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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"


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Date: 07/20/23 14:11
Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: ApproachCircuit

Hey your train is ready! Power is on, Highball!  Oh, wait a moment. You're not going anywhere- No Bills: No Bills of Lading. Without  your Bills you don't
have a  "Wheel" Well whats the problem? Talk to the Clerk! He's the man in charge! He's still busy feeding  those IBM punch cards, a card for each car, thru the
machine. Time and Time again, SP Bayshore, you could and would be on duty for HOURS before your Bills were handed to you. ONE AM on duty? How about
an OS of about 3:30/4:00 AM!! And you better not think what might happen if the carmen found a B.O. on your train while you are in the yard office.
Now that requires a switch crew to throw out the car(s)  and you know how fast they work at 3 am!
Did this mostly happen during the night shift? Were the" Bills" a problem on trains called during daylight?. You have to have seniority to know that answer!
But it's the Railroad and you know it's what you love to do.
Maybe  the YM will "Bust your Call"
50 Miles, maybe more!



Date: 07/21/23 06:39
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: hoggerdoug

Years ago (1972) I hired on the the TH&B Rly in Hamilton, ON. The TH&B had just gone modern with the IBM punch card system in the yard offices as well as the payroll department. The punch cards had some limitations as to the length of letters or numbers in one sequence. A Trainman that I was working with had the experience with his first pay check in the amount of $250,000. He thought the pay rate on the railway was really good. He was of eastern Europe descent and his last name had 13 letters, the payroll IBM machine did not handle his name well and kept adding 0's to his pay check. Needless to say, he could not deposit the check and the railway would not let him keep it to frame as a souvenir..
Doug



Date: 07/21/23 12:44
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: wabash2800

Since you are on the subject, I thought some of you younger railroaders might want to see what an early IBM machine for punch cards might look like. This one was installed on the Wabash RR Montpelier Division at Montpelier, Ohio. The date is April 22, 1963, and concurrent with the installation of the IBM machine in the new yard office in the station, the East Yard Office was closed.

Radio communication was relatively late on the Wabash, with radio installed about this time for communication btw the train crews, yard office and other personnel. At left is Trainmaster Paul Maynard "Mickey Fletcher" and to his right, Superintendent William Blades. With installation of the machine, only one yardmaster was needed for an 8 hour shift. IBM cards were used to create 6 copies of Train Consists and Yard Track Lists.

This was on page 223 of my Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District book in "Appendix A-Community". At one time Montpelier had west and east yard offices. Dispatchers were housed on the top floor of the station. 



Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 07/24/23 11:18 by wabash2800.




Date: 07/21/23 14:11
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: TAW

wabash2800 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Since you are on the subject, I thought some of
> you younger railroaders might want to see what an
> early IBM machine for punch cards might look like.

Ah yes; the 402 machine. It had to be programmed for cards of different purposes - yard check, train list, demurrage, interchange. Programming was done by jumpers on a plug board. There was a board for each purpose. If you forgot to check for the right board before printing, you'd get gibberish at 100 lines per minute until it ran out of cards. Then you could change the board and start over. Programming the plug board was not for the computer illiterate (a different meaning with mainframes than today). That's why there was a board kept for each purpose.

That was the easy part.

Well, actually, the second easiest part. There was a card for every car and a pigeon hole in the rack for every track. When the computer sent the list of the train out of the last yard, it sent cards. Put the stack in the rack in the hole for the arriving train. When the train landed, put the cards in that track. When the switching was completed, put the cards into the holes for the tracks in the order they went in. That was challenging to some folks. Oh, since switching cards and switching cars was the same process, if the foreman decided to make a cut in a different place than the yardmaster marked up, your switching would be wrong. You would find out when you mudhopped the yard, then had to fix the cards in the rack.

The hard part was entering waybills and entering received interchange. You would punch the cards on the 029 keypunch, leading with a program header to tell the system what to do with the cards. Being a computer, card entry required 100% accuracy. When finished with the interchange or the billing, put the stack of cards in the 2780 batch terminal. Start the program, the stack of cards would go  through, then you waited for the dreaded red print. If one card had an error, its contents would be called out in red on the printer. The entire batch would be rejected. Fish the rejected cards out of the stack (waybills, the order didn't matter; interchange received is a track list, so keep the cards in order) and make new ones (no correcting an IBM card). Run it through again. Didn't fix all the errors? Rejected.

Typo on a card while punching? Ditch it, make a new one.

Good at punching accurately? The work went pretty fast (the machine could deqal with about 40 WPM rate)... if you remembered to put in the right program card (automatically counts the number of characters for that field and skips to the next. Wrong program card makes cards of gibberish). If not, start over.

Some old school pencil and hard copy (the original meaning was the cardboard copy of a multi copy switch list) folks had a frustrating terrible time.

So yeah, if there were particular times and places for late paperwork, behind it was probably an old school mudhop frustrated, cussing, and ready to quit on the spot (I knew one who actually did).

TAW



Date: 07/21/23 21:17
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: Beowawe

On the WP we had PICL clerks that ran the train and switch lists.  PICL stood for Perpetual Inventory Car Location.  Pronounced like the word pickle.



Date: 07/22/23 19:57
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: czephyr17

Beowawe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> On the WP we had PICL clerks that ran the train
> and switch lists.  PICL stood for Perpetual
> Inventory Car Location.  Pronounced like the word
> pickle.

Same on BN.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 07/23/23 18:19
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: Grizz

When I joined SP in 1990, we utilized SAS to extract movement data from the main frame.  If you wanted a specific piece of information--Origin, destination, shipper, consigned, etc, you had to type in the appropriate card number.  For example, card 40 might have meant origin ( I forget exactly it was a long time ago.). But the card 40 was a throwback to the old IBM punchcards.  Even though the punchcard were at least a decade in the past.  

I used to take my work home and utilize my Apple Mac to do the analysis.  It had 1 MB of RAM and a 20 MB hard drive.  Cost me $1200 in 1989.  Times have definitely changed



Date: 07/23/23 21:53
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: ironmtn

Fascinating to this former IT guy (of the internet era) to hear the details of how punch cards were used on the railroad - thanks. By the way, the photo that Victor shared is of an output printer, which would give the report (such as a consist list) output from the processing cycle made using the punch cards. Of itself a very interesting contrast to the printers we have today.

Photos and good article on IBM punch card usage and a photo of the IBM 029 punch card terminal, perhaps the very type used by some who posted to this thread - link: https://twobithistory.org/2018/06/23/ibm-029-card-punch.html

The 029 was the most common terminal from the IBM System/360-era, the mainframe family widely used in the railroad industry, and probably in use for many here on TO who worked with punch cards. Well before my time with IBM, but definitely remembered by many folks I worked with. And probably more than a few here on TO.

MC



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/23/23 21:55 by ironmtn.



Date: 07/24/23 07:33
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: CimaScrambler

Punch cards bedeviled the life of anyone who had to deal with them, railroad or otherwise.  I first had to deal with them while learning how to use a computer at UC San Diego in 1979.  We had a Burroughs main frame computer with line printer - the high tech thing in those days.  There was also a big room full of punch card machines.  The language that also filled that room could get pretty blue as students (such as myself) typed programming instructions onto those cards, examined the result, and then crumpled up the card because either they had mistyped the line or the punch card machine hadn't made a clean punch somewhere on the card leaving a "chad" hanging that the reader would choak on (remember the election of 2000 and its famous "hanging chads" from the vote in Florida?).  You would spend an hour or two typing instruction lines on cards at the punch machines, then leave the stack of cards (secured together in sequence with a couple of rubber bands) at a counter for the computer operator to feed into the card reader.  An hour or two later you could come back by there to get the results of the read - usually telling you one or two cards didn't read correctly or the programming step made no sense to the computer (we engineering students were programming in the FORTRAN language back then).  So then the job became figuring out what card(s) had problems, waiting for a punch card machine to come available (they were in high demand), fixing the card(s), inserting them in the right order in the stack, handing them back in to the computer operators, rinse and repeat.  Perhaps after a while the program might actually read properly and run properly, resulting in a pile of line printer paper you got to hand in for credit in whatever class had given you the assignment.
Lord help you if you ever dropped that stack of cards before you got a couple of rubber bands around it!  I survived those days and am glad they've gone by, for sure!

Kit Courter
Menefee, CA
LunarLight Photography



Date: 07/24/23 08:09
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: randgust

Started to computer program in 1977 and our school had an IBM 1130 that was all card-driven, and you had to run an IBM Model 29 keypunch first to do anything.

The 'boot card' on that ancient machine was more holes than card, very fragile, and it the card reader had a bad day, instantly turned into an exercise of pulling card shards out with tweezers.

Two actual employers later you still had punch cards running the show as late as about 1988, at least for the IBM mainframe job control language, and the only good thing was that the same card formats were being imitated digitally and submitted that way.   But the card reader was still there.

The real fun was the IBM card sorter, about as long as a pool table, finicky as a teenage girl, and made as much noise even with the sound cover on.   

I miss those 80 column cards, they made great grocery lists, bookmarks, and the green ones made Christmas wreaths.  I think the last major legacy system that used them was the US treasury for social security checks, IRS refund checks, etc.   Holes and all.

For all you guys that aren't already on railroad retirement:

https://youtu.be/kaQmAybWn-w

There's still an awful lot of old systems out there that hang onto the legacy of an 80-column input form, even if it comes off a web-based system now.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 07/24/23 12:01 by randgust.



Date: 07/24/23 09:32
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: Chessie

I have a box of these cards to this day.  A friend I met many years ago when I was a teenager used them for taking notes on the trains he saw, I adopted his shorthand method as well.  (He worked in the corporate HQ of Conrail in marketing and enjoyed watching trains, studying traffic patterns, etc.).  The cards fit nicely in one's back pocket and were rigid enough to write on without need of anything to support them, unlike paper.  I can remember the machine in the yard office where I railfanned (and later worked for many years) as well. 



Date: 07/24/23 10:18
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: randgust

The other legacy of that era was that the EBCDIC world was UPPER CASE.   ALL UPPER CASE.   It's funny now when you look at anything printed or written in that era, any millenial will say 'so why did everybody shout back then???'.  
And as a classic programmer, you had to learn, think, count and compute in Hexdecimal.  That comment draws a '404040', right?   'Modern' math in school taught bases assuming everybody had to learn to work in something except base 10.



Date: 07/24/23 11:29
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: wabash2800

I was an accountant for a steel mill in the early 80s. We had a "data processing department" that would keypunch your input and send the cards back to you, wrapped in the green-bar paper with a rubber band. I miss the large, green-bar paper!

Victor Bairf

Posted from Android



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/24/23 11:31 by wabash2800.



Date: 07/24/23 18:29
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: ironmtn

CimaScrambler Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Lord help you if you ever dropped that stack of
> cards before you got a couple of rubber bands
> around it!  I survived those days and am glad
> they've gone by, for sure!

A family member still tells the story of the day she was racing across her college campus with a stack of cards, all securely wrapped, ready to turn in for a project. And yeah it happened - she slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk, and the cards popped out of her bag and went flying all over the quad. The prof took mercy, however, and allowed her to recreate the deck. It was a miserable job, sorting and resorting the remnants she had, then figuring out where the gaps were, and filling those with replacement cards. She barely made the deadline at the end of the semester. But she got a good grade on the project, and for the course.

Glad I never had to deal with them in my years doing IT work. Fortunately. They were past history by then, although more senior colleagues remembered (and cursed) them, and told more than a few horror stories.

MC



Date: 07/25/23 12:57
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: 567Chant

This thread reminded me...
When I was a field service technician with 3M, I maintained aperture card equipment. These cards were the (then) familiar Hollerith cards with a window containing a 35mm microfilm chip. These were used to store and retrieve engineering drawings.
Large planetary camera-processors, card duplicators and large format "C" size printers - I maintained 'em all.
Shortly after dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
...Lorenzo



Date: 07/25/23 14:40
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: TAW

randgust Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The other legacy of that era was that the EBCDIC
> world was UPPER CASE.   ALL UPPER CASE.   It's
> funny now when you look at anything printed or
> written in that era, any millenial will say 'so
> why did everybody shout back then???'.  

I experienced that culture shock. I was used to all caps from train order mills (typewriters) before using teletype or computers, so all caps was natural. I guess over the years I shouted at a lot of conductors and engineers.

TAW



Date: 07/25/23 14:51
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: TAW

ironmtn Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Fascinating to this former IT guy (of the internet
> era) to hear the details of how punch cards were
> used on the railroad - thanks. By the way, the
> photo that Victor shared is of an output printer,

Model 402 - took three guys to move the thing... and it had wheels


> The 029 was the most common terminal from the IBM
> System/360-era, the mainframe family widely used
> in the railroad industry, and probably in use for
> many here on TO who worked with punch cards. Well
> before my time with IBM, but definitely remembered
> by many folks I worked with. And probably more
> than a few here on TO.

My first railroad data processing was a Teletype Model 19 on the Milwaukee. One night at Bellingham, the machine had a problem. I called the phone number for a technician. He showed up, looked kind of puzzled and asked if that was the thing he was called for. I told him that it was and what the problem was. He had never seen one before.

At BN, we 'modernized' from the 2780 to the 3771 terminals (but kept the 029 keypunch). Had a problem with one and called IBM. The guy showed up, remarked about us still using it, and said that he had never worked on one but they had one in the company museum.

TAW
 



Date: 07/25/23 19:40
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: ironmtn

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> ironmtn Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> Model 402 - took three guys to move the thing...
> and it had wheels.

Built for keeps at the IBM Poughkeepsie, NY plant, which built a lot of the "big iron" hardware back in the day. I thought it was a 402, but wasn't sure, and couldn't get a clear enough read on the number on the nameplate. Thanks for confirming. They were built like tanks.

I was in the Midwest, but was regularly part of project teams at IBM who were "deep blue" with many years of service. Many of those folks had time in the various IBM facilities in the Hudson Valley and nearby north of New York City, long an important center of operations for Big Blue, and in many ways still the operational heart of the company. One guy had manufacturing engineering experience before he moved into a software management group. He joked that the hardware of that era was partially built up the river at the Watervliet Arsenal - where artillery tubes are made for the Army, and where all big naval guns (like - battleship size) were made. The big iron indeed.
>
> My first railroad data processing was a Teletype
> Model 19 on the Milwaukee. One night at
> Bellingham, the machine had a problem. I called
> the phone number for a technician. He showed up,
> looked kind of puzzled and asked if that was the
> thing he was called for. I told him that it was
> and what the problem was. He had never seen one
> before.
>
> At BN, we 'modernized' from the 2780 to the 3771
> terminals (but kept the 029 keypunch). Had a
> problem with one and called IBM. The guy showed
> up, remarked about us still using it, and said
> that he had never worked on one but they had one
> in the company museum.
>
> TAW
>  
Sounds just like the Greyhound dispatcher's office at the big terminal in Chicago that I regularly drove into, and where I had my training during the years I drove for the Hound early in my career. There were a couple of Teletype 19 terminals in almost constant use, each for different operational functions. They even hung on for a while after the IBM 3771 terminal arrived. But the 029 keypunch was gone. Or was back in a corner where we drivers couldn't see it when we turned in our trip paperwork and got assignments.

I'd bet a lot of transportation operational offices were similar in that era. IBM liked to develop common system architectures for various business sectors, and put systems together custom for each client, but based in the common architecture for that business sector, such as transportation. We were doing the same decades later when I worked for IBM, but with client-server-oriented systems with personal computers, laptops and laser printers as service endpoints. The 402s, 3771s and 029 keypunch terminals were but a memory. Or yes, in the company museum.

MC



Date: 07/28/23 13:52
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: Corpach

Likewise, all my log entries were typed in capitals as we used Apollo 2000 machines for all our TOPS work at Railfreight Distribution in London. On arrival in Doncaster following the EWS takeover the Wisconsin Central upper echelons were somewhat askance at my log entries in capitals. To quote Judy Butcher "Dave, why are you shouting at people ?" "Maybe I am" didn't go down well as an answer ! Took a little while to retune my typing abilities though.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/28/23 13:54 by Corpach.



Date: 07/31/23 00:26
Re: Conductors and the IBM punch cards "SP BAYSHORE"
Author: aronco

Sometime in the early 70's, Santa Fe went to the 029 cardpunch / 402 machines for their clic system.  This was a big change, so almost all supervisors attended a meeting in Los Angeles, where the General Manager made it rather clear that this new system was going to work, and we had all better get behind what was to be known at the CLIC system ( Car Location Inventory Control).  In the back of the room filled with about 100 operating supervisors, an "old head" trainmaster, close to retirement, raised his hand, asking what CLIc really stood for - did it means Come Let's Institute Chaos, or Cars Lost in California.?  Of course, the room erupted in laughter, and the story became legend after George retired.

TIOGA PASS   

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar



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