Storytime with Charlie

Charlie Mar 31, 2007

  1. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

    I have lots of stories from the transportation/travel industy, but not
    all that many are railroad related, since I wasn't in the railroad business
    all that long.

    That being said, let me background a little bit about Rochelle IL.

    It is a quiet little town in the middle of cornfields at the border of DeKalb and Lee counties. Many years ago, printing was the BIG industry
    in that area and there is a printing plant in nearby Mt.Morris. This plant used to be served by the BNSF but I believe the branch was sold to
    another operator. This company prints mostly catalogs and roto-advertising. I know they print(ed)the "Northern Hydraulics" catalog, they also printed one of the many scandal rags you see in the supermarket check-out lanes. I learned from a local that Playboy Magazine was printed in the town for a short period early in the magazine's history. There is a slaughterhouse in town and a big
    warehousing/forwarder trucking company. There is also a freezer plant
    as well as a steam generating plant. You may also know that Rochelle
    was once the home of the Winton Engine plant. There is also a large
    fruit canning plant, which the BNSF switches, MOF on the first photo
    on the Rochelle pictures thread, you can see the lead to the canning
    plant curving off to the left at the diamond.

    There is a Dodge auto/truck dealer on one side of the higway and
    a GMC dealer on the other. This is a segue to a story...

    I was working as a brakeman on a job out of Rochelle(another story)
    and I was in the market for a new car or truck. I had been pricing
    Dodge Ram trucks in my area and I eyeballed a few trucks on the lot
    at the Dodge dealer. I had specific needs and options that I wanted
    for the truck and I already had a couple of price offers.
    I finally went inside of this Dodge dealership and got a salesman to help
    me. I told him precisely what I wanted, told him I had pricing offers and
    exactly what they were. I also told him I lived in Chicago and I was just working here for the week and I was enroute to my job and I didn't
    have time to negotiate or converse right now. I told him I would be back either later that day or early the next day. It was a late morning start to my job. He told me he would get me a price.
    I returned the next day and the salesman greeted me when I walked into the showroom. He took me to his office and handed me his offer.
    It was the same as the others I already had. I thanked him and told him
    that I wasn't interested, turned and started out of the showroom.
    The next thing I know, I had both the salesman and the manager following me out of the showroom wanting to know what was wrong.
    I asked them why would they even think I would consider buying a truck
    90 miles from where I live for the same price as I could get it in my
    neighborhood. They lost their chance for a sale and so did Dodge. I
    bought GMC and in my neighborhood.
    The job I was working was one of the BEST I ever worked during my
    career and I will relate it in the future.

    Mr. Train likes this.
  2. Mr. Train

    Mr. Train TrainBoard Member

    Thanks CT

    Thanks for the story. I will now wait to read another one:zip:
  3. THarms77

    THarms77 TrainBoard Member

    In todays truck market they would've given you EXACTLY what you wanted plus probably some free oil changes!!! Dealers are dying to get vehicles off their lots.

    Great Story! Any stories about getting caught out in the weather during storms. Tonight there have been High Wind Warnings in NW Illinois causing some trains to hit the sidings for a while
  4. Shaun

    Shaun TrainBoard Member

    Great story Charlie, looking forward to the next chapter:thumbs_up:
  5. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

  6. THarms77

    THarms77 TrainBoard Member

    Great Story!!! Thanks for sharing!!!
  7. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

    Allow me to add this disclaimer. In no way do I claim that my experiences are unique to myself or in any way any more strenuous or
    original than any other railroader has experienced. Nor do I in any way intend to disparage any railroad or the industry as a whole. They are meant as informational and, hopefully, somewhat entertaining to those
    who share our common interest in railroading. I hope that I have not
    offended anyones sensibilities. If so, I sincerely apologize for that.

    I may also choose to share some airline experiences with you, but that will be up to the decision of the moderators. Railroading was my third and final career. I was with a major airline for just over 25 years, I was a travel agent for about 10 years and then I went railroading, having been a switchman,brakeman,conductor and engineer. I have also trained as a carpenter and I have my own cabinet shop in my home.
  8. THarms77

    THarms77 TrainBoard Member

    Maybe your next post should be titled "Jobs I've Never Had" It may be a shorter list :)

    I greatly enjoy your stories about your experiences on the old C&I.
  9. Mr. Train

    Mr. Train TrainBoard Member

    Air line stories can be told in the cattle car forum here at train board. I am enjoying your train stories here.:thumbs_up:
  10. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

    my engineer/mentor on the Chicago/LaCrosse I.D. pool, using the C & I,
    always used to say, "ain't no flat track on the C & I!"

    Believe me, there ain't! Its a sawtooth profile. MOF one of the roads that intersects the BNSF C & I at Oregon IL is "Devils Backbone Road".
    EB trains are coming down a long hill into Oregon. You wanna make sure
    your dynamics are working properly, otherwise you'll be heating up a lot
    of brakeshoes.

  11. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

    When you work on the ground as a yardman/switchman, you get a pretty good view of any weather that is heading your way. Thunderstorms can generally be observed well in advance, giving one
    (usually)sufficient time to get the rain gear on. Eola Yard is certainly
    no exception and this part of Illinois(especially my area) is known by
    the less than distinguished soubriquet "Tornado Alley". It was early October, 2nd shift(1500-2300)East Yard at Eola, I was helper on the
    East Yard switch engine, I think Dave was the foreman and "Pete" was
    the hogger. Pete and Dave were in their late 20's and I was the old phart on the job. It was a very temparate evening and we were working
    in shirtsleeves, there were T-storms predicted for the area and sure enough some HUGE cumulus clouds could be observed moving in and then lightning began to show. We knew we were gonna get an early quit but we donned our raingear anyway, we would work through this
    one to get the work done and there was enough to keep us moving.
    Well at any rate this storm hits and the lightning was pretty brilliant.
    Every time a lightning bolt would appear relatively near the yard, Pete the hogger would shout "ooooh oooooh" over the radio. I asked him later, when we were tying up, what his problem was. We were the ones
    outside in the open while he was sitting inside a grounded locomotive!!
    As I mentioned on another post, switch lists were difficult to read in the rain, but most of us had carrier issued list holders. Most of us also carried clear plastic bags to put the holders in to keep them dry. We also had to wear safety glasses and they dont come with windshied wipers. You also learn to put your radio handset in a plastic bag and if
    your radio has a remote hand held mike, you put it in a plastic bag too.
    Unfortunately, there is nothing I know of that would make one oblivious to being struck by lightning, except for being "indoors" away from the weather. It's a judgement call, but the early quit is a powerful inducement. At any rate I'll admit to having tempted fate on any number of occasions, but I am still here to tell you about it.

  12. Mr. Train

    Mr. Train TrainBoard Member

    And a good job of telling you have done. One question What is a hogger and how does he get a name like that?
    I have heard this name before it just seemed like now is a good time to ask
  13. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    Charlie, wasn't there a comic book character named Doctor Volta, or something similar, when we were kids....?

    I'm sure you could have had the handle...Sir Zapped Alot!

    Great stories, please keep them coming!
  14. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

    no need to be embarassed,shy or self-conscious. Rail jargon is somewhat archaic and a bit convoluted.

    One of the many names for a locomotive is "hog", hence it's operator
    would be "hogger" or "hoghead". On some railroads,(like the BNSF)locomotive engineers are disparagingly referred to as "greaseheads".
    There are some other names,but this is a "family" board, so I wont go
    into those. Railroads also tend to have names for places,tracks and landmarks that go so far back that nobody knows,or is sure how it got
    the name in the first place. EG. the "new switch" in the "Cicero B" plant
    at Cicero yard is 20-30 years old. When Cicero Yard was still a hump yard there was a track adjacent to the hump tower known as the "fuel
    track" where switch locomotives were tied up awaiting their next assignment. Nobody seems to know how it got the name "fuel track"
    except my own thoughts are that when diesels first arrived on the scene, they were fueled there as opposed to the roundhouse. Indeed there were sections of pipe along the ground which looked as though they could have carried fuel oil. Speaking of "roundhouse"... at Eola yard
    when a switch job would tie up, there could be any number of places that the yardmaster would tell you to park your power. At East Yard,
    it was ususally the "team track". There is nobody alive today who can
    remember if or when that track was ever used as a "team track". All it is, is a short siding with the tangent alongside an access road which leads to a lumber transloading facility(served by the BNSF). In west yard you normally were told to tie up your power at the roundhouse.
    There was no roundhouse there, nor can anyone remember when the tiny roundhouse that WAS there was razed. There was(maybe still is)
    a turntable there which was out of service for many years and then
    repaired during my tenure there and used to turn lumber racks and auto
    racks for a couple of customers whose needs dictated that procedure.
    However when I retired, the turntable was again out of service, the only guy who was qualified to operate it had retired and the auto transloading facility closed and relocated in another sub. If any lumber racks need turning, they can be wyed on the leads to the defunct auto transloading facility. Three storage tracks at that area are uniquely named the "Long", "Middle" and "Short" tracks. Fancy that!

    Sorry for the digression, just dont ask the hogger how he steers the thing!

  15. Mr. Train

    Mr. Train TrainBoard Member

    I sense another story. Tell us why they would need to turn auto racks and lumber cars?
    :confused2: :secret:
  16. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

    The answer is simple, the details are what takes the time to tell.

    This particular auto-transloading facility, unloaded/loaded both bi-level
    and tri-level auto racks. For most of its service life this auto transloading facility did not have all of its track in pavement, some of the trackage was on exposed ballast. First of all you have to understand how the autos are loaded and unloaded.
    The cars are spotted and the clamshell end doors are unlocked and opened. Ramps are placed across the gap between cars and an unloading ramp is placed at either end of the cut of cars to be loaded/unloaded. By now you have probably guessed that bi-level racks
    would have to be coupled to other bi-level racks and tri-level racks would have to be coupled to other tri-level racks. Also you want all the
    racks to be positioned so that the headlights on all the automobiles are facing the same direction. This is so the autos can be driven off the racks in forward gear and also only at one end of the cut. Remember,
    I just mentioned that all the tracks were not embedded in pavement so
    the unloading rack could be placed only on the paved end of the cut.
    In the final couple of years that the facility was in operation, they did
    completely pave the whole facility so cars could be unloaded from both
    ends of the cut, but even then the cars had to be spotted so that the
    headlights were facing the same way in blocks of cars. In other words it
    would be inefficient to have one rack with the headlights facing west next to a rack with the headlights east and then back to headlights west on the next car after that. Do you follow me?
    So.... The turntable was an easy alternative to turning the auto racks
    to have the headlights all facing the same way without having to wye
    the cars on the auto facility lead. It made switching a helluva lot easier
    and less time consuming. The industry switch that worked the auto plant(called the "Nabisco Job"-another story!)would have all the headlights facing the same way and would only have to separate the bis and tris and spot them where the customer wanted them.

    The lumber cars, in this case only boxcars required turning. Lumber racks MUST be unloaded sequentially from both sides or they will tip over. Anyway... many of the lumber yards/facilities have docks on only
    one side of their building(s). Many boxcars containing lumber/forest products are loaded so that the car can be unloaded from only one side
    of the car. The car and door is clearly marked with signs stating "Unload this side ONLY". The turntable was used to turn the cars so that the unloading door would be spotted on the correct side
    for the customers dock.

    See... simple enough, just lengthy to 'splain!

  17. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Charlie, many thanks for some good laughs....
    This "Nabisco Job".... I just gotta ask what that's all about.... :)
  18. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

    You're welcome!

    "Nabisco Job"...

    along the industrial lead that led to the auto transloading facility there is a breakfast cereal plant which is a Post cereal plant. I know for a fact that they make "Frosted Mini-Wheats" there. The factory used to
    be owned by Nabisco until they sold their breakfast foods to Post Cereals. Even though the major customer was the auto facility, the job
    was(still is) known as the "Nabisco Job". You can also prefix it with "Day", "Afternoon" or "Night" to indicate which shift the job is working.
    An interesting tidbit is that the Auto facility had their tracks named and numbered ie Mazda 1 etc, Honda 1 etc, Toyota 1 etc...
    There is also a building materials transloading facility in that industrial park as well as a bulk commodities(newsprint for one)jobber. The building materials yard has some swampland around it so the guys call it the "wetlands" LOL! BTW in mid-summer it is a BEAST to work for all
    the mosquitoes there! The materials yard is normally switched on afternoon shift and the bulk commodities warehouse is normally switched on days. The cereal plant is switched sometimes on afternoons and sometimes on nites. The auto facility had the empties
    and re-ship loads pulled on afternoons and on midnite shift the loads were spotted. The car hikers started very early in the AM. Quite often we would be finishing our spots and the hikers would be unloading the
    tracks already completed.

  19. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Good stories, Frisco. We have a few good story tellers here on TB.

    I recently retired from the airlines (United). I just met a retired Continental Airlines airport supervisor and some of her stories are good ones too. It seems no one has a corner on goof ups. I can't imagine where or why some of these decisions are made that just make no sense in a practical application. It is frustrating when you are a worker.

    I have a friend who worked for Espee Pacific Motor Transport as a driver. (You can tell that was a long time ago.) He was loading 40-45 foot trailers on TOFCs by backing them down a string of 15-16 TOFC flat cars. You had to know how to do that; seems a bit touchy to me, but I don't know how else you would load them in those days. Anyway, he was working with a new driver and they were alternating backing a cab and trailer down the length of the string, unhitch the cab (tractor), attach the TOFC trailer hitch, and then drive forward off the string so the other guy could load. There were only two of them on the night shift so it took a long time to get it done. After working all night to get them loaded, he found the new guy had mis loaded the first trailer on the first car by placing it on the nearest spot. That means each flat car had one trailer correctly loaded and one on the wrong car with one trailer left over. What a mess! He told the supervisor and he told them to just let it go. They would just reload and reship when the trailers returned. I know there were some surprised and unhappy customers.

    Just a load-unload story, but not a first-hand story like Frisco. I do think that there are a lot of stories related to moving the trains that we don't hear often.
  20. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

    We are both retired from the same airline. Part of my exit agreement
    was that I was to keep my pension. I started collecting it at the earliest
    age possible. I could see that handwriting on the wall. While my pension
    is small, I didn't lose anything with the takeover by the PBGC.

    By retiring at age 62, I took a 20% hit on my Railroad Retirement but my options were few and quite limited. I dont regret my decision, but I do miss being around trains as much as I was.


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