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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN


Date: 04/19/23 10:50
Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: TAW

I went from B&OCT to SP. There was, to say the least, a bit of culture shock, not just Chicago vs Bakersfield, but B&OCT vs SP.

B&OCT transfer time was a never-rushed, rather time-consuming affair. The railroad was moving so fast that there was no written transfer. It would be obsolete before you were done writing. The railroad was moving too fast to stop talking to people at transfer time, too. Your relief came in and when he was ready, stood next to you at the table and listened while reading the live file. As you were handling trains, you went over every live train on the trainsheet, one at a time. Part of the reason for that was to show your relief where each train was on the eight feet of trainsheet so he wouldn’t have to search. This process took about 15 minutes. Then you traded places. Your relief took the chair and you stood next to him. You spent about 15 minutes watching and listening for anything that was overlooked. When he said ‘got it’ and signed the sheet, you were done for the day. You were sure that ‘got it’ meant what was said.

That procedure came from the B&OCT practice of verbal train control. We gave verbal instructions to towers and to train crews at phone booths. The only written instructions were train orders on the dark single track Chicago Heights Subdivsion, and movements against the current of traffic on the rest of the railroad. On a train order railroad, the written transfer consisted of anything that wasn’t covered by train orders. When your relief showed up, you would write anything not contained in train orders (usually not very much, if anything). Your relief would read and sign every train order, read the transfer and sign it, and you were done.

Bakersfield was my first encounter with folks who wanted to rush through transfer, either when coming or going. Bakersfield had some folks who, as you were trying to tell them what was going on, wouldn’t listen. As you were trying to talk to them, they’d say ‘yeah, yeah, I got it; go home’. If you had been buried and were still fixing trains when they came in the door or maybe fixing a train that just got called or sticking out an order because of an OS you just got, they’d say, ‘What’s the matter? Can’t finish your work? Let’s go.’ Most of them couldn’t wait to change what you set up… and complain the whole time they were doing it.

Some of these same folks quit actually working a half hour or more ago, leaving you with decisions to make immediately. Invariably, they would either let the decision be a surprise, or tell you ‘I wasn’t sure how you’d want to make that move, so I left it for you to set up.’ That was usually followed with an operator announcing an approaching train as the guy you relieved was walking out the door. OK, you have about one minute to figure out what decision to make and stick out orders.

One of those guys was the 3rd tricker on the SP Saugus district in Bakersfield. He was studying to be a pilot. That was occurring while he was working. There was often more attention being paid to flying than running the railroad.

One night, I had been about beaten to death. As a colleague in later years described it, I was busier than a one-armed paper hanger all afternoon. The opening of the West Colton yard had been somewhat of a fiasco (I’ve heard that is Italian for railroad). Trains that were supposed to run via the cutoff were going via Los Angeles, so there was a lot more traffic than anticipated. With only open offices at Mojave, Palmdale, Saugus, and Burbank Jct., keeping it all moving was a challenge.

Not only was Taylor Yard cranking out Dirty Ol’ Freight Trains (DOFT), there was also a string of trains coming west, bypassing West Colton and Los Angeles and coming straight through on the Palmdale Cutoff.

The timetable had two first class trains west (365 and 375), one east (340), and a bunch of second class west. All the eastward trains except No 340 were extra.

The right way to handle first class trains is with time. Let the inferior trains dodge the time of the first class. If the first class isn’t on time, pass out some time to the inferior trains and let them go to where they can. That doesn’t work when the railroad is so full that you can’t figure out where each of them might go on their own, and there was a possibility of more than one going to the same place. That can’t be left to chance as you might with DOFT bucking time against DOFT. You need to figure out where they must go and tell them with flat meets.

Coming up to quitting time, No 375 was out of Saugus and would see an east man in every siding all the way to Oban, the second station east of Mojave. There was a west man, Third 811 comfortably ahead of No 375 and a PNL (Pacific Northwest Lumber) coming close to Mojave. There was another west man that would see PNL at Ansel, the first siding east of Mojave. I had the PNL fixed with everything he needed, including a flat meet with No 375 at Oban. PNL had plenty of time to make it to Oban. He had time to go beyond, but there was nowhere to go. Every siding had a train staked out for No 375. However, there was still, when my relief walked in, an overdue regular train, Third 811, at Mojave.

Back in Olden Tymes when SP used train numbers in the train indicator instead of engine numbers, that wouldn’t have been a problem. As the PNL saw Third 811 with no signals, they would know what train it was and check the timetable to know that there were no other regular trains due. Since the indicator only showed the engine number, the PNL would have no idea what train they met above Mojave. They had to be told by train order.

When I made the transfer, my relief read and signed the orders. One might think that since we gave every eastward train a check (of the register, train order form T) and he didn’t sign for one, it would have been obvious. However, he didn’t pay a lot of attention as he breezed through the book signing orders (with aviation books on the table next to the trainsheet). He signed the transfer. As I was leaving, I reminded him that Third 811 was coming at Mojave and as soon as he was by, stick out a check to PNL and he’s got all he needs.

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve got it.’

I went home.

I came to work the next day to find that someone else was working my job. LAG, the dispatchers union local chairman was in the Chief’s office. The Chief said ‘You guys come with me.’ We went to the office of the Assistant Superintendent, JEN. The three of us sat in front of his desk, across from him. He ripped into me. ‘I brown nosed for years to get this job and you’ve intentionally tried to ruin that. I have worked too hard for someone like you to take it away' (delay of No 365 or 375 was a Really Big Deal with smoke brought upon every level below The City down to the most lowly).

Problem was, I had no idea what he was talking about.

FMB (the Chief) told me what happened. Third 811 went by Mojave. A little bit thereafter, Mojave asked about clearing PNL. My relief said, no more, (later I heard that he remarked to the operator that I should have finished my work and some other disparaging remarks) and Mojave read the clearance. My relief didn’t give PNL a check, only what I had hanging already. By the time the engine made it to the single track at East Mojave, the engineer realized that he had nothing on regular trains. Not knowing if he was about to encounter one the hard way, he bigholed it, tearing the train into three pieces. No 375 pulled up to Oban and dropped anchor for an hour or so.

JEN ripped into me again: incompetent, intentionally sabotaging him, lazy, and on and on. I took my pen (THE tool of a train order dispatcher) out of my pocket and was about to toss it on the desk, tell him ‘You do better’ and walk. LAG stopped me and said ‘not worth it.’

FMB admonished me about a flat meet with a first class train. I told him there was nothing else to do. The (second trick) Chief kept calling trains out of Palmdale, trains kept coming into Palmdale, and I had no other way to deal with it. He told me that I should have quit running trains out of Palmdale to be sure I had enough empty railroad for No 375 with everything in the clear. The chief calling trains I couldn’t run was not my problem.

I was surprised when FMB told me that I needed to be sure that what I set up was done. I told him that I was at home, my relief signed the transfer and the last thing I said as I went out the door was ‘remember, when third 811 gets by Mojave, give PNL an check and no more.’ He said that if I had any doubt, I should have stayed for third 811 and fixed PNL myself. I told him that I would have been on overtime to wait for Third 811 and fix PNL. He said ‘Then put in for it.’

I have no idea why JEN went after me instead of the third tricker. Maybe it was because I was the new guy. It was strange that FMB would say anything about not trusting my relief to finish what I started. Was he telling me that he knew the guy couldn’t be trusted?

The day it happened, I felt betrayed. FMB never let anyone interfere with his dispatchers. He stood up to the General Manager and a Vice President, but I was being thrown to the lions for the Assistant Superintendent. He wasn’t afraid of senior officials, but he was of this guy?

That incident with JEN stuck with me. Now, decades later (after following FMB’s advice several times in the ensuing decades), I think of it as a lesson. Trust isn’t a professional courtesy. Working with people, you figure out who isn’t paying attention when you give them the railroad. You figure out who will leave traps for you, intentionally or not. Just like no shortcutting while handling trains, there is no shortcutting at transfer time. You can be responsible for what someone else did or didn’t do.

Years later, I relieved a hurry up guy on his first day back after being off for a train overrunning (running ahead of the time shown) the lineup (the authority for MofW – they can use the track if the lineup shows no train due) he just stuck out. I was inheriting a railroad that looked like random pieces thrown on a game board. As I studied the lineup and compared train locations to the lineup and looked for waits protecting the times (there weren’t any – the way he got canned), he said ‘Lineup’s ok kid, let’s go.’

I relieved another hurry up let’s go guy. The Havre-Whitefish lineup was really difficult to issue and protect. It covered 250 miles of very busy single and double track. Someone could obtain it anywhere on the division, drive somewhere else, get on the track, and the dispatcher wouldn’t have a clue. To make their work easier, many of the dispatchers on that district would just load up the lineup with a train out of Havre and Whitefish every 30 minutes. There was no way they could be caught by surprise. The lineup was useless to folks trying to use it, but it was air tight, right? Well, as I as comparing the lineup to the trainsheet to the tune of ‘Got it? Lineup’s ok. Got it yet?’, one thing jumped out at me. I carefully compared the trainsheet, the CTC, and the lineup again. Yup, a couple of hours later in the morning, there were trains showing out of Havre every half hour. The one on the bell at Kremlin – nope. I got him stopped at Kremlin, where he would be for a couple of hours until the time of the first bogus train. He said ‘oh, I missed one.’ THEN I signed the transfer.

There were a few times I stayed on overtime because I didn’t feel that I could transfer the railroad to the next guy. Bosses grumbled, but I got paid. There were others for which I wrote down the next things that needed to be done, no matter how trivial. There were times I read the written part of the transfer, read the train orders, said, ‘I’ll be back after you fix this’ and walked out.

I was really unpopular with the hurry up guys, but I never again let any of them set me up for trouble.

TAW
 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/20/23 09:07 by TAW.



Date: 04/19/23 15:38
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: johnsweetser

For those who may be wondering what the last names of "FMB" and "JEN" are, go to:  https://wx4.org/to/foam/sp/maps/perryETT/1974-09-15SP_SanJoaquin3-SheldonPerry.pdf



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/19/23 15:40 by johnsweetser.



Date: 04/20/23 07:25
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: jmhemmer

As always, Tom, terrific writing, and quite educational for those of us who never dispatched a railroad larger than HO.  



Date: 04/20/23 15:34
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: tehachcond

johnsweetser Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> For those who may be wondering what the last names
> of "FMB" and "JEN" are, go to: 
> https://wx4.org/to/foam/sp/maps/perryETT/1974-09-1
> 5SP_SanJoaquin3-SheldonPerry.pdf

   I knew both FMB and JEN.  FMB had a son who was a fellow San Joaquin Mountain Seniority District conductor, Hev worked the locals around Mojave when he had the seniority  JEN was the Trainmaster at Mojave when I first encountered him.  Believe me, there was very little milk of human kindness flowing in his veins!

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO



Date: 04/20/23 16:34
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: Westbound

Very interesting narrative. I never worked the San Joaquin Division, just the Western Division. I knew the dispatchers could be exceptionally busy. Often you could hear it in their voices in radio transmissions. I hated to call them, either on the radio or the phone, but sometimes it just had to be done. I remember often on a phone call, the dispatcher connecting his phone but not speaking to you for up to a minute, while he dealt with other matters your could hear in their background. It could be 3 AM and the dispatcher was still about as busy as can be! 



Date: 04/21/23 19:11
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: cewherry

In early 1973 I was notified by my boss at SP's Simulator that upper management (read 'higher than my boss") wanted to
bring a RFE from Bakersfield, JWK Jr, to the Simulator while I was to take his position. Only problem was, I had spent too many
lunch hours over the previous 2 years listening intently to my fellow instructors bewailing life in the 'weeds' at such places.
On one occasion, after a brief lull in the conversation, I asked the rhetorical question: "If tomorrow, word came down from 
"The City", (San Francisco), that this place (the simulator) was being abolished--would be no more--and that each of the staff
would return to their previous jobs; what would you do? I was genuinely surprised to hear, of all the staff, my boss emphatically
saying: "They can go * * * * up a rope!, Ill be back on a switch engine by tomorrow night". 

It was with such impressions that after doing a bit of research to see who I'd be working for at Bakersfield, WCM as Supt & JEN,
his subordinate Asst Supt and taking a Sunday to drive up there to check out housing costs---remembering the oft-spoken words of
wisdom offered by my immediate boss at the Simulator, RMC Jr, to: "Always buy the nicest home your salary can afford and remember
to get everything added to the mortgage because inevitably, you will be moved again and the company will not pay for anything you
might have added to the home that was not included in your mortgage"; my mind was made up. I turned in my resignation the following
Monday and never regretted the decision---especially in regard to working for JEN.

Just think, Tom, we could have become acquainted much earlier than fate allowed when we both showed up on the BN. I'm OK with that.

Charlie 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/21/23 19:59 by cewherry.



Date: 04/23/23 17:44
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: halfmoonharold

Glad I worked on 95% CTC territories!  The seven-and-a-half-hour dispatchers were definitely NOT appreciated. I always had a plan for where every train on my districts would go when they got to the terminal. Most people didn't do that, which seemed overly trusting to me. Working 2-3 hours ahead allowed me to find the problems before they wrecked the railroad. Every train that didn't go to the hump either had to have an outbound crew or a parking place, preferably off the main line. If I saw a problem brewing, I could go talk to the assistant chief and they could start making phone calls or talk to the chief whatever. With a few exceptions, we had a pretty good office in Ft. Wayne.



Date: 04/23/23 18:48
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: ExSPCondr

Charlie,

This is a good time to tell where I met JEN, and it was really off the wall!

I was the SP Traimaster on ATK #1, and we were coming into Phoenix, AZ when the dispatcher called us on the radio and told us to tie it down in Phoenix, as the engineers were going on strike, and they wouldn't have enough buses at Yuma to go West with all the passengers.  We tied the train down, I called the dispatchers office in Tucson and told them what motel I was in, and went to bed, this being about 2am.

About 6am the phone rang, it was the dispatchers office wanting to know if I could make the 7am bus to Tucson.  I was in the shower just long enough to get wet, and ran for the office only to find the courtesy car was already gone.  So I called a cab to take me to the Greyhound depot.  By the time the cab showed up and we drove across town, I had missed the bus.  So, we headed for the airport.  This time I was successful and made the next plane.

At Tucson I'm scheduled to be the engineer on the BSM, along with a surveyor as my head brakeman, and the water and fuel service supervisor as my conductor.  We have 6 SD45s, 44 cars, and a private car on the rear behind the caboose.  JEN is in the private car.

I'm really surprised that as a 'system' guy I'm getting the BSM instead of one of the local RFE's, but okay.  I take over the engines at the fuel spot which is about two miles East of the depot & the Supt's office.  When we get fueled up and take off, the Supt, JJT calls me and says "stop at the depot and change crews," so I figure I've been found out and am going to have to trade for a drag.  As I get to the depot, Tierney comes out with a handset and says keep on going, stop your caboose here, I want your conductor, Mr. Neal is going to have to be his own Conductor, I don't have enough men.
Off we go, its about 5pm, and JEN calls all the draggers and detectors until about 10pm, when the voice changes.  (Couldn't have been the attendant could it?)

Straight thru to Indio where Chuck Hastings got on and ran it over Beaumont.

At West Colton, they relieved my brakeman, and the two of us were taken to a motel.
G

 



Date: 04/25/23 10:50
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: TAW

cewherry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> It was with such impressions that after doing a
> bit of research to see who I'd be working for at
> Bakersfield, WCM as Supt & JEN,

WCM was part of my culture shock. He was a hoghead. He didn't like dispatchers. That was shock one. None of the B&OCT officials were like that.

When the red phone on the East Asst. Chief desk rang at precisely 6am, he was on the other end, expecting a complete description of the division in every detail, at a rate no less than 50 WPM (he could copy 70). I was good with that. In fact, the first time I had to answer the red phone, I outran him. I came from where that level of knowledge was required.

Then one third trick when I was night Asst Chief, No 375 had a traction motor birdsnest around Fleta. The engineer was one of the few that I had ridden with, Triple H Hunter. I had no reason to doubt what he was telling me. He left the unit at Fleta.

I put the delayreason into COMPASS in detail. FMB came in from WCM's office to admonish me about delaying 375. I should have told the engineer to isolate the unit and keep going. Don't ever delay 375 for engine trouble. I responded that the wheelset was locked up because the traction motor came apart. He responded that is why there are traction motor cutouts. Now, I could understand maybe a Chief with a date in the 30s might not know the inner works of a diesel locomotive, but he just came from the boss' office. The heiracchy was so yes-oriented that this passed for the way to handle problems? During the year I spent there, I found that the answer was, more often thatn not, yes.



> Just think, Tom, we could have become acquainted
> much earlier than fate allowed when we both showed
> up on the BN. I'm OK with that.
>


Me too.

TAW

 



Date: 04/25/23 14:13
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: Zephyr

I think we got along much better in Los Angeles!  Dealing with RMG every day though could cause me to up the dosage of Maalox!  Just as a side note, my Aunt was JEN's secretary in Bakersfield.  Her name was Rose and she finished her career on the SP at Fruitvale Tower in the Bay Area.  She had some real good stories about JEN.

PKB



Date: 04/25/23 15:21
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: TAW

Zephyr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think we got along much better in Los Angeles!
>  Dealing with RMG every day though could cause me
> to up the dosage of Maalox!  Just as a side note,
> my Aunt was JEN's secretary in Bakersfield.  Her
> name was Rose and she finished her career on the
> SP at Fruitvale Tower in the Bay Area.  She had
> some real good stories about JEN.
>

Did you work for RLE when he was Chief? I broke in with him on the Saugus district in Bakersfield.

TAW



Date: 04/25/23 16:56
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: WAF

Zephyr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think we got along much better in Los Angeles!
>  Dealing with RMG every day though could cause me
> to up the dosage of Maalox!  Just as a side note,
> my Aunt was JEN's secretary in Bakersfield.  Her
> name was Rose and she finished her career on the
> SP at Fruitvale Tower in the Bay Area.  She had
> some real good stories about JEN.
>
> PKB
What year did she work Fruitvale?



Date: 04/25/23 22:29
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: Zephyr

WAF:  Aunt Rose probably worked Fruitvale Tower mid to late 70s or even early 80s.  I didn't know her then.  She married my Uncle later in life.
TAW:  If I'm thinking who RLE is, no, I never worked for him, but do remember him on the LA Division.  Wasn't he once married to a clerk in the office?
 



Date: 04/25/23 23:59
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: TAW

Zephyr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> WAF:  Aunt Rose probably worked Fruitvale Tower
> mid to late 70s or even early 80s.  I didn't know
> her then.  She married my Uncle later in life.
> TAW:  If I'm thinking who RLE is, no, I never
> worked for him, but do remember him on the LA
> Division.  Wasn't he once married to a clerk in
> the office?
>  
RLE - Bob Edwards and I think I heard yes about that (but not when I was there)

(hmmm...now I'm wondering if that was Ellwood)

TAW



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/26/23 11:35 by TAW.



Date: 04/26/23 07:27
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: WAF

Zephyr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> WAF:  Aunt Rose probably worked Fruitvale Tower
> mid to late 70s or even early 80s.  I didn't know
> her then.  She married my Uncle later in life.
> TAW:  If I'm thinking who RLE is, no, I never
> worked for him, but do remember him on the LA
> Division.  Wasn't he once married to a clerk in
> the office?
Trying to remember any women working that tower. I only remember male voices
>  



Date: 05/08/23 11:29
Re: Close Encounter of the Third Kind – JEN
Author: SanJoaquinEngr

Harold Hunter..what a character. I fired for him on the LA to Searles turn. He was an over ground kid that always wanted to wrestle in the cab of the engine . You certainly worked with a bunch of characters. JEN better know as " little Joe". I worked with his brother that was an engineer and also a big boozer and pothead.

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