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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor

Date: 09/27/22 05:06
Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: Fr8engineer

Let me start out by saying I still consider myself far too young to attempt any kind of nostalgia post. I've gone back and forth on whether I should post this, but decided to go ahead and share a story that has some personal meaning to me. Maybe it will be a welcome anecdote if nothing else.

I was 10 years old in 1998 and spent every waking moment I could along the railroad tracks. I grew up along CSX's former B&O Metropolitan Subdivision in the DC suburb of Gaithersburg MD. On Saturday mornings, my grandpa and I had an unbreakable routine of stopping by Montgomery Doughnuts as soon as they opened, then spending the time until noon watching trains. The time spent with my grandpa along the tracks, waiting for whatever exciting entertainment CSX could offer is some of my favorite, most beloved memories. While most of the trains were of the "typical" variety like mixed freights, autoparts and autoracks, coal drags, and trailer trains, one train stood out; The "Trash Train".

The D765 "Trash Train" started in 1995.  Montomgery County MD would take the solid refuse collected across the county, then load it into 40' containers. The containers were then loaded into well cars at the Shady Grove Waste Transfer Station at Derwood MD, then the D765 trash train would take these cars 19 miles west to "Pepco". After shoving up a long lead into "Pepco" at Dickerson MD, the loaded cars would be switched out for the empties, and then the train would return to Derwood and spot the empties. Mi-Jack cranes on both ends would swap the containers around in the cars. The contents of the containers would be burned, and used to turn turbines that created electricity. The co-generated power was then put back in the grid. It was a fairly dependable train to catch trackside; they went on duty around 0600 at Derwood...got out onto the main probably an hour or so later, then were back around lunch. It was also neat to me because of the uniform train of solid gray doublestack containers and platforms. The power back in the 90s was almost always a pair of old GP38s/40s or a mother and slug. If you were really lucky, you'd get an engine in Chessie or Seaboard paint. At one point, two matching GP38s in Seaboard System paint were the power. I wish that I had started out taking pictures a lot sooner.

The job was usually held by guys with good seniority. It was off on Sundays (before everything went to 5 day assignments with extras called on the off days), and originally paid the conductor 100 miles but the engineer 150 miles. That caused some conflict as the conductor wanted to stay out longer to get the overtime while the engineer would want to get done as soon as possible. They eventually leveled both positions to 150 miles each, so everyone wanted to get the job done quickly as possible. By the year 2000, it was common for the engineer to be CE Banks and the conductor "Loose" Bruce Davis.

"Loose" Bruce was a character, as I would later find out. A real "done it all", "know it all"...a hero in his own mind. A self-taught lawyer, singer/songwriter, and black belt. He was a former Western Maryland guy. He had a red face, a white mustache, and a short temper. I don't remember him waving back to my grandpa and myself much. Engineer Corvin Banks was a different story; if they were going slow enough by our "post" at Washington Grove, he would usually yell "Good morning!" to us or some other greeting. Yes, he even shouted "I like your hat!" to me once while I sporting a big, cheesy engineer's cap. He always waved and gave a toot on the horn. That was a big deal to me as a kid.

Eventually I wanted a closer look at the action while they doubled out the tracks of cars at the facility at Derwood. Pushing the private property envelope, my grandpa and I eventually would get pretty deep in the yard to watch them switch. We were never in any real danger, and Pop always kept a close eye on me. But we did go some places we might not should have been. That did get me into some locomotive cabs over the years, but that's a different story. But if someone had asked us to leave (and only once did that happen as I'm about to tell), we would have. But usually everyone was tolerant of our admiration.

So one day we're out in the yard and I guess old Loose Bruce had enough of us watching him. He marches up to us and started screaming all kinds of things to us, about trespassing, and that he was going to call the FBI, and have us thrown under the jail. While he was correct about the trespassing, it was pretty over the top that he was doing this to an old gentleman and a child. I remember his red face. My grandpa gave him some lip service along the lines of "Sure thing, Waldo..." and we went back to more public places to enjoy watching the D765. Corvin still waved every time I saw him though.

Fast forward to 2012. I had been a conductor for four years at that point. Conductor Loose Bruce Davis had been gone for years, but Corvin was still working the trash train. I had enough seniority to where I could hold the job, so after qualifying on it for a trip, I made the move and became Corvin's regular conductor. While we had been working together for a week or two at this point, we really hadn't connected the dots until one Saturday there was a railfan taking pictures of us near the yard at Derwood. Corvin piped up to me from across the cab; "You know, many years ago when Bruce was on this job....he gave a wrath of sh!t to this old man and a young kid down there at the trash plant for watching us switch. He even threatened to call the FBI on them!" I had to pick my jaw off the floor. I replied "Corvin, that was my grandpa and I that day with Bruce.". It had been about 12 years at this point. We both had the biggest laugh over the realization that we had crossed paths like that, and him being the absolute great guy that he is went "Sorry about Bruce!". He was never that big a fan of Bruce's shenanigans over the years, which included getting breakfast while doing his "brake test", driving his 20 year old Mustang around the yard at 90 mph to get switches, and intentionally letting a bowhandle switch spring up and break his jaw so he could sue the RR and collect....among other things.

After we got back to the office, Corvin goes "I have Bruce's cell phone, let's give him a call and see what he says about this". So he calls Bruce up and says "Do you remember yelling at an old man and a kid at the trash plant years ago, and threatening to sic the FBI on them? Well that young kid is holding your old job regular now...have anything you want to say to him?". After a few second pause, Bruce (who was on speaker phone) goes "Yeah, tell him I'll still call the FBI on him and have him thrown in jail!" then he hung up. I guess some people never change. As a gift, we had my grandpa come out a few trips later to ride with us. That's probably my most cherished moment while on duty...giving a ride to someone who passed down their love of trains and railroading to me and has always been a source for guidance and inspiration.

As it turns out, there was yet another connection; my grandpa's cousin Jo Ann was an engineer on the B&O out of Cumberland who hired in the late 70s. Corvin fired for her when he first went to the road in 1981. Small world. I worked off and on with Corvin over the years until he retired in 2015. I probably have a million little stories about working with him, he was truly one of the best around. We still chat occasionally, and my grandpa still talks about the time he came for a ride with us. I'll never forget that experience.

I moved away about 6 years ago, and haven't worked the trash train in even longer than that. With PSR, they changed the symbol, the on-duty time, and slashed the miles so I have no desire to ever work that job again anyhow. But my time on it working with CE Banks will always be a highlight I'll never forget. 

1st pic; CE Banks and myself on the 8025
2nd pic; Myself and my grandpa (RW Offutt Jr) when he rode with us
3rd pic: My grandpa and engineer CE Banks


Date: 09/27/22 08:07
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: E25

What a great, touching story.  Thank you for sharing it.

Greg Stadter
Phoenix, AZ

Date: 09/27/22 10:33
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: Westbound

Good story. As for that knot head conductor, my long experience is that people of that type are equally unpleasant off the job too. They tend to die lonely and miserable.

Date: 09/27/22 11:41
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: King_Coal

Very nice story. Thanks for sharing.

Date: 09/27/22 15:27
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: OSWishram

Delilghtful story.  Thank you for that.

Bob W.

Date: 09/27/22 16:23
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: mcdeo

Good read, thank you for sharing. My grandfather was my driving force to get into railfanning. 

Mike ONeill
Parker, CO

Date: 09/28/22 09:37
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: jofegan

Thanks for the story....things like this make my annual subscription worth it.


Date: 09/28/22 10:07
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: cjvrr

Awesome story and thank you for sharing it!

Date: 09/28/22 21:01
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: sphogger



Date: 10/04/22 21:45
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: Ritzville

Great narrative!!


Date: 10/11/22 05:28
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: bigsavage

This was the trash yard at Derwood.
This photo taken sometime in 2000 by my late friend Johnny Floyd, who was briefly a CSX employee. He definitely would have handled Loose Bruce.

Date: 10/11/22 06:16
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: mvrr10

Thank you for sharing your story and photos with us ,very enjoyable.

Date: 10/11/22 17:57
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: funnelfan

Fantastic story, perfectly suited to this board.

Posted from Android

Ted Curphey
Ontario, OR

Date: 10/19/22 09:55
Re: Full Circle; From Young Fan to His Conductor
Author: Fr8engineer

I appreciate the kind words, fellas. I'm glad I decided to make the post.

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