The people participating on the Real Trains forum are good story tellers, and most often are well organized writers as well.  I know how I enjoy reading informative and sometimes humorous accounts from your railroad past...ex: Number 90's retelling of the job switching the Hunts Tomato plant, or Wyhog sharing in a "fun with torpedoes" thread.  The last time I tried this it did not gain much traction, but I am not one to give up entirely. 
What story can you retell for us?  These contributions can turn into a lot of typing, but that's okay.

J Sanders

P.S.  That's me on the left listening to a good one...

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Back around 2005, I was entering photo competitions. I spend a fair amount of time shooting a series on the Strasburg RR (which was later exhibited in England). One of the shots was of a engineer at the cab window. I had a print made and framed, and gave it to him. A year later, he saw me with my family ready to board the train at the picnic grove. He got out of the cab, and asked me if I'd like a ride back in the cab of 475. What a thrill that was! I had to sneak off of the engine at the water tower so no one saw me, as no "public" rides are given. His comment, at the time, was, "Over the years, a zillion people have taken my photo in the cab window. You are the only person that gave me one".

Hot Water posted:

I've done two interviews on the Notch 6 podcast site. Doing live/voice interviews is much easier than typing out stuff, plus the person doing the interview gets to ask questions. Check out the Notch 6 site.

Right.  Everyone needs to find that interview and hear that story about the engineer wasting steam while you shoveled your pants off firing, trying to maintain pressure for him.  Excellence.

The difference between "railroading" and "railfanning" is as different as "night" and "day".  An alert brakeman would be more concerned with his wheel report and switch lists, his train order meets, and overall safety than what might be occurring trackside from a railfan's perspective.   However, there was one evening on a road switcher when I was able to enjoy a little of both aspects.
The "OCCY" was an unofficial Frisco term for the road switcher going east from Oklahoma City to Tulsa and did all the work in between.  The only other regularly scheduled eastbound traveling that segment was through freight #30. Most of the old heads on our board were on east end pools, and extra board men rarely worked these trains.  Having said that, Conductor Sanders was not the easiest guy to get along with, and pool brakemen would occasionally lay off calls with him leaving vacancies for us poor folk.  The extra men would also lay off if they knew "with whom they were working", so Jim's name was plastered all over my time book. (I never laid off a call).  The two of us had worked together enough to a point where he trusted me to do my job such as watching the wheels on every curve (all 123 curves between OC and CY), or paying close attention when we neared the four Failed Equipment Detectors.  The switching was going to be slight on this particular evening, and Jim decided he wanted to do it all himself, so he put me in the caboose.  Normally unheard of.
The OCCY also always had tonnage and east empties on the back, and our yard crews were very good to put low cars ahead of the caboose.  On this night running OCCY there were about six empty TOFC cars on the rear end giving me an excellent view of the train. 
Luther hill was a mostly 1% grade (downhill eastward) from mp 520 to 517.  I can remember old heads talking about the glory days of our subdivision when westbound QLA had four SD45's going 55 mph UP Luther hill.   As we approached the grade I decided to go out on the front platform of the caboose and watch the train from there.  It was a pleasant evening and the temperature was just right.  It was one of the best working views of a train I ever had.  And I was getting paid. !
Fast forward to today, I realize I might have been getting a good blast of asbestos while going down that hill (remember the days before mandated dynamic braking when a hogger just might put it in run 8 and straight air the pi** out of it most of the way...hehe), but it was still a most memorable ride for a brief opportunity that did not present itself very often.

I know my stories are sorta' lame, but I tell them just to get the career guys "off high center" and tell us a really good one. 

SLSF_caboose

photo:  Mike Condren   check out the FM on the ladder !!

 

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This story was told to me years ago by the father of my (at that time) Santa Fe account manager.  His dad was number one on the ATSF engineer’s seniority board out of Slaton, TX at the time.

As the story went; the father was dead heading in the cab with a Santa Fe engineer in the Panhandle of Texas on a line that crossed the FW&D at grade.  Because of the terrain in that area; they were able to see the home signal that guarded the crossing from several miles out.  The signal was malfunctioning and essentially short cycling from clear to stop to clear then back to stop.  

As they observed this; the father also noticed the engineer juggling between the throttle and the train brake handle and finally asked him what in the “h” he was doing.  The engineer responded that he believed he had things timed just about right so the indication would be clear as they hit the diamond.

Curt

Rob Leese posted:

 

I know my stories are sorta' lame, but I tell them just to get the career guys "off high center" and tell us a really good one.

 

Hey, I kept reading until the end - if it was lame, I certainly would have quit before then! 

Tuscan Jim

Awhile back I was a volunteer brakeman at the B&O Museum. One November, I showed up a bit early because of an expected  impending snow storm.   Good thing I did, as I was asked to ride in the cab of the diesel so I could flag at the intersection.  As soon as we crossed, and after I climbed aboard, the snow started like crazy.  The engineer had the local radio station on, and the reporter was already saying as a result of the snow...Baltimore traffic was a mess.

    Hearing this and being glad that I showed up early and thereby avoiding the traffic mess , I went out to the front of the engine to "take in the fresh snow"....admiring the snow...and loving the thump, thump, thump of that huge diesel motor as we motored to the repair shop.   My bliss was interrupted when Dwayne, the engineer, threw his door open and yelled, "Hey you nut, why don't you come in...its freezing outside"!   Yep, I stayed outside to take it all in!

 

 

juniata guy posted:

Apparently they could see nothing was approaching from either direction on the FW&D.  That aside; I imagine the rule would dictate stopping the train short of the home signal and contacting the dispatcher for authorization to proceed.  

As we say on the South Plains of Texas, "it's so flat, you can watch your dog run away from home for a full week".

I have a short one.  Many stories can go on for a while as things get worse for somebody, haha.

My wife and I married in 1982.  At that time, I was working as an Engineer on Amtrak passenger jobs (Santa Fe crews still manned them then).  Just ten years earlier only Engineers with 1936 seniority could hold them on the Los Angeles Division, but retirements had put me on the first column of the seniority list, and, though the pay was less, scheduled work was a relief from 12 years of being on call.

I invited my wife to go for a ride with me on the Southwest Chief on a Friday evening and return on Saturday.  To avoid detection we decided to skip Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal and board her at San Bernardino, which was close to home.  That way, if there was an official in the cab, she could just be meeting me at the depot to say hello.  

As we pulled in and stopped at San Bernardino, she walked up to the F40PH, and I opened the door for her.  The engine was on a left-hand curve, out of view of any "interested parties" who might have been on the station  platform.  The Conductor gave a highball, and we were off into the night, climbing over Cajon Pass, and out into the desert at high speed.  Of course I let her whistle for the crossings.  At Barstow, the platform and the lights were on the left side of the train, and Mechanical Department forces always inspected the train on that side first.  The Fireman led her back into the engine room and helped her get down through the rear side door on the unlighted side of the train, just in case there was a Carman who would snitch on us, while I stepped down on the left side and had a short conversation with the outbound Needles Engineer, who DID have a 1936 date.  He hated me for my facial hair, Hawaiian shirt, and youth.  Two years later I became his Road Foreman of Engines.  He almost swallowed his false teeth the first time I stepped into the cab to ride with him.

And the Fireman who helped her step down from the engine?  He later became a Road Foreman of Engines, also.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

In September of 1993 we ran a number of trips with NKP 765 on CSX. They included a trip on the former B&O out of Akron, Ohio to Pittsburgh. The place where we stored the train in Akron was a spot called "The hole" by the CSX crews. Situated about 50 feet below the main line, which is up on a high fill in this location, it's nothing more than a very small yard with a wye at the east end. On the Saturday trip, after the passengers had gotten off the train, we backed the train down the steep grade into the hole, where a CSX diesel tied onto the rear. We cut away and they dragged the train back far enough so we could turn the 765 on the wye and duck into a siding for the night. The diesel then shoved the train forward and the CSX yard crew used it to spot the train for watering the air conditioners from a fire hydrant near the wye. This is typically a very slow process and it was approaching midnight, so we headed off to the motel for a nights rest.

When we showed up around 6:30am the next morning, the first car of the train was spotted right near the fire hydrant in a perfect spot for us to couple on and pump up the air. I was running the eastbound trip this morning and Kim Besecker was firing. We pulled out of the siding, backed up to the train, tied on and got the air pumped up. We did the terminal air test and were all set to go. All this time I assumed that the diesel was still on the rear to help us out, because there was a short but very steep grade to get out of "The hole" and up to the main line. When Ken Griffin, the CSX Trainmaster, said we were all set to go, I asked him if the crew on the diesel was ready to shove. He said, "What crew? There ain't nobody back there. That crew went home around 4am."

So...here we were with a "cold" engine, arch bricks cold, superheaters cold and a thin fire because Kim had just cleaned it. But the 765 was going to have to go all out to get this train out of the hole and up this "ramp" to the main line! Complicating things was the fact that we had a 29 car train behind the 765! I called Kim over to my side of the cab and told him what we were going to have to do. He said, "Give me about 5 minutes to get the fire in shape for this." He proceeded to take the shovel and build a good heel of coal in the back corners of the firebox. He then ran the stoker for a few moments to put another layer of coal on the fire bed, to thicken the entire fire just a bit. In five minutes the pops were sizzling and he gave me the high sign that he was ready to go.

We were literally 4 car lengths from where this grade started. There was no chance at all to run for the hill. I dropped the Alco Power Reverse down in the forward corner, opened the cylinder cocks, turned the sanders on full, released the brakes and carefully opened the throttle. We had moved only a couple feet when we got the word from the rear that we were "All movin!'" That meant that all the slack was stretched and I could open the throttle a bit more without yanking the train in two. By the time we had moved one full engine length and I had the 765's throttle wide open! The sound was deafening! Each exhaust was like a cannon shot going off! The 765 leaned into the grade without so much as a quarter slip, accelerating as best she could with a 29 car train behind her. We got up to about 6 or 7 mph, but with each turn of the drivers we pulled more of the train onto the grade. Slowly but surely the speed dropped until we reached a point where there was more than a second between each exhaust! The column of smoke from the stack was blasting over a hundred feet into the air. We were going so slowly that I could actually feel engine gently lunge forward as the steam admission port opened on each stroke!

Operating this slowly, with maximum throttle and cutoff, full boiler pressure was being used in the cylinders. I had the throttle wide open, the sanders on and the reverse down in the corner...I couldn't do any more than that. In a situation like this, it's actually in the fireman's hands as to whether you make it or not. If Kim let the steam drop back just a couple of pounds, we would stall. But he's one of the best fireman I've ever seen, and it looked like he had the steam gauge welded on 245!

Wham......wham.......wham......that sharp, Baker-timed cannon-shot exhaust kept blasting to the beat of a very slow drummer. Ever so slowly we dragged that big 29 car train up and out of the hole. All the while I was ready with both hands on the throttle in case we slipped, because if we so much as quarter slipped, we would have stalled. But the 765 hung in there and never slipped once! We made it, but this was the hardest pull I've ever seen with the 765. They made 'em good in Lima.

When we got to the switch to the main line, the CSX conductor was standing on the ground at the switch stand. His eyes were the size of pie plates and you could have put a football in his mouth! No diesel had ever put on this kind of show!

After getting the train up on to the main line, we had to back up about 2 miles to the boarding site at Quaker Square in Akron. When we spotted the train for boarding, I got down from the cab to say hello to my friend Terry Ludban. Terry was the local CSX Operation Lifesaver representative and we had worked on many Operations Lifesaver videos together. As we shook hands, Terry said, "You guys had to yank that train up out of the hole, didn't you?" I replied, "Yeah! how did you know that?" Terry said, "We could hear you!"

Believe it or not, the CSX conductor manning the switch at the top of the hill was the only person to see this show. There was no one else there! No railfans, no still pictures, no videos - nothing but this wonderful memory, plus the pictures and sounds in my mind.

Rich Melvin

The Frisco Chickasha subdivision between Oklahoma City and Quanah, TX was 183 miles of "interesting" railroad.  The last Oklahoma town before one crossed the Red river into Texas was the small farm town of Eldorado, OK...a town were my family briefly lived. After having lived there myself, and after having listened to the countless stories my father told of what typically went on in that town, I can truthfully say that it was a never-ending-three-ring-circus of a town during the 1940's, 50's, and 60's. 
In the years circa WWII Eldorado had a Frisco depot usually staffed by an old reprobate agent known as Mr. Doggett.  Mr Doggett was that type of person who was "no nonsense", and could not suffer fools in any capacity.  Too bad he landed in Eldorado.  In this same small town there was a particular group of three guys that typically loafed around town all morning and whose sole purpose seemed to be teasing people and stirring up trouble.  In their daily observations they took notice that Mr Doggett had a rigid routine which he followed every time he was on duty in Eldorado, so they hatched a plan equal to their mentality.  All three were waiting at the front door of the depot just before it was time to open.  As our aforementioned station agent approached they beamed at him and said, "Howdy Mr. Doggett!!"  Mr Doggett's reply was non-existant as he stepped into the depot.  It seemed best to ignore them.  While Mr Doggett was opening up the depot the three travelled to the front of the post office.  As Mr Doggett approached the next stop of his routine the three men beamed and said, "Howdy Mr Doggett!!".  By now, Mr Doggett was starting to mutter ugly things under his breath as he stomped past them.  While Mr Doggett was taking care of the mail the three made their way to the front of the local bank.  As Mr Doggett soon arrived to do his banking the three men beamed and said, "Howdy Mr Doggett!!".  At this point one could hear louder murmerings of phrases that included "crazy sons of@#)(>>..!" through gritted teeth.  Before going back to the depot Mr Doggett's last stop was always Josh Carter's Cafe where he would partake in a cup of coffee  (which is another story),  and the three had already made their way there.   As Mr Doggett walked up to the entrance of the cafe the three men beamed and said, "Howdy Mr Doggett !!"          That is when "the dam broke".  Mr Doggett briefly huffed and puffed, looked at the three of them sternly, and shouted, "HOWDY  HOWDY  HOWDY,  BY GAWD, HOWDY". 
That was the treasure the three men were seeking, so they went on to their next project and Mr Doggett went inside to receive the next excerpt of his continuing story.

Several of us were sitting around shooting the bull when my engineer, named Pete, started telling a story about how he had once been a test pilot for the Air Force. We all listened intently as he told about one particular flight and each maneuver he was asked to perform. The airplane performed as expected and there were no problems. That is, until he was asked to put the plane in a steep dive. As the altimeter began to unwind, the speed kept increasing. The more the speed increased, Pete said the harder is was to control the plane. The altimeter was unwinding faster and faster, 20,000...15,000...10,000 feet. the altimeter was spinning backward faster than he could count. Pete tried and tried to pull out of the dive. 9,000...7,000...5,000 ft. and nothing was working. The controls were locked! 4,000...3,000...2,000...1,000 feet. and Pete went silent. The silence went on for a few seconds, so, I finally piped up..."Pete! What happened?" Pete simply replied..."They threw a Red Board in my face!"

Big Jim posted:

Several of us were sitting around shooting the bull when my engineer, named Pete, started telling a story about how he had once been a test pilot for the Air Force. We all listened intently as he told about one particular flight and each maneuver he was asked to perform. The airplane performed as expected and there were no problems. That is, until he was asked to put the plane in a steep dive. As the altimeter began to unwind, the speed kept increasing. The more the speed increased, Pete said the harder is was to control the plane. The altimeter was unwinding faster and faster, 20,000...15,000...10,000 feet. the altimeter was spinning backward faster than he could count. Pete tried and tried to pull out of the dive. 9,000...7,000...5,000 ft. and nothing was working. The controls were locked! 4,000...3,000...2,000...1,000 feet. and Pete went silent. The silence went on for a few seconds, so, I finally piped up..."Pete! What happened?" Pete simply replied..."They threw a Red Board in my face!"

"It's a good thing that lady walked out of the grocery store and unplugged the ride before you crashed."

That is the response Pete might have received in my neighborhood. 

Great story.  Thank you, Big Jim.  This is fun stuff.

Rob Leese posted:

. . . As we approached the grade I decided to go out on the front platform of the caboose and watch the train from there.  It was a pleasant evening and the temperature was just right.  It was one of the best working views of a train I ever had.  And I was getting paid. !
Fast forward to today, I realize I might have been getting a good blast of asbestos while going down that hill (remember the days before mandated dynamic braking when a hogger just might put it in run 8 and straight air the pi** out of it most of the way...hehe), but it was still a most memorable ride for a brief opportunity that did not present itself very often.

I know my stories are sorta' lame, but I tell them just to get the career guys "off high center" and tell us a really good one. 

Not lame by any standard!  Not every railroad story has to have a dramatic incident or a funny mishap.  Some of the best stories are short reminiscences of a time when a fellow just "takes it all in," while doing his daily work.  And it's always a pleasure when a story helps us recall the days when skill was important, complainers were looked down upon, and those larger-than-life characters were just part of daily life at work.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

Rob Leese posted:
...Fast forward to today, I realize I might have been getting a good blast of asbestos while going down that hill...

Where do you believe the asbestos was coming from? Are you referring to the "old wives tail" about the composition brake shoes being made out of asbestos?

Hot Water posted:
Rob Leese posted:
...Fast forward to today, I realize I might have been getting a good blast of asbestos while going down that hill...

Where do you believe the asbestos was coming from? Are you referring to the "old wives tail" about the composition brake shoes being made out of asbestos?

Color me "guilty" of accepting the idea that railroad brake shoes may contain asbestos.  I will have to admit I have not researched the composition of brake shoe material.   One facet of brake shoes that I did learn while protecting the rear end was the unique smell they produce while working.  That is one of those "things" you can smell in your memory, if that makes sense, and it is a good memory for me.

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