On the railroad

Discussion in 'On the Road' started by KL7AJ, Aug 11, 2017.

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  1. K4KWH

    K4KWH Ham Member QRZ Page

    One of the things I am proud of is being a part of the rail industry. I literally started at the bottom in greasy, sweaty overalls. Eager to find something that provided a decent living and a future, I hired out to Southern Railway (USA) in the 70's as a laborer in a track material yard. I can't think of many jobs more "grunty and sweaty" than working on the railroad. I "made my bones" (hey, I'm no gangster) down in the bottom of high side gondola cars in 95 degree heat slingin' joint bars and loading switch frogs, package switches, and "comp joints" (joints that allow transition from one rail weight to another), and slingin' a sledge hammer on a pile of scrap frogs 6 high, 3 wide. The rest of the time I followed an electric crane around the material yard loading/unloading track material into those gons, flats, and box cars. Then "other duties as required" so stated posted job bulletins of the day.

    Then I was furloughed when the track material yard moved to Irondale, AL. I thought my job was simple GONE:(. I must've done something right because less than 2 weeks later my boss phoned me at home and offered me an Extra Clerk's position in the office. Said, "We don't want to lose you to another company". I did nothing extraordinary- just did my job, showed up on time, never loafed around. The work was hard and tiring, but I LIKED doing it). So I moved up to the office filling in for vacationing clerks. Oh boy, the guys that were senior to me and often worked harder trying to get OUT of work did not like that!

    I worked that for a year and half, and I got a phone call from Chief Clerk, Charlotte Yard, said, "Will you agree to go to Georgia to train as a Line of Road Clerk." Yep. So I then "graduated" from what I wryly named "Railroad Boot Camp" and found myself knee deep in waybills, demurrage, signals, train orders and the way of life , language and, customs that a railroad Extra Clerk endures. I was deeply immersed in it.

    And the thing that was unique about it was, Southern Railway and Norfolk Southern, the partner corporation up until 1992-ish, endorsed and supported a "Steam Operations" program. So as a train order clerk, agent, operator, interlocking operator, I was right in the middle of it all. I was there to witness "Big Steam", clear these trains to go to work, hand up train orders to them. At any given time during the summer, I might be working as Agent/Operator at an outlying agency and find myself standing trackside with "flimsies" (Form 19 + Clearance Card) to hand up to the head end and rear (conductor). These were Engines 4501 (Sou), 2716 (ex C & O), T & P 610, and Norfolk & Western 611. A few of them I "deadheaded" in the cab. So I can relate well to both the modern diesel era and also to that of the Steam age that ended circa 1960-ish. I met people like Jim Bistline, AVP Passenger Operation (pre-Amtrak), Bill Purdie, Master Mechanic, Steam, and "Wick" Moorman, recently retired CEO of NS. I "knew" him when he was a Track Supervisor, Greensboro and I used to ship him stuff as an Inventory Clerk, Material Mgt Dept.

    So I got to experience railroading and an past era of steam as well. Sometimes it felt like 1940 what with the E8's and steam engines right in the same roundhouse!:) I wasn't a railfan; didn't follow it as a hobby, but I loved the job sometimes and HATED it sometimes. Only a railroader can understand why that is!:confused: I wouldn't trade it for the world!;)
     
    N2NH, WA7PRC and KJ4VTH like this.
  2. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    So...do you or anyone else know why it is called a Form 19? (There's also Form 31, but you'd never see that used for a passenger train, and only rarely for a freight).
     
  3. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    "The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep." ---Ecclesiastes 5:12
     
  4. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Many are not aware that the USAF had a railroad train, one called the Alternate Command Post

    http://www.alaskarails.org/historical/command-train/ (w/many photos)

    As a ground radio puke, I 'got' to maintain the commo gear.
    [​IMG]

    I was able to install a roof top antenna for operations on the move. As an Amateur operator I remembered that a past President had radios added to his train cars - that was a first -
    Like this - only cheaper...
    [​IMG]
    With this as a 'precedent' for the AKRR we got it hooked up. While on movement to mission, I was allowed to operate on the HF bands rail-moble. Fun. Times. 10.

    Long gone, of course, as the website points out. Interesting bit of historical trivia....

    As a final note - the DAFX cars, part of the never completed (MX) Peacekeeper rail system (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peacekeeper_Rail_Garrison) were sold for scrap and a ham in the Mat-Su valley purchased the interior shelter from one and had it buried on his property for a noise-free ham shack.

    [​IMG]
     
    N2NH and N6QIC like this.
  5. N6QIC

    N6QIC Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Check this out, this guy can't possibly be married. Pretty cool but, In my house! :)

     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
  6. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    You might be surprised by what some wives will put up with......in "their" house!
     
    N6QIC likes this.
  7. N2NH

    N2NH Ham Member QRZ Page

    I liked the 20th Century Limited for the same reason. I can't imagine going from NYC to Chicago in 16 hours. They did this on nearly every run. Picked up water on the run so the tenders held mainly coal. The Breakneck Ridge tunnel in the Hudson Highlands (NY) is :27 in.
     
    N6QIC and WR2E like this.
  8. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    From Grand Central Terminal to Chicago South Station is 961 miles.
    16 hours is 960 minutes.

    So to make schedule, the Century had to average 60 MPH the whole way. Not running speed - average speed, including station stops, engine changes, speed restrictions over curves, bridges and switches, etc.

    On jointed rail and wooden ties, in all sorts of weather, without computers or even CTC or TCS for most of the way. But they did have the intermittent inductive train control system, permitting speeds in excess of 79 MPH.

    What makes that schedule even more amazing is the reality:

    From GCT to Harmon, the Century was usually pulled by a T motor, because only electrics could go underground in New York City. The T-motor's top speed was 75 mph, but the maximum speed over much of that part of the Water Level Route was far less due to curves and bridges.

    At Harmon, the T-motor would be replaced by a J-class Hudson....but when you only have 960 minutes to go 961 miles, every minute counts!

    Most of the Water Level Route is fairly straight and fairly flat, but there are bridges (such as LAB across the Hudson at Albany) and curves (such as the one near Fonda, NY, and another near Lock Berlin) which require speeds well under 60 mph.

    Even with water scooping, the tender could not hold enough coal for the 900+ miles from Harmon to Chicago, so there was a coaling stop at Wayneport, NY (east of Rochester) and another near Cleveland.

    What made the schedule possible were the stretches where the Century could do 90 MPH or more, making up for time lost at lower speeds. There was also the fact that most of the Water Level Route was 4 tracks, all well-maintained. The Century was a Limited, meaning almost no station stops - it only stopped at Harmon and Englewood. And because the Century was a night train, there were relatively few other trains running.

    And of course people - highly skilled, hard-working, dedicated people making sure that nothing delayed The Century. People given the training and resources to do the job.

    The technology exists to run high speed trains from NYC to Chicago in well under 8 hours. All it takes is people - and the resources.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
     
    N2NH likes this.
  9. N6QIC

    N6QIC Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes you are correct, I actually had the biggest smile watching this video. The onboard shots were the best.
    It would really be fine with me.
     
    N2EY likes this.
  10. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    When I was a toddler, our house in Silly Cone Valley was RIGHT on the southern pacific line, about a third of a block from the Atherton railroad station (now Caltrans). A commuter line ran every morning from Atherton to San Franscisco....I remember lines of uniformed businessmen (every one wearing a fedora) boarding the dark green cars. It was public transportation that worked....but I don't know if we could ever get back to that glory day.

    (Of course, I couldn't live in Atherton any more either. The tiny house I was born in, that my dad paid $23,000 in 1950, lists on Zillow for 2.4 million. O well)
     

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