• Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

  • 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
Yes, the Roadway Shops were a good move, a fortunate turn of events actually. I started out there as a laborer loading track material---stock rail, package switches, frogs, plates, you name it. The electric crane, with its "head" sticking high above the scenery, sorta looked like an ancient dynosaur. When I was furloughed about 1980, they surprisingly offered me an extra clerks job up in the office. Ew, the other boys didn't like that! But it led to going to McDonough, GA for Line of Road Clerk and operator. During that time I carried "dual" seniority; that of Class II laborer on one roster, and 1980 seniority as a LOR Clerk on the Piedmont Division, SR. Eventually the "old" job came back open due to retirements, and I had to make a choice; stay a LOR Clerk or go back to Roadway as a laborer at a slight cut in pay. But the work was steady and I would not be "extra" anything and I would have Mon-Fri 1st trick, weekends off. If I stayed LOR, I'd lose my Roadway seniority. If I went back to Roadway, I'd of course, lose my Line of Road seniority. There were several advantages to Roadway besides being steady work on a "bid-in" regular job. It was "single-point" seniority; nobody from the outside could bump me except for the existing workers, creating a "safe" haven almost FREE from the annual furloughs. There were several retirements coming up (which eventually made me #2 on the roster). Practically NOBODY could roll me! So, I fled from the stress, the furloughs, the wild hours, flying papers, heart-pounding Chief Dispatchers screaming at me BACK to fork lifts, track machines, small parts, and a normal family life----Still on the railroad. But I had gained a trough full of knowledge from being on LOR, and gained a wealth of experiences that many people only wish they could do. I "met" Wick Moorman, now CEO of Norfolk Southern, when he was Track Supervisor, Greensboro, NC. I used to send him "pick lists" of material in the weekly baskets of 'stuff" the bosses would order. I ran into him at a company picnic and asked him if he remembered getting pick lists signed JWO, the way I used to scribble them in completion. He immediately brightened and stuck out his hand calling my name without hesitation---even after 15 years of being "up the ladder". Ain't been too many CEO's like Mr. Moorman who is not afraid to mingle among the employees. Despite NS' otherwise rough reputation, he seems to be a nice guy; he always was to us when he'd call in about a backorder.

So, yeah, there were a lot of experiences----even at the Roadway Shops---filled with railroad history, characters, and HARD work. Even with the rough stuff (and there was a lot of that), I reckon I wouldn't change much of it. Railroadin' is a career like no other.

  by Desertdweller

Yes, I do not regret my choice of careers either. But there were a few times I would have chosen slightly different routes within it than I did. If I had chosen to go with AMTRAK when it was offered me, I could have been at the top of the roster in my seniority district. I always enjoyed working as relief for the ticket clerk position. I sold tickets, made reservations, helped people plan trips, handled checked baggage, and assisted passengers getting on and off trains.

A very interesting period for me was working in small railroad startups. I was on the startup team for DM&E in Pierre, SD, and ran the freight agency there for seven years. At that time, the agencies were closed and consolidated in a Customer Service Center in Brookings. I worked there for about a year, commuting from Pierre weekly (200 miles each way). The railroad offered to help me relocate, but I felt the consolidation was such a bad idea I didn't want to do it. So I found a clerk's job in Texas and quit Brookings.

I later worked for the Mississippi and Tennessee RailNet. I worked that startup, but left after five years when he railroad was sold to another holding company I did not want to work for.

Another interesting period was working as a temporary locomotive engineer through a couple temp agencies. I got to see and work in places I would otherwise have never been able to. I was well compensated and got to see a lot of the country at someone else's expense. I would only work for railroads that were shorthanded, never as a strikebreaker.

I finally wound up working as a regular employee on a small railroad in New Mexico. I was offered the choice to stay when I gave my notice to retire, but I had been working "on the road" since April 2005, and had been away from home for 22 months straight. I feel that was enough, and am comfortable in retirement. I didn't know if I would be able to let go of it (I know people who weren't, and went back), but I'm doing just fine.

I enjoyed your hair comments. A few years ago, I took a tour of Bailey Yard in North Platte. A senior white-haired clerk was working a hump tower. Someone asked him if he had worked for the UP long. He answered that he was actually 24 years old and had worked for the railroad a full 6 months!

  by Gadfly

Do you remember the Amtrak ticketing system they called "ARTS" (Amtrak Reservation & Ticket System, I think it was). When the Crescent went over to Amtrak, we continued to supply clerks, ticket agents, porters, and engineers under contract. We were still Southern Railway employees. We were required to "cub" the job plus they sent a couple of Amtrak people down to teach us to use the system. I thought it was too complicated and never did quite get the hang of it. When they "qualified" me on the job I was still in the dark! One night, the thing "hung up" and wouldn't let us do tickets. Couldn't find a soul to help us fix the problem. I had people in line out the door grouching at me about missing the train, but I could't HELP it! Couple that with I didn't know what the devil I was doing to START with, you can imagine what a mess we had that night! If it hadn't been so stressful, it would've been hilarious. That was one job I was glad to see abolished. The Southern ticket system was not nearly so complicated! :)
  by Desertdweller

No. I left the Milwaukee Road before that system was implemented.

I did have my moments, though. One night, when I was working the ticket clerk job by myself, I managed to lock myself out of the office part of the Winona, MN station while assisting passengers trainside. I had to open a window in the operator's bay by myself and climb into the office. The passengers who had just arrived were quite amused. I was quite embarrassed!

  by Gadfly
The railroad had its chaotic moments, some them WERE hilarious! ...............Like the afternoon a RAT got in the Freight Office. That thing LOOKED as big as a muskrat! The clerks, especially the ladies, were jumping up onto their desks and screaming bloody murder!!!!! :) Hollering, " GIT 'EM----THERE HE GOES" WHAP! BANG! "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!" Chairs and furniture screeching across the floor! Out came brooms, sticks, mops, bricks (used for door stops) Stuff being thrown at the unfortunate (?) rat! WHOP! BOP! (Unprintable expletives!!!!!!!) Then one dead rat as the Terminal Agent rushed into the freight office wanting to know what the h-- was going on! At least one clerk's aim was TRUE! :)

Another day, we notice that "Pat", the regular SR ticket agent was late, I looked out the window of the passenger station window to see her '74 Chrysler about to turn in when.......................... ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRK! (screech of tires). BANG!!!! The car following didn't stop in time, a '68 Chevelle with a sloping hood. Because, as she was slowing to turn in, HER car's rear lifted a bit, and when the other guy slammed on brakes, HIS front end drooped down. He ran completely underneath the back of the Chrysler, lifting the rear tires a foot off the ground! Pat couldn't have gone anywhere if she had wanted to! It looked so funny with her car sitting on top of the little Chevy, and we needled her about it for quite awhile! She retired shortly thereafter.

  by Desertdweller

Yeah, we had our moments.

One winter night I was working Third Trick Yard Clerk at Camp 20. That was the Milwaukee Road name for the LaCrosse, WI yard office.

LaCrosse yard was a hump, but it was very low, almost flat. Camp 20 was a yard office/crew locker room located at the crest. As cars were shoved over the hump by an early RS-series Alco, the clerk could pull a pack of waybills/car cards and sort them into a pickle box as the cars rolled down into the various tracks. The yard clerk sat in a bay built for this purpose.

The yard engine had tied up. It was bar closing time in Wisconsin (0200, I think). All I had to do was check passing freights for pickups made at the unmanned yard at River Jct., MN (LaCrescent), and transmit the lists to the next station. That and calling any crews needed. I was working with a car knocker who was trying to stay awake.

It was snowing, those big heavy wet flakes. Several inches of new snow covered everything.

The nearest street crossed the tracks at an oblique angle: the double-track main and the yard lead. We soon noticed a pair of headlights coming down the yard lead toward the yard office. The lights stopped about 30 yards from the yard office.

Now, at this time we had a Train Master who was "Hell on Wheels". We figured he came out on a night like this to see if we were sleeping. So we got busy waiting for him to appear.

After about twenty minutes, nothing happened. So we went outside to see who it was.

We were expecting to see his company hi-rail car, a 1972 Chrysler New Yorker. Instead we saw a brand-new Ford LTD, not a hi-rail, but hung up on a switch frog. Inside the car were two drunken women, crying.

They told a sad tale. The car belonged to the husband of one of them, new the day before. She had gotten into an argument with him and decided to teach him a lesson by taking the new car and tying one on with her girlfriend. When they turned down the track, they thought they were turning onto a street. When the car hung up, the friend tried to push it off the switch by pushing on a taillight lens. She only succeeded in pushing her hand through the plastic lens, and cutting her hand.

They wanted to come in the yard office and drink coffee to sober up. We knew THAT WOULD get us fired if caught, so I told them they were sitting on an active main line. I called a wrecker to pull them off.

So, in the dead of night, out comes a wrecker. The wrecker manages to tear off a muffler in the process, which of course was added to the bill.

I don't remember how they got home, I suppose in the wrecker. They were in no shape to drive.

Yeah, she really taught him a lesson, alright.

  by Gadfly
I reckon we could tell a thousand stories about stuff that happened on the railroad, not particular funny at the time, but in the dim light of memory they somehow take on a new life!

After I had left the line of road for the Roadway Shops, we were in the storehouse doing various and sundry chores when, all at once, a truck air horn began blowing and the driver started yelling and cussing to beat the band! The crossing was fouled, as it WOULD be since Charlotte Yard was just an 1/8 mile away. You could easily walk down the mainline from our shop to the yard lead. So we were like......"What in the world is THAT?", and walked outside to see what was up.

But this filthy-mouthed truck driver, possessed of an alligator mouth and canary ass, was cussin' the train, cussing the railroad, cussing anybody would listen and DARING anyone to come out as he DEMANDED the train move for him. The cab of the train was just fouling the road crossing, and the conductor, a HUGE, burly fella with a bushy beard came out on the porch and swung down on the ground, twisting his gloved fist into his other hand. Just as suddenly as the racket started, this little guy shut UP and it got deathly quiet as the conductor sauntered over to the cab of the truck. We clearly heard the conductor say loudly,

"I'll tell you what, fella! You come down outta that cab, an' I'll jack your ass up around your shoulder blades, you HEAR me, boy? Otherwise, you shut yer trap! If I want anymore **** outta YOU, I'll squeeze your d*** head!!!!!!!"

NOT A WORD! The driver had locked his door, and was looking STRAIGHT ahead like a statue!!!!!!! :) :) :)

The conductor swung upto on his cab, went back inside, eyeballing that driver. WE were laughing SO HARD!!!! LMAO!

  by mikado-2-8-2
I will tell you a little story, people do get old and unable to drive or fly places and our population is aging very fast. How many of you younger than 50 would like to be driving on the same high speed road with a 70 year old person with health problems. Any time they could turn their automobile into a weapon of mass destruction by being incapacitated. I continue to drive because I have no other transportation options even though I have problems. I cannot fly anymore so that is not an option. But in the early 2000's there was a special 2 year run from a big city to a coastal town by train, a service that 100 years before was a three time a day run. I took my wife and two young children on this train trip to the beach to spend the weekend. We got off the train and walked 100 feet to the entrance of our hotel. The entire weekend we traveled by trolley car to wherever we wanted. It was the most relaxing time I had ever spent in my life and passenger train & trolley service made it possible. At one time 100 years ago it was possible to get on a passenger train and get to almost any town in the US. Nowadays it is not possible. The post WWII years were an era of great destruction to our way of life and our infrastructure. I curse the people of our so called greatest generation who destroyed everything old because it was old, not because it was useless. They should be called by their rightful name, the destructive generation.