brakeman or conductor walking a 100+ car train in cold, looking for pulled draw-bar, busted knuckle, parted air-hose, derailed wheel(s), hotbox/bearing, shifted load, broken rail......

Driving home tonight in windy single digit sleety weather, heard distant train horn and thought of above poor soul who's earning his/her chops working their way up the ladder to that "warm permanent" engineer seat.

And of course, there is the converse of above in high temperature humid heat stroke weather.

Original Post

As has always been. One night my Granddad was knocked to the ground because standing too close while holding up the Order Hoop for the passing Fireman to hook in his elbow. He quit being a Railroader as a result of having his shoulder torn up that night. 

Lew

 

All photos are mine unless specifically noted otherwise.

 

Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.

I had to work in all that for 40+ years mostly at night, year round. I got to lay on my back under a caboose with my feet in the air shoving a pulley back to install an alternator belt in a foot of snow on the main, or walking an eighty car train in knee deep snow lacing air hoses that were so stiff they could hardly bend. There were times in winter that the wind was so strong that it felt like someone was driving needles into my forehead. In the summer the heat from the freight cars in the yards radiated like an oven and you would sweat until you thought you were going to black out. The creosote burns from the freshly installed switch timbers. Humping an EOT a mile down the track because the crews time was up and the relief crew hadn't gone on duty so no one could back the train up to you. Getting sent out of the yards on a wild goose chase to find a train in trouble, to arrive in the middle of nowhere and have the dispatcher call to say the crew made a temporary repair and had already left. Yes it was a hard job at times, but I would not have traded an office worker or a factory worker for their jobs ever.  Doug

  Start 30 years this year,28 now in the Engineer's seat.

  I've been on my share of older ,colder units in the past (especially when switching in the midnight hours) but can tell you it still beats pounding the ground freezing this time of year.

 The temperature is suppose to be around 16 degrees here tonight ….

Collin "The Eastern Kentucky & Ohio R.R."

The coldest I have ever been in my life was working the ground one dark and windy night on the P&LE Railroad back in the 60s. We were taking headroom with a 70-car cut over the Center Street Interlocking in Youngstown, OH. This was long before hand-held radios. We were just three guys on the ground using lanterns to pass signals. I was the "head man" on the crew this night. Now...that doesn't mean I was the guy in charge. I was way too young at the time to be a promoted conductor. That term means that I was working the "head end" of the train on the crew. When we spread out along the train to pass signals, I was the guy closest to the engine.

This move was going to put our train across the B&O main for a few minutes, fouling that main for any movements. The operator at Center Street said he would give us the railroad, but he needed us to make the move quickly because he had two B&O westbounds getting close.

It was 12 below zero and the wind was blowing about 30 mph in snow. It was a NASTY night! Because of the cold, the switches in the interlocking weren't cooperating. I stood there in that howling wind for almost 20 minutes as he tried every trick in the book to get two uncooperative switches to throw. I was too far away from the engine to go back there to get out of the cold. Plus, I had to be in position to signal the engineer as soon as the interlocking was lined up for us. FINALLY he got the switches to throw and we began our move. Because of the way our yard was set up, we had to pull almost 50 of the cars over the interlocking before the rear end cleared the switch we needed back in our yard. That's 50 cars, at night, on a curve, at yard speeds of less than 10 mph, with only hand signals to tell the engineer what to do. It seemed like that move took forever!

When we finally  finished the move and I was able to get back in the engine, I had been out in that windy cold for almost an hour. I was so cold couldn't talk! My face was so frozen that my mouth wouldn't work right!  It took about a half-hour in the warmth of the engine before my mouth would work OK again and I could speak.

That night was over 50 years ago and I STILL remember it like it was yesterday.

Rich Melvin

If at first you don't succeed, don't try sky diving... 

RRMAN, I agree whole heartedly with the title of your thread.  I never regretted being a railroader.

Rich, that's a great story, and a perfect example of the great responsibility that goes with being a railroader.  If you had stepped away to find a place out of the freezing wind, your Conductor would have corrected your attitude in a way that would make Hot Water look like the local representative for the Dale Carnegie Course.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

Railroads are like a lot of things in life, where kids see it as neat and romantic, kind of like running away to join the circus or something, but the reality is quite different, and by the time they are adults they realize it isn't all it looks like.

The neat part to me, hearing stories of people like Rich and Hot Water, is that people do a job where you can freeze to death or boil to death (or both at the same time), be dead tired, hurting, get treated by those running the railroad as if you are a piece of track or a truck on a train (a replaceable "asset"), but still love it and wouldn't have done anything else. 

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

Its hard and dangerous work.If you let your mind wonder you could get hurt or even killed.After I got out of high school.I tried to get on with NS.The rail road let us know right fast.This is hard work in all kinds of weather.Odd ball hours.You would believe how many people showed up for these jobs.Looked like a rock concert.I did not get the job thou.But its hard to get on with the railroad.Because no body hardly ever quits.Most retire.

What seaboardm2 said. When I hired on the Penn Central in 1974 it was one of those "who you know" deals. Lucky for me my grandfather had trained the general foreman that was doing the hiring. Fast forward thirty years later and it was hard to find people to work on the railroad. Norfolk Southern had many hiring sessions, but few applicants could pass the drug test or had felonies. When told about the hours, days off, working outside, etc. that would thin most of the others out leaving just a few that were hired. Something like 5 new hires out of 75 that showed up.

Here's a couple  from awhile back

#1 "Quinn was on #32 coming east one morning when they hit a truck load of eggs at a crossing just west of Lodi, Ohio. Quinn told me that old steam engine just looked like one big omelette. Everything on a steam engine is hot. Pipes, jacket, smokebox – and everything was covered with frying eggs. What a smell!"

#2 "We had an old engineer over in Pennsylvania who liked to make out lengthy reports of everything. He was told by the dispatcher to come to the point when he sent messages – that nothing he had sent previously made rhyme or reason. He said "If it's rhyme and reason they want, I'll give it to them."

The very next trip he had a wreck, and this is what he wrote: "The night was dark and stormy, We could not see the cars, We broke in two at Downieville, and piled them up at Mars!"

From Short Tales of the Rail - Pratt

Well, it's Saturday so here's another one.

  "My first experience with track motorcars was in 1913 when I got into the Maintenance-of-way Department.  They were just beginning to displace the handcar and three-wheel or velocipede, and they were not very reliable.  The car was known as a 2-J. The body of the car was carried above one rail by two wheels and there were two wheels which ran on the other rail and were attached to the car by wooden struts.  These cars were easily derailed and they were "iffy" when it came to whether or not they would run.

  I was not involved in a serious accident with one in more than 100,000 miles of traveling on them.  I ascribe this, however, more to good luck than to anything else.  For example, I was on a morning trip east of La Junta and had stopped just west of Caddoa to talk with the section foreman.  There was no place to set the car off so I left it sitting on the track.  After we had talked a few minutes, he said,"How late is Number 4?"

  Surprised by the question, I looked at my watch and said,"He's on time, as far as I know. I haven't got anything on him." Then I looked at my watch again, saw the second hand wasn't moving, and raced for the track.  I jerked the car off the track, and a few minutes later Number 4 tore by going about seventy-five miles an hour.  My watch had stopped after I had left La Junta."

From - From Cab to Caboose-Fifty Years of Railroading – Noble

Ha! My Wife is from Mars. Downieville is between Mars and Evans City on the B&O.

"The night was dark and stormy, We could not see the cars, We broke in two at Downieville, and piled them up at Mars!"

Lew

 

All photos are mine unless specifically noted otherwise.

 

Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.

My Dad, his Dad, his Dad's brother and his Dad's brother's wife were all railroaders for a time. All four got out of it.

Dad in his Cook's uniform on the steps of his kitchen car, part of a work train on the BR&P RR:

                      DSCN3188

He started in 1928 (at age 16 following HS graduation) and quit in 1932 to attend Penn State. His workday began at 3:30 AM when his THREE wind-up alarm clocks rang (he was responsible for waking the whole crew, hence 3 alarms). 

His Dad was a Telegrapher/Tower Operator on the PRR, here seen at his desk at Enslie Tower:

        IMG_0954

He quit railroading after a night-train grazed him with the cylinder (the widest part of a steam locomotive front end) while he was holding up an order-hoop for the Fireman to snare. It took a long time for his shoulder to heal.

His Brother (my Great Uncle) met his wife (my Great Aunt) when he was working a tower on the PRR (Medix) that was situated across the street from a station/tower on the Buffalo&Susquehanna where she was the Tower Operator:

         IMG_4865

She carried a pistol on that job (sawmill town) and once fired over a drunk's head when he wouldn't leave her alone.

Lew

 

All photos are mine unless specifically noted otherwise.

 

Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.

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bigkid posted:

Railroads are like a lot of things in life, where kids see it as neat and romantic, kind of like running away to join the circus or something, but the reality is quite different, and by the time they are adults they realize it isn't all it looks like.

The neat part to me, hearing stories of people like Rich and Hot Water, is that people do a job where you can freeze to death or boil to death (or both at the same time), be dead tired, hurting, get treated by those running the railroad as if you are a piece of track or a truck on a train (a replaceable "asset"), but still love it and wouldn't have done anything else. 

For sure the " romance of railroading " is all but gone in todays railroading.

Every unit now has central heat and air , the units are for the most part newer well equipped with all the latest electronics ( which I despise ) ,and even the dispatchers play a somewhat different role as they use to.

Don't have any idea what railfans will be seeing take place in the future as far as railfanning .

Possibly in 10 years or less autonomist  trains in certain regions of this country , just can't figure out what direct the carrier's are going or seeking .

But in the meantime, if it's cold or hot we'll be fighting the weather and the carrier's 

Collin "The Eastern Kentucky & Ohio R.R."

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