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Railroaders' Nostalgia > And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2

Date: 11/18/21 22:49
And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: cewherry


Since the conductor has opted to not accompany his crew by riding to the work area 
with the local trainmaster, he has precluded any opportunity of a meaningful
"job safety briefing" as that term is known today, some 40 years after the fact. No opportunity
for his crew to ask questions; no discussion of what we are expected to do and what the role
each crewman is. No overall strategy--with the exception of the already stated
goal of "...getting away with anything on the 'hill'...". Also not included was what we were to do
with the cars we were leaving Auburn with which comprised a few maintenance of way outfit cars.

As I pulled out of the yard and around the lead toward the Stampede Sub. main track I could see
my entire train. The head brakeman remarked that we were going to set these cars into some back
tracks at Kanaskat, off of the siding just prior to leaving the main track at Palmer Jct., about 20 miles
east of Auburn. I asked about what was the 'game plan' once we left Palmer. Were we going to head
toward Enumclaw, or pull-by the wye at Palmer and back-down? The brakie said the con had revealed
that he really didn't know if there was a place to run-around our caboose at Enumclaw so we were to
back-down. So helpful--the conductor doesn't know. This is getting ugly.

At length, we finally arrive at Enumclaw. By now the sun is high in the sky and it's a hot and getting hotter day.
I can see our brave conductor, with window rolled down, in deep conversation with the two brakemen who are
not invited into the trainmaster's car. Turns out there is a siding and first business is to set the caboose into it.
We then back further down the main to a coupling on a car, not visible to me, five units away. All I can see, looking
into my cab mirror are great mounds of greenery---blackberries, in full summer bloom. Now the real work begins.

What was going on this day was an effort to begin pulling empty grain service boxcars which had been stored on the 
main track of BN's 12th Subdivision, as it was known in the timetable, literally for years. As grain harvest season was
approaching, BN was preparing to supply these cars for their lines in eastern Washington. The cars, all or most of
which, were equipped with friction bearings, were being attended to by two carmen posted on both sides of the track
in the vicinity of the depot. As I would pull by their location at a slow walking speed the first carman would yank open the
journal box lid while his partner, equipped with a squirt gun of journal oil would apply a liberal shot of the goo and slam
the lid shut. At the same time, in the depot, a clerk was entering the numbers of each car as it passed into BN's car
inventory system since most of these car had been stored so long that their numbers were either lost or never had
been in the inventory.

Complicating all this were the blackberries. It was impossible to walk along side the cars so our intrepid brakemen
quickly overcame this by the simple expedient of pulling what was coupled to where they could open a knuckle, shove back
to make a 'radar' joint, then pull again to see what came along. Pull--stop--backup until we hit--pull ahead to see what came 
along--stop--repeat. This went on for at least a couple of hours. Finally---the head man climbs up into the cab, his arms bleeding
from the thorns. "Well", he says; "I guess we can head back to Kanaskat". I Have to ask: "Are we done?" "Yep, for the first half"!!
Don't even ask about an air test. The brakies busy themselves trying to attend to their wounds. Both are a bloody mess.
I crawl over the 10 miles, trying, in some small way to give them a break. At Kanaskat we pull into the siding.

Amazingly, in the time it has taken to run those 10 miles back to Kanaskat, the clerk has found destinations for each of our cars
and we spend the next hour or so switching out the red cars from the green ones, the tall ones from the short ones--or so it seems.
At last, we complete our switching and the brakies tie-down the train as I change ends in preparation to head back. Of course,
the conductor is nowhere to be seen--he's already back at Enumclaw--with the trainmaster.
I change-ends on the power and as we drift back slowly, I ask: "Has anybody made any mention of going to "beans?"
The head man says: "I think the conductor told the trainmaster we'd 'run the beans'. "WHAT?", I screech. 
"What do you guys think of that?" Head man: "Well, I'd like to"; rear man: "Me, too". "We're going to go to beans", I growl.

Arriving back at the depot, the head man drops off to talk to the con. Con glowers at me. Brakie starts to tie down the units. I wave
him off; "You go ahead with the con, I'll be along in a bit". I isolate the five units and tie brakes on each. Inside the depot I ask the 
clerk where there's a restaurant. Clerk says the crew is probably across the street at that place--pointing to what appears to be a
tavern. I walk into the place and find it to be a decent restaurant with a long counter where patrons are served meals. Apparently
at one time it was indeed a tavern with a long mirror facing the dining area. Seated at the counter are 'con' then the trainmaster,
next sits the head man then the rear man. I take the next chair and order my lunch.

While waiting for my food the trainmaster, looking at me but using the mirror speaks: "I'll give you 30 minutes to get from Kanaskat
back to Auburn". He's already concerned about whether to call another engineer.  I'm really in no mood to discuss running times
on a piece of railroad I barely familiar with. I look at the 'cons' image and reply: "Is he telling me to exceed the speed limit?" No reply.

My food comes, and I waste no time eating. In the meantime,Trainmaster and 'con' pay their check, not offering to pay mine, and leave.
I finish, pay my tab and walk back across the street to my power. I look at my watch---exactly 23 minutes!, a record for me, rarely to be 
matched. Round two.

We go back at it, reaching further down into the blackberry jungle to gather up cars. The temperature has peaked and we're on the
home stretch. As I'm rolling over the main crossing in downtown Enumclaw at a mighty 4 mph, for the first time since back in Auburn
at the beginning of this circus, my conductor climbs aboard the engines; from the fireman's side, at that. "Say, how about
giving us 20 minutes on your hours of service so we can make Auburn?",  he pleads. Without taking my eyes away from looking
straight forward, I shot back: "20 minutes, ha!, I won't give you 20 seconds!, everybody on this crew, except you, have put in two days work out
here today.  He replies: "That's no attitude to have; this company puts food on our plate", 'That's very true but, no I won't break the law;
call another engineer". He drops off the power and a few seconds later I hear the trainmaster calling the Auburn operator; "Call an
engineer to dog-catch the Enumclaw Turn at Kanaskat." As it turned out, the brakemen and I pulled what turned out to be
the second 'gulp' onto the main line at Palmer Jct., eased down to the west end of Kanaskat siding and awaited my relief who soon
arrived---without a train crew.  

I never again worked with that conductor or, for that matter those hardy brakemen, nor made any trips down that piece of
track, which remains in service today from Palmer Junction for about 6 miles to a gravel pit called Veazey.

Yes, that trip was indeed one of my worst.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/19/21 08:09 by cewherry.

Date: 11/18/21 23:28
Re: And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: E25

Great story, Charlie.  I've spent quite a bit of time in that area.  'Right-on about the blackberries... LOL

Greg Stadter
Phoenix, AZ

Date: 11/19/21 09:43
Re: And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: spider1319

Great story and what a memory.Thanks for the post.Bill Webb.

Date: 11/19/21 12:50
Re: And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: 3rdswitch

Funny, you remember the worst, and the best, but most in between get lost.

Date: 11/19/21 12:53
Re: And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: PHall

Always fun to work with people who only think of themselves...

[edit- spelling]

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/20/21 16:23 by PHall.

Date: 11/20/21 12:07
Re: And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: tehachcond

Thiis remends me of a few guys we worked with on the SP out of LA.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO

Date: 11/20/21 12:37
Re: And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: cewherry

tehachcond Wrote:
> Thiis remends me of a few guys we worked with on
> the SP out of LA.

Ya think? Maybe that's why I was always sorta 'gun-shy' when it came to those 'big-honkin tie-ups'.
Watch for my PM. :>)


Date: 11/21/21 08:00
Re: And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: BN4364

Great write up, Charlie! You should write a book.

Date: 11/21/21 18:07
Re: And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: OldPorter

Great narrative there, Charlie. Even us Amtrak guys had our turns, at grabbing some of those berries along the ROW- when they were in season.

Date: 11/22/21 10:41
Re: And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: Zephyr

Unbelievable!  Yes, there were some real "classic" conductors and TMs like that on the SPRR.  I'm glad I always had the opportunity to be a team member with the entire crew, not just the "con"!  Great story Charlie!

Oxnard, California

Date: 11/24/21 13:29
Re: And a "Bad Trip" was had by all--Pt 2
Author: flash34

Sounds like the cars were on the main in Enumclaw and then maybe hanging out the south end of town toward the Buckley bridge? It may have even been gone by then? In any event, wonderful story. Thank you sir.

Scott Gordon

Posted from iPhone

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