Home Open Account Help 152 users online

Railroaders' Nostalgia > Been There, Done That?

Date: 12/23/23 09:35
Been There, Done That?
Author: RetiredHogger

First out on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day? And the phone rings? Or not.

Maybe working the only job on your shift they can't do without? That really goes for dispatchers and operators.

What about looking for a place to hide until the 26th?

Worse yet, how about stuck in the hotel, and they aren't running trains or dead heading? That I never had to do.

If you're retired, congrats. If you're still out there, be careful.

Merry Christmas.


Date: 12/23/23 12:05
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: 3rdswitch

I didn't mind being first out on a class line like Santa Fe as with most trains and jobs held in, it would probably be one of the best trips of your life. Only had one bad Christmas in by thrity one years on Santa Fe. Merry Christmas.

Date: 12/23/23 12:55
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: spider1319

Arriving in Barstow 25 times out on Christmas Eve and thinking that surely will change by morning after they deadhead .All night in bed up and awake on Chiristmas Day and still 16 times out and no daedheads with the lineup showing late that night.Time to make some calls which did little to no good ,but did get out at 1700..Another time getting called and talked into a trip to Barstow on New Years Day and told you will be first out on arrival at Barstow and will come right back.Of course if there are no trains running you are going to the hotel and sit.Finally got out but only after the train I should have caught waited for another train to  arrive and be combined.We had had a flight scheduled for 0600 the second which we made but only after sweating bullets .The train went into emergency on the hill and when we arrived we were held out.Bill Webb

Date: 12/23/23 14:51
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: santafe199

Date: 12/24/23 08:29
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: trainjunkie

It's Christmas Eve 2023 at 0830 and I'm first-out. No comfort from the company's wishy-washy "to the greatest extent possible" holiday broadcast message, with its generous 6-hour moratorium on deadheads and non-priority trains (whatever that means), since I'll probably already be at the AFHT on Christmas Day. Oh well, the freight never stops.

Date: 12/25/23 05:05
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: Notch7

As a young fireman and engineer, I always tried to figure a way to be at home for Christmas with my parents in North Carolina.  In 1975 I thought I had it knocked.  I was stepped up as engineer  on an out of town work train on the Southern Railway's North Charlotte District..  My conductor had the track supervisor talked into knocking us off at the away from home terminal for the holiday, tying us to the job.  That would give us Christmas off, and we would show back up on the morning of the 26th.  That fell through at the last minute, and I had to bring the work train back to our home terminal - Greenville SC.  That relieved me and put me back to my assigned fireman job on priority freights.  The call office told me then that they would hold me off my freight firing job for emergency engineer service in the home terminal for the whole Christmas holiday - preventing me from going home..  I looked at the call sheet closely.  Sometimes the next best thing to being off is to work something that suits your needs.  I found it.  They let me claim the passenger fireman vacancy on the northbound Southern Crescent  on Christmas Eve night,  going straight up to Salisbury NC and doubling right back on the southbound Southern Crescent.  I'd be back in Greenville the next morning at 6 am and off until the night of the 26th.  I'd be home in plenty of time to go to drive to my home in NC for Christnas turkey dinner.

That Christmas Eve passenger traffic was heavy.  Two full sections of the Southern Crescent went north.  I was on the first section.  By the time the two sections of the Southern Crescent arrived in Salisbury, it had started snowing.  "Colonel Southern" had decided to deadhead everybody home on my Christmas morning southbound Southern Crescent, except my young Atlanta baggagemaster.  I did feel sorry for him until I saw him step into the cab to the motel.  He had a blonde underneath one arm and a redhead underneath the other.  A very Merry Christmas to them.  That southbound Southen Crescent was only one section, but it was five green E8's and 23 passenger cars.  We charged through the accumulating snowstorm  with those perfect running E8's recovering time.  By dawn I was in my old 62 "401 nail-head" Buick and on my way to enjoy Christmas dinner  and presents with my parent's in NC.  I think about that special Christmas every year.

Date: 12/25/23 07:05
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: LocoPilot750

A year or two before I retired, I was at my daughters house in Overland Park for Christmas. Wife drove seperately, so if called, I could go to work from there. I was11 times out all day, they didn't run anything. I was lined up for a deadhead to Wellington about 6pm. Well, when I finally get called, they had decided to deadhead the first 9 guys and work one on a lite engine for 6pm, and called me 15 minutes behind them to work a short hotshot out of the yard at Turner. All the deadheads went to the DSF to get on the lite engines, I think they had about 10 units, but the roundhouse guys were having trouble getting them together. We taxied out to Turner, got on our train, did the air test, and they let us out ahead of the lite engine which still had not left yet. It had snowed and blew all day, so all the crossings had road grader drifts, which were kinda fun to knock out, and we had snow over the track all the way, because they hadn't run a single train all day. Anyway, we made it to Wellington, and tied up 15 minutes ahead of the ten crews on the lite engine, tie up and went to bed. Next morning when I got up, I find that several of the deadheads had got rested and already were called for trains going back to KC. I called the crew management and told him we were 1st out when we got there, because we had run around all the other crews, we put in first, and tied up before they had even got there. Well long story short, Engineers don't get paid for multiple run-arounds, but the conductor did, and we followed all the other crews home, getting out later that night.

Date: 12/25/23 09:00
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: engineerinvirginia

I was second out this morning with the first out man not rested until tommorow....took smart rest to break his starts....looking farther down the board I saw a lot of folks were home, so set myself to the foot of the board....others may do it too if they haven't already but it's always worth a shot. 

Date: 12/25/23 09:04
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: Chessie

Phone rang thirty minutes after my vacation ended yesterday morning, tied up head out.  Watching and waiting ...

Date: 12/25/23 09:40
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: Drknow

Work every damn holiday for these jokers for almost 30 years now… except for Christmas. It’s the ONE time a year get to see some of my family anymore and the RR can eat a bag o’ … I don’t give them Christmas.

Maybe July 4th off would be nice too…🤔


Posted from iPhone

Date: 12/27/23 00:01
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: aronco

During my 14 years at Barstow, I somehow became the "resident expert" for special projects and studies.  About November 1985 or so, I was taken off my trainmaster's job in the high tower and asked to work with a few other division supervisors to plan the Christmas operations to minimize the number of trains run and to hopefully get every road crew home for either Christmas eve or Christmas day.  This was not so simple as it might seem, as there were certain trains that had to operate to destination ( LA or Richmond) to meet schedule commitment's ( UPS and Fed Ex and others ), while other trains such as trains to be humped at Barstow which could be held at Needles for 24 hours or manifest trains such as LA to San Diego that could skip a day's operations tonnage permitting, and so on.  Well, we came up with a plan that accommodated every train, and would result in running about 60 trains less over the holidays, and get nearly every crew home for a holiday.
On December 24, in the afternoon, the plan started into effect.  About 300pm, the General Manager in LA called the tower and asked how many crews were on hand at Barstow, and how many trains were coming from LA, Needles and Bakersfield, etc.  I told him I thought we would only have three Needles crews left in town by 900pm for tomorrow's trains.  In short, I thought the plan was going to work out.  "Damn it Orfall" He Shouted " I want all the crews deadheaded home for Christmas!"
I tried to plead the case that breaking the chain anywhere would doom the plan, but he was not persuaded.  The chief dispatcher and I lined up to deadhead crews home in all three directions, leaving Barstow with only two empty tracks and no crews.  (Barstow was the away from home terminal in all three routes).  I returned to work Christmas day at 200pm to a fiasco.  The yard was plugged full, and no crews were in town.  The crews would start arriving about 600pm or later, but we had no place to park!  We were three days digging out of that one!


Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar

Date: 12/27/23 08:45
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: engineerinvirginia

Everybody did indeed drop behind me....I got out Christmas evening....but stayed in hotel only briefly....now home and going on rest days...Breezewood PA is a tourist trap, but it's a long way from the railroad...may just head that way. 

Date: 12/27/23 12:57
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: ln844south

When I finally got enough seniority, when an old head on a outlying Selma to Myrtlewood, Al job went on vacation for the holidays, I would try and claim it which I generally got it.
CSX was good at that time to annul the job on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years Day. I would be home while the guys in pool service were still getting home and still pick up a basic day.

Date: 12/27/23 19:00
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: Trainhand

When I was single , my family,  parents and siblings, might have Christmas on a day besides December 25. I would volunteer to work a passenger train or switch engine so somebody could be off with their family. Later years the jobs to Augusta or Florence would be annulled  and I had enough Christmas seniority to claim one of them. There were a few years when I was sick in that dreaded south pool to Jacksonville, Waycross and Fitzgerald. After I got married, if I was on a firing job, I would claim a switch engine that was going to be annulled, and as a young engineer I would be on a switcher at Busch or a switch engine at Brunswick and they were annulled. I remember one Christmas, there was an assigned job that went to Jacksonville, Fitzgerald, back to Jax, then Savannah. The crew clerk had just gone to Jacksonville, one let me claim that job about 10 minutes after it was called in Savannah. Then she let me hang up the phone. I remember that one because it was my son's first Ch ristmas. I didn't answer the phone for 2 days.


Date: 12/28/23 08:27
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: ironmtn

It happens in other transportation industries, too. The same three-level (or is it four-level?) chess game. With dispatchers and managers trying to make sure things are covered. And all who do the work either trying to mark off (if that's possible), or make moves in advance to get trips that will bring you home for the holiday at the bottom of the board and as many times out as possible. Or just hiding. Or some combination of these techniques.

When driving for Greyhound back in the '80s I had one memorable Christmas. On a busy Dec. 23, working the extra board, I was the fourth section of five southbound out of Chicago from Effingham, Ill to Memphis. This was in a day when Greyhound dispatched as many buses as needed to handle the traffic.It was a beautiful trip on a clear, crisp night. Clear pavements but with fairly heavy snow cover across the hills and dales of Southern Illinois (which is actually quite hilly) almost all the way to Cairo at the very southern tip of Illinois - such a White Christmas snow is a fairly uncommon event there. With the holiday decorations all along the way, it was quite pretty.

But I knew it meant the distinct possibility that there would not be a trip back north after I was rested on Christmas Eve. And I would be stuck in a motel (a so-so at best TravelLodge) in a sketchy area near the terminal in downtown Memphis over Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, the Memphis dispatcher held me and two others who had not gotten out on runs back north until about mid-afternoon. Things were quieting down, the big traffic spike had already moved through, and he felt he was covered. So he deadheaded us back north to Effingham. Maybe I'd have Christmas Day free with family in St. Louis after all.

As soon as I got in, I headed west through the night for two hours on I-70 to St. Louis, arriving at my parents' home right at dawn. It was quite the surprise for them and the rest of the family. We had all thought I'd be in Memphis and would never make it home. I had checked with dispatch before I left - I was about 10 times out, with no schedules expected to need extra sections on a quiet Christmas Day. He told me I'd be clear until the 26th, go ahead and head to St. Louis, and have a Merry Christmas. He was a good guy who worked well with us all, and I had no reason to doubt him.

We had just finished opening gifts and were having a late breakfast / lunch when the phone rang. My mom picked it up, forgetting amid all of the holiday cheer and chatter around the house not to answer. Yup, it was Steve, the dispatcher. I had the 5:30 pm regular semi-local north to Chicago, the main section. The regular man had marked off sick. As he was a very reliable and very senior man (and good guy) who always worked his assignment and never marked off without good reason, he very likely really was sick (as it turned out that he indeed was). Steve had called about four hours early - way more than our typical 1.5-hour call - to give me time to get back to Effingham and take the run. He even apologized for the call. More people than expected had marked off, including many drivers who held regular schedules (in an era when they could still do that), and he hadn't been able to reach guys ahead of me on the extra board.

I got back to Effingham, and the bus rolled in from the south for the scheduled rest stop there and driver change. A brand-new MC10 coach, on only its second revenue trip according to the log card, complete with "new car smell" and feeling as tight and taut as could be. My first trip on one.

And with exactly one passenger on board. One. An older gentleman heading to Chicago to visit with his daughter for the holidays. Not only did I have just one passenger, and a brand-new bus, but the weather was turning. Half the trip was in freezing rain and sleet, with many slick spots on I-57. I had a goodly amount of winter weather driving under my belt, but this night was particularly bad. Sometimes all you could do was to crawl along at about 25 or 30 mph, barely maintaining traction. Several wrecks detoured us off onto old US 45 paralleling the interstate and the IC - which was in even worse condition. It finally eased up to just rain at about Kankakee. I was never so glad to have such a happy change in the weather.

I arrived with my solo passenger about three hours late. No cell phones in those days, and we never had radios. The dispatcher on duty (not Steve) knew of the bad weather, but still quizzed me hard when I turned in my paperwork. He was really curious about the very thin ticket envelope, which had a listing of totals on the outside. Just one fare listed. He even opened the envelope and looked at the single ticket coupon inside, as if incredulous that I would have but one fare on that schedule, even on Christmas Day. His tone then changed. He told me to head to the garage and dorm, get my rest, and he'd make sure Steve got me home tomorrow and would let me mark off for a day or two before the post-Christmas rush really got going.

"Merry Christmas....and thanks - get some rest". It was nice to have some appreciation like that, no matter how modest. And yes, the bonus pay for working the holiday was nice too. And after all, I had been lucky enough to have at least several hours with my family. Knowing full well that there were many people out there working that day who were not so lucky. Even for just a few hours.

I've never forgotten that experience. And I think about all of the folks who work on Christmas Day - like many of you railroaders - every year. Respecting your service...and hoping you can have some quality time with your families. But at least some appreciation and respect by your employers. You totally deserve that. Every day. And especially every Christmas.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/28/23 08:53 by ironmtn.

Date: 12/28/23 11:07
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: Drknow

It’s amazing when I hear people talk about how they get paid better if the work 2/3 trick or work on a “holiday”

Hell, I remember getting a canned ham with a $100 bill taped to it from my employer before the RR. More than the carrier has ever done for pool or Xtra board people. At least there have been a few train masters that would put on a feed for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and good food at that, but they’ve been fired or retired.

It wouldn’t take a big carrot, most Rails are notoriously cheap, to keep a few more people marked up over the holidays, but using the club is what the industry gets off on. Being punitive and controlling is what excites those people who are mid level management on up. It’s a psychological thing that anyone who casts a subjective evaluation can spot a mile away.

Happy holidays.


Posted from iPhone

Date: 12/28/23 13:54
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: engineerinvirginia

Drknow Wrote:
> It’s amazing when I hear people talk about how
> they get paid better if the work 2/3 trick or work
> on a “holiday”
> Hell, I remember getting a canned ham with a $100
> bill taped to it from my employer before the RR.
> More than the carrier has ever done for pool or
> Xtra board people. At least there have been a few
> train masters that would put on a feed for
> Thanksgiving and Christmas, and good food at that,
> but they’ve been fired or retired.
> It wouldn’t take a big carrot, most Rails are
> notoriously cheap, to keep a few more people
> marked up over the holidays, but using the club is
> what the industry gets off on. Being punitive and
> controlling is what excites those people who are
> mid level management on up. It’s a
> psychological thing that anyone who casts a
> subjective evaluation can spot a mile away.
> Happy holidays.
> Regards
> Posted from iPhone

When I first hired on we got a voucher for a free turkey at Christmas....we might have got something the second year too but I don't quite recall what it was....following years....nada. 

Date: 01/10/24 12:05
Re: Been There, Done That?
Author: SanJoaquinEngr

The SP used to give us Butterball turkey coupons. In later years all we received was the bird..lol. I would give my housekeeper the coupon because she was more deserving and extremely grateful.

Posted from Android

[ Share Thread on Facebook ] [ Search ] [ Start a New Thread ] [ Back to Thread List ] [ <Newer ] [ Older> ] 
Page created in 0.1405 seconds