• Pranks and Horseplay on the Railroad

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by Gadfly
 
The subject of nicknames made me think of another thing that occurred on my railroad. It wasn't too common out in the yards and offices, but the shops were FULL of pranksters and violators of the horseplay rules on NS. Operators of forklifts almost always had to do a walkaround of his machine everytime to see what some jokester had done to his Hyster. These tricks included turning off the propane valve, putting a "scotch" under a wheel, cutting the wheels hard to one side (could be dangerous if not paying attention) so the lift would shoot to the side if the driver were in a hurry, putting grease on the seat, levers, or steering wheel, putting grease on the underside of a doorknob, putting Locktite in someone's locker lock (that was usually if someone was not liked, or for revenge).
Putting rubber snakes or spiders in lunch boxes or lockers. And they better not find out you are "goosey" or hyper-ticklish; you're gonna get poked in the ribs at every chance a supervisor isn't looking! :( Our shops had several people with this problem, and "goosing" them in the sides would produce various results from yelling out, screaming whatever they might be thinking at the time, cussing (AAAAAAAAAAAAAK-D--MMIT), or YOU SON UVA------!!!!!!!!) OR, the guy might knock you down or whoever was in front of him! :( One boy was apparently "shellshocked" because any loud, sudden noise would make him jump and yell out LOUD! They were always hitting hammers against a machine to scare him. "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!!!!!!". He'd yell!

Now, one of the fellows that would smack you if you "goosed" him came over into our storehouse one day on a mule/tow tractor pulling a wagon load of hydraulic pumps and motors. This towmotor was designed so that one could pull these wagons with a "pintle" hook and it could be released with a small chain attached to the back of the mule. Also on the SIDE of the machine there were "tines", both front and rear so shop forces could load pieces of flat bar, angle iron, etc. to bring to their work areas. Someone had been picking at "Charley" and had him nervous so that when he reached back to release the wagon, he somehow got his armpit up over this "U-shaped" tine on the rear of the machine and it "goosed" him in the armpit (or so he thought). "Charley" went absolutely NUTS with a blood-curdling SCREAM, "WHOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAA! YOU SON-OF-A-BLANKETY-BLANK"!!!!! For several seconds, "Charley" jumped and writhed and yelled. WE were doubled over with laughter, and this went on until "Charley" realized that there was nobody tickling him: HE was "tickling" himself! :P (We all know that nobody can actually knowingly tickle themselves). It got away with "Charley" so BAD, embarrassed him so BAD, he just cussed at us for laughing at him, and roared out the door on the mule without another word!!!!

The usual horseplay is not funny and can cause people to get hurt, and the railroad has General Conduct and Safety Rules against it. That last incident was actually not "horseplay" because no one actually messed with the man (unless someone was poking at "Charley" from the other shop which got him so jumpy). But it kept us laughing for several hours!

Gadfly
  by Gadfly
 
So NS is the only road where pranks were common.....................................? :(

Gadfly
  by UPRR engineer
 
Most of the play at work has been said already in the So You Want To Work On The Railroad Thread in the Employment Forum.
  by chemin-de-fer
 
I heard of a conductor that could imitate the cab signal alert, and used to drive engineers to dancing until they figured it out.

Problem with pranking is that it's often perpetrated by ignorant groups against people who just want to be left alone or don't fit in, and the behavior magnifies the isolation and misery. I have rarely seen an intelligent prankster, sad to say.
  by BR&P
 
We used to have a small dumbwaiter in the 4-story yard office - it was a metal box, open at the top, which had a pulley system and metal poles as rails. It was used to send paperwork from one floor to another, saving clerks the trouble of climbing up and down stairs all shift long.

One local routinely arrived just before a couple hotshot mainline trains were due to pick up cars it brought in, so the yardmaster was always on the speaker urging the number grabber to prepare the list of the hot cars right away so the yard crews could switch them out. On more than one occasion, a prankster would put a couple old pieces of paper in the box, and buzz the YM on the speaker. "Hot list in the chute!". He would then touch a match to the papers.

Seconds later the chute would be whisked upwards, followed immediately by some loud cussing from the top floor. The key to not getting in trouble for this, by the way, was to have the REAL "hot list" ready to go - if the yardmaster yanked out the flaming scrap and sent the chute down and was rewarded with the actual list, the prank was taken in good humor.
  by Gadfly
 
I heard of a LOT of pranks played, particularly around the shops and repair facilities. A long time ago, a clerk bought a new '51 Buick. I guess the other clerks were jealous and, while he wasn't looking, they slipped out under the Yard Tower (where the car was parked), jacked the car up and put a block under the axle just high enough to raise a wheel off the ground ever so imperceptibly. At 3 PM, the owner went out to go home, started up his new Buick, and it wouldn't move. :( Bear in mind that when there is no load on a drive train, the wheels will turn at several MPH even tho the car is stopped. So, thinking there was something wrong with the car and preparing to exit the car to see what was wrong, the clerk put the car in PARK to a grinding noise and a loud SNAP! It tore the "park" pawl out of the transmission! UGH! NOT funny! :( When the owner discovered what had happened, he was absolutely ENRAGED (and I don't blame him!)!!!!! And due to the unspoken "code" amongst railroaders, nobody would tell him WHO played the prank. OF course, they didn't MEAN to do harm to the car, but the result was not good.

Often many pranks result in somebody being harmed in some way and it is why there are rules against it. Sure, sometimes a "small" prank is funny, but the risk is always there that someone might get hurt. ON NS,it was Rule 1028 in the General Conduct and Safety Rulebook, and if you got caught playing pranks, it could get you pounding sand for a week or so!

Gadfly
  by David Benton
 
not directly related , but we had many pranks thatwere almost a rite of passage in the engineering shop i did my aprrenticeship with . most noticeable would be the acetylene bomb , a container filled with acetylene from the oxy acetylene torch and lit . i had the misfortune to accidently make one of these , ( i swear its true ) , the hot torch tip melted a hole in a plastic bag , and the torch subsenquently leaked gas into the bag . i then proceeded to start arc welding besdie it , and bang . i had alot of explaining to do , and i think they eventually sort of believed me .
Welding steel cap boots to the steel lockers , lubricants ( preferably black ) smeared on ear muffs and goggles to leave marks on the wearers head were other pranks i remember . as apprentices , we were prime targets . the worst one for me was been bound up in packaging tape , and gently pushed over . you cannot get out no matter what , as you cant move your hands .
Nowdays , i would note that at karate , we often practice quite phyiscal applications on each other , and don't get seriously hurt . but the minute some start fooling around , somebody invariably gets hurt .
  by Georgia Railroader
 
When I hired out we had these mentors that helped to train you and would call the crew dispatcher to get you put on a train so you could get qualified. This one guy we had was pretty ill tempered, and had actually challenged co workers to fights in the parking lot. Early one morning about 2 am, a friend of mine had a conductor trainee. Most new hires are very gullable. The alerter started beeping, and this guy being the prankster that he is, grabbed the raido handset and said "hello, yea he's here. Okay I'll tell him, okay bye" Hey that was Mr. ---- he said to call him ASAP. So he gets on his cell phone and calls this mentor who is home sleeping. Being as ill tempered as he was he unleashed a storm of cursing at this poor guy that would make a sailor blush.
  by ex Budd man
 
At Paoli car shop it very common to see people with the heels of their work boots painted sliver or red. :P The victim was distracted while standing near the pit track and the perp would spray the back of his boots. Once a Pa. State trooper got tagged and didn't notice until some one at the State Police barracks asked if he had been at the car shop. Needless to say he was furious and was looking for blood until his sargent calmed him down.
We usually stuck to the frozen turkey "give-away" during the holidays. Some one would mention to a newbie that the shop superintendant gave everybody a turkey for Thanksgiving then the poor schlub was sent all over trying to get his free turkey. This gag worked especially well one year when my wife happened to bring home an empty Butterball box. There was an early snow that year and I filled the box from the accumulation near the shop. The day before the holiday we sent him to the wheel house for his prize and the guys down there sent himback to the shop saying they could be found in the foremans office. After about twenty minutes of running back and forth he was handed the box. When he opened the box to remove the "frozen turkey" he was so mad he threw the box on the floor and jumped on it. Being wet it slid out from under his feet and he landed on the pile of slush that spilled out of the box. The only thing injured was his "dignity". And he had a wet tush for the rest of the day. :wink:
One day a car shop mechanic was riding the shop fork lift and stopped to ask a coworker something. He didn't realize the truck was on the turntable for the truck repair area. Before he knew what was happening two fellows were rotating the table under the truck. A look of sheer terror covered his face as he felt the truck moving. He stomped on the brake pedal and spun the steering wheel trying to regain cntrol of the truck as it slowly rotated around. When he came around to where we were standing a look of comprehension and consternation took place in a heart beat. Realising the truck wasn't moving he began laughing with the rest of us. :wink:
Air brake equipment must rebulit every three years for passenger service and part of that rebuilding is testing the rebuilt parts. The B-3-B valve is a simple valve; its open or closed. A newer man was showing an old timer how to check for leakage by placing the valve in a water bucket to look for bubbles. After connecting an air line to the valve and submerging it in the water the oldster said it was a good valve. Whereupon he was told that to complete the test he had to open the valve. :P At 130 psi the water was blown out of the bucket in no time, all over the hapless victim. it was a good thing it was summer since everybody in the area was soaked.
  by SurlyKnuckle
 
Going through a defect detector with the automated voice recording, a crew I was with told me to say "Thank you" over the radio to the "man inside that metal shack who checks trains when they roll by". I knew the truth, so I kinda disappointed them.

One day I was riding along, and I looked out my window on the left for no more than 10 seconds, then "POW-POW-POP-POP-POW" and the cab filled with smoke. I jumped in my seat so high I hit the ceiling. The engineer had lit some firecrackers and effectively scared the crap out of me. He'd been quiet most of the trip and I was totally not expecting that! Whenever I'd have that engineer again, I always made sure not to let him out of my sight for more than 5 seconds.

That same engineer, a fan of a local NFL team ran a flag up the flagpole at the yard office with the logo of his favorite team (the Baltimore Ravens). While we were out, a conductor on another job came in, (a fan of the Washington Redskins) lowered the Ravens' flag to half-mast. Sadly, the flag got damaged and was ripped down, that was an accident.

It was quite a sight to see 4 crew members, the yardmaster, and someone from engineering standing at the bottom of the flagpole, looking upwards, hands in pockets trying to figure out how to get it down! :-D

...pranks at my old job of electrician's helper were more frequent, including make ones' tools "hot", fun with wire lube, duct-tape tails on fellow workers, wiring workers on ladders TO ladders, filing tool bags with trash or wet leaves, snowball fights, mixed martial arts fights at lunch, ...
  by Georgia Railroader
 
SurlyKnuckle wrote:Going through a defect detector with the automated voice recording, a crew I was with told me to say "Thank you" over the radio to the "man inside that metal shack who checks trains when they roll by". I knew the truth, so I kinda disappointed them.

One day I was riding along, and I looked out my window on the left for no more than 10 seconds, then "POW-POW-POP-POP-POW" and the cab filled with smoke. I jumped in my seat so high I hit the ceiling. The engineer had lit some firecrackers and effectively scared the crap out of me. He'd been quiet most of the trip and I was totally not expecting that! Whenever I'd have that engineer again, I always made sure not to let him out of my sight for more than 5 seconds.

That same engineer, a fan of a local NFL team ran a flag up the flagpole at the yard office with the logo of his favorite team (the Baltimore Ravens). While we were out, a conductor on another job came in, (a fan of the Washington Redskins) lowered the Ravens' flag to half-mast. Sadly, the flag got damaged and was ripped down, that was an accident.

It was quite a sight to see 4 crew members, the yardmaster, and someone from engineering standing at the bottom of the flagpole, looking upwards, hands in pockets trying to figure out how to get it down! :-D

...pranks at my old job of electrician's helper were more frequent, including make ones' tools "hot", fun with wire lube, duct-tape tails on fellow workers, wiring workers on ladders TO ladders, filing tool bags with trash or wet leaves, snowball fights, mixed martial arts fights at lunch, ...
Ha HA. seen many new guys fall for the man in the box prank. One guy was even going to toss a bottle of water out the window for him.
  by Georgia Railroader
 
I used to work a line that went through some swamps and very secluded areas. It was very common to see gators, wild pigs, coyotes, and some big cats. Right in the middle of this was a siding. We all liked telling the new hires about the dangers of what lurks around some of these various locations along the way. Some played it off like it was no big deal, while others got a little nervous. One night a train with a trainee stopped in the siding to meet a train. While waiting, the conductor and trainee got down on the ground. The engineer quietly opened his window and tossed a bottle of water into the bushes. The trainee ran up the steps of the loco and locked the door when he got inside. The engineer laughed and said he never saw someone move so fast before. The trainee refused to get back down after that.
  by Jtgshu
 
While not really intentional, the following incident had me rolling on the floor in the cab....

Coming into Trenton, NJ there were some old Amtrak gondolas parked on the track next to the main. It became a bit of a game to see if you could toss your water bottle into empty gondola. They had been there for several months, so there was LOTS of water bottles in it!

My engineer (I was the conductor) was drinking his water bottle, and wasnt quite done with it, it was about 3/4 full. But its fun to throw it and watch the water go every which way when it would hit the car :) We were talking and he goes "hang on, I gotta make it 2 for 2 (it was our second round trip of the day)"

He winds up, and tosses the water bottle - problem was, he forgot to open the window!!!! water was EVERYWHERE - all over the control stand, and more importantly, all over him!!! He is cursing up a storm and I am laughing my tail off. He was drenched, and when we got to Trenton to change ends to go back to NY, all the crew members on the train were having a real good laugh at his expense!

And then there were the intentional times :)

When I was a trainman, it was an unwritten rule that you NEVER left your conductors hat unattended!!!! Its amazing what you can put inside one of those hats and the poor guy has no idea and just dumps seatchecks, cancelled tickets, toilet paper, garbage, bottle caps, WHATEVER, all over his head when he throws his hat on. Another fun thing was to put a little note on a seat check and put it sticking up behind the badge on the front of the hat. Usually they could make it through about half of the car collecting tickets before a passenger felt bad and would let him in on the joke :(

And of course, the PA systems can be a LOT of fun, especially on late night, lightly traveled trains :) hahahha
  by ex Budd man
 
A friend reminded me of a prank he pulled one day on a sleeping co-worker. A fellow in the shop must have been narcoleptic since he would doze off all the time at his work bench. On this morning he fell asleep as usual while rebuilding a brake valve. The prankster wrapped 'sleeping beauty' head to toe in toilet paper. After he completed his task the general forman walked by and stood there shaking his head, he walked away without saying a word. I only wish there were cell phone cameras then. :wink:
  by BR&P
 
I heard of one played on a local NYC conductor named Bob Rinders many years ago. The guy was sleeping on the bunk in the caboose when a prankster slipped a lock or maybe just a spike through the hasp on the outside of each door. They then climbed up top and quietly put a big old bucket over the stove pipe. Deprived of a good draft, the coal stove began belching its smoke INSIDE the caboose. When the guy woke up gasping and coughing, he found the doors locked and had to break a window to get out.