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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Working with switchmen


Date: 05/25/23 22:10
Working with switchmen
Author: ApproachCircuit

Not the same as with trainmen. The earlier switch crews had 4 poeple!  Remember SUNA??
You had as the senior man, the "Foot Board Foreman".
And if you were clled off the board to work with these guys you had your hands full!
Number one was the crew seniority: some of these crews, esp around Chicago with its many switching and terminal RR's had a combined seniority of over 100 years!
They had been working together for what seemed like forever.
And their Hand Signals were from outer space. You just didn't know much except a basic "wash-out"!
And they really didn't like to explain anything either. You were in left field the time you workrd with them!!
So it goes working on the railroad!

Happy Memorial Day

Do you remember " Cadillac Collins"?    SP



Date: 05/26/23 05:53
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: eljay

Snakes--"lowest thing on the railroad"



Date: 05/26/23 07:43
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: Notch7

Periodically from 1974 to 1980 I would have to go to Charlotte NC and work yard engineer assignments on Southern Railway's Airline Yard there.  Frequently I would catch one of the around the clock hump jobs there.  It was a busy old hand rider hump.  My ground crew was the hump conductor and usually six riders.  The riders rode and hand braked the cars to a coupling.  Riders walking back to the hump heard the next moves through the conductors loud speaker system consisting of his big microphone and multiple pole based speakers in the hump yard.  They had a radio to talk to me, but rarely used it because it was a road shoulder strap 16 D-cell Motorola model.  So it was mostly a lean out the window of a ALCO RS-3 and try to figure out the hand signals job.  Each of the three yards on my district had differing hand signals.  The senior hump conductor at Airline Yard  was nicknamed "Bullet" - no idea why.  He looked more like Humpty Dumpty with a little cap on his head.  He absolutely would not use that big road walkie-talkie, so he gave me hand signals holding a big wad of cotton textile waste.  I finally asked one of the riders why "Bullet" always rode outside on the back of the RS-3, even when it was raining.  The answer was - "Bullet" couldn't  fit through the cab door.  "Bullet" told me he missed the big 0-8-0 steamers he used to work with on the hump.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/26/23 08:22 by Notch7.



Date: 05/26/23 08:10
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: wp1801

ApproachCircuit Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Not the same as with trainmen. The earlier switch
> crews had 4 people!  Remember SUNA??                                          "footboard yardmaster"  is what I remember.
> You had as the senior man, the "Foot Board
> Foreman".
> And if you were called off the board to work with
> these guys you had your hands full!
> Number one was the crew seniority: some of these
> crews, esp around Chicago with its many switching
> and terminal RR's had a combined seniority of over
> 100 years!
> They had been working together for what seemed
> like forever.
> And their Hand Signals were from outer space. You
> just didn't know much except a basic "wash-out"!
> And they really didn't like to explain anything
> either. You were in left field the time you workrd
> with them!!
> So it goes working on the railroad!
>
> Happy Memorial Day
>
> Do you remember " Cadillac Collins"?    SP



Date: 05/26/23 11:00
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: TAW

eljay Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Snakes--"lowest thing on the railroad"

On IHB, towers were worked by the Snakes. Dispatchers were promoted form the towers.

B&OCT Snakes were the operator/switchtender at Rockwell, Brighton Park, and 79th Street (and before they were closed, Throop Street, Halsted Street, and 22nd Street).

Train Directors at Rock Island Junction were Snakes.

You worked with the wrong Snakes.

TAW



Date: 05/26/23 13:35
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: eljay

No doubt the snake moniker wasn't confined to switchmen. But switchmen were snakes in places on the Santa Fe Coast Lines.

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> eljay Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Snakes--"lowest thing on the railroad"
>
> On IHB, towers were worked by the Snakes.
> Dispatchers were promoted form the towers.
>
> B&OCT Snakes were the operator/switchtender at
> Rockwell, Brighton Park, and 79th Street (and
> before they were closed, Throop Street, Halsted
> Street, and 22nd Street).
>
> Train Directors at Rock Island Junction were
> Snakes.
>
> You worked with the wrong Snakes.
>
> TAW



Date: 05/26/23 13:38
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: goneon66

i heard an old head s.p. conductor call a switchman a "ground snake".............

66



Date: 05/26/23 13:47
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: TAW

eljay Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> No doubt the snake moniker wasn't confined to
> switchmen. But switchmen were snakes in places on
> the Santa Fe Coast Lines.

Snake comes from the original emblem of the switchmen's union. In the late 1800s, rails had to hide their union membership (before the union shop arrangement that we get to (got in my case) enjoy that they suffered mightily for. Union switchmen wore a snake lapel pin. Conductors had a letter O, hence conductors are the big O. When the American Train Dispatchers Association was formed, the lapel pin was a clock at five minutes after seven, representing the original demand of one day off in seven.

TAW



Date: 05/26/23 19:02
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: RetiredHogger

Some locations I worked, the hand signals (and radio signals for that matter) were determined by which way the lead unit was pointed. "Ahead" was always toward the front of the locomotive. "Back" was toward the rear.

Other places, back was toward the trainman, and ahead was....well....away from the trainman.

Either way was fine, as long as everybody was on the same page.

We frequently used timetable direction on the radio as well.

 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/27/23 06:35 by RetiredHogger.



Date: 05/26/23 20:17
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: wabash2800

While you are on the subject, If you don't mind me, a non-railroader, posting here, here's a story that a Wabash railroader told me years ago. I don't remember what yard it was but it might have been Landers or 47th Street in Chicago. Anyway, the switch crew had their own way of doing things and even by the standards of the day it wasn't safe. But these guys were real pro's and they could do their work day in and day out without getting hurt and get the yard work done by quitting time.

But then, it seems an official was sent to that location and the first thing he did was to tell the guys they couldn't do it the way they were doing it. Well, things slowed down considerably.  Even not considering the safety thing, this guy was a real pain in the ass.  The guys found out that this guy was moved around the system because no one liked working with him. So, the gang got together one day and decided to do something nasty. They took up a collection and hired a thug to beat him up! They knew which route he took coming and going in the yard and the thug intercepted him one night. That took care of the problem. Our official was in hospital and recovered but never came back.

Things started to pick up again and upper management noticed as they had noticed when things slowed down. It seems one upper official came down and congratulated the crew and handed out cigars!

This was long ago, and I'm sure everyone has passed away. The railroader told me more details with names, but I didn't record them and therefore have forgot (unless I posted it here on TO years ago). Take the story for what it's worth, but this was what he told me.

Victor Baird



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 05/26/23 20:33 by wabash2800.



Date: 05/27/23 10:50
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: OSWishram

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> eljay Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > No doubt the snake moniker wasn't confined to
> > switchmen. But switchmen were snakes in places
> on
> > the Santa Fe Coast Lines.
>
> Snake comes from the original emblem of the
> switchmen's union. In the late 1800s, rails had to
> hide their union membership (before the union shop
> arrangement that we get to (got in my case) enjoy
> that they suffered mightily for. Union switchmen
> wore a snake lapel pin. Conductors had a letter O,
> hence conductors are the big O. When the American
> Train Dispatchers Association was formed, the
> lapel pin was a clock at five minutes after seven,
> representing the original demand of one day off in
> seven.
>
> TAW

Thank you for that, Thomas.  That's very interesting history.

Bob Willer,  Non-Rail (not privileged to have been a Rail)
 



Date: 05/27/23 11:28
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: SanJoaquinEngr

ApproachCircuit Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Not the same as with trainmen. The earlier switch
> crews had 4 poeple!  Remember SUNA??
> You had as the senior man, the "Foot Board
> Foreman".
> And if you were clled off the board to work with
> these guys you had your hands full!
> Number one was the crew seniority: some of these
> crews, esp around Chicago with its many switching
> and terminal RR's had a combined seniority of over
> 100 years!
> They had been working together for what seemed
> like forever.
> And their Hand Signals were from outer space. You
> just didn't know much except a basic "wash-out"!
> And they really didn't like to explain anything
> either. You were in left field the time you workrd
> with them!!
> So it goes working on the railroad!
>
> Happy Memorial Day
>
> Do you remember " Cadillac Collins"?    SP

Yes worked with Cadillac Collins. Plus Dave Garretto, The Leprican, No nose, Rubber nose, Yosemite Sam, the Preacher, Squeaky, the Blindman, Earl Cox, Charlie Monroe, and many more.

Posted from Android



Date: 05/27/23 11:28
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: tehachcond

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> eljay Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Snakes--"lowest thing on the railroad"
>
> On IHB, towers were worked by the Snakes.
> Dispatchers were promoted form the towers.
>
> B&OCT Snakes were the operator/switchtender at
> Rockwell, Brighton Park, and 79th Street (and
> before they were closed, Throop Street, Halsted
> Street, and 22nd Street).
>
> Train Directors at Rock Island Junction were
> Snakes.
>
> You worked with the wrong Snakes.
>
> TAW

There was an old-head conductor out of Los Angeles on the SP, who, whenever he needed to call the yardmaster at Colton on the radio, he would say "Calling the Head Reptile at Colton."  Usually, they would answer him.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO



Date: 05/27/23 18:50
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: SanJoaquinEngr

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> TAW Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > eljay Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > -----
> > > Snakes--"lowest thing on the railroad"
> >
> > On IHB, towers were worked by the Snakes.
> > Dispatchers were promoted form the towers.
> >
> > B&OCT Snakes were the operator/switchtender at
> > Rockwell, Brighton Park, and 79th Street (and
> > before they were closed, Throop Street, Halsted
> > Street, and 22nd Street).
> >
> > Train Directors at Rock Island Junction were
> > Snakes.
> >
> > You worked with the wrong Snakes.
> >
> > TAW
>
> There was an old-head conductor out of Los Angeles
> on the SP, who, whenever he needed to call the
> yardmaster at Colton on the radio, he would say
> "Calling the Head Reptile at Colton."  Usually,
> they would answer him.
>
> Brian Black
> Castle Rock, CO

Haha Charlie shower shoes Jones.

Posted from Android



Date: 05/27/23 20:13
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: TAW

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> There was an old-head conductor out of Los Angeles
> on the SP, who, whenever he needed to call the
> yardmaster at Colton on the radio, he would say
> "Calling the Head Reptile at Colton."  Usually,
> they would answer him.
>

One aftermnoon on B&OCT Chief, I was helping the Grand Rapids Chief line up some detours over the Grand Trunk.

I called the Grand Trunk Chief and a booming voice on a speaker phone answered: "Grand Trunk; God speaking."

I laughed and said "Jee Zus Ker Riced"

and he answered: "He's on the trick job."

TAW

 



Date: 05/28/23 11:48
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: tehachcond

SanJoaquinEngr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> tehachcond Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > TAW Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > -----
> > > eljay Wrote:
> > >
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> >
> > > -----
> > > > Snakes--"lowest thing on the railroad"
> > >
> > > On IHB, towers were worked by the Snakes.
> > > Dispatchers were promoted form the towers.
> > >
> > > B&OCT Snakes were the operator/switchtender
> at
> > > Rockwell, Brighton Park, and 79th Street (and
> > > before they were closed, Throop Street,
> Halsted
> > > Street, and 22nd Street).
> > >
> > > Train Directors at Rock Island Junction were
> > > Snakes.
> > >
> > > You worked with the wrong Snakes.
> > >
> > > TAW
> >
> > There was an old-head conductor out of Los
> Angeles
> > on the SP, who, whenever he needed to call the
> > yardmaster at Colton on the radio, he would say
> > "Calling the Head Reptile at Colton." 
> Usually,
> > they would answer him.
> >
> > Brian Black
> > Castle Rock, CO
>
> Haha Charlie shower shoes Jones.

We have a winner !

Brian
>
> Posted from Android



Date: 06/04/23 21:39
Re: Working with switchmen
Author: SanJoaquinEngr

Switch men at Taylor Yard were famous for doing the switchmans shuffle. 3 steps forward and 2 back. Plus working in the C yard had a full crew but only 1 man worked the engineer to death while the others sat on their rearends.

Posted from Android



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