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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Ah yes, train service is 24/7!


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Date: 04/14/24 03:36
Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: santafe199

This image?? It was a shot of pure opportunity on a fairly warm January night in 1978. I was out on some forgotten domestic errand and spotted a westbound Rock Island train stopped behind the Safeway grocery store in the Westloop area of Manhattan. My personal policy of never leaving the house without a camera also meant that my tripod was in its usual residence in the back of the car. And that policy paid off. The ambient light here was very kind to the yellow paint Uncle Pete provided. Another confirmation that railroading is a 24/7 thing, especially when considering eating habits.

The follow-up story becomes a bit more complicated, if not more interesting. I wouldn’t be hiring into Santa Fe train service until later in the spring of ’78. So that part of my education for this thread was still in the future. But I did make a discovery here that would come into play during the early days of my own train service career: There was no crew on this train. The reason I know this is because the head end crew came walking up as I was bent over my tripod. And with their small Safeway sacks I knew immediately what was happening. It was a lunch break, road crew-style! We all had a short and friendly exchange. Then they climbed aboard and got the train moving. I didn’t hang around, but I can only assume they spotted the caboose so the rear end boys could also make a run for some grub.

In my career I learned very early that a veteran RR crew would know where every single restaurant, café, fast-food joint & convenience/grocery store within walking distance was on any given piece of track they worked. And they knew with reasonable certainty what each place’s hours of business were. That was important to know if they planned on parking their train and walking several blocks for some highly anticipated chow. The walk back to the train on an empty stomach can be very long indeed!

And in my 32 year career I was part of a great many train crews taking lunch-on-the-run. I have several fond memories, and a few not so fond. I’ll unload a not-so-fond tale first so I can end this thread with some good karma. By the summer of 1985 I had passed all my rules tests and had taken promotion to conductor for the Santa Fe. As predicted I was immediately force-assigned to a job nobody else wanted to work. Local trains 1411-12 worked between Sand Creek (Newton) and Arkansas City, KS with an on duty time usually in mid-afternoon. With regular local work at Wichita, Mulvane and Winfield this train usually went dead on the hours-of-service law, even though the total distance between the two points was less than 100 miles. You could lose a couple of hours just switching the Boeing plant at Connell in south Wichita. The cars to be switched were NEVER where the switch lists said they would be. One night my regular engineer decided by gawd that we would go to beans at Mulvane. Nobody else on the crew particularly wanted to stop to eat because we had a real shot at getting a decent tie-up time at Ark City. But to argue was to go against the spirit of crew solidarity. So in the late PM hours pushing on toward midnight we spent 40” pulling 70 some-odd cars up, unloading the conductor -yours truly- and shoving it back to clear in the 3rd District siding. But when the crew was assembled in the lead unit my blankety-blank engineer said he would just stay on the engine and kick back. Good thing one of my brakemen saw that the temperature in my boiler suddenly shot up several degrees! He very wisely herded me down off the engine, and the three of us went up the road to a convenience store for some grub. We all knew that our engineer had a bottle of schnapps in his grip which would be lightened up by several ounces before we returned...

I do have several memories with a lot higher level of fondness. And this little tale is one of my earliest. In the long, scorching hot summer of 1980 I happened to spend quite a bit of time working vacation vacancies on the Abilene Roadswitcher. This was a 6-day a week job that took care of general switching around Abilene, with territorial rights over to Salina (via the UP). The Salina Roadswitcher had the same rights over to Abilene. But on Mondays & Thursdays the Abilene job also took care of whatever business there was up on the Minneapolis District all the way out to end-of-track Barnard, KS. In summertime the agriculture business just about guaranteed trips on the district twice a week. This line was affectionately known as the “Barnyard” District. On my first trip out to Barnard we came to a stop at close to high noon with one unit and maybe half a dozen cars. Nobody said a word, but the engineer & fireman got off the engine and started walking toward Barnard’s small business district. A few seconds later I saw the conductor & rear brakeman following in their footsteps. I decided I’d better follow...

We ended up in a full-fledged family style restaurant that was mercifully equipped with efficient air-conditioning. And the place was packed to the rafters! Looking around it didn’t take any mental wizardry to see that there were quite a few local farm hands sitting around having a full, dinner-sized meal for their lunch break. It was easy to see that whatever calories they ingested here would be burned off in the fields before sundown. The “dinner” portions were huge! I had the standard brakeman’s delight (chicken fried steak) which came out of the kitchen hanging over the sides of the plate. The helpings of mashed potatoes & green beans were enough to feed a small army. And the dinner rolls were of a ‘fresh-made-from-scratch’ quality. In short, it was a 5-star meal fit for a king! Oh, and let’s not forget the generous wedge of apple pie ala mode for desert...

If I put a minimum effort into it I could come up with a dozen or more fond ‘dinner-on-the-run’ memories. But I’ll say it’s your turn to relate one of your favorite tales! And don’t forget to order dessert... ;^)

1. UP 2940 leads Rock Island train #75(?) having a momentary pit-stop in Manhattan, KS on January 28, 1978.

Thanks for the stop!
Lance Garrels
santafe199




Date: 04/14/24 04:42
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: engineerinvirginia

Did they tie the train down? No? Five day on the street!



Date: 04/14/24 09:00
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: santafe199

engineerinvirginia Wrote: > ... Did they tie the train down?

Sighhh.........................................................................................................................................................



Date: 04/14/24 09:07
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: KCRW287

Lance a great picture with a great story. On the CNW working KC to Des Moines we stopped and ate if the DS would let us. Then one of the unions won a labor case about enroute meals and we won. CNW had to let us eat enroute or it was an automatic 8 hours for no meal enroute. Cell phones were just coming out and some crews would call ahead for a take out order, or simply told the DS we were going to eat. Almost all the crews worked with the DS to help keep trains running and decent meets. I do agree with your description to the fullest about what kind of meals a rr'er could get out on the road, only one better might be grandma's. Now I got to find me something to eat.  The CNW T&E crews lost thier eating en route agreement when the Utterly Pathetic RR took over and put us under the MOP UPPER LINES AGREEMENT and gave us $1.50 not to eat enroute.  KCRW287



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/14/24 10:48 by KCRW287.



Date: 04/14/24 09:17
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: santafe199

KCRW287 Wrote: > ... out on the road, only one better might be grandma's ...

I know exactly what you mean by 'grandma's'! And my maternal Grandma's house was just a hop an' a skip from the Santa Fe depot in Abilene, KS. But I never actually had a meal there. Just cherished, endless memories of Thanksgivings spent with the whole stampeding herd of cousins, aunts & uncles, etc... :^)

Lance 



Date: 04/14/24 11:58
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: ln844south

We pretty well knew where we could stop to eat and be off the crossings. We even had a BBQ place in Mossy Head, Fl that was outstanding. If we got stuck in the siding at Sellers, they would make a delivery which was a little over a mile.. They appreciated our business. and we loved his chow.
Being in Florida which is pretty flat, we would just make a full service and never got wrote up.
Steve



Date: 04/14/24 18:52
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: RetiredHogger

I worked a few locals through the years where one of the evening's priorities was to get to (wherever) before the restaurant closed. I don't ever recall walking more than a couple of city blocks to get something to eat. But a good pork tenderloin and a bowl of chili was worth walking a couple of blocks.

Now, I did work with a guy in later years that had Jimmy-John's phone number programmed in his cell. I've seen him call for a delivery before starting a particular industry, and we'd work the place while the "freaky-fast" folks were getting his food out to him.
 



Date: 04/14/24 19:57
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: Trainhand

Retird hogger, your crew knew when the resturant closed, on a local from Savannah to Columbia,SC they(we) would run to get to Denmark SC to the liquor store to get the nights refreeshments. The Liquor stores closed at the same time in SC., which was the time of sunset in Columbia and was printed every day in the newspaper. If you didn't make it by closing time you just had to drink water.

Sam



Date: 04/14/24 22:32
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: bustermanning1

getting to know where all the places to get food was a necessity while out on the road as an extraboard conductor who more often that not, rarely spent more than 10 hrs at the home terminal before being called back into work....it was getting food from the unexpected source that made it much more enjoyable.  I recall one trip while on the old NKP btw Ft. Wayne and Chicago sitting in a siding waiting for an eastbound or two out in the middle of nowhereville.  There was a old farmhouse right at the crossing we were sitting at and after we had been there about an hour, the matron who lived there came out to us with a freshly made raspberry coffee cake and a small thermos of coffee.....that made the wait much more tolerable on a cold, dreary morning



Date: 04/15/24 08:36
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: atsfer

Oh yeah, the RR greasy spoon, no wonder my gall bladder blew out in about 1995.   I can remember one at Lincoln, Ks. we went too and ordered french fries and when we got them it looked like they had been cooked in oil that had came over on the Mayflower...black and soggy...never forgot that.
 



Date: 04/15/24 09:10
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: ln844south

Always had "emergency rations" in my grip. In a real tight when ran out of other options, Vienna sausage or Potted meat with crackers could get you in.
Steve



Date: 04/15/24 10:52
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: mdo

Ah, yes on a 24/7 operation you have to eat some how, sometime.  I have several relevant stories about this on this forum too.
go back to currently page 60 and check out MDC #21 and on page 59, MDCs #52, 53.  



Date: 04/15/24 14:12
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: NSDTK

I used to have a engineer who would always give me grief over my bag of snacks. Ill carry 24 hours worth of chips, crackers ect. We got on what was supposed to been a 4 hour trip. And got hung out, 10 hours in hes starving. Handed him a bag of Cheetos. I got 2 bags of Cheetos next trip, an apology for all the hell he had given me over the years about my snacks and a promise to never do it again as he now seen why i carried extra food. 
ln844south Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Always had "emergency rations" in my grip. In a
> real tight when ran out of other options, Vienna
> sausage or Potted meat with crackers could get you
> in.
> Steve



Date: 04/16/24 08:12
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: hoggerdoug

Years ago when I was a young brakeman, I did not have much of a lunch for the trip. The trip got longer and longer, I was so hungry my stomach thought my throat had been cut. The hogger reached into his grip and pulled out two hard boiled eggs. He offered me one and I gratefully took it. One hard boiled egg was a feast that day...
Doug



Date: 04/16/24 08:54
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: santafe199

hoggerdoug Wrote: > ... The hogger reached into his grip and pulled out ...

Oh my, that reminds me of this engineer on the Lyons (KS) Roadswitcher. I worked a vacation vacancy on that job in the spring of 1984. I can't remember his first name, but the initials 'RE' went with 'Strasburg' for his name. Whenever he knew he was getting an extra board brakeman up from Emporia he had his wife make up some extra chow. And he made dang sure you were well fed. It was just one of those things. And boy, could she cook!! It was so good that I made a mental note to take them out for supper the next time I was sent to Lyons. But I never did catch that job again off the Emporia extra board...

Lance/199



Date: 04/16/24 12:21
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: ln844south

We had an old head conductor who worked the local from Flomaton to Selma, Ala. Always brought extra packed in mason jars to heat up on the engine. Great grub from an old Southern cook (his wife). Would share with extra board men working the job. If you wanted to get on his bad side quick, just throw the mty jars out the cab window. You will be baned for life!
Steve



Date: 04/18/24 07:04
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: LocoPilot750

I don't remember now why we were so late getting out of Kansas city, but by the time we finally got out, my conductor was staving.  (He had epilepsy, and had been off work about 15 years or so, and with improved medication, he was finally able to come back to work). Anyway, we had a big grain train, and we were forever coming up the hill to Olathe, and I can see he's really wanting something to eat, and he didn't bring any food. When we approached Gardner, he jumps up and says "I have to eat, I want you to stop at the KCF just past Moonlight road. I'll run in, get something fast, and be back on the engine before you get your train check, and get the brakes released". I said "I can't block that crossing just for that". He said "believe me, you don't want to see me get any hungrier". So I stopped right behing KFC, he got off, came back in about three minutes, and off we went. He ran in there, went to the front of the line, ordered whatever they had ready, and got back on the train. We got to Wellington just before bedtime, barely made it on our hours of service. Next morning I woke up, turned on the TV, and watched the big jets fly into the World Trade center towers while I was drinking my coffee, a trip I'll never forget.



Date: 04/19/24 06:38
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: santafe199

In a weird way, Dennis' story about stopping at Gardner reminds me of another story while I was with MRL up in the Big Sky. I was on an eastbound train on a trip that was turning into a real grind. We got dinged with some unforeseen delays between Helena & Bozeman. And then the train DSPR informed us we would take the hole at Bozeman for an indeterminate length of time. He had a mess on his hands involving the helper crew and at least 2 westbound trains at Livingston on the other side of the pass. Now we might be looking at a full 12 hour shift (or more) just to get home to Laurel. My engineer dug into his wallet and came up with a telephone # for the local Pizza Hut at Bozeman. I said SURE, count me in! We figured out what we wanted and he made the call. I listened to his side of the call, especially his instructions on where to deliver the pizza! I watched his face nearly break into laughter. Once off the phone he gave me an explanation. He was trying to explain to the high school girl (probably) he was taking to that the pizza needed to be delivered to a train "right across from the car dealership on E Frontage Road". The "negotiation" wasn't going very well until my engineer heard an exited young male voice in the background: "Oh, I know RIGHT where that is!!!" Problem solved, and our large pizza + liter of Pepsi was soon on the way. I'm thinking this kid who knew right where we were might just be a budding railfan. When he showed up in the delivery car, I met him standing on the front porch of our SD40-2. As he walked up to the engine with our supper I motioned to him to "come right on up." I gotta tell you... the speed AND grace with which he landed on our engine was remarkable. Almost worthy of being an Olympic event! He was indeed a railfan, and he was over the moon with excitement at being invited into the cab. With all that lead-up, that was some of the best on-the-road grub I'd had in quite a while... ;^)

Lance



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/19/24 13:30 by santafe199.



Date: 04/19/24 07:30
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: engineerinvirginia

santafe199 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> In a weird way, Dennis' story about stopping at
> Gardner reminds me of another story while I was
> with MRL up in the Big Sky. I was on an eastbound
> train on a trip that was turning into a real
> grind. We got dinged with some unforeseen delays
> between Helena & Bozeman. And then the train DSPR
> informed us we would take the hole at Bozeman for
> an indeterminate length of time. He had a mess on
> his hands involving the helper crew and at least 2
> westbound trains at Livingston on the other side
> of the pass. Now we might be looking at a full 12
> hour shift (or more) just to get home to Laurel.
> My engineer dug into his wallet and came up with a
> telephone # for the local Pizza Hut at Bozeman. I
> said SURE, count me in! We figured out what we
> wanted and he made the call. I listened to his
> side of the call, especially his instructions on
> where to deliver the pizza! I watched his face
> nearly break into laughter. Once off the phone he
> gave me an explanation. He was trying to explain
> to the high school girl (probably) he was taking
> to that the pizza needed to be delivered to a
> train "right across from the car dealership on E
> Frontage Road". The "negotiation" wasn't going
> very well until my engineer heard an exited young
> male voice in the background: "Oh, I know RIGHT
> where that is!!!" Problem solved, and our large
> pizza + liter of Pepsi was soon on the way. I'm
> thinking this kid who knew right where we were
> might just be a budding railfan. We he showed up
> in the delivery car, I met him standing on the
> front porch of our SD40-2. As he walked up to the
> engine with our supper I motioned to him to "come
> right on up." I gotta tell you... the speed AND
> grace with which he landed on our engine was
> remarkable. Almost worthy of being an Olympic
> event! He was indeed a railfan, and he was over
> the moon with excitement at being invited into the
> cab. With all that lead-up, that was some of the
> best on-the-road grub I'd had in quite a while...
> ;^)
>
> Lance

Hot fresh food in the cab must never be understimated....



Date: 04/21/24 01:44
Re: Ah yes, train service is 24/7!
Author: Drknow

In the time span when cell phones came about and before the ban on using them while moving I used to call a local cafe that was open during the day. GREAT home-made food and desserts. They would have the order ready when we got to town. Gave the crew and myself a little treat every once in a while.

Did the delivery thing too with a couple of local pizza joints. They loved delivering to the train.


Can’t do that much anymore, either.
This job just sux more everyday.

Regards

Posted from iPhone



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