was going to "die" on the Hours of Service because we were delaying their movement.  We all took the severe wrath of Lacy after that little episode!  I'm sure there are other folks that can share their stories about efficiency testing.

Pete 
Clio, California








Date: 12/13/20 18:20
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: WAF

Lacy sometimes didn't think it all the way through. Intent on busting someone but didn't think about how he would screw up the operations doing it



Date: 12/13/20 19:37
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: trainjunkie

Operations testing is mandated by the FRA now so it's just a necessary evil. I normally don't mind it, and I've never failed a test. But what I really despise are lazy officers/managers who don't even go in the field and, instead, do it via video cameras, which never tell the whole story. Nothing like getting the results of an ops test 4 days after the fact from some manager who just watched you on video and never even confronted you or gave you a chance to tell your side. Another issue are managers who don't actually know the rules and even worse are managers who are intoxicated while performing tests. I won't name names or carriers, but this has happened to me more than once.

Good managers perform legitimate and fair FIELD tests and the best managers understand that our failures are their failures too and are really there to help make us better and safer at our jobs. But the bottom feeders, who have rightfully earned the term "Weed Weasels", are only there to puff up their egos and remind the rank-and-file employees that they are the boss and how important they are. Useless.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/13/20 19:37 by trainjunkie.



Date: 12/13/20 20:18
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: KskidinTx

Our railroad didn't have any instruction booklet concerning efficiency testing.  When we were out testing any rules violations could be used as a failure.  I've got a few items to mention.

I was out testing with one of my bosses and a fellow supervisor.  We had the track shunted and the signal was at stop position.  Here comes the train and it appeared it wasn't going to get stopped.  I was thinking and praying "Stop, you son-of-gun, Stop"  Those other guys were so excited that we were going to get a failure that they were talking about their legs were all wet.  I think you can understand what they were getting at.  Fortunately the train did get stopped short of the signal.  I didn't have any use for either of those guys after that.

In 1977 I was relieving a supervisor in La Junta, CO when the Assistant General Manager Bob Rose came to town on his business car.  The trainmaster took me down to meet him.  After a short visit I was getting off but asked Bob if he had any advice for a new supervisor.  He thought for a moment then said:  Mark, always make sure your gun is loaded before you pull the trigger.  I've never forgotten that advice.  For example, we had placed an unannouched yellow flag.  The first train slowed down in accordance with the rules.  An hour or so later another train went through at track speed.  The fellow I was testing with started to call the train when I interrupted him.  I said, I think we better go back to the location where we placed that temporary flag and see if it is still in position before contacting that crew.  Guess what?  The wind from that first train had blown over the temporary flag.  Thanks for your advice, Bob Rose.  Over the years I've seen many supervisors have to go back to crews who they have faulted after all the facts have become known.  It's best to get all the facts before faulting someone.

We were banner testing a loaded coal train (10 mph track but short sight distance).  The train stopped about 10 feet short of the banner.  I got up on the locomotive and asked the engineer if he had gone to emergency in making his stop.  He said, no he hadn't because they were not suppose to.  They were suppose to control their train so they wouldn't have to go to emergency.  I told him "well you should have",  He said "you would have gotten on me if I had of".  I said "yes, I would have gnawed on your rear end a little bit for going to emergency but you would have been removed from service for running over that banner.  I tried to educate him to always take the lessor of two evils.

We were to have a staff meeting with several supervisors from surrounding terminals.  They had gone out efficiency testing the evening before.  When I came to work there were 2 or 3 crews in the supervisor office area.  They had been faulted for several violations.  I can't remember all of them but speeding after passing an approach signal was one and not calling out on the radio their train speed when passing that same signal was another.  I said, well you don't have to call out your train's speed.  Guess my boss over heard me say that and later he called me in.  I told him they didn't have to.  What do you mean they don't have to?  The rules say they don't.  Where do you find that?  In the Special Instructions.  Show me.  I opened up the time table and pointed out "On Subdivisions so specified in the time table.........................Their subdivision doesn't specify that they have to.  (Later on it was changed that they have to but it wasn't then).  One of engineers also requested I get the event recorder data from his engine to check on his speed.  He in fact had not been speeding.  I asked him later if those test failures had ever been removed from his record and he didn't think they had.  However he was not given any discipline so it really doesn't matter.  If these strangers are going to go testing on MY territory, they need to know what they are doing.  Ha.

I hadn't hired out to be a Local Chairman but that's what my job developed into.  I was planning on working a couple of years longer but got tired of putting up with the stuff that I've mentioned in the 2nd and 5th paragraph above and was old enough.  Goodbye railroad.  By the way, when I retired I was the only supervisor in my terminal that had any actual train service experience.  Before you fault anyone you ought to walk a few steps in their shoes. 

I may be different than a lot of the people on TO but I do miss it, well some of it.  I've always enjoyed operating trains.




  



 



Date: 12/13/20 20:22
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: cewherry

Zephyr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
 "...This all got me to thinking
> whether efficiency testing was viewed as a
> necessary friendly activity or was it viewed as a
> negative activity by crew members and/or
> management."

I suppose my view on operations testing was unique in that I experienced it from
both sides, the tester and the "testee" on two of the railroads I spent the majority
of my career with; and I saw testing as a necessity that needed to be done.
I didn't take the testing personally; I simply resolved that if I complied, nothing 
bad would result and all involved would be satisfied. It was up to me.

Charlie










 



Date: 12/13/20 20:22
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: Trainhand

Well stated trainjunkie. I've been gone from CSX 7 yearsnow. Weeeeeee. I always thought Etests were a good and necessary part of the job. I never could come up with a way to use the tests as a teaching tool,as opposed to a punishment tool. Once in Waycross,a trainmaster and I were covering up a switch I ran thru. He was very busy, had a tour group visiting Rice Yard (Not higherr officials). He said the rr reaction to a run thru switch was excessive, if you didn't make it a habit.He looked at my test list and commented, you are good to be checked this many times without a failure, and who did you piss off.  The one test I hated was a stop and flag a crossing.The flagging was not that bad, stopping the train twice wasn't bad. But all of the radio announcements you had to make was stupid. these were all part of the procedures, so you had to do that too.

Sam



Date: 12/14/20 06:42
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: RRTom

As a young M/W manager at Amtrak, I was given a pad of "T.E.S.T.S." forms and told to submit x many per month.  I thought that was stupid as I was in the field watching the work all the time, and if I saw something wrong I did something about it right away.
So most of my tests were on whether a track foreman had a rulebook in their possession and I never submitted a test failure.



Date: 12/14/20 08:38
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: PHall

RRTom Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> As a young M/W manager at Amtrak, I was given a
> pad of "T.E.S.T.S." forms and told to submit x
> many per month.  I thought that was stupid as I
> was in the field watching the work all the time,
> and if I saw something wrong I did something about
> it right away.
> So most of my tests were on whether a track
> foreman had a rulebook in their possession and I
> never submitted a test failure.

Right, they said you had to do so many a month. Totally up to you if it was a pass or fail.



Date: 12/14/20 08:47
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: wp1801

Interesting!



Date: 12/14/20 10:53
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: Shafty

One night at Hobart Tower a ATSF trainmaster stopped by to say hello and see what all was going on.  As best I could determine, it was only a friendly visit. 

Later a signal failed to clear for Amtrak.  After I got Amtrak by, he said that for his quota he would take advantage of the situation and write it up as two separate tests.  One for me at Hobart Tower, the other for Amtrak, both of us abiding by the rules. 

Eugene Crowner 



Date: 12/14/20 14:33
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: Westbound

Operating crews aren’t the only railroaders who need efficiency testing. On the SP a M of W speed swing operator was hi-railing several miles on double track mainline and had a head-on collision with a train, for which he would have had no excuse. None was required since he died the following day. My investigation showed at least 8 safety rules he had violated. He had not been tested on rules familiar to operating employees.

I have never posted anything about this accident before and will add that he spoke only English and that he was quite distracted by something else on his mind that had nothing to do with his job.



Date: 12/14/20 14:41
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: 4451Puff

WAF Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Lacy sometimes didn't think it all the way
> through. Intent on busting someone but didn't
> think about how he would screw up the operations
> doing it

...You mean like this situation which never gets old from reading..:

Date: 09/02/04 08:11
Re: Lacy & Krebs A pair to draw to.
Author: spnudge I will try & send this again and hope it makes it. 

I was called one night out of SLO to LA and we were told "Lacy's Raiders" were out making a System Audit. I had just pulled up over the hump at Naples and was heading for the sump west of Elwood. I was going to West Santa Barb for the Med-Fly. I set the air to keep em in check at 60 when I came around the first curve and there was a "Tiny" yellow flag & 2 guns at the crossing. There was a white car parked out by the freeway. They were there to see that the flag was up and the guns went off. Also to walk up to the caboose when we stopped and give the rearend crew a once over. That put the 2 miles at about the East switch at Elwood. Sure enough, I can see 2 Carryalls and 3 cars sitting there with a red fusee burning. 

I pulled up and stopped a bit short so we (Fireman & Head Brakeman) would have time to get ready for the "20 Questions". I stood up & opened up the number board hatches so we would have plenty of light. I put my TT, rule book, watch & watch card and orders up on the control stand and they started to pour into the cab. Lacy, Krebs, District & LA RFE, and 3 Trainmasters. It was so tight, that 2 of the Trainmasters went back out side to lay in wait for the rear man to walk up. 

You see, Lacy would start questioning you and keep it up until you missed a question. The only way around this was to use the book. He would ask a question, and I would say just a minute while I look it up. That would piss him off no end but I just mentioned the other rule about commiting things to memory and and that "I don't want to get anything incorrect." Meanwhile, the other officers were grilling the Fireman and Brakeman. Krebs was just watching and not saying much. I kept asking questions and trying to make this last as long as possible. 

Finally, looking at my watch, I asked, "Mr. Krebs, do you have a car here?" Lacy and the rest of the officers looked at me like I had commited a sin talking to the boss without permission. (You could see the 5 vehicles in the headlight) Krebs said, yes he did and why did I want to know. I told him, "I wonder if you could drive my head man to the west switch at Goleta to flag the Med-Fly. We are 3 minutes on a first class trains time and he is out of West Santa Barb". 
Suddenly you could hear a pin drop. Then Lacy blew up. All the officers looked at each other and without another word headed for the door. Lacy and Krebs were 2 mad officers and if looks could kill, I was long dead. The RFE grabbed my headman and everybody was gone in a cloud of dust. I kicked off the air and called the Conductor and told him that I was going to pull and let me know when the rear man is on. I then said, " Lacy & his Raiders are going to take our head man to Goleta to flag for the Med-Fly." for all to hear. About 10 minutes later the signal at Coromar went yellow and the headman called on his pakset and said we were all lined in. When I got there, the Med-Fly was waiting on the main and no white cars were anywhere in site. 

I was told later by the RFE that Lacy & Krebs both unloaded on the officers for not catching the oversight.  

Nudge
 



Date: 12/14/20 17:42
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: Zephyr

That is one great story about "Lacy's Raiders" that somehow I missed.  Nudge was absolutely correct, Lacy would ask question after question until you missed one, then he would spend 5-10 minutes telling you the way it should be.  We quickly learned to miss the first question to get the brow beating over with early in the night.



Date: 12/14/20 17:50
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: 3rdswitch

IF for no other reason, it is good to know the rules just to mess with those testing because OFTEN, YOU know more about the rules then the testors do. One time, on the Santa Fe's old second main along the LA River (I forgot it's name!?) we came upon a burning fusee. Now you could either walk up, put it out, then continue at restricted speed, OR, you could sit and wait for it to burn out, before continuing at restricted speed. Since it was summer, and HOT, and, the testors were all wearing black suits, we chose to let them roast in the sun while it burned out before whistling off.
JB



Date: 12/15/20 00:53
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: aronco

About 1974, I was the night trainmaster at Pico Rivera, California, just East of Los Angeles.  Every few months, we would be reminded of the necessity of conducting a certain number of tests each month, and reporting them.  Well, here comes the letter telling us to be sure to make enough tests, so, I decide to do a few on a quiet night.  I went East of Pico Rivera to DT Junction, about 3 miles, where the SP's Buena Park line crossed the Santa Fe's double track main line.  I positioned myself about 750 feet East of the signals for the crossing and asked the dispatcher to hold the signal on the Westbound "nite coast" ( LA to San Diego freight every night).  A few minutes later, I heard the dispatcher tell the crew he was having signal trouble at DT Junction, and that they could "flag" the signal after inspecting the switches.  I was in an auto parked beneath a tree where I could see the whole show.  The train approached at about 10 to 15 MPH, but never stopped, just slowed down and kept going.  When I met the crew in LA at the off duty point, the conductor told me " If we stopped for all this little delays like that, we would never get over the road!".
I believe the entire crew got about 6 months off for that one.  About a week later, I got to work all night and then attend the hearing the next day.

Norm 

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar



Date: 12/15/20 11:14
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: tomstp

I really enjoyed these posts.



Date: 12/15/20 13:28
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: Railbaron

Never minded these tests as long as they were done fairly and honestly, which wasn't always the case. 

Loved the comment about missing an early question with Lacy as they'd chew you butt and move on but if you got them right, they'd keep asking until you did get one wrong.



Date: 12/15/20 14:27
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: PHall

Railbaron Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Never minded these tests as long as they were done
> fairly and honestly, which wasn't always the
> case. 
>
> Loved the comment about missing an early question
> with Lacy as they'd chew you butt and move on but
> if you got them right, they'd keep asking until
> you did get one wrong.

Yep, question until failure... the lazy way to determine what somebody knows.



Date: 12/15/20 16:34
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: RGTower

I always welcomed the challenge of a good E test. I’m always prepared to stop in half the range of vision.

And most of the managers don’t have a clue what they are looking at when they check your books or train documents. Especially if you run over multiple divisions or connecting railroads.

I used to use an E test to size up how ignorant the new trainmaster was of the rules or timetable.



Date: 12/15/20 18:01
Re: Efficiency Testing/Friend or Foe?
Author: mdo

Lots of mad dog chronicles about testing:  #s 11, 24, 31, 51, ,293

mdo



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