Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My grandfather's passing: his work

My grandfather worked on the railroad. The railroad is more than a job, it's a way of life. Recently, he recorded an account of a day he spent on the railroad. So, here he is, in his own words...

My longest work day

June 2, 1939 I was working at the S&C Hoe factory when I got a call from the Santa Fe Railway asking if I would go to the Arizona Division and work. They needed experienced men. Of course I would! The railroad payed $5.75 a day and the Hoe factory, $2 dollars a day. I had to go to Needles a day. The next train for Needles was arriving at 10 AM and I went to the office to check in. Although I was there and available, they couldn't use me as a fireman because I had been off more than six months and had to write the Book of Rules before I could work. OK, and I started, but it takes me three days to write the Book, so I wrote until 5 PM when the office closed till Monday morning. It looked like it will be a long weekend for me.

I went to bed about 9 PM and at 1 AM Saturday morning, I got a call for an engine messenger job at 2 AM. Just time enough to get dressed, get something to eat, and get to the round house to get on the engine that will take the train. An engine messenger rides on a dead engine in a train so whenever the engineer sets the brakes on the train, the engine messenger can keep the brakes off the dead engine. The reason is that all engines have tires on the drivers and, if the tires get too hot, they will come off the wheels and derail the engine. Why a dead engine in the train? They had worked on it at Needles but found the job too big for a round house and needed to get to a shop. The nearest shop was at San Bernardino. All the side rods were off the drivers so the engine could not be moved faster than fifteen miles an hour. We were all coupled up and ready to go by 3 AM. At that time, all train crews were limited to sixteen hours a trip, so the crew out of Needles had to set the dead engine out of the train at Ludlow and make a dash for Barstow.

Engine messengers are not covered by the Book of Rules so are limited by the sixteen hour law and I had to stay with the dead engine until we got to Barstow. The next train going to Barstow picked up the dead engine and we arrived at 10:05 PM, twenty hours and five minutes on duty when I clocked in. and was told to goto the Depot. They were holding a train for me as I was needed in Needles. Since I had made a paid trip on the Santa Fe, I was on their roster and could be used in any service as a fireman. I got on the train and dead headed back to Needles where I was already cleared for a helper to Yampi, Arizona. I got back at 7:30 PM Sunday night, forty hours and thirty minutes on pay.

After a nights sleep I was at the office door at 8 AM to see what was next and I was handed my Book of Rules and told to get on the next freight train going to Bakersfield as I was needed in Bakersfield arriving at 8 PM. I handed in my Book and was assigned to a 11 PM switch job. After about six hours sleep I went to the office to find out when I could write my Book. They said 8 AM to 5 PM five days a week, but I also need to write the Southern Pacific Book of Rules as Santa Fe used some Southern Pacific tracks over Tahachapi Mountains. I wrote both Books and worked until June 25th when I was called back to Los Angeles.

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1 comment:

  1. Peace be with you David, as well as those who read this message.(if this message is not censored :-)
    Sorry about your grandfather's passing.
    The time has come.
    I am here to bring judgment to the living and the dead. The harvest is ripe.
    Now is your time of testing.
    Pass this on to all fellow believers.

    The Faithful Witness