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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?

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Date: 02/18/22 11:36
Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: mdo

To save band width look down this page at mad dog chronicle #325(#-1.1)

I was talking with an old friend and work associate earlier today and these two questions came up

1. What was your favorite railroad job, Where did you have the most fun?

2.  On which job or assignment did you make the biggest contribution or impact.?

My answeres to the two question are not the same.  For number one it was when I was the Trainmaster at Colton California.

For number two it was during my four years as AVP Intermodal Operations.

reasons will be forthcoming,  Meanwhile, what are your answers?

Reasons for my answer to question #-1.  see MDC's 49 to 53

Others might tell you the answer to Question #-2 Should be my last job at the SP..... Vice President Strategic Development.

Edited 9 time(s). Last edit at 02/20/22 17:38 by mdo.

Date: 02/18/22 18:19
Re: Not a maddog chronicle (yet)
Author: cewherry

To answer question #2; I'd like to think the biggest impact I contributed to was having a role in refining
the technical training of locomotive engineers as practiced by SP at their Engine Service Training
Center; aka The Simulator, in the early 1970's.

On my first day in my new job I sat in the office of my boss, Roy Clements,  Asst. Manager of Engine Service 
Training; later to become System General Road Foreman of Engines. As our visit concluded, Roy asked
me what subject I would like to teach; Air Brakes, Mechanical or Rules?  I had just met Roy, the man I would
work with most closely in my time at the Simulator; my head was reeling. I knew a pittance about Air Brakes,
having studied the subject in books, largely provided by SP; enough to pass my own engineer examination
barely a year previous. As to mechanical subjects; I knew how to start and stop the diesel prime mover--and
not much else. Of any of the options provided by Roy, rules would probably be my forte.
I blurted out: "I believe I'll take the rules class." "Good", Roy said, smiling. Reaching behind his swivel chair for
three over-sized three ring binders he placed them on his desk and said; "Your class begins in 30 minutes."
Talk about a bath of fire!

When I arrived at the Simulator, the existing teaching procedure was largely a matter of standing
before a group of four candidates and essentially reading SP's Book of Rules; depending on the
trainees to ask any questions they might have. Or, conversely if there was some point I wished to
emphasize, I might explore the trainee's knowledge by asking a question or two. This method soon
proved to be a problem. On more than a few occasions, when teaching the same subject a few weeks
later to a different group, it occurred that I had failed to mention a detail or two of a particular rule to a
previous group, now long departed and back on their home divisions. There had to be a better way. 

After some thought I struck upon the idea of photographing each page of SP's operating rule book and then
reading those same rules into a cassette recorder that was synchronized with the carousel slide show.
Primitive by today's standards, it was a great leap forward for 1971 and both the students as well as other
instructors generally approved. It saved our voices, kept the students awake and allowed the opportunity to
pre-plan the instruction by stopping the audio while the slide remained on to discuss any questions that arose
or that we wanted to emphasize. But the greatest advantage was that what was being presented was uniform
and consistent, a must to be strived for in railroad operations. 

Thanks, Mike for asking.


Date: 02/19/22 14:18
Re: Not a maddog chronicle (yet)
Author: jmhemmer

Good question, Mike!

1.  Most fun?  No doubt about it: yard clerk (mud hop) at Rock Island's Harter Yard (now UP) in Oklahoma City, late 1960s.  This was real work, not featherbedding.  Got to decide where every car coming into the yard on my shift should go--waybilled destination, directives for some empties, my best judgment for other empties, dump on the Santa Fe, etc.  Made switch lists for crews and train consists for pickups and trains.  Handed up waybills and flimsies to trains on an outside curve.  Lots of time outdoors.  Best of all, a great bunch of guys to work with, like Hank, the day Yardmaster.  

2.  Contribution?  Hard to say.  

Date: 02/19/22 14:19
Re: Not a maddog chronicle (yet)
Author: dan

working a grain harvest trains riding on the roof walks

Date: 02/19/22 14:40
Re: Not a maddog chronicle (yet)
Author: goldcoast

Thirty two and a half years with SP in San Francisco.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/25/22 09:31 by goldcoast.

Date: 02/19/22 14:56
Re: Not a maddog chronicle (yet)
Author: jmhemmer

If you want me to stick to my Southern Pacific funnest job for this discussion, it was unquestionably working at the passenger station in Palo Alto in 1971 as the Amtrak ticket clerk.  I was on the Bayshore clerk's extra board when the Agent at Palo Alto had an extended medical problem.  An established SP ticket clerk took his place, and they called me in to work a new job as an SP employee on the Amtrak agent job, right after Amtrak got started.  

What a fun summer!  Our instruction from Amtrak was to provide the quality of service a passenger would expect from an airline.  Working with the San Fracisco space desk, which allocated most space on trains out of the Bay Area, we tried very hard to do that.  Palo Alto did not have an Amtrak train, of course, but we controlled ten seats each day out of San Jose on the Starlight.  For space that San Francisco did not control, we used wires to distant places, which made that airline goal a little tough.  The equipment, of course, was cobbled together from the freight railroads, and a lot of it was in pretty bad shape.  We had to explain what it was and how it was configured.  People weren't happy when the A/C failed on the Nevada desert that summer.  But most of our passengers seemed to be satisfied.  

Amtrak invited me to join their management training program, but that required an interview with an SP Dinosaur at West Oakland.  He told me I had to go cut my hair before he would talk to me, and I told him what to do with himself.  

Date: 02/19/22 17:14
Re: Not a maddog chronicle (yet)
Author: mdo

this is by no means limited to SP employees,  any RR, any craft, any branch from accounting to zoo keeper.
Even if you were the blind crossing watchman at Cochella.

Date: 02/19/22 18:13
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: CCDeWeese

Interesting questions;
1 The most fun was the TRRA1970-1978
2 The most rewarding in view of impact, DART and UTA

Date: 02/19/22 18:39
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: CCDeWeese

With respect to the TRRA, I was able, as General Superintendent, to participate in the implementation of Bill Thompson's goals, abolishment of the prior rights districts for crews and clerks, implementation of the hump at Madison, and implementation of run thru trains.  With respect to DART and UTA, the right of way acquisitations I participated in enabled both transit agencies to develop excellent transit systems.

Date: 02/20/22 09:46
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: santafe199

I would have to say my overall favorite part(s) of my career were the times I had to put on a suit & tie to work in Amtrak passenger service. Over the same territory where the legendary Super Chief once ran! But if it's to be a certain "one-off" thing it would have to be the few days on the very first work train I ever caught off the brakeman's extra board at Emporia. A full description of that singular event is just a click away: ( How a flagging job turned into a Toga Party! (trainorders.com) ).


Date: 02/20/22 17:58
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: Zephyr

I had loads of fun on all my SP positions, except maybe as Division Budget Officer, commonly known as the PACE (Paper and Carbon Everywhere) job.  However, I probably had the most fun as a Train Dispatcher working second shift in the Los Angeles Division office at 6th and Main Streets.  After being relieved about 1120pm, we would all head over to Jack's Bar on 6th Street and have a night cap or two prior to driving home (never over the .08 legal level)!

I probably had the most positive influence as Terminal Superintendent at City of Industry for a variety of reasons involving the reduction of work at Los Angeles Taylor Yard, the trainsition from a total manifest yard to a small Inland Empire intermodal facility and sometimes humping more cars per day in the econometric (small) hump than West Colton, the most modern, at the time, classification facility on the SPRR.

Oxnard, California


Date: 02/20/22 21:28
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: cctgm

My time for the last years of my 48 year railroad career as the General Manager of the Central California traction company, where the business was grown from 12,000 cars a years to almost 55,000 cars over years with a great group of employees and a very supportive board at the UP and BNSF and the folks at the port of Stockton 

Date: 02/21/22 12:27
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: general_muddle

Remodeling my kitchen while riding the freight brakeman extra board guarantee.

- G

Date: 02/21/22 14:00
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: Westbound

I always liked my job at Southern Pacific but want to tell about two other railroaders who cannot post here since they are no longer with us. They were so good at their work they surely enjoyed it and certainly had a positive effect. 

Floyd Duncan was the Yardmaster at East Oakland, CA when I first met him. The East Oakland Yard was the stub ended yard adjacent to the Nimitz Freeway. Floyd had a booming, recognizable voice on the radio. He was always helpful and had his finger on the pulse of the railroad under his command, not only within the yard but also on the industries served from there. As far as I know there was no other yardmaster there when he was off duty and I cannot recall who relieved him on his days off. He was unlike any other yardmaster I knew, more like a Trainmaster. My great surprise was to learn from another old timer that Floyd had lost a leg working as a switchman. I had never even noticed a limp. I welcome any comments about him. 

Bob Ballestrini worked at Bayshore Roundhouse, then moved across the bay to Oakland, where he became the Roundhouse Foreman. He was a dedicated SP employee who was very helpful to me on a number of occasions. With several crafts under his supervision, the work appeared to flow smoothly with locomotives fueled, serviced and quickly returned to service. Almost everyone liked him as their boss. This gentleman was a very professional man who demanded high quality work with no shortcuts. I wish I had known him better.

Date: 02/22/22 10:52
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: xrds72

Wonderful questions! Great responses too.

1. What was your favorite railroad job, Where did you have the most fun?
From 1994 to 2003 I was Manager Structures US for CP and had responsibility for new bridge construction and bridge maintenance and inspection. Half the property was former Soo Line with their bridge crews and the other half was former Milwaukee Road with their bridge crews. There were about 75 people total.

We rebuilt a lot of bridges during that time, mostly replacing a lot of timber spans on the Soo side with new concrete and/or steel. Had some on the Milwaukee side too, notably 3 of the 4 bridges between La Crosse and La Crescent WI which included replacing a swing span with a bascule span. We even constructed a new timber trestle in Edina on the former MN&S line. The Soo Line crew That did that were all old heads who still remembered how to work with timber. They also were a crew that had about a 15 year history of absolutely no injuries on the job. They still had that clean record when I left CP.

This was the most fun I have had. We went out and built things. You could see the beginning and end of a job and have satisfaction with its completion. Not that I didn’t have fun in any of my other jobs, such as Division Engineer. It’s just that you get a different sense of things when you can stand back (or under as the case may be) and watch the first train go over a bridge you helped build.

2.  On which job or assignment did you make the biggest contribution or impact.?
On the same job, I instituted a safety program for the bridge crews which involved a weekly newsletter detailing each crews’ safety record (days without injury stats, etc.) and communication to all the crews about what work was coming, how various projects were progressing, etc.

We held an annual dinner where we mixed crews from each side so they could get to know each other. In order to keep the railroad running, we had to do two dinners with half of the people from each side coming at one time.

At the dinners we would give recognition to everyone for their safety performance for the previous year. When we started this program, the injury frequency rate was probably about 5 or 6 for the B&B crews and about 8 or 9 for the railroad as a whole. When I left CP in 2003, the B&B injury rate was about 1.5. The railroad had also lowered their overall rate with other projects aside from what we were doing in B&B.

In February of 2003 I was fortunate enough to take a seminar on Scour at Railroad Bridges that was presented by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA). I had previously attended seminars given by the B&B Association (an AREMA predecessor) on Bridge Inspection and Bridge Repairs. This got me into helping to create and deliver a new AREMA seminar on Bridge Inspection and Scour and helping to write The Bridge Inspection Handbook.

I have been one of the instructors for the seminar about 20 times now over the last 12 years. This is one of the big ways I am able to give back to this industry for everything I have been given by it over my now nearly 50 year career.

Date: 02/22/22 18:27
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: patd3985

I was once the "Night Yardmaster In Pocatello"!

Date: 02/23/22 09:55
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: spider1319

Daylight trips on the  San Diego Sub with the older side panel control stand.And ,having students who transformed into great railroaders.Bill Webb

Date: 02/23/22 11:06
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: goneon66

deadheading from needles to barstow on a "pool" turn in a van and upon arrival in barstow, immediately being put on an e/b stack train back to needles within 12 hrs.

the only thing better would have been deadheading back to needles in a van within 12 hrs.............


Date: 02/24/22 10:59
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: starsandbars

Hostler in Kansas City 

Date: 02/24/22 20:25
Re: Not a mad dog chronicle (yet) What was your favorite RR job?
Author: sp3204

#1...Working for Gary McClain at the SP simulator in Lenexa, Kansas as an instructor in the mid 90's.

#2...Working the Passenger Firemans extra board as a loaner (Tracy Seniority) on the commutes, San Jose-San Francisco.

#1...Steam: firing all points on the coast on the SP4449 crew from LA to both San Francisco and Oakland on various trips.

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