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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Tales from the Towers

Date: 08/05/22 10:44
Tales from the Towers
Author: Seventyfive

I worked for the B&OCT as a Leverman-Operator for several years in the 1970's.  There was always plenty
of railroading on the CT to enjoy and be a part of.  Working the towers also provided exposure to great behind the scenes
shenanigans.  One such story came to mind last week when we learned the sad news that Mr. Hays T. Watkins, former
President, CEO and Chairman of the C&O/B&O and CSX passed away July 29.

One day in 1973 one of our extra board Operators (John W.) was working GM&O Junction Tower, commonly known around
the CT as "C&A."  This is where the GM&O crossed the IHB.  Literally a few feet west of the tower was a remnant of the
famous Illinois and Michigan Canal.  One summer day some kids were fishing in the canal and one of them cut his foot on
broken glass.  One of the kids went up into the tower and asked John if a first aid kit was available.  Yes, one was hanging on the wall, but with a padlock on it and no key available for extra board men.

John raised hell with the regular operators at C&A as well as the Chief Dispatchers at Barr Yard.  But still the first aid kit stayed locked up. So he went on down to Western Union and sent a personal telegram directly to Mr. Watkins and pointed out what good is a first aid kit if everyone does not have access to it.  John got a personal letter back from Mr. Watkins and as I heard it, Mr. Watkins personally telephoned the appropriate person at Barr Yard.  I presume it was the Superintendent but don't now recall for sure. Nonetheless, the padlock was removed from the first aid kit at C&A and anywhere else one was locked up.

As you might expect, John was a marked man after that.  John was quite a colorful character but I had to hand it to him for going right to the top and getting results.  The bosses were gunning for him after that and months later they got him on Rule G.  
If that had been enforced regularly in the towers, so many guys would be gone that they would have had to blank quite a few jobs. Those were the wild west days in the towers and in many of the other crafts on the railroads.

Man, those were good times.

If you haven't already, be sure to read TAW's great story about Mr. Watkins on the Eastern RR Discussion of July 31.


Date: 08/05/22 15:55
Re: Tales from the Towers
Author: ghemr

'C&A" was a location that offfered some photo opportuniites and the employees didn't mind. However I spent more time at McCook due to the frequency of train movements on the ATSF.

Thanks for sharing your fond memory!

Date: 08/05/22 17:43
Re: Tales from the Towers
Author: Zephyr

July 20, 1969 second shift (400pm-1159pm) was a most memorabe evening for me in SP's Dayton Ave. Tower located at the east end of Taylor Yard just geographically east of the Los Angeles River and nearly under Interstate 5 at the time.  The first lunar landing had occurred and the low end of C-Yard Yardmaster, Mr. Smoot (we used to call him "Smoot the Root"), had brought in a small television to view the activity on the moon.  The Yardmaster's section of the tower was located in a small portion of the north end of Dayton Tower, with a half wall and glass separating the Yardmaster and the Tower Operator in the largest section of the tower with all the levers, circuits, timers, boards and lights.  In between all the rail movements lined up and authorized by me as the Tower Operator, I watched closely on Mr. Smoot's small TV the activity that was occurring thousands of miles away on the moon and was just "blown away" by what was actually happening.  Humans from the United States were actually walking on the moon!   About half way through the shift, Smoot walked into my side of the tower and proclaimed, "You know this lunar stuff is all fake!  They're actually doing all this on a set just over these hills (pointing to the hills that separated Taylor Yard and Hollywood)!!!"  I responded with some kind of snide remark like, "what are you talking about???"  Smoot reiterated, "It's all fake!  Don't believe it!  There's no one really on the moon!"  I quietly closed the door between our sections and went back to work and thought, "OK, Smoot.  Whatever!"  Even 53 years ago there was disbelief without factual support.

Camarillo, California

Date: 08/06/22 10:18
Re: Tales from the Towers
Author: retcsxcfm

Interesting hearing about Wakins.
Another well known exB&O/C&O employee
Bill Hughes,head of passenger services,passed
last weekend.He was also a well known railfan
PV owner and author.

Uncle Joe


Date: 08/06/22 16:52
Re: Tales from the Towers
Author: WM1977

Bill Howes

Date: 08/06/22 18:48
Re: Tales from the Towers
Author: TAW

ghemr Wrote:
> 'C&A" was a location that offfered some photo
> opportuniites and the employees didn't mind.
> However I spent more time at McCook due to the
> frequency of train movements on the ATSF.

Way more fun place when I was there. Actually, both of them were.


Date: 08/08/22 18:06
Re: Tales from the Towers
Author: 567Chant

Semi-related post -
Circa 2006 my business networking group had, as a guest speaker, Astronaut Jim Kelly.
(not one of the twin Astronaut Navy Captains named Kelly).
During his excellent presentation, there were several photos of Astronauts on the surface of the Moon.
Kelly quipped, to uproarious laughter, "These were shot on a sound stage in Culver City".
I felt compelled to share.

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