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Railroaders' Nostalgia > BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm

Date: 12/30/20 17:44
BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm
Author: spider1319

Almost a traveling circus and I do not mean this in a negative way,the P-811 traveled the BNSF system installing concrete ties and dumping lots of ballast.The train itself was a concrete tie installation machine  with cars loaded with concrete ties and was accompanied by a ballast train together with tampers,ballast regulators and an army of m/w trucks and buses.The P-811 entourage included four work trains.Two were advertised for 0600 on duty times and two for 1400 starts.The afternoon work trains relieved the 0600 trains.There were two types of trains,a ballast train which followed the P-811 tie installation train.The appeal for me was the regular hours and different work with different work(read m/w) employeees.The train crews were treated very well.A side benefit was an oppurtunity for railfan photography during idle time  and a cascade of goodies ie, caps,jackets,sweatshirts ,vests and more.Not to mention a  celebratory dinner  at the conclusion of the project.The jobs lasted about one to two months and I worked them for five straight years on the Cajon,Needles and Seligman Subdivisions.Regular hours and no on call ,plus no nights.Another bonus was six axle hood units with the side panel control stand for power.Pictured below is the tie train at East Victorville and two examples of the goodies handed out.Bill Webb   

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/30/20 17:45 by spider1319.

Date: 12/30/20 19:46
Re: BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm
Author: Drknow

You’d be lucky to get a Chinese key chain where I work, I’m not joking.

Posted from iPhone

Date: 12/30/20 20:50
Re: BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm
Author: Trainhand

I always found a work train to be a good job too. Regular daylight hours, the officials didn't bother you, and they paid good.  Whwn CSX laid concrete ties on the Nahunta sub there was the work train that unloaded rail/ This was prior to the P-811 arriving. There were 2 on duty at 0600, one of these pulled the macine out of the siding and got it hookrd up at the stopping point yesterday.The engineer had nothing to do until the crew got their mile of ties laid. Then he had to pt the machine back in a siding. Another followed the P-811 picking up the old rail. In my experience, a 3'rd train went on in Savannah at 0700, ran to Jesup with 50 cars of ballast turned the train, and unloaded the ballast, then returned to Savannah. The 4'th train was the catch all that went to work at 1000 as a dog catch if needed. Somedays itnever left the depot at Jesup. These were really good jobs.

Date: 12/30/20 21:44
Re: BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm
Author: spladiv

A good one was the work train I held as Conductor on the SP Oregon (old Portland) Division out of Oakridge, OR.  It was daylights, we almost always went up the hill into the Cascades instead of "east" in the direction of Eugene, the company left us alone and there was variety in what the work train did.  The brakemen even went fishing once.  We almost always tied up in Oakridge.  The routine was to put our train away, lock ourselves in with SP MW locks (yes, I know---get caught with even an "issued by the Roadmaster" key now and see what happens) and go off duty.  We didn't rawhide the MW guys and vice versa.  I still have my white SP hard hat, got to run a brush cutter and a number of other adventures.  Very nice.  Do that with UP officers around?  Not a chance.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/30/20 22:22 by spladiv.

Date: 12/31/20 05:12
Re: BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm
Author: engineerinvirginia

Work trains were really great before RSIA...since you only required 8 hours rest then....you could work your work train 16 hours...(12 working 4 getting to and from) and many years ago when I shouldn't have had enough seniority I held a ballast train for the whole week it was on....Reason being no one wanted to taxi to the outlying point, walk trackside in the dust of falling ballast....and taxi back....but for 16 hour days...I did! Best you might do now is 14 hours and management is browbeating everyone to make sure you don't even make that!

Date: 12/31/20 07:30
Re: BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm
Author: 3rdswitch

Very cool. I worked quite a few work extras as well some were better than others but at least on workt trains they almost always fed you. One of my favorite was a pair of GP 20's Pico Rivera to Martinez spur lite, pick up Jordan spreader, and back to Pico Rivera.Since it was out of our advertised work limits, two days pay. Another was engine flat car caboose, Hobart yard to Oceanside, workers slide a frog off side of car, wye at Escondido Junction, return to Hobart yard. Never got any goodies though?

Date: 12/31/20 11:49
Re: BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm
Author: tehachcond

   I always enjoyed working work trains on the old SP San Joaquin Division between Saugus and Mojave. Frank Armenderiz Sr. was the MOW boss on a lot of them, and I enjoyed working with him, and never hesitated to make a few extra moves for him and his crew.
   One time, I had some concrete work around my house, and I needed a big 16 pound sledge hammer.  I expressed admiration for one the crew was using, and I asked Frank how I could get one.  He told me that they were pretty scarce, and he couldn't informally "liberate" one for me.  I didn't think any more about it, but when I went to line the main line switch back at the end of the day, guess what was leaning against the switchstand?...A brand new 16 pound sledge hammer!
   Frankie Sr. retired, and a new guy came on the MOW scene. A gent by the name of L.J. Fletcher.  But thats another story.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO

Date: 01/03/21 13:42
Re: BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm
Author: GN599

Ah the good ole P-811. In the early 2000's it was a regular visitor to BNSF's Gateway Sub. Very neat operation. I never had enough seniority back then to get one of the work trains that covered this and the support trains. Now all that kind of work is done and we don't see many bulletined work trains on the Gateway these days.

Date: 01/04/21 14:10
Re: BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm
Author: RRTom

When Amtrak started their P-811 (first RR in the USA to use it), they had work trains for ties, ballast, rail, camp cars and undercutter spoils.
They ran an undercutte with the P-811 and where they couldn't cast the spoils to the side, the undercutter would transfer them to a train of side-dump cars with conveyor belts.
The P-811 at times ran two shifts with a third maintenance shift.

When I worked with Amtrak's P-811 in the early '90s, we were mainly changing bad concrete ties or exchanging wood ties for concrete, so no rail or spoils trains were needed.  We only ever had one work shift, and the tie trains that serviced the machine would usually run at night.
Ballast trains were usually daytime jobs.  All concrete ties came from Bear, DE, and the bad concrete ties were sent to Bear as well.  Sometimes multiple work trains over different crew districts were used to move ties between divisions.

Amtrak rented a P-811S one year which did not have the power car that Amtrak's machine had, and they found that a work engine was needed to pull the machine with enough force to resist the rising up of the ballast plow, which was a no-no in electrified (or soon to be electrified) territory.  That engine and crew was unexpected and cost a lot of money.  Amtrak subsequently put their own machine back in service.

The ATM we worked with for work trains on the Boston Division now has a high place in Amtrak operations dept and was even then recognized as a really good guy, very helpful.

Date: 01/04/21 15:50
Re: BNSF P-811 Work Trains:A Break from the Norm
Author: spider1319

Our ballast trains were Herzog.I remember a few  Herzog employees on the job site as well.Everyone got along well.We only worked one long shift usually twelve hours.The work trains  were hot and coming to work late was not a good idea.They were ready for us as soon as we reported for duty and wanted us out the door asap Sometimes we had a crew hauler other time with a manager and sometimes even with the m/w guys.Bill Webb

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