Storytime with Charlie

Charlie Mar 31, 2007

  1. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    This is the story I promised from the New York Central System thread on the "Fallen Flags" forum.
    Roger Hensley posts some absolutely first rate photos of New York Central System(with emphasis on Big 4)power and structures. Our mutual friend "Fitz" posted recently how much he misses the steam era, and I might add that he is not alone in that feeling. I thought I would post some memories I have from childhood about the steam era, in this case Grand Trunk Western specific. If I have related this before, I apologize for the repeat.
    As a child I lived 1/2 mile east of the Grand Trunk Western RR. on 61st Place. We had the Kedzie Ave streetcars just a 150 feet or so from our house and then there were the car lines on 59th St to the north and 63rd St. to the south. The GTW had a passenger station at 63rd St, Chicago Lawn was the stop. All of the passenger trains stopped there, at least they did when I was kid. At that time frame, the GTW RR had those big U class 4-8-4s,some semi streamlined, pulling the passenger trains. They were a sight to behold! Even more impressive was the evening trains as they were arriving at the Chicago Lawn station since this was in the era of cast iron brake shoes and at night you could see the "flames" flying from the wheels as those brakes shoes brought those heavy passenger trains to a stop. This was well before central air-conditioning was available for the average homeowner. My bed was right next to two large windows in my bedroom and they would be open to catch any cool evening breeze. We also didn't have a T.V. until about 1952 or 53(CRS which). On summer evenings I would lie in my bed and hear the evening passenger train as it arrived at the depot, then start up again after picking up her passengers. I could hear those 4-8-4s chug off into the summers night, whistling for the grade crossings at 71st, 79th, 87th, Kedzie Ave & 95th st. whistling and chugging far.far into the summer's night on her way to South Bend, Toronto and Montreal. It was a comforting symphony of "white noise" that would soothe me to sleep. Add to that the "owl" streetcars on Kedzie Ave, shoosssing to a stop at 61st st, slam,crash as the front door opened to discharge passengers and slam,crash as they closed, the clank, clank of the starting bell, the gear whine as the motorman notched up the controller on the carmine and cream colored streetcar as she trundled by enroute to her end terminus at Marquette Road, just a little over 1/2 mile south of my house. It was a young railfans safe harbor! There were coal yards on 63rd st and 59th st along the EB main of the GTW RR.
    They were trailing switches on single stub tracks.It was easy work for the switch jobs to shove loads to spot on the stubs. The GTW had those marvelous 0-8-0s working in Elsdon Yard to the north and west of where I lived. I could listen to them switching the coal yards at night. I miss seeing those big Northerns and their luxury passenger trains, the big Mikes that hauled the freights out of Elsdon, and those gutsy 0-8-0s that worked the yard and the industries. Many the night I would be lulled to sleep by those sounds of yesteryear. I can still hear them in my mind!
     
  2. fitz

    fitz Staff Member

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    Charlie, I don't know how I missed this yesterday. Your story triggers even more memories. My home town of Little Falls, NY was built on a hillside which rose above the Mohawk River. Down alongside the river were the four mainline tracks of the New York Central. There were several at grade crossings in town, and there were constant runs of east and westbound passenger and freight trains. In the 1950's the transition from steam to diesel was taking place. As a young boy I had got to where I could recognize steam engine types by the sound of their whistles. Then those dreaded horns started showing up. The Central had 4-8-2s and 2-8-2s hauling freight, and the beautiful 4-6-4s and old 4-6-2s on passenger trains. There were only 26 S class 4-8-4s but they seemed to be more plentiful than that. Es were starting to replace the Hudsons. Anyway, there was this constant cacophony of sounds that we grew up with, and as you described it, "white noise," which at times one could just dial out of hearing. It was never obnoxious to any of us, unlike today when kids cover their ears at the sound of a whistle or horn. I miss it. :tb-sad:
     
  3. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Pretty country up thru there Fitz. Nice area to grow-up in!
    That had to be great, being able to see all those trains. The GTW RR was fairly busy when I was a kid, I even remember the hobo jungle that used to be at Elsdon Yard(now gone!). On the site of what used to be the roundhouse there is now a furniture store. It was formerly a large chain supermarket. I would shop there sometimes, I called it "the roundhouse Jewel". Those 0-8-0s worked the yard until 1960 IIRC and then they were sold to Northwestern Steel & Wire to work the foundry in Sterling IL.

    Charlie
     
  4. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Just keeping the thread current!
    Always welcome to questions and to read YOUR stories!


    Charlie
     
  5. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

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    OK, here is a story. I have vague memories of steam in the little central Wisconsin town where I spent my first four years. I mostly remember the sounds and smells of the CNW switcher, probably an 0-8-0, that switched the yard down the street from our house. My dad told me that during the potato harvest, they would bring out a lot of larger steamers that were stored most of the year to help out the new diesels. However I have no specific memories of those. The sound of clanking side rods of a drifting steamer and the smell of coal smoke trigger memories from long ago whenever I experience them at some present day tourist railroad. When I was four years old we moved to Tucson, Arizona. There were still a few steamers active around there but they smelled different. Oil burners. They were soon all gone. Later after High School, I studied abroad in England. I attended the University of Exeter where the dormitories sat on a hill side overlooking a rail yard on the other side of New North Road. Steam was gone from there too by that time but the little diesel shunters would work all night long pushing and pulling wagons. There was a lot of squealing of wheels and banging cars around. Not exactly white noise, but I loved it anyway and had my window all the way open at night.
     
  6. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Good story. It's good that you had a chance to experience railroading first had in Europe! Too bad you didn't have the chance to see Brit steam.

    Charlie
     
  7. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Just keeping the thread current.
    Always open for questions or comments!

    You also might want to check the New York Central System thread on the "Fallen Flags" board.
    There is a retired NYC hogger(LEW) there who posts some excellent stories.
     
  8. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Keeping the thread current.

    Always available for questions.

    Charlie
     
  9. fireball_magee

    fireball_magee TrainBoard Member

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    Just a quick story......I love sounds,well noise to some but tome it is music. The other night I was working our 395/515 train ( 395 is actually the CNIGAL we take it to East yard Eola and 515 is the local that drops cars on "the Hill" for the West yard to come get) Our first set of power is just old BNSF stuff nothing to write home about,but our power for the 515?! None other than EJ&E 673. I had 46 car and just my J engine to go blasting uphill out of Joliet towards Eola. It was a kind fo cold night but I had the window open just to look back at my train on the curve by Turner and what do I hear but that old EMD chant! It took me bak to a teenager sitting along the tracks watching BN SD's slug along through my hometown.Ahhhhhh a teenager again in my mind.With only the worries of a teen,does Heather like me? Will I have the 5 bucks to fill up the car and maybe enough after buying a few other things to take her out?Did I pass that history test?(dumb question I was a history nerd lol)But in that moment slogging along at 1 am I was back watching old EMD's and GE's burn up the rails.I remembered what got me into trains. The sound! The way they sounded just the smphony of ound that said train.Well that was over 20 years ago now and no I dont have Heather,gas is now way more than 5 bucks to fill my Jeep but for that sound of a EMD roaring defiance to the sky,I was transported back to when I knew someday Id be the one running one of them.What a long strange trip its been.Someday all I willhave is videos of the old SD 38-2's and SD 40's that I ADORE running.Ill be like ever other old engineer with memories and stories of "Back in MY day we had REAL locomotives!"Hopefully I will never forget that cold novermber night with a half moon and Orion rising in the East,and old Orange J loco and 46 cars blasting along past West bidge Junction.I am sure my grandkids will love to hear it ;)Isnt sound great?
     
  10. TwinDad

    TwinDad TrainBoard Member

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    Great bit about sounds, Fireball. Clearly they are an integral part of the experience that is trains... you can see it even in arguments about how sectional track and metal wheels on models provide (or don't) that classic "click-clack" ...

    I have a question, or rather two... sort of...

    In another thread about signals, I posted this link to a CP signal aspects chart: http://www.railroadsignals.us/rulebooks/canpac/cp1.htm

    Just using that as a specific example, as I know a number of railroads do this same thing (or similar)... it puzzles me that the presence of a number plate changes a red signal from "STOP" to "RESTRICTING". What does the number mean? Is it just a number indicating which signal mast it is? Why don't they all have number plates? I do see that if the number plate falls off or is stolen, the signal "fails safe" to STOP, but why use the presence of the number plate instead of some different color or light pattern (like the lunar aspects shown), just like all the other aspects?

    This just seems to be an idiosyncrasy in an otherwise internally-consistent messaging pattern. "Let's use lights to indicate everything... except in this one specific instance..." "Let's have everybody's hat color indicate their job... except this one guy who also has to wear one blue sock..."

    And since it seems to be fairly common across a variety of railroads, it smells like either something very old (a holdover from semaphores, perhaps?) or one of those "obscure but really good reason" things...


    The more general question is simply... got any good stories relating to signals? New guys mis-reading them... trying to see them in bad weather... inoperative signals or intermittently fussy signals causing issues... whatever? I guess you can lump crossing gates and other lineside markers in there too...
     
  11. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Fireball....

    I LOVE the memory type stories. Two things... I'm sort of a history nerd myself, but that didn't develop until adulthood. Secondly, you and I both agree on how a sound or sounds can bring one back to "a favorite place". Bob Seger sings a song called "Night Moves". I think that is one of the BEST if not THE BEST song about teenage angst and how a sound or sight can trigger memories
    of a different time and place. I challenge anyone who has a few years on them to NOT recognize their youth and the anxieties and memories associated with them when they listen to that song.
    Seger uses the sound of distant thunder to recall "a favorite time". How often have I, for one, seen a distant lightning flash on a summer's eve and not be taken back to another time and place when a significant thing happened in my life. The sound of a locomotive whistle or horn does the same thing.
    We are creatures of habit and those routines have taken us to and through different times and places, some good,some bad. We can bury the bad memories, but the good ones bring continuing pleasure. It is like a safety valve. A good memory recalled will take away that excess anxiety. But so much for psychology!
    Twin... Most carriers will use a number plate to distinguish intermediate signals from a control point or absolute signal. It helps to speed the flow of traffic and keep trains moving. Obviously if every signal was an absolute,trains would be stopping and waiting on the caprice of the dispatcher until the weeds grew through the cab. As for mis-reading a signal, that is why there are usually 2 guys in the cab. Amtrak engineers, when they dont have a fireman(or ass't. engineer) in the cab with them will relay the signal indication to the conductor via radio. Mis-reading a signal will get you fired if it doesn't get you killed first. If one cannot read a signal or is unsure of what the indication is, one must "stop and stay" until they can get the control operator or dispatcher to let them know just what the aspect is. A dark signal is treated as displaying the most restrictive aspect it can. If it has a number board, it is "stop and Proceed at resticted speed". If it's an absolute, stop and wait for the dispatcher to tell you what to do. Can't raise the dispatcher? Too bad... it's gonna be a LOOOOONG trip! When the BNSF still owned the Rockford branch, there was a "distant signal" that was out of service. I used to call it "distant signal dark" LOL. Those signals only ever display a clear or approach anyway. It was treated as an approach since their was a governing signal for the main line just around the curve at Flagg Center. Most of the time we were about to outlaw anyway(that was usually a 12 & tow job) so we would be tying the train down and leaving it for a relief crew. No matter what the dispatcher is telling you,(as engineer or conductor) that signal is still controlling your movement in some way,shape or form, if you can't see it, you better make sure the rest of the division is listening on the radio when the dispatcher tells you what the signal is. There are too many dead railroaders whose demise was due to failure to observe proper signal aspects. It's your kiester, you better know what that signal looks like!!!!

    Charlie
     
  12. Mr. Train

    Mr. Train TrainBoard Member

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    Again I say thankyou to C and all the teachers of this class
     
  13. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    And you are most welcome!

    Charlie
     
  14. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    just keeping the thread current!
    Hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year's celebration

    Charlie
     
  15. trainman-ho

    trainman-ho TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you Charlie

    I have enjoyed your stories since I found this thread, and thought that it was about time that I expressed my appreciation. Hope that your holiday season was what you wanted it to be, and that you enjoy many more.

    So THANK YOU VERY MUCH for the time and effort that you put into the thread. It not only entertaining, but educational too.

    Jim
     
  16. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you for your most gracious affirmation Jim!

    To answer your question, YES our holiday was quite good here. Once again my 8 y/o grandson captured the prize for the most gifts received. As he is the only grandchild on both sides of his family, it is easy for him to do that! LOL

    Once again I offer to you and all the rest of the members of this board my help in answering any railroad questions you may have. While I cannot speak with precision for all railroads rules and practices, I can usually do that with the BNSF and try to give you as best an answer I can for other railroads.

    Yours in the Worlds Best Hobby(both prototype & modeling)

    Charlie
     
  17. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Just keeping the thread current.
    Questions always welcomed and appreciated!

    Charlie
     
  18. Keith

    Keith TrainBoard Supporter

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    Charlie,
    With 13" of snow received in Longmont, I think it
    might be interesting to see what you have experienced, good or bad, in snowy weather.
    Whether close to home, or on the road in the middle of nowhere, or....
    Have you ever gotten stuck somewhere?? What do you do and how do you handle such a situation?
    Read many of your stories with interest!! With all the snow here, I had to ask about it.
    Thanks.
     
  19. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Keith,

    I'm sorry that this is so brief, but I seem to be having a problem with this cyber-nonsense. I was in the process of replying to your message when the dumb thing went haywire!
    I have some weather related storys in the thread, Most of it is run of the mill. Most of my work in bad weather was in the yard as a switchman or on the commuter trains.
    I'll try this again later. I hope this comes thru

    Charlie
     
  20. fireball_magee

    fireball_magee TrainBoard Member

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    Keith I hit snow out there in engineer training. Started about Ft Collins and just WHAM all the way to Cheyenne! Watching the drivers on the interstate driving at about 10 mph while we blasted along at track speed was pretty priceless.
    I enjoy running right after the streets are lowed and hitting that big windrow of snow across the rails. Always fun to bury cars waiting right up at the line.Granted people waiting hate that.
    In Iowa on the IC&E we had to run through the cut outside of Washington Iowa with a minimum set to keep the train from slacking and the pin lifters getting caught in the snow there by uncoupling us. It was pretty bad the snow was cleared just the width of the engine and in some places was up to the windows!I started out with a lo nose SD 40 and ended the day in Ottumwa with a High hood that I had to try to get out the back door! That didnt work too well so the outbound rew had to shovel a path to let them in and us out!
     

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