• Short line horror stories

  • A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads
A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by Aji-tater
Almost all the short lines I have had experience with have been at least reasonable, or even good. We've talked in other threads about the fact they usually pay less, but you're less apt to spend hours or days in some away from home terminal, and in many cases you can just walk in and talk to the boss man to man instead of having him at some headquarters. In fact he may be the other crewman on the train with you. And 99% of them are genuinely concerned with doing things safely and correctly.

But there are a certain few which in one way or another are really the pits. This isn't meant to bash anybody, it's not so much the names of the bad ones I'm asking about but the stories of how bad some of them can be.

How about requiring 50% handbrakes and a skate on level track? I've known several which have been in business 10, 15, 20 years with no engine house, leaving power outdoors running 24/7 in winter and expecting mechanical guys to work in the snow. I once knew a guy who either didn't know how, or didn't want to bother, tracking down grounds in the units and simply jumped out the ground relay. The last I heard every engine they had was without a functioning GR. (yes, this IS an FRA violation).

I was running one time shoving some cars around a curve. Brush was so bad I could hardly see the end of the loco. My conductor had told me on the radio to shove about a quarter mile. All of a sudden the door opened and my conductor walked calmly in! I stopped and asked what was the matter. He said "Oh, there's too much brush, I can't ride the cars. We just come back to the engine and ride. When you get a little farther you'll be able to see better!"

  by scharnhorst
I rember working for a loacal mill in area that had 2 railroad cars roll away from us by far the contractor was at falt for this mistake but the railroad was also at falt for not setting the D-Rail to make a long story short both cars rolled a little under 4 miles give or take and passed thew a major inersection with no accdents 1 car landed in the lake the 2ed remained uprite but derailed on the main. The line in question has D-Rails but rareley uses them!

That railroad we were talking about earlier, Aji, was one of the most terrifying places I have ever been. Training consisted of driving around in a company vehicle, following the crews to various spots they had to work at, then driving them home at the end of the day. Lanterns were whatever was on sale, at Walmart, when they did the shopping. Imagine lanterns that were more like square flashlights, with a handle on top. Then imagine guys using belts, or straps, bolted to either end, so it could be slung over your shoulder, to free up your hands. (don't worry, as slow as we went, you wouldn't get dragged THAT far, before someone noticed you) Radios without holsters, some of them the size of a carton of cigarettes. No mics, sometimes a real antenna, you get the picture.
I had the distinct displeasure of running over a conductor trainee there, and cutting off his leg, while he was holding that "lantern", radio and paperwork, while riding a shove, in 1997. (well, he was a trainee the day before) To be fair, he should have known better. He had a full week of training, before being forced to the night switcher, as the conductor. (one week is more than enough, isn't it? :( )
One day, while running hammerhead, along the main (well, around midnight, actually) I was wondering where the target on the upcoming switch went to, as it was there, the trip before. As I lost sight the stand, the engine suddenly lurched, and I dumped 'em. I braced myself against the edges of the rear cab door frame, as I entered the siding. The tamper, and ballast regulator looked pretty big, as I headed into them. The train stopped, with the rear knuckle closing, against the frame of the tamper. After regaining my composure, I walked back to the switch. No lock was present. (not very uncommon, as most guys who worked for the railroad, needed them for their sheds, gates or whatever) It was Sunday, so the track gang hadn't left the switch open. Just the locals havin' sum fun, I reckon....... :P
We built our woodchip trains, on top of the mountain, in Warren, and ran them to McGehee. After assembling the train, it was a daily occurance, to watch the so called "engineers" on that line, try to get a brake test finished. After applying the air, the handbrakes were released, to walk the set. The release was always interesting, watching these guys try to use the straight-air to hold back 40-50 loaded chip cars so the release could be rolled by. The ten MPH restriction became a moot point, once the run-away train reached 30 MPH, and faster. ( :P brakes released, HIGHBALL!!! :P ) Once the train was wrestled back near track speed, the trick was to keep from rocking them off, and this proved too much, for the same 2 guys, over and over again. Oh well.........
When I get a chance, I might detail the great "run-away beer car", on the NYS&W, that we chased, through downtown Patterson NJ............ :P

  by Aji-tater
Hey GA, aside from the guy losing his leg, that's one funny line. It sounds like they don't know or care to follow some of the basics. Or maybe it's the uniforms, ;-) Maybe they get their radios from the baby-monitor department. You'd think the owners whoever they are would step in and set things right. It sounds like some logging railroad operation from 100 years ago - are you sure they don't still use link and pin?

Link and Pins? Horse and carriage, seems more like it..... :P

Here's another one, with a slightly happier ending. On the Susie-Q, we did a lot of railroading, the way it used to be. Making huge drops, kicking cars to guys, to catch, and ride, riding the roofs of trains, etc. One day, while working the WS-1, we had to run to Passaic Junction, to snag some cars, for a trip to Garden State Paper (if that's what it was called) on the end of the branch, at Maywood. (again, if that name is right) This branch was cool. It crossed a rather large highway, and then travelled through a neighborhood, through peoples backyards, and then to the paper plant. we had to flag the highway (Rt. 46, if I remember. Could have been 17, though) There was a diner there, and at times, we would eat, on the way back. One bright and sunny saturday, around noon, we had to take a cut of cars, to the mill. I was running, with Raul, and "Dig-Dug", as conductors. Dig-Dug now works at NJT, as an engineer, out of Hoboken. (Al, you know him as LV-2) :wink: I stopped, and DD stepped off, and proceeded to flag the crossing. With a red flag in hand, as well as a fusee, he stopped the northbound traffic, and headed to the southbound lanes. I moved the train onto the crossing, following him, as he stopped lanes of traffic. DD then stopped the southbound traffic, and turned to face the movement. I started ahead, again, and the car in front of the loco suddenly accelerated across the crossing. Unfortunately, DD was in the middle of that lane, and was hit, and rolled onto the hood. The car then raced off, towards Hackensack, with DD riding the hood!!! We watched in disbelief, as the car raced away, while DD pounded on the drivers window, trying to get the bum to stop. About a half mile down the road, the car slowed, ans pulled onto the shoulder. It never stopped, but slowed enough to allow DD to bail-off. His walk back to the tracks was a relief to us, as he was alright, from the looks of his walk. I've seen guys come close before, but this was the first, and only time, I actually got to see someone get hit, and ride off, on the hood of a car. From that time forward, any time DD had to flag a crossing, he would light it up, with fusees, and hold one in reserve. More than once, he had to "deposit" it, onto a hood, under the cowl, or through an open window, when someone decided to ignore the warnings. It's funny to see someone run a crossing, have a fusee thrown into their car, then see the look, as they come running to the engine, to start some "stuff", with three angry railroaders, armed with fusees, wrenches and brake hoses. (ever been hit by a glad-hand? :wink: ) Those dumb enough to return, have their info called in to the cops, and their own story usually seals the case, against them. Next time, maybe the time me, Buda-beard and Dig-Dug had to chase down some rock throwers, and show them the working end of some brake hoses........ :P Hackensack, my kinda town........... :wink:

  by CJPat
Golden-Arm wrote:The car then raced off, towards Hackensack, with DD riding the hood!!!
Sounds like someone didn't want to be "found" with that car! I'm glad your partner was OK.

  by wess
there is a major US Highway I have to cross on my track inspects that during the week is a gauntlet. That is also one of the reasons we do a track nspection on sundays. Been quite a few times, I would clear that crossing then start across only to have an RV coming out of the truck stop try to mow me down. And blow thru the four way stop just to the south

  by nickleinonen
ever been hit by a glad-hand?
i had a brain fart at work and opened up a MR valve while i was standing beside the hose... it whipped around and nailed me in the shin.. man did that smart something bad..

  by Georgia Railroader
Every day I go to work is a horror story. We have power that won't stay running, that is after we initially jump start it. Debris everywhere, and don't even think of having the windows open or you'll get knocked out with a tree limb. These conditions are reported, but fall on deaf ears. We're non union so we have no one to fight for us reguarding the terrible conditions and equally terrible pay.

You're lucky, Ga. Railroader, you could be working for Rail Link, instead..... :P (to be fair, it sounds like you already are!!!) I've worked places like that. We carried a chain saw on the loco, and every day, we knocked down a few branches. Doesn't take long, before you can start to work with open windows, and maybe some enterprising track worker, will figure out how to make ties, out of all of the dropped limbs...... :P You're lucky though, you didn't have to run 150 car freight trains over a rickety trestle, in Alabama, that had 3/4" cables securing it to nearby trees, to keep it from falling over. You shoulda seen the looks on the faces of the Loram guys I was piloting one day, when they figured out what those cables were doing, reaching to the old growth trees.......... :P (maybe the cables were to keep the trees standing up!?!?!? :P )
  by Lehighton_Man
Lets keep this thread alive guys! I like reading these old stories from experienced railroaders!
  by e.sillery
On the short line I worked for we had 85 miles of track and about 80-85% of it was 10 mph. Sometimes our road crew would have the conductor operate the train and the engineer shadow him in the company truck. Half the switches were missing locks because if the conductor forgot to bring his switch he would beat the lock off with whatever he could find. There were many places you had to have the windows closed or get clobbered with a tree limb. They have an old wooden trestle that is about 3/4 miles long shaped like an S with no walkway over the river. One night my engineer threw a cigar out the window and when we returned the fire dept. was there putting out the bridge. His cigar burned away the walkway on one side of the river. "But we didn't know how it caught fire".

Once I was working on one end of the yard building my train and started lacing the cars when the crew on the other end of the yard kicked a cut of cars on top of me. Just so happens when my car hit me in the back it knocked me out of the track instead of inside the guage.

They had an engineer there that had narcoleptsy(sp). That is where you have a condition and you fall asleep and can't help it. His Dr. wrote out a statement to that fact. They didn't think it was serious enough to pull him out of service. Even after he pulled through a gate at a local industry. They wouldn't even put him on a daylight job.

I put up with all this for 16.50 an hour and a more stable work shift. With no union rep. I'll take a Class 1 anyday.
  by Georgia Railroader
I worked for the biggest clowns in the world. The owner of the company was also an engineer. He always wanted to sit in the cab and call the shots. Then when it was time to make a brake test he would get pissed and say there was no time and to hurry up. The track was so bad you could look back and read the numbers off of the second car from all the rocking. Glad I don't work for these idiots anymore.
  by ineedaraise
Well lets see where to start...the horror story right now is that im only getting 20 -35 hours a week!!! I really like the RR im with now so dont have to much crap to say about them EXCEPT THAT THEY DONT DO TRACK WORK and my boss is full of you know what.

The last 2 roads were pretty shady and nothing but a BUNCH OF CLOWNS!!!! The last rr didnt hardly do any track work so derailments were a normal thing, we once derailed on a bridge because the track rolled out on the approach, the same company paid a sorry salary and some weeks I would work 65 hous(going over the law almost every day) with not a bit of OT, sometimes the "LITTLE WHITE HAIRED MAN"(BOSS) would say "thanks for working late this week theres gonna be a little extra on your check, dont tell anyone".......20 bucks for 15 hours O.T.!!!! One thing that really got me with the- lets call it the shade tree railroad was that we had to shove across a 5 lane major highway with no gates or lights, I almost got run over at least 15 times, i threw my flag at cars all the time, somtimes I would just hold it out and let cars run into it! Another thing that really sucked about the STRR was there engins threw sparks everywhere so we were always starting fires, some fires were so bad we had to call tha fire dept and the really bad ones the forestry service would come out with a bull dozer! I could go on and on about horror stories but the botom line is if I didnt love Railroading I sure as hell wouldnt be here for all the BS ive put up with!
  by kevin.brackney
Remember the big black-out that stretched from New York to Chicago back in late summer of '03? We had just checked into the hotel waiting to be called back out on our rest to take a train from Flat Rock, MI to Lima, OH. I had been taking a nap and woke up to voices outside my room talking about the power being out. I remember thinking that it probably wouldn't last more than a couple of hours. This was about 4:00 PM. Everything was out; nothing around us seemed to have emergency back-up generators, to include our hotel. There were people stranded because the local gas station's pumps were dead, and they didn't have enough gas to get out of the black-out to a location with electicity. People were checking into the hotel full knowing that there was no electicity; no AC, lights, and eventually the phones went dead too.

I continued to call the my railroad's dispatcher/customer service and they told me just to hang on and wait it out. I continued to call to ask what the railroad was going to do since it didn't look like the juice was coming back on any time soon, but they continued to tell me just to wait it out. On my last call to the railroad I told them my phone was about to die, and I would have no way to recharge it, and that the land lines were out; yet they told me just to hang on a little longer.

We had to sleep in our rooms with the doors open for air, as the heat would have been unbearable. The windows were permanently sealed shut. I kept a chair and some other stuff propped against the open door so as to create an obstacle for anyone trying to enter the room in the middle of the night. I slept with one eye open and my lantern in my left hand all night. Surprisingly the night passed quietly without incident. I didn't hear any stories of looting, break-ins, or other crimes related to the power outage in the neighborhood either.

We were there so long that I got bored and started cleaning bugs and leaves from the hotel's pool. I think that was the first and only time I was in that pool. 27 hours, and 30 minutes after arriving there, the railroad finally sent someone to pick us up. Two hours, thirty minutes back to lima in the cab, and then another 90 minutes driving home. I think I was called back out on my rest after that adventure, too.