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Railroaders' Nostalgia > The lowly local


Date: 10/17/22 18:13
The lowly local
Author: santafe199

It’s after 2 AM. Your engineer has the train really pinched down coming over the deserted crossing. He will stop in a couple of car lengths, and a you will hit the ballast to go open up a yard-access switch. It’s been a looong day!

You’ve been on duty since 1500. Mileage-wise your over & back run is less than 100 miles. But there are a couple dozen active customers in your territory. Of course, not all of them get switched in the same trip. But often-as-not, an extra move or 2 (or 6) will crop up. And you must always put the customer first. The RR brass expects this out of you. “It’s what you get paid for”. And they never hesitate to remind you of this.

When you came on duty, your projected work load looked pretty decent. You might even -dare you suppose- get done before midnight! But the disintegration of that stupid flight-of-fancy started within the second hour. You haven’t even completed your pre-departure air test, and word comes down that “XYZ Industries” has just released 4 cars that you will now have to pick up. From working there just a couple of days ago you already know those cars are in 2 different tracks, buried behind a combined dozen or so cars. There goes 45 minutes.

With the airtest now complete, you are ready to get on the road. You’ve already got a track warrant and you just need authority to get out on the main. But the train DSPR has 2 trains he has to get by you first. They’re hot! Of course, when you’re a lowly local ALL main line trains are hot, dontcha know.

Now you’re out & rolling! And it’s already 1710. At your first place of work the train DSPR instructs you to clear your entire train. Because he knows your train is short enough to clear the main. “But we have only one car to spot and we’ll be gone in a jiffy”, you weakly argue. “Sorry guys, I really need you to get in the clear, but call me when you’re ready”... So you do. And as predicted, you get that car spotted fast. Now you are punching up the DSPR call in code. No answer. You keep trying. No answer. But that’s OK, you just heard the detector 12 miles down the road go off. You know this train will be by you in a minimum of 15 minutes. And then you can g... #####!!! (radio interruption, computerized voice) “Attention. You have ... a hot axle ... right side, axle 398... “Attention. You have ... a hot axle ... right side, axle 398... “ Whoops, that’s the train you thought would be by you in 15... And you can’t expedite your situation by assisting him. He can’t pull the suspected hot axle up to you because any possible hot journal must be stopped immediately for inspection. Turns out the axle isn’t critical, but it’s on a haz-mat load, and has to be set out right there. There goes another hour and 25 minutes.

You’re finally up & running again. It’s right at 1900. And your day is going to hell-in-a-hen-basket! Your next stop goes off without a hitch, but the work involved takes another 90 minute bite out of your day. Your thoughts of midnight are long gone. Now you’re wondering if you’ll even make “last call”...

You plow ahead, meeting 2 more (HOT, dontcha know) trains. And you finally reach the end of the outward leg of your run where you are to set out & tie down your train. That takes about 45 minutes. It’s now 2330. You have no power swaps, but you find out the train you were supposed to “just get on, airtest & skedaddle” with is 3 different tracks. And switching must be performed. There goes another hour+.

This unexpected work goes smoothly and you actually get back on the main line, bound for home. It’s now (tomorrow) 0130. You’ve got one simple setout at “Acme Industries”, and a straight shot home. (What could possibly go wrong???) By guess & by golly, it looks like you’ll get in short of the dog law -hours of service- by about 30 minutes. One simple set-out at Acme is all you have left. Seriously, what could go wrong. You stop at Acme and make the cut. Up & over the switch, open it up and roll back toward the dual-locked, security gate and punch in the code. It doesn’t work. Try again. And again. NOT working. You call the Acme rent-a-cop security guy and wait for him to show up! And you wait. Eleventy-seven (try 15) minutes later he shows up and unlocks it manually. You make the set and get back on your train. BTW: the English-Lit staff over at Rah-Rah Tech might like to know you have just invented 2 brand new curse words...

You roll home and come around that last curve, approaching that LAST yard switch to open. Once again it looks like you’ll just barely scratch in, under 12 hours. You no longer care...

1. UP 538 is really pinched down, coming over the deserted crossing at Kansas Avenue.

2. The 538 is now stopped, and crewman ‘John Doe’ has hit the ballast, walking forward to open up the yard access switch.....................
(2 photos taken in Topeka, KS on February 1, 2018)

It’s been a looong day!
Lance Garrels
santafe199

Post script: The account above is pure fiction. But I will guarantee you there is not one single train service railroader here on TO who will not admit that every scenario I described is not only completely plausible, but has already happened to some crew. At some time or another. Somewhere...

In every single scenario above I’ve “been there ~ done that” myself! At some time or another. Somewhere...



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 10/17/22 18:21 by santafe199.






Date: 10/17/22 18:21
Re: The lowly local
Author: x6924w

All true. Nuff said.



Date: 10/17/22 20:19
Re: The lowly local
Author: Trainhand

very good description of a typical trip.

Sam



Date: 10/17/22 21:04
Re: The lowly local
Author: Notch7

Lance, great little story.  You said my two magic words - "last call".  Making and enjoying last call and more was the cherry on top of my local freight  evening.  Even before Covid closed my bars, clouds began raining on my local freight / last call nights.  They were :
1. PSR - build your own train out of 5 tracks, block your train and classify it when you get back, and if you get back very early - go dog-catch an outlawed train.
2.  Confident and empowered new hire and transferred conductors who have no clue where we are going, much less what to do when we get there.  That's occasioned by railroads that think all jobs are the same and easy.
3. PTC - waiting on PTC equipped engines,  Talking with the PTC help desk for a couple of hours trying to get the PTC to work again.  Waiting for a crew with good PTC engines to come tow you in.

Finally you relax and just enjoy what we called - the NS Stimulus Package.



Date: 10/17/22 21:19
Re: The lowly local
Author: ln844south

Only difference when I was still braking. Engineer expected you to sprint and line him in without stopping to keep from having to restart the train. Back when you could still get off moving equipment.

Steve



Date: 10/18/22 12:34
Re: The lowly local
Author: symph1

Thank you. This is why some of us non-rails really enjoy this board.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/18/22 16:53 by symph1.



Date: 10/19/22 09:56
Re: The lowly local
Author: 57A26

At first I thought maybe it was a recollection from years gone by.  When I saw the date, and the subject railroad, I knew the narative was fiction when it stated the customer comes first, the RR brass expected it.



Date: 10/19/22 12:19
Re: The lowly local
Author: santafe199

57A26 Wrote: > ... When I saw the date, and the subject railroad, I knew the narative was fiction ...
The 2 images are REPRESENTATIVE IMAGES of a local returning to home base. They really are returning home to the UP yard in Topeka. I just put together a collage of personal experinence memories from my own 32 years in train service for the REPRESENTATIVE narration.

> I knew the narrative was fiction when it stated the customer comes first, the RR brass expected it.
So my actual experience of having a RR Supt ready to fire us because he mistakenly thought we had taken a lunch break before switiching a refinery is just bullshit?? 
And other crews I've worked with who got discipline for running certain work locations on their own is just bullshit??

I knew the narrative was fiction.........
I SAID AS MUCH in my Postscript, which is right after my signature.

What's the problem?



Date: 10/19/22 16:38
Re: The lowly local
Author: 57A26

santafe199 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 57A26 Wrote: > ... When I saw the date, and
> the subject railroad, I knew the narative was
> fiction ...
> The 2 images are REPRESENTATIVE IMAGES of a local
> returning to home base. They really are returning
> home to the UP yard in Topeka. I just put together
> a collage of personal experinence memories from my
> own 32 years in train service for the
> REPRESENTATIVE narration.
>
> > I knew the narrative was fiction when it stated
> the customer comes first, the RR brass expected
> it.
> So my actual experience of having a RR Supt ready
> to fire us because he mistakenly thought we had
> taken a lunch break before switiching a refinery
> is just bullshit?? 
> And other crews I've worked with who got
> discipline for running certain work locations on
> their own is just bullshit??
>
> > I knew the narrative was fiction.........
> I SAID AS MUCH in my Postscript, which is right
> after my signature.
>
> What's the problem?
There's no problem.  I saw that you had wrote that.  It's just a tongue in cheek response saying that because of present attitudes at high levels of brass, one could tell before reading the final post script.

I will say for the record, that local management is usually more attentive to local customer's need.  They realize that if there aren't people to manage at local levels they don't need local managers.



Date: 10/19/22 17:50
Re: The lowly local
Author: santafe199

57A26 Wrote: > ...  just a tongue in cheek response ...

Ok, I guess I can look at it that way. But it sure came across different. I spent an entire, but fun afternoon digging through old time books, dredging up memories and writing & re-writing & re-writing the text. It was intended to strike a familiar cord with just about any train service rail there is here on TO.

And I sure miss those days spent on locals. My favorite was 1351-52 between Abilene & Osborne, KS. On Fridays we HAD to bust assets to make the 5 PM 2-fer-1 special at the ol' "Forgot the Name" watering hole in downtown Osborne. Another favorite was 1343-44 between Abilene & Superior, NE. Set out 2-3 empty hoppers at every little whip-stitch town on the way up, and pick them up loaded on the way back. Good old days, NOT on the main line... ;^)

Lance



Date: 10/22/22 08:46
Re: The lowly local
Author: engineerinvirginia

ln844south Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Only difference when I was still braking. Engineer
> expected you to sprint and line him in without
> stopping to keep from having to restart the train.
> Back when you could still get off moving
> equipment.
>
> Steve

I have done that both braking and running...it works best if you can go really slow...but sprinting I have done. 



Date: 11/17/22 06:11
Re: The lowly local
Author: texchief1

Sounds like a P Rose story.

RC Lundgren



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