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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Joplin MT

Date: 06/14/22 14:45
Joplin MT
Author: TAW

On AMTK 8 coming at Havre. (Coming at Glasgow now.)

Going through Joplin, I was reminded of something from 42 years ago.

I have described working Havre West (BN, Montana) as a trip through the gates of Hell. It was on most days, but I still tried to keep trains moving and the track fixed whenever it was possible. Havre West is where I devised the practice of telling the gandys to, instead of showing up at a place I can’t do anything for them, tell me when you come to work what the boss wants you to do, and what needs to be fixed. I’ll figure out where to go and tell you before you leave the shanty.

One day, the foreman at Chester gave me the info when he came to work. I worked out what would fit with what he needed to do. He was working at Buelow, between Chester and Joplin. In the 70s, Montana had an agency requirement. BN was not allowed to close any agency and not allowed to have an agent trolling the countryside like was being done in lots of other places.

The line was CTC, had been for decades, so there was seldom (like…never) an occasion for the dispatcher to ring or talk to them. On the other hand, I used them. It made my job way easier and safer when sticking out new slows or changing slows. I’ve known guys who got themselves an undesirable vacation by missing a train when sticking out a slow on a territory hundreds of miles long. Then there was the hassle of sticking them out on the radio. The base station was almost as strong a signal as WLS in Chicago. I listened to WLS on the way to and from work. The Sweetgrass radio could be heard almost anywhere in Montana east of the Rockies. It wasn’t as bad as the western Washington radio became, but certainly bad enough.

I had a couple of east, on my railroad, easy to predict. I had a bunch of calls at Havre, a black hole that a train might leave in an hour after on duty or eight. It might make it one siding, two, or five before all the units conked out, and the engineer had to take the power back to Havre with one he could get running…and keep running.

Track and time would waste the foreman’s time, continually running to the phone before time expired…and getting more because the train I was having him clear had not escaped from Havre and they had no clue when it might. When I told the foreman to go to Buelow to go to work, I told him that when he got there, there would be a Form Y order (like a Form B Track Bulletin and if I remember correctly NORAC Form D).

The foreman told he that they have to request a day ahead of time and fill out paperwork to ask for a Y Order; he didn’t do any of that. I told him it’s one of my tools and it will be just fine. I decide what to do and how to do it. Go on up to Buelow and I’d have him all fixed up.

 I had done this at Chester and the agent was on to the way I worked. Joplin was a first timer. I rang Joplin. A thousand year old voice (think Walter Brennan) answered: Joplin?

I asked him if he had hoops, string, and train orders. Well, yeah, I have hoops and I’m pretty sure I have string. Train orders? I haven’t copied a train order since the 60s. I might have some around here; I don’t know. I’ll have to look around.
He came back and said, I have a pad of Great Northern orders, is that ok? …and clearances. I told him it was; copy a bunch.

Form Y was preprinted, with blanks for the variable information. Transmitting it sounded like
Order No 500 to C&E Westward Trains, Joplin, period. MP 1111 MP 2222 Joplin Buleau 801am 301pm TAW.

I couldn’t send that way because he was starting with a blank sheet. I had to send the entire preprinted content too. He certainly remembered how to copy and repeat. We were all set.

During the day, I’d freshen the lineup figures for the foreman so that he wouldn’t be putting the tools away for a train that wasn’t coming (the whole point). He got his work done. For me, it was sort of automation, like any other train order operation. All I had to do was pass out figures when they changed, and clear up the trains as they approached Chester and Joplin.

I had done a lot of seemingly bizarre things to keep my piece of railroad running, but this was a one and only.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/14/22 18:39 by TAW.

Date: 06/14/22 16:22
Re: Joplin MT
Author: Chessie

Tom - Always, and I mean ALWAYS enjoy your posts. 

Date: 06/14/22 16:40
Re: Joplin MT
Author: wp1801


Date: 06/14/22 20:05
Re: Joplin MT
Author: Trainhand

I too enjoy your post. You had a busy job and you tried to figure out a way to work the job instead of letting the job work you. Management doesn't like that. Also I have listened to WLS many hours in south Georgia of a frequency skip many hours when in high school.(Clas of 1968).


Date: 06/14/22 21:38
Re: Joplin MT
Author: TAW

Trainhand Wrote:
> I too enjoy your post. You had a busy job and you
> tried to figure out a way to work the job instead
> of letting the job work you. Management doesn't
> like that. Also I have listened to WLS many hours
> in south Georgia of a frequency skip many hours
> when in high school.(Clas of 1968).
Class of 67. I used to road trip on my B&OCT days off and prefered to drive a lot at night. One of my favorite memories was a Cincinnati station, albeit a bit scratchy for distance, not a clear channel station, playing Glenn Miller, Sunrise Serenade exactly as the sun was rising where I was i southern Ohio.

Favorite all night road trip stations WGN, and WBAP Ft. Worth, WHAM Rochester NY, and  WSM Nashville.. Road trips included driving all nigght to Akron for a jam session with some Akron B&O dispatchers as well as Portsmouth N&W dispatchers, and Wheeling B&O dispatchers. 2d trick had the same days off everywhere and Akron was kind of centrally located for all of us. I would drive all night after 2d trick, play music for two days, drive all day, and go straight to 2d trick on the Chief job. I also used to drive all night to have breakfast with the power bureau guy I was working with on 2d trick, somewhere half way between us in Pennsylvania or West Virginia.

Oh to be young again and work for railroads when it was fun.

Edit; how could I forget to include WSM? Travesty!


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/14/22 21:41 by TAW.

Date: 06/15/22 10:37
Re: Joplin MT
Author: xrds72

As a "track guy" I can attest to and appreciate the value of a dispatcher that tries to understand your work and helps you get it done. When I was DE in Chicago for SOO/CP there was one dispatcher I worked with and built a level of trust that carried over to many later projects. When I was trying to hirail on the MILW North line where Metra ran from Chicago to Rondout, Rich always took care of me. When he said he could give me 23 minutes to Mayfair, I knew I had to be clear at least a couple minutes ahead of that time, and I always was. If I wasn't, I knew I wouldn't get that chance again.

This trust carried over to when I was Manager Structures and needing to plan bridge replacements. Rich was now the chief dispatcher. When I asked for 8 hours to completely replace a bridge (last train to first train), he knew that was what I needed and helped me get the window from the Superintendent who felt that was too long. Since I was usually able to hand the track back in 7 hours or so, the next time I needed a window became easier.

It's all about communication and trust and I will always be grateful for the great dispatchers I have worked with.

Always like your posts Tom.

Date: 06/15/22 11:26
Re: Joplin MT
Author: TAW

xrds72 Wrote:
> As a "track guy" I can attest to and appreciate
> the value of a dispatcher that tries to understand
> your work and helps you get it done.

You remind me of another day with the same foremen. I had a broken rail between Chester MT and Tiber. It was during the day, coming close to AMTK 7 and 8's time (they met at Chester if they were on time). Back them signal maintainers gave the dispatcher the weight of the rail and type of break when they found it and the dispatcher gave that to the section foreman so he could be prepared without a recon trip first.

The section foreman drove to the spot, conveniently near a dispatcher phone, and called for Track and Time.

I started: Track and Time 113...

He stopped me and I could hear him yell GO!

then he said to me ok, go ahead.

I finished sending, he repeated...and reported clear eight minutes later, trak ok for normal speed.

I was new to the area and the folks when on Halloween night, I got a report of a barrel full of rocks in the middle of the main at Chester. I called the section foreman. The Chief was there in the room. I asked how long hethought it would be before he got enough guys out. The Chief said that the foreman lived close by and he'll just go over and take care of it. He wouldn't need any help with just a barrel of rocks.

I don't remember his name, except that it was French, His family had been around there since being trappers in the 1700s.



Date: 06/15/22 20:20
Re: Joplin MT
Author: Trainhand

I was on a work train on one track and the section foreman had taked a rail out. It was summertime and the new rail had to be cut and rebored to put in. The dispatcher was the nevrous bothersome type. He kept bothering the foreman on the radio about when was he going to get the track back he had 2 ups pigs to run. Finally, the foreman said send the on down. But if they go past MPXXX they are going to get on the ground. Why the dispatcher asked. Because the rail is still out. I'll call you when they can pass. The dispatcher shut up and left him alone. I got a laugh.


Date: 06/15/22 22:12
Re: Joplin MT
Author: roustabout

TAW Wrote:
> He stopped me and I could hear him yell GO!
> then he said to me ok, go ahead.
That's trust, pure and simple.  Great story and followup, Thomas.  Thank you!

Date: 06/20/22 10:40
Re: Joplin MT
Author: djy23

I worked at WLS from 1978 - 1981. Lots of fun and good memories!

Date: 06/26/22 14:48
Re: Joplin MT
Author: holiwood

In late 1960s/early 70s you could get WLS in Virginia in evening after the power change 

Date: 06/28/22 14:08
Re: Joplin MT
Author: norm1153


Date: 07/07/22 23:32
Re: Joplin MT
Author: ConductorsSon

"WLS the big 89"
I was born and raised in Chicago and spent the mid "60's and early "70's" listening to WLS and WCFL battle it out for the number one spot. And those of you who could listen will remember the late Larry Lujck, "Super Jock" who once rode in the back seat of my Buick convertible when my friend and I drove him to get a beer after he did appearance in Rockton Ill. maybe 1968.

Date: 07/08/22 09:53
Re: Joplin MT
Author: Trainhand

I remember Larry Lujack


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