NYC Big Four Memories

rhensley_anderson Oct 22, 2018

  1. rhensley_anderson

    rhensley_anderson TrainBoard Supporter

    Just came across this and thought I'd share it...

    Bill Wright hired on with the New York Central and went through the merger into PennCentral. Bill sez:

    Oct 5, 1997

    I was fortunate enough to work with steam for three years as a Brakeman. That was something else. Taking those long coal drags up the Wabash hill we’d doublehead two L3s. You know, the ones with the smoke deflectors on the front. Running through the cut you could hear the staccato bark of the two engines slightly out of sync almost like an echo, but different. Then the drivers would slip, spin and catch again. The change in draft would lift the fire right off of the grate. You could actually see the grate under the fire. The Fireman didn’t like to see that too often because it would send his fire right out of the flue making his work much harder.

    Then there were the H5s; Hudsons (4-6-4). We used them for switching from here (Anderson) to Wabash and from Wabash to Elkhart. They were quick to start and made good switchers. We switched all of the businesses, grain elevators and sawmills between here and there. And the Farm Bureau Co-Ops.

    We used to carry a pusher pole with us. It was about 6 inches thick in the middle and tapered down to about 4 inches on the ends. The ends were wrapped in steel bands to prevent them from splintering. It was 8 to 10 feet long. The pole was hung in brackets under the side of the tender. We’d get a hot car that needed to be put into a siding without a switch on the other end. So, we’d spot the car just before the switch and run the engine around on the other track to get behind it. Then we’d open the switch to the siding. There were poling pads on each corner of the front of the engine and on the back of the tender. The cars had a poling pad on each corner, too. I’d stand there holding the pole cradled in my arms and in place against the car while the engineer would run the engine up to contact the pole. As soon as he did, I’d let go of the pole and jump back and the engineer would open the throttle and give the car a quick shove. Then he’d apply the brakes hard and the pole would fall free while the car would roll into the siding where it needed to be. Sometimes the pole would fall back onto the track, be run over by the engine and derail the pony trucks. At other times the Flagman was available to help and the two of us would hold the pole. That was a lot easier on both of us, but there were many times that I held the pole by myself.

    Oct 12, 1997
    We worked the North Vernon Secondary and then on trackage rights into Louisville on the B&O. We used to call the North Vernon Secondary, two steaks of rust, but the B&O, on the other hand, was ‘Big Iron’. Sometimes we’d have time for lunch and sometimes we didn’t. When the B&O Dispatcher said “Go!”, we went. It was a 50 mile run and many times we made it in 45 minutes. The engineers went crazy down there and would bury the throttle up into the ceiling. There was a long bridge over the Muscatatuck Creek. We didn’t worry about it because it was smooth. We just went.

    There was a Grain Elevator at Letts (Letts Corner between Greensburg and Westport) that we worked. Every Halloween, the kids would grease the rail. Near Halloween, we would cut the engine off and run ahead and sand the rail. We just knew that we had to do it or we wouldn’t get past Letts.

    Do you know what a Drop is? Yes? Do you know what a problem is? That’s when you have five cars to drop into a siding with room for three.

    Do you know what a Ground Relay and a diesel is? Yes? Well then, there was the time in Elkhart when a brand new Fireman came in from the run north saying that he was exhausted. He had spent the whole trip ‘Grinding the Relay’. He had pushed the button to reset the Ground Relay and he had worked hard.

    Bill Wright
    Hardcoaler, ddm502001 and BoxcabE50 like this.
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Love it. Great thoughts expressed in very simple terms. These are my favorite types of first hand stories. (y)
  3. fitz

    fitz Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Railroading as it once was, done by hard working people. Hudsons used as switchers? Good description of poling and the hazards to the crew. Thanks, Roger.
  4. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    I'm surprised they didn't run a flying switch instead of poling, as nimble as Hudsons were. I watched a poling on the B&M in the late 40's. The Consolidation's engineer screwed up a flying switch and the ground crew had to pole the car onto the short feed store siding. They were not happy.
    Kurt Moose and Hardcoaler like this.
  5. LEW

    LEW TrainBoard Member

    I worked with Bill many times . He was a good railroader with plenty of savy. Remember I said the B&O was a race track . There are movies of one of the last passenger trains running 80 mph heading east to North Vernon . LEW
  6. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    When I was building and repairing rail cars, (in the early/mid 1970's), there still were poling pockets, as well as roping staples being affixed.

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