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Posted: Oct 31 2019 at 1:34pm | IP Logged Quote lakota


     I have started a category for some history of Trains.

     You can blame the Oahu Railway for infecting me with trains.
I have studied railroad history for years but in 1953 I started getting
hands on experience! I is one thing to write about history yet
another the to live it and do it…

More photos and diatribes later.

Thanks.. Don S..

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Posted: Oct 31 2019 at 2:52pm | IP Logged Quote lakota


The Santa Fe Super Chief

The Super Chief’s had an engineer and fireman up front. They had a conductor and sometimes a pullman conductor. They carried about ten porters and two chefs.
They also carried a couple of hostesses. In the rear car was the flagman. My badge said brakeman.

As a uniformed Santa Fe passenger brakeman (technically a rear flagman) I only used the lantern one time. I was only on the ground once. When a Super Chief or Train #7 west bound
meets a Super Chief east bound on single track mainline the eastbound has to take the siding to be passed. I had to realign the pass siding turnout.

Oddly the Super Chief’s were not my favorite passenger train. I enjoyed working
the less “high class” trains like the El Capitan where the passengers roamed around. Yes, I was married at the time but was quite attractive
in my high-dollar custom tailored Santa Fe hat and uniform.

Having beautiful young lady passengers make passes at me was flattering and enjoyable. It was look, smile and don’t touch! Basically as long
as the train was moving all I had to do was watch the gorgeous scenery pass by!

Thanks.. Don S..

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Posted: Nov 01 2019 at 1:08pm | IP Logged Quote lakota


Way freights are the over the road locals and
are the trains that do switching in the industries
and smaller towns along the main line and
        branch rail lines.

                           My First Student Trip    Way Freight
   I was short of money when I went out on my student trips on the Santa Fe. Yup, I had no money and
didn’t even have a hat or gloves. On top of that I had no guidance. I was 18 and I had no concept of what to
expect. This first trip was north to Etter Texas and return. Officially it took 15 hours and 59 minutes in but
getting back to the yard office it was 17 hours. The locomotive was a 2-10-2 1600 class. These engines were
scary to ride in at speeds above 30mph. They along with the 900 class would sway and jump around on the track
seeking the best place they could jump off the rails! At above 34mph these locomotives would jump
completely off the track. It was a hot brutal 103 degree summer day! There was no place for students to sit
in the cab of the engine and I spent most of the long day standing and running around in the sun.

    There was a real ‘36 hour Hog Law’ for livestock in railcars and there was the train crew ‘Hog Law‘.
Train crews had to stop working at 16 hours and have 10 hours “rest”. However if you claim to stop work at
15:59 hours of work you only had to have 8 hours of “rest”. This basically allows the crew to work a six day
a week train that works 16 hours a day and stay on a fixed time every day starting schedule.

     The Santa Fe north yard limit sign was right at the north edge of the very busy famous hwy 66 in
Amarillo. The locomotive had to stop within several feet of the Highway to officially end the crews work day.
I then spent a half hour flagging traffic past the wig wags and dinging red lights stopping the traffic on
highway 66. After a while a switch engine arrived and hooked on to us to pull us into the main yard where we
could walk to the Yard Office and sign out on the ‘federal work sheet’.

Next; student trip two.. Don S..

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Posted: Nov 03 2019 at 2:35pm | IP Logged Quote lakota


           I Thought the First Days Student Trip Was Tough!
                                     With 4.5 Hours Food and Rest I Was Ready For…

       The next day my second student trip was Amarillo to Clovis on a way freight with a 2-10-2 900 (with no
seat for students) class and return the next day. It took 15 hours and 59 minutes each way. I did not eat the
first day and spent the night in the what was affectionately known as ‘the Crummy‘. Unfortunately they
parked the damn thing on the powerhouse lead. All night long huge steam locomotives weighing nearly one
million pounds rumbled past four or five feet from the bunk I was in! Actually at the time I didn’t know
exactly were I was except that caboose would take me back to Amarillo!
   Early in the morning the call clerk couldn’t find me. The regular crew never slept in their caboose and the
switch crew didn’t put the caboose in the proper track by the yard office. I awoke in the morning as the
switching crew coupled into the caboose. All I had with me to eat was two packages of dry Lipton’s Soup. I
ate all the soup in the caboose that morning. Meanwhile the switching crew had tagged the caboose to the
way freight I was to work on back to Amarillo. I walked up to the ’head end’ climbed on the locomotive to
start the my third day of learning what to do and the signals I needed to know as the sun came up.

   Baldwin began construction of the 2-10-2 900 & 1600 class for the Santa Fe in 1903. The Santa Fe used
twenty of these to make into the 3000 class. It is possible I worked on some of these reworked locomotives.
                                      These 2-10-2 streamers were removed from the rooster in 1955

    About mid morning the engineer saw my hands were blistering badly and handed me his gloves. A few
hours later when the crew stopped for lunch. The engineer noticed I wasn’t tagging along with the crew. He
asked why and I had to tell him a was completely broke. He made me go with him and paid the dollar at the
all you can eat for a dollar place. There were a lot of good guys on the Railroads. Most people back then
had lived through the depression of the 1930s and knew what it was like to be broke and hungry.
   At that time Way Freights had the highest pay rates for brakeman $13.14 per 100 miles. 100 miles basically
equaled 8 hours at $1.64 per hour. A 16 hour day would pay 250 miles even if your train traveled less than
100 miles. This was really big money back then and there was not a minimum wage law. Sadly students got
no pay or compensation. Quality steaks and automobiles were slightly less than a dollar per pound! In
Waynoka Oklahoma a one inch thick T-bone, baked potato, veggies and desert complete with a “fish bowl” of
3-2 beer was $1.00. The Nave Hotel in Childress was $1.00 a room per night. People back then put tire chains
on cars when it snowed and new car tires rarely lasted 10.000 miles.

                             As a new hire I marked up on the trainmen’s extra board in Amarillo.
    Yes, I marked up on the board and instantly got assigned the Borger Bullet out of Canadian Texas. No one
bid to get this job and I was the lowest on the seniority list. The bullet way freight operated westbound from
Canadian to Panhandle then north to Borger and return the next day. I was assigned to a train 100 miles
from home.
   Newly promoted conductor ‘Cheezy’ Gray ran this show and taught me the ropes. This train normally had
2-10-2’s like the student trips and occasionally a four unit FT-100 class diesel. This assignment was
extremely educational railroad wise. Some of the unusual methods of the operation of trains in that day will
die with me and a few other old coots! I’ll try to list a few here as I go...

If the response here is good enough next will be 'What the heck is a brakeman'... Don S..

In the old days brakemen were people in training to be a conductor and
the firemen were training to become an engineer.

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Posted: Nov 08 2019 at 2:56pm | IP Logged Quote lakota


            What the heck is a Brakeman
There are photos of brakemen riding the tops of freight cars in the Hawaiian section

    In the early days of railroads the engineers used the reversing lever of the locomotives to slow the train
and others had to use hand operated brakes on the following cars. The extra men hired to control the brakes got their
name from the job. The engineers used special whistle signals indicating when and how many cars the
brakemen were to apply or release the brake on. In the 1950’s there were still box cars that had
staff style (sticking up higher than the roof) hand brakes.

    When applying staff hand brakes strongly one needed to have a “brakeman’s club”. The brakeman had to ether
squat on the wooden catwalk or crawl down the ladder between the cars to use it. There was a little wooden platform
on the end of the car for using the brakes and locking or unlocking them. In the mountains a train might have to have
many more brakeman on top of the freight cars than were needed for trains in the flat lands.
   Freight cars bounce, and rock and roll as they move along in the train. It was a dangerous job and many were killed
while working. I’ll post a story later about one of my days rocking and rolling atop of a freight car at 55 miles per hour.
Rock and roll was fun on my Fender Teleacaster guitar but not on top of a freight car! By the way I never fell off a
box car and never fell out of my Teleacaster guitar… My guitar had a safety belt!

   In my day we didn’t carry brake clubs. It took both hands on the brake wheel to set much braking action. The modern
Ajax hand brake could be applied with one hand and hanging on to a grab rail with the other hand. But again the brakeman
had to be on the ladder between the cars. Slack action could make being between the cars a very dangerous place.
   The modern trains of my time every car in the train is connected to a pneumatic brake line. The locomotives
have independent brakes but are also connected to the train’s pneumatic brake line. In my day the caboose was equipped
with a ‘monkeys tail’. It was a lever connected to the pneumatic brake line so the freight conductor could bleed the
air pressure to stop or slow the train.
                        Please excuse my diction and stuff… I’m not a tech writer or proof reader
    The train’s pneumatic train brake line system is under pressure. Each car has a reserve air tank connected via a
’triple valve’ and the train line. Reducing train line pressure causes the air tank to apply braking action in the freight car
wheels. A 10 pound reduction of pressure will slow he train down bit. The reduction can be done several times and
the brakes can be pumped back off again.
    A sudden loss of all pressure on the train line will cause maximum application of the braking system. This is called
the ‘big hole‘. Once the train has been big holed it can take up to a mile to stop and 20 minutes for the locomotive to pump
the brakes off. Or each air tank on each car can be drained of air pressure by a lever, by hand thus releasing the brakes!

   The head end brakeman, and rear brakeman who traveled from town to town on fright trains duties were the same
as switchmen in the major rail yards. The only brakeman on most modern passenger trains were on the rear and were
called a flagmen. Back then to do a good job as a brakeman he needed to be able to run fast. He needed to be able to
get on and off a freight car at speeds of nearly 10 mph. Older brakemen with good seniority could bid in the easier jobs.
Being the rear brakeman was normally quite a bit easier than being the head (front) brakeman.
     A flagman is a person who protects the rear or front of the train. He sometimes walks out a distance like 100 yards
with a red flag, red light, flairs and exploding rail torpedoes to stop approaching trains on the same track. The torpedoes
are fastened to the rails usually two at six feet apart. They are super firecrackers. They are loud enough to get an
oncoming engineer’s attention! As a uniformed flagman working on the Santa Fe Super Chief there was only one time
I had to switch a turnout and never had to use a flag! As a freight service rear brakeman I had to be a flagman a
couple of times. I’ll post a flagman’s story later if I live that long.

   The crew members might be forced away from home for week or more. Most employees that worked on trains that
left their home town carried an overnight bag. After I learned what a brakeman needed my bag had a can of raviolis, a
can of spaghetti, eating utensils and an can opener. I carried a bible, rain gear, tooth brush, a folding 120 roll film camera,
a pack of cigarettes, two R.R. fusies (flares), flashlight and aspirin.
    Most of the time I wore blue denim bib-overalls. I wore long sleeve light colored shirt and heavy duty work shoes.
              I also carried a blanket lined blue denim jacket with a home made snap-on hood.   
   Brakeman were required to wear the badge, carry the time table, and lantern. Not having or knowing the correct time
was a hazard. We were require to carry a pocket watch that retailed for over $100 dollars in 1953 and have it officially
inspected once a year. We were not allowed to wear a wrist watch! In 1955 Santa Fe issued a small rubber stamp that
we were required the use when signing in or out of the federal sheet. Brakemen also were issued a key to lock and unlock
mainline turnouts and a passenger coach key.   Hat, gloves were optional but don’t leave home
without them!
                                                  Coming to work and returning at the rail terminal
      In Amarillo the yard office is on one side of the huge yard and the roundhouse is on the opposite side. They were
about 110 yard apart with nearly 40 tracks between them. Trying to walk across the yard was difficult as many tracks
had long cuts of freight cars that one had to crawl over the couplers to get to the other side. By road it was about four
miles to drive. Once the call boy calls they will tell what train, direction and at what time it is to leave the yard. I as a
brakeman had to go to the yard office meet with the conductor and sign the federal sheet. I had to find out the number
of the locomotive and what track the train would be in.

     Arriving at the roundhouse I had to find the locomotive and help make sure it had all the supplies and ice water. Then
I would ride in the front of the engine (we interchanged the words locomotive & engine often) aligning the turnouts as
need on the switching lead, finding the track the train was in then getting the engineer to back and hook up to the train.
Once coupled up I had to connect the brake air line and make sure there were no hand brakes on the first few cars.
BTW a steam or diesel locomotive can have two or more engines!
Once the train I was on arrived at a terminal the procedure to “tie up” was virtually reversed. The procedure
for starting a trip and ending a trip was quite time consuming.

    On one occasion I was called for a train, went through all the hoops and loops and had the engine hooked up to the
train. They then informed us the train was canceled. So then I had to take the engine back to the roundhouse then go
back to the yard office to sign the federal sheet. The company decided not to pay any of the crew for the several
hours of effort. I mean they got me out of bed at 3:30 am to go to work! You may or may not like unions but the B.R.T.
secured a full days pay for me.

I see some have fallen asleep so I’ll quit for the day. Don S..

                Wait… I fibbed… you need to know about…     Hand and lantern signals used to operate trains!

    Hand and lantern signals were what was used in the day’s before radios were integrated into the system. In the 1950’s
we, the trainmen did not have individual radios. In 1956 some of the diesel locomotives were starting to be equipped
with two way radios. Still if you needed to talk to the C.T.C. dispatcher you had to use the land line telephone.

    On the ground so to say there was the high ball signal to start, and the stop signals. There were signals for numbers.
For switching the turn outs. For tracks like the team, mill, elevator, or house (depot) tracks. There were signals for
kicking and dropping cars, coupling and uncoupling the knuckles and connecting the brake air lines. There
were signals for getting in the clear, for going to eat plus a few others. In my mind the radios had a larger impact
on railroading than the coming of the diesel-electric locomotives.
    In some conditions signals had to be passed along a long distance, and some times the fireman had to call out the
signals to the engineer. If the men on the ground doing the signaling go out of sight the engineer is to stop until the
men on the ground can be seen again. Often the men on the ground had to stand on top of the cars in order for the
engine crew to see the signals.

Questions? Don S..

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Posted: Nov 09 2019 at 2:09pm | IP Logged Quote lakota


                There was a trick to starting a train.

          With each freight car there is up to six inches of play in the coupler and that is known as
slack. In a 100 car train there could be a 300 foot change in the length of train as the slack runs in
and out. If the engineer tries to start the train with the slack stretched out he will have to start all
the cars at one time. The locomotive may not have the tractive effort to do this. The Engineer can set
the train brakes very slightly and back the engine enough to gather in the slack. Then release the
train brakes and slowly move the locomotive forward and start one car at a time.
   Adding or reducing power (locomotive speed) and grade changes in the track cause the slack to
run in and out as the train travels along the track. The speed at the front of the train can be quite
different than at the back at a given point in time. When the slack runs all the way in or out in it
can be very violet at the back. And with the Caboose at the back the brakeman and Conductor can
be injured. Even in a heavy locomotive one can feel the surge of the slack running in at the head end.

    One day working on the Borger Bullet Local with a long train I was at the rear end of the crummy
(actually a well kept caboose) talking to the conductor when the slack ran in. The crummy virtually
seemed to suddenly stop sending me about 25 feet to the front door and my right arm sticking through
the glass in the door that my arm had just broken. My injuries were bruises and a bloody arm but minor
and we didn’t report them!

                It was yet another trick to starting a train in the Borger Texas Yard
    The Borger yard was the end of the line for way freights. It was an up hill grade when leaving this
yard. Starting a train when leaving was very difficult. The freight cars were all heavily loaded with
oil, gasoline, worn out drilling pipes and carbon black. The locomotive has to start each and every
car one at a time. Gathering the slack in the train was tricky because the cars wanted to roll down
hill away from the locomotive.
    The rear brakeman and conductor first had to set hand brakes on three or four of the cars at the
rear of the train. Then the engineer would pump off the air brakes of the train. Then he would
back the engine gathering in the slack. When the slack was in the conductor would signal the engineer
to stop backing and signal to start pulling.
   Once the slack was in the locomotive could start slowly pulling. As the locomotive began pulling the
slack slowly ran out. When it got close the Caboose the conductor and rear brakeman would
then release the hand brakes they had set, give a ‘highball’ and jump on the caboose.

BTW,… As noted earlier, we still had some staff style (sticking up higher than the roof) hand brakes
that you needed to have a club and stand on the catwalk to use successfully. All this was done without
the convenience of radios. Several times we failed to get started and had the try again! Several times
the knuckles of couplers broke and we had the replace them and start again.

Look for more two finger typing about the Borger Bullet in part two.. Don S..

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Posted: Nov 11 2019 at 3:42pm | IP Logged Quote lakota


Part two
        We had to pick up east bound and set out west bound cars at Panhandle Texas.

After leaving Borger we would do switching at Panhandle where we set out west bound cars
and pick up the east bound cars. We had to pick up a couple of loaded freight cars at White Deere.
Then eastward at Pampa where there was a lot of switching to do for several hours. We always had
a very long train when leaving Pampa.
    The rear crew had to realign and lock the east yard to main line turnout at Pampa. The engineer
would pull the train very slowly as it entered the main line in a curve and cleared that turnout.
The rear crew would give a ’highball’ once they lined and locked the turnout and were back aboard the caboose.   

                                                                      Do the wig wag and High Ball
     A few Santa Fe way freight cabooses had a pair of large orange discs with a light in the middle
and with arms mounted on the top of the cupola. The crew in the caboose could turn the light on
and wave ether disc back and forth for a highball (get out of Dodge) signal or just let it hang
outward for a stop signal. Even that was difficult to see 100 car lengths away. In those days
“our car lengths” were about 40 feet because the average car in the trains were 40 feet long!
     By the 1950s we began to have a lot of the 50 foot ‘double door auto box cars’. However at times
the caboose was so far away we on the head end couldn’t see them and we had no radios. On those
occasions the crew on the rear would light a flare we called a fusie. If they threw the flare out from
the caboose it would mean stop. Throwing the fusie toward the head end was a ’High Ball’ to go..

           You could get a great dinner in a very high class restaurant for a $1.70 including the tip back then !
     Strangely on several occasions we got train-orders that would say take locomotive
132 LABC to Borger and return next day. The 132-L (the leading unit with cab) was the
leading unit of four EMD FT-100 class diesels. 132-C was a leading type unit but facing the
opposite direction and at the rear that day. 132-A and 132-B were cab-less and always in
the middle between the two cab units. It was unnecessary to turn the set around when changing
directions and leaving Borger yard. Yet the way the train order forced us to turn the units around
on the wye in Borger before heading back to Canadian. The good news was they had to pay the
head-end crew 13 extra miles (about $1.70 for me) to turn the units and it took five or ten minutes!!!
   One day my wife and two young daughters came to visit me in Borger. I thought it would be a neat
experience for them to ride in the cab of a 100 class diesel around the wye. Unfortunately
the kids, quite young at the time were scared to death from the noise, it wasn‘t loud! Speaking of
noise it was more than a little loud and mind boggling when the door to the engine room was
opened while in run 8, full throttle. But on the wye the diesels could idle around the wye and the
door was shut!

                                                                    Setting out ten behind thirty.
    One day I had to set out and spot ten cattle cars at the a loading chute. Unfortunately
someone goofed and the cars were not on the head end of the trains consist. This would have
been easy using radios but that would be a few years later. The cattle cars were behind about
thirty other cars and the rear crew was way back a long way in the caboose.
     This setout required me get up and down from the top of the cars three times so the fireman
could see my signals and pass them to the engineman. This made the set-out very difficult.
Today there are no ladders to the top. Radios change the operation of Railroads more than
diesel locomotives! In the old days the rule was if the man on the ground signaling and responsible
for the trains safe movement go out of sight the engineer must stop!

                                                         There are Engineers and there are Hoggers
   One day early on during my assignment to the Borger Bullet we were climbing the hill to Pampa.
The engineer felt the 2-10-2 wasn’t pulling as well as it should and perhaps something like
some hand brakes were set or something was dragging in the train. The Engineer told me to get
off and inspect the train as it pull by. “Yes sir” I said as I bailed off! I saw no problems as I
stood there in the rain and then boarded the caboose.
   Cheezy’ Gray the conductor yelled at me and said “What the hell are you doing back here on
my caboose… Get the hell back up there where you belong.” The rear brakeman laughed so hard
his hat fell off.
    The train was going about five mph and after trying to run a bit I boarded one of the dirty wet
freight cars and started making my way on top of the cars toward the front. This was not only
dangerous but the cars were dirty and wet. Gondolas loaded with wet pipe were very precarious
to walk over as the load rocked along. I was slippin’ an a slidin’ and no place just for riding!
     I was a stinking, wet dirty mess when I got back in the 2-10-2 locomotive’s cab I told the Hogger
there was nothing wrong with his train. I should have told him to just grab another damn notch on
the throttle and go to hell.
     As I think
about it today this engineer was what I thought of as an old person. Today I am 35 years older
than he was back at that time! I have to laugh at myself at times…

    On another occasion while climbing that same hill to Pampa in a 100 class four unit EMD FT
diesel it also was not pulling the train very well. The train was not going as fast as we thought it
should. I keep looking back at the train looking for problems. After a bit I thought I saw a little
smoke and sparks coming from the wheels of the third diesel unit. I walked back through the
units that were all at full power to the third unit, opened one of the outside doors and leaned
out to look. I couldn’t believe what I saw!
      This unit was running full power in reverse spinning the wheels! Soon both the engineer and
fireman were back there in the third unit trying to fix the situation and I was in control of the
train sitting in the engineer’s seat running train for about ten or fifteen miles. This unit was set
out in Pampa for repair.

The train crews never knew what to expect.. Don S..

PLEASE >>> A SIG similar to mine can be VERY HELPFUL to all the members!
'99 4x4 3.3 Frontier Se KC Auto, 48,000 miles
'76 4x4 401 Wagoneer QT
'04 FWD 1.8 Sentra '08 FWD 2.4 Camry LE
Fort Worth
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Posted: Nov 13 2019 at 4:24pm | IP Logged Quote lakota


    Working the Main Line

The “Chain Gang Turns” were through, mainline freight train and had 5 man train
crews. These were trains that did not do switching along their route and required high
seniority for trainmen to bid for. On the East end to Waynoka Oklahoma the
209 mile could be done in as little as five and a half hours. That’s equal to two days pay
then in three to sixteen hours work back to Amarillo for two more days of pay. West
bound from Amarillo to Clovis was only 105 miles. This was not quite as financially
lucrative than the east end.
     Unfortunately the Chain Gang crews had to crew the slow eastbound potash drags.
These trains were so slow that they could be overtaken and passed by three or more
green fruit express trains in one trip to Waynoka . Being “Run Around’ the crews of
the drags ended up the week not making as much money.

     Speaking of Drags (I’m not talking queens here!) there was a long steep hill east
of Canadian Texas. On it had to work a 110 car potash drag eastbound to Waynoka. This
train had 3 four unit sets of 200 class F-7s with an engineer and fireman in each set of
four. But I was the only head brakeman. The locomotives all ran out of sand that is
blown onto the rails for added traction. We were only three quarters the way up the
ten mile long hill. Train was doing 3 mph and less. To help prevent the train from
stalling on the hill I walked ahead and put dirt on the rail head for added traction.

                                  Big pay days from dead-heading and tripling the road.
   On a few occasions I was called to deadhead with a crew in a caboose tagged next to
the rear of a eastbound hotshot to Waynoka. When called to deadhead the crew gets
paid as if working but have no work to do. Once there we virtually jumped on a
westbound hot shot and not only went back to Amarillo but you might be called to
deadhead right back to Waynoka. This was nearly five days pay in one very long day!
Some of these trains could travel between Clovis and Waynoka over 310 miles in 7 to
12 hours. At times the Drags couldn’t do it in two days.

                               My Soon To Be Step-Father In law
    I worked as rear brakeman with conductor E. D. Worley many times headed for
Waynoka 209 miles from Amarillo. Worley was the author and noted for taking most
of the pictures used the Iron horses of the Santa Fe Trail book. My soon to be Step-
Father In law, Noel Gear (name changed) was a regular brakeman on Worley’s crew.
     Noel Gear the senior brakeman (a promoted conductor waving his rights) did not
like the ‘Slack Action’ when riding the caboose or riding on diesel locomotives.
The other brakeman on this chain gang turn did not like E. D. Worley. When Noel
Gear opted to ride the head end the other brakeman would be forced to ride in
the rear with E. D. Worley For some unknown reason the other brakeman
disliked conductor Worley. If ether assigned brakemen on Worley’s crew laid off
I might be called to work the rear end with conductor Worley.

     Between each coupled together freight car there is six inches or more looseness or
slack. Quite a few trains had well over one hundred cars. At six inches or more per
car a hundred car train would have over fifty feet of slack. Relatively to the freight
cars the locomotives are extremely heavy. Changing the power or brake settings or
just coasting up and down hills cause the slack to run in and out. The slack action
is barely felt on the locomotives. On the caboose it can be very violet.

                                          An explosive day   
   I was riding the rear with Conductor Worley of another 110 car potash drag
eastbound to Waynoka that hadn’t yet got to Waynoka! East bound and down hill on
Quinland Hill in Oklahoma was a blind curve passing track in CTC territory. The
train suddenly went into emergency and before it could screech to a stop I was off with
flagging equipment to protect the rear. After about 15 minutes or so   I heard a
strange but nice sounding whistle calling eastbound flagmen like me back to my
caboose. Then I heard the sound of a strange to me diesel and a cloud of black smoke
over the hill top. Then coming around the curve on the other track I saw red nosed Alco
PA units pulling one of the first San Francisco Chief streamliners that ran through
Texas instead of Colorado.

    Wait again! There’s more to the story if you are not bored yet! The conductor was
not on the caboose. I thought the train may have broken into two parts due to the
sudden brake application. So I walked forward looking to find and help the conductor.
I didn’t see him walking back on the other side. After I walked about 50 cars the train
started moving. Potash drags are very slow trains except gong down hill… this thing
took off like a bat out of… well I had to catch and climb to the top to try to run back
on the tops of the old boxcars.
    But the rickety old cars were overloaded and bouncing where I had to lay down and
hang on to the wooden walkway or be thrown off! Then suddenly I remembered I
still had a batch of torpedoes (strong explosives used to warn trains of danger) in my
pockets as I was bouncing on the catwalk. I pitched the explosives!
     Any how I ended up embarrassed when railroaders laughed as I was still on top of
the cars as we pulled passed the Waynoka depot! Did I mention how good the
T-bone steaks were in Waynoka ?

Heard on a radio in an eastbound F-7 pulling a green fruit express back in 1956 and in a Johnny Cash voice...
"Hell-oooo there eastbound... your eastbound looks good like an eastbound should. But driver... they always look best when they're headed west!"

Don S..

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Posted: Nov 15 2019 at 3:40pm | IP Logged Quote lakota


     Railroad jargon varies between railroads and even types of workers.

A Drag,    A slow heavy loaded train with low priority. Or a train that travels
                               between terminals one way only picking and setting out freight cars
                               the Road Locals couldn’t handle soon enough or the area was not

Baggage Man, Basically a brakeman that becomes a company mailman usually on local
                               passenger trains and some times handling short haul things like milk cans
                               between towns. I only was a baggage man a few times and was not good at
                               it. I made student baggage trips from Amarillo to Wellington Kansas then
                               back all the way to Belen New Mexico and return to Amarillo.

Big Hole,   A rupture or sudden release of all air pressure in the Pneumatic train air
                                  brake system. There are air tanks on each car, air pressure in the tanks
                                  put pressure on pistons that prevent the brakes for being set.
                                  The pressure can be slowly bled off and replenished to control the amount
                                  of braking required. If for any reason all the pressure is removed suddenly
                                  the brakes will set with pressure on the opposite side of the piston so brakes
                                  will be fully applied. It take quite a few minutes the pump off the brakes
                                  with more pressure as all the air tanks need to be filled. So if the brake lever
                                  is opened to the Big Hole the train will be stopping for a while. If you race a
                                  train to a road crossing the engineer will not set the brakes unless he feels
                                  you will actually get yourself run over! Good luck with that!

Brownie Points, Points given to crewmen for improper train operation. 60 points and you
                                  were fired. Points could be worked off at one point per month. I was never
                                  awarded Brownies. I did cause the derailment of one truck under one box
                                  car. The train master said it was a new hire learning experience. As a
                                  fireman on the Ft. Worth and Denver I was responsible for destroying a
                                  turn out with no other damage. This happened during a ‘whiteout snow
                                  storm’   It was deemed as un avoid able and no brownies issued.

Call Boy,    So called because in the early days young boys were used to call the train
                                  crews. A yard office clerk who’s job was to notify crewmen on the extra
                                  board that the crewman was assigned (called) to a train at a particular
                                  time. I saw my first ’Call Girl’ in 1956.

Conductor,   A promoted brakeman who rides the rear of the freight train, Yet he has
                                  the finale say as to how to train is conducted! Today Conductors ride the
                                  front of the train with the Engineer.

Chain Gang,   The Chain Gang were the fast through trains that normally did not stop
                                  between terminals. In 1953 when I went to work there was a terminal at
                                  Canadian Texas and That’s as far as Amarillo crews worked. At that time
                                  I never worked on a chain gang so I am unsure about this, anyhow soon
                                  there was the east chain gangs, very popular, running 209 miles between
                                  Amarillo and Waynoka Oklahoma. There was the west chain gang between
                                  Clovis New Mexico and Amarillo about 103 miles.

Crew, Freight,   In the 1950’s freight train crews consisted of Engine Crew, engineer &
                               Fireman per locomotive. Four diesel lashed together were a locomotive
                               until the late 1950’s Train men, two brakeman & a conductor.

Crummy,    The caboose is the Conductor’s office for handling way bills. It was the nick
                               name for the caboose or road service car on freight trains. Un assigned were
                               dirty and Crummy. Also called Hacks by some. A caboose assigned to a
                               conductor were usually quite clean and well stocked.

Cut of Cars,   A group of freight cars coupled together & handled together as a unit.

Dead Heading,   When a crew and crummy are tag in the rear of a working train to go to
                               another place to work a different train they are paid for the dead head trip
                               and return if necessary. Normally done to keep a proper number of
                               crewmen at the home terminal. When a deadhead crew arrived at their
                               destination they were considered rested and ready for work.

Dropping a Car,   A way to move a freight behind a locomotive into a dead end track with
                               the turnout points facing the loco and car. A Cut of cars can be dropped.
                               A brakeman must ride the car or cut to control the speed and stopping
                               point. This also allows the car to be run around (picked up) on the other
                               end the loco. This movement requires timing and skill of the entire crew.
                               The locomotive moves forward then slows just enough for the coupler
                               slack to run in. The car is un coupled. The locomotive then speeds away
                               with the turnout between it and the car to be dropped. At this time with
                               the car still rolling and a crewman riding the car controlling it’s safety.
                               The turnout is switched to the other track and the car rolls into it. Next
                               the turnout is realigned and the locomotive backs back over it. Now the
                               locomotive can enter the other track where the dropped car is and
                               couple into the dropped car that is now at the other end of the locomotive
                               from where it stated! Clear as mud,… eh?   

Engine,    Although a steam locomotive has two. three or more steam cylinder engines
                               the whole unit (locomotive) is often referred to as an engine. This include up
                               to four diesel units controlled by one unit.

Extra Board,   An on going record of unassigned crew in the yard office and their work
                               status, for availability and on call first in, first out.

Fusie & Fusee,   Train men called railroad flares timed to last 10 minutes a fusie. One
                                  could drop a fusie in the track and a following engineer could tell if he
                                  was too close to the train ahead. Fusee, a company making flares and
                                  warning torpedoes that are fastened to the rail head.

Hack,      See Crummy

Head Brakeman,   One of two brakeman on the five man train crew that station is the front of
                                  the train. This was usually the man with the least seniority. Sometimes
                                  called the brakee or pin puller.

Helper Service,    A locomotive and crew assigned to help push or pull a train over a hill. We
                                  were not allowed to push against a Crummy. This meant a little extra time
                                  for switching was involved.

Hog Law,   There was a law that animals had to be unloaded every 36 hours. But for
                                  train crewmen they had to sign a federal sheet. If they worked on duty
                                  for 16 hours they must be off for 10 hours. However if they signed
                                  out as 15:59 hours as on duty they need be off only 8 hours.

Hostler,   A fireman pulled out of train service to move locomotives around the engine
                                  service and repair facilities.

Hot Box,   Hot Box refers the a situation that often happened to the wheel journals
                                   on the freight cars. The axles rode/rolled on Babbitt (soft metal material)
                                   lined brass holders in a ‘box’ filled will waste packing and oil. When the
                                   babbitt wore out the friction caused tremendous heat, fire and soon the
                                   axle would break. If the axle broke at speed it would often derail and
                                   wreck as many as 35 freight cars. The hot box could set the wreckage on
                                   fire. We had to stop quickly and fix it or set the cat out!

Hot Shot,     A Train given priority over all others.

In the Clear,     In a safe track or not fouling any other track or turnout.

Kicking a Car,    To save time a freight car can be pushed and cut loose to roll free into a
                                   siding. A brakeman rides the car to control the speed with the hand brake.
                                   This becomes touchy when handling large cuts of loaded cars.

A Monkey’s Tail,   The Caboose were equipped with a lever to bleed or ‘big hole’ the train
                                    air brakes. The Conductor could slow or stop the train and even send a
                                    signal to the engineer. A conductor in the caboose can control the speed
                                    of a train and can get in trouble if the train is going too fast.

On the Spot,   Waiting, Perhaps waiting for a train meet or time out to go eat!

Pin Puller,        See Head Brakeman.

Reefer,   An insulated freight car for carrying produce. Ice entered through four hatches
                                  at each corner of the roof. These cars were equipped with a chamber at each end
                                  to hold the ice. Some had a fan to circulate the cold air and others just left the
                                  hatches slightly open. During the summer and fall for 30 to forty green fruit
                                  express trains to pass through Amarillo in 24 hours. I saw and heard my first
                                  diesel mechanical reefer in 1956.                             

Road Local,    Trains required to handle freight service in towns between the main rail yards.
                                   these train were normally out and back the same or next day

Run Around,   See Dropping a car or Wye, Or one train & crew passing a slower train.

Sanding Flues,      The heating tubes in the steam engine boiler will developed a carbon coating over
                                  time. The carbon reduces heating efficiency. While the locomotive was working
                                  strongly the fireman will pour several scoops of sand in the
                                  firebox door sandblasting the flues to remove the carbon.

Slack Action,        One of the first things a trainman needs to learn is the effects of slack action.
                                  There is end play in the coupling system. Usually calculated at six inches per
                                  car. Also many freight cars had cushion coupler pockets and could act like
                                  springs. As the locomotive pulls on the cars the slack stretches out. When the
                                  slack is ‘out’ the pressure prevents uncoupling. When going down hill if
                                  the locomotive doesn’t change speed to go faster the slack will run in. It can
                                  get violent. When the engineer sets the train brakes the brakes at the rear
                                  tend to set first thereby stretching the train. If the slack has run out it will be
                                  difficult to restart the train. The locomotives have independent brakes and the
                                  engineers can gather in the slack with proper use.

                                          Slack action can also be seen and heard on my model train layout.

Seniority,     The assignment of the choice scheduled trains was done by seniority. Easiest
                               and or best paying crew positions were held by those bidding with the highest
                               Seniority. Jobs not bid on were assigned to those with the lowest seniority.

Spotting a Car,   Freight cars occasionally need to put in a precise position for loading or un
                               loading. BTW As a Car Spotter for the Rock Island in Amarillo at night I did
                               not move a car. I had to make a list of where every car was spotted at night.

Time Table,   A large booklet train crews are required to carry. Often folded in half and put
                               in the rear pocket. It was handy to use for long distant hand signals in the day

Time & Track,   In C.T.C. territory (Centralized Traffic Control) way freights (over the road locals)
                               had to call the dispatcher and get a safe time to cross the main line to do switching
                               and spotting of freight cars. A three light system using three colors give an indication
                               speed reduction requirements, train occupancy ahead and if your train is going to go
                               into a passing siding.

Turnout,     Popularly known as a switch or a track switch many railroad people use the term
                               turnout for the rail devise in the track allowing train to enter another track. When
                               an Engineer looks at a turn out that can line him into another track it is known as a
                               facing point movement. Other wise it would be known as a trailing point. Main line
                               turnouts were locked and required a key. Remember the engineer can 'throw a switch'
                               and turnout the headlight! Then you might not be able to see to switch the tinout...I'm
                               just sayin'...
Way Freight,    See Road Local

Wye    A Wye is a system where 3 track turn outs are connected is such a way that there
                               are three ways out or in to the Wye. Example; if you have a east- west main line
                               and have a north bound branch line and needed to run some branch line trains
                               east and some to the west. A Wye also facilitates changing the locomotive from one
                               end of a train to the other end. And also facing the other direction!

A railroad fact,   Steam locomotives required more man hours to maintain per mile than
                               diesels. However the steam locomotives could operate in three feet of dirty
                               flood water. The traction motors under diesels will be ruined in just a few
                               inches of even clean water!

These are a few of the terms used back then in the 1950s.. Don S..
BTW,... I left out High Ball... Sorry... If you don't know what it means you'll
have a problem "Getting out of Dodge"

If there is a problem with this ... it was my two fingers that did it!

PLEASE >>> A SIG similar to mine can be VERY HELPFUL to all the members!
'99 4x4 3.3 Frontier Se KC Auto, 48,000 miles
'76 4x4 401 Wagoneer QT
'04 FWD 1.8 Sentra '08 FWD 2.4 Camry LE
Fort Worth
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Posted: Nov 17 2019 at 3:58pm | IP Logged Quote lakota


Here are a couple of old railroad facts
      In the 1950s grain and a lot of other commodities such as new automobiles and even sand were
hauled in box cars. In the case of grain the lower half of both box cars doorways were blocked
on the inside. The grain could be loaded several ways and four to six feet deep. The grain could be
un loaded by shovel or vacuumed out at a grain elevator. Some of these ‘grain cars’
would leak the
grain into piles as much as two feet high in the Amarillo yard. This was very dangerous for
the switchmen at night. My conductor-brakeman, father in law would shovel up the piles of grain
to feed his chickens and livestock Today in parts of the country we can see long trains with
only the modern type grain cars in their consists.


    There have probably been over a thousand locomotive explosions just in this country. Steam
locomotives have several pressure relief valves but when some parts of the boiler become too hot
and collapse and the pressure relief valves just can not handle the sudden in crease of steam.
   As the speed of a locomotive changes the water can surge to the front or back of the boiler. Should
a steam locomotive running down hill with a heavy train behind it suddenly have an emergency
braking happen the water would surge to the front. If the water in the boiler was at a relatively low
level before the brake application the crown sheet might begin to make steam at an alarming rate. It
might be time to get out and walk!

                                      A few other notes on steam locomotives
     When a steam locomotives sits at idle there is not enough oxygen passing through the firebox to
make the fire hot enough to make steam. Steam locomotives were equipped with a steam pipe
aimed upward just below the smoke stack. This acted as a blower that would draw fresh oxygen
through the firebox door, firebox, flues and out the stack. The fireman had a valve to control the
blower as needed.
   When Steam locomotives sit between jobs they slowly cool down a loose steam pressure and
the water level gets lower. They need a little loving care every two to five hours or they will die…
steam wise. Unlike a model T Ford locomotives do not come with a hand crank to restart them with!
   The Steam locomotives I worked on were oil burners and they also had steam pipes going to
the tenders. One pipe was to preheat the oil so it would flow better and atomize better in the
firebox. The other pipe was to prevent the water from freezing. Most modern steam locomotives
had pre-heaters in front of the boilers for the water before it was injected into the boiler.

    There was a short period when I was on the night shift and I had to keep the steam up in
three and four steam locomotives at a time.
      To build up steam pressure my routine was to check that the locomotive brakes were set,
reverse lever in neutral and throttle was closed. Next check the water level, at this point it can
safely be a little low. Then I’d gather some waste packing (shredded rags) and a small amount
of coal oil. Slightly open the blower valve and open the firebox door. Put a little coal oil on the
packing, light it, and throw it in the firebox. Quickly open the atomizer valve a little and open up
the fire stick (controls the amount of oil) and hope that the atomized spray of oil will ignite.
    If so then all the settings must be readjusted including the blower for maximum draft and heat
with the least amount of smoke! After a few minutes I would add the proper amount of water. Once
one shuts off the water It is going to take thirty to sixty minutes for the locomotive to regain it’s
operating pressure. I have had fires in three locomotives that I had built going at one time. I
had to keep checking settings in each every ten to fifteen minutes. The trick here was to have
all three engines up to operating pressure with the fire put out and not have the pressure
relief valve pop open!

    In my short career as a fireman and machinist helper I’ve had build a fire in over 100 cooled down
oil burner locomotives. But they all had at least 60 pounds or more steam pressure. The roundhouse
for locomotives had air and steam generators that were hooked into the blower systems for
restarting engines with no boiler pressure. I never had to fire a coal burning locomotive.
But I did take care of and fire two huge coal burning cast iron heaters in a large building
when I was 12 and 13 years old.

    The boilers of the steam locomotives I worked with were long and ran from a couple of feet
behind the smoke stack to three or four feet into the cab. The firebox was sort of wedged into
the rear of the boiler but not to the top. The upper part of the firebox was surrounded
by the boiler and the bottom of the box was a little lower than the boiler. In the front surface
of the firebox were dozens of flues used to carry the heat through the water and to the smoke box.
   In the smoke box was an inverted ’Y’ pipe from the two pistons and valves aimed up at but not
connected to the smoke stack. The inverted ’Y’ pipe and a blower pipe caused the draft of oxygen
through the firebox.

   In front of the cab and at the high point of the boiler was the steam dome. Here in most cases was
the throttle valve and the pressure relief valves. Pipes like the flues but much larger carry the throttle
controlled steam forward in the boiler then down to the valves of the powerful pistons.

    Forward of the steam dome were one or two sand domes. A special type of sand was stored in
the domes and blown in onto the rail head in front of the driving wheels for added traction as need.
    Steam locomotives had to have the bell and the whistle. Also steam powered electric generator,
steam powered air pumps, power assisted reverse lever and mechanical oilers. Did I forget to mention
the oil and water pumps, weather curtains and the mud ringing valves and……

    The thing most people do not notice about the steam locomotives is the drive wheels are
“quartered“. The wheels and their connecting rods are one quarter of a turn different on the
right side from the left side of the locomotive! Even though the pistons are double action, or powered
when moving forward or backward in the cylinder the drivers who’s axles are connected solidly
side to side have to be quartered to operate correctly.

I’m sorry folks, my proof reader fell asleep.. Don S..

PLEASE >>> A SIG similar to mine can be VERY HELPFUL to all the members!
'99 4x4 3.3 Frontier Se KC Auto, 48,000 miles
'76 4x4 401 Wagoneer QT
'04 FWD 1.8 Sentra '08 FWD 2.4 Camry LE
Fort Worth
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