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June 2000


CSXT Deletes E & F units, and "All American Locomotive"

CSXT has deleted the four E and F units from its locomotive roster. It has also deleted GP38 unit 9699 (ex-B&O/3802), the Trains Magazine's "All American Locomotive," which is slated to go to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.


CSX Chairman Sees Things Starting to Turn Around

"Now midway through the second quarter, I'm encouraged that we are starting to turn things around," said CSX chairman John Snow in a letter to employees on May 17. He added that the company has a tough job ahead of it. "We're still a long way from bringing the railroad to the point where we are satisfied, our customers can count on reliable service and shareholders start seeing the kinds of returns our company is clearly capable of producing." Also, "I see our company as starting to settle down after the management changes that were made a month ago. We're all starting to talk the same language and getting back to basics, jawboning less and doing more of what we know how to do."


Amtrak Releases Draft Improvement Plan for California Service

Amtrak has released a $3.9-billion, five-year draft improvement plan for additional round trips and increased ridership on passenger routes in California. Called the California Passenger Rail Plan, it is being developed in partnership with Caltrans, local communities, commuter railroads, and the federal government. Examples of increased service include: Capitol Corridor by six round trips, Pacific Surfliner by three round trips, and San Joaquin Corridor by three round trips. In addition, the plan includes one round trip between downtown Los Angeles and downtown San Francisco, and four round trips from San Francisco to Monterey and Salinas.


Supreme Court Rules for Railroads in Missouri Tax Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has left intact a lower court ruling that a sales and use tax in Missouri had placed railroads at a competitive disadvantage with ships, barges and trucks. Under the tax, railroads paid a 4.225 percent sales tax on locomotive diesel fuel, while ship and barge operators paid no tax, and truckers paid an excise tax.


BNSF Introduces Money-Back-Guaranteed Intermodal Service

Burlington Northern Santa Fe has begun offering 100 percent money-back-guaranteed intermodal service on three routes west from Chicago. BNSF is the first freight railroad to offer a full money-back guarantee, according to a news report. Shippers have the option to purchase a guarantee that will offer a full refund for each load that does not meet the scheduled availability time for customer pick-up. Routes involved include destinations in Seattle, San Bernardino and Dallas.


BNSF Doubles Ice Cold Express Service

Burlington Northern Santa Fe has doubled its Ice Cold Express service with the addition of a second weekly train between San Bernardino and Chicago. Continuing service will be provided beyond Chicago to several locations in the Midwest and Northeast. Ice Cold Express, introduced one year ago in partnership with Mark VII Transportation Company, is a unit train consisting of 53-foot Wabash RoadRailer refrigerated trailers.


CSXT Crew Rescues Child From Track

[A letter from Don Stewart, the Caboose Man of Hyndman, to CSX Vice Chairman Pete Carpenter]

Dear Mr. Carpenter:
As a shareholder and friend of CSX Transportation, I am happy to bring the following situation to your personal attention and I hope personal action. In these troubled days for CSX Transportation, I suspect that the majority of your mail is negative. What follows is certainly a positive.
On the afternoon of May 11th, your train # 297 was westbound on Track #1 at MP 190-191 with a single unit helper on the rear. As the head end rounded a curve below the old Hyndman Pennsylvania Tower, the engineer saw a small child (estimated to be 18 months to 2 years old) sitting between the two rails of Track #2. The child was not moving, just watching the train approach. The engineer immediately sounded the horn and came to a controlled slow speed. The head end radioed what was happening to the helper at the rear of the train. 297 proceeded at a walking pace, the head end keeping their eyes back on the child until the helper crew could get off, walk 25 car lengths up to the child, and carry him to safety.
The child was carried to a nearby house where apparently no one was at home. As I was talking to the engineer where the head end had stopped, a resident of Hyndman came by. When he heard what was happening, he informed a relative of the child who then called to the house where the baby lived. Someone came out and got the child. Once the child was safely out of harm's way, 297 continued after about a 45 minute delay.
I am the owner of the two cabooses located in Hyndman and am aware of the strain and pressures that you and the crews are under during these trying times for your railroad. It is most heartwarming and reassuring then to witness two of your crews performing what is surely a noteworthy public service, let alone probably saving a life. It was not long after this incident that an eastbound train passed the scene on Track #2.
The engineer on train #297 was John Notali, and the engineer on the Hyndman helper was Jeff Weaver. I am sorry to say that I did not get the names of either the conductor on the head end or in the helper unit. Both of them should also be included and recognized by CSX for what they did. I am sure that your records will provide you with their names as well.
Please recognize these two crews, not only for their distinctive accomplishment, but for their personal value to the railroad. Surely some sort of public service award is in order or at the least some sort of personal recognition from you or Mr. Snow. It was gratifying to watch and listen to them. Our railroad, and the public, should be proud. I am.
Most sincerely, sir,
Donald H. Stewart


Remembering Sidewire

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Here's some important news (at least to me): I have now achieved a tenure of 30 years on the railroad. May 2, 1970, was my first day as a student operator. But let me begin the story a few weeks earlier than that, and the saga that began my career, and along with it a lesson that it's sometimes better to keep silent...

In the beginning, before towers had much of a meaning to me, I heard from a friend, Jim Smith (a manager with the then-C&O/B&O), who told me that the railroad was in need of tower operators. He further explained that the company, per the Baltimore Division superintendent, was not "openly" looking for them (e.g., advertising in the help wanted section, etc.), but that if one were to specifically apply for such a position, that person would likely get hired. Thoughts then raced through my mind, whetting my appetite to the happy visions of working in my own private office, getting paid to watch trains...

Forthwith, I went to the railroad's personnel office. "I'm looking for a job as tower operator," said I. (That was step 1.) The lady at the counter told me that no such positions had been posted. (I already knew that.) So then (step 2), I explained how I had been referred, and that Jack Minser (division superintendent) had told my manager friend that he would probably hire someone who specifically asked for a tower job... Oh well, in that case, I could go and see the division operator at Camden Station, she said. That I did.

Jack Keefauver was the division operator (the title then bestowed to the boss of the tower guys), also the rules examiner, a rather distinguished-looking gent with a deep, serious, soft-spoken voice, who looked directly at me and asked if I knew what I was getting into. "You're not looking for a 9 to 5 job with weekends off, are you?" To this I remember saying that I knew that railroads ran 24 hours a day... (Good point!) He also asked if I knew anyone who was already an operator. Actually I did, although only casually, and I mentioned the name of Paul Hicks (then working as an operator in the Washington area).

Then Jack told me to go get my physical, complete the application process, and return later.

I guess at that point I should have known that the job was mine, but then (step 3) I opened my big mouth and explained that I had experience operating a teletype while I was in the Navy...

"Hmmm!" Jack looked over to his clerk, Walt McCauley, as if to say (without actually saying it) that they had "found the tower" for Allen...

Indeed, it was not really a "tower" at all. For when I returned to the office several days later, Walt took me across the hall to the dispatchers' office, and introduced me to what would soon become my first job. It was called "sidewire."

In retrospect, I ought to note that being a sidewire operator was an excellent way to learn the workings of the railroad. He worked somewhat as a "gofer," answering the phone, taking messages, etc., and (yes) using the teletype. But most of his duties involved keeping track of train delays. (But more on that later.)

The sidewire job was more that of a "clerk" than an "operator." In those days, clerks and operators held their place on two separate rosters, and their duties were not interchangeable. But the sidewire job required the copying of train orders (for the passenger trains that left from Camden Station), so the position was officially known as an operator's job, not a clerk's. This much said, it was not what I really expected, but I would probably have been assigned to the sidewire job at some point anyway, even if I had not opened my yap about having teletype experience. Still, I yearned someday to get into an actual tower, but this was not to be for some time to come.

My first day on the job was a Saturday. I was assigned to train with John Chittenden, the regular second-shift sidewire operator, who put me through the ropes for the next seven weeks. The term "sweating blood" came up more than once as John explained how things could really get rough at times. He was a good instructor, and extremely patient.

Since I'm now into mentioning names, here are some of the fellow workers I remember from those initial days, 30 years ago, in the dispatchers' office: Milt Savage, Tom Landers, Larry Cosgrove, Dewey Triplett, LaVere Neale, Clair Fisher, Bob Tuck, Jim Collins, Herb Stinson, Everett Bailey, Clyde Miller, Marvin Anders, Earl Shriner, Ralph Goad, Clint Phillips, Ray Campbell, Millie Lages, Vernon Ray, Russell Karpook, and Curtis Conway.

One Saturday in the middle of June, I and some others met with Jack Keefauver for our rules exam. We sat around a desk and practiced writing train orders and answered questions. It was then that he admonished us on the importance of paying attention to our duties, using the example of an infamous head-on collision on the low-grade freight line between Miller and West Cumbo, on the Cumberland Division, in 1957, when operators slipped up and let a train get by with horrible consequences. Little did I know then that in the twilight of my career, I would be assigned to the very place that this particular slipup had occurred.

June 26, 1970, was my first day on the sidewire job by myself, working second-shift. It was then that I established my seniority on the roster. Still, I had not seen the inside of a tower...

I went on to work the first-shift job several days later.

But talk about "sweating blood..." Up to this point, I had managed to keep track of train performance as an ongoing routine. We had the passenger trains, of course, and keeping tabs on them was rather simple. They had their regular schedules and (usually) given their turf when they were due. But the freight trains presented another story... We had such hotshots as the New York Trailer Jet, the Manhattan Trailer Jet, the Baltimorean, the New Yorker, 396, Yard 396, the Chicagoan, the Advance Chicagoan, the Chicago Trailer Jet (and many others)... all with their own schedules for which the sidewire operator was responsible to account every minute of delay.

It should be remembered, too, that computers were still in their infancy, not yet in use for such mundane purposes as tracking train times and delays. All of this was done by hand... sheets of schedules upon a clipboard; times were copied from the dispatchers' train sheets and compared with the scheduled time points and reconciled (e.g., 2'12"L, 1'03"A, etc.). Even delays from advance time to a lesser advance time had to be included, and an explanation given (e.g., slow orders, train meets, engine trouble, etc.).

Such as it was on my first daylight shift when I heard Jack Minser's voice from the next room: "Where's the sidewire man?" (Gulp!) So there I went; he and Joe Gross (assistant superintendent) needed to update their own performance sheets so they would be ready for the morning conference call with the general manager in Pittsburgh. They wanted updates on all the trains still on the division. "The Chicagoan lost six minutes getting into Brunswick. Why?"

Somehow my answers seemed to satisfy, and the rest of the shift (the conference call now over with), settled down to business as usual. Indeed, it got so that the job was even enjoyable. But I still yearned to get out into the towers...


Book Review

[Reviewed by Allen Brougham] . . .

Bob Janssen is a seasoned traveler. There is probably not a city or major town in the U.S. and Canada he has not been to at least once... not a railroad having passenger service in his time, or a streetcar line, or an interurban line, or a cog railway, or a tourist line, or a trolley bus line that he has not ridden. Indeed, if I were to find "mileage collector" in the dictionary, I would not be surprised if I were to see there his picture. That would tell it all.

But it is more to mileage collecting than just the riding; Bob has kept copious notes of all the action. He took me into his basement once, and there I found file cabinets full of neatly cataloged notes of a lifetime of travel, and records of the exact mileage he achieved on each trip. His talent for keeping notes began at an early age with the gift of a diary into which he recorded his traveling adventures and a sundry of sidelights he might have later forgotten lest he wrote them all down at the time.

In 1942, one year out of high school, Bob took a job with the B&O in Baltimore in its freight accounting department. The privilege of a pass on his home road, and trip passes on other roads, assisted greatly in his quest to ride as far and as often as he could. This sometimes found him leaving directly from work on a Friday afternoon, taking a train from Camden Station, and returning to that point on Monday, just in time to go back to work. Vacations were used for long-distance adventures, and in the 44 years until he retired, he does not remember spending any vacation day entirely at home. Sometimes he traveled alone; often with friends. A veteran who remembers the dignity expected of riding the name trains of the past, there is one tradition he keeps to this day... he always wears a necktie to dinner in the diner.

A 50-plus-year member of the National Railway Historical Society, he has served as president of the Baltimore Chapter (1960-1962) and almost every other chapter office. But his long-time tenure as its membership chairman is what he will be best remembered. It is always a highlight at the monthly business meeting when Bob gives his exacting report, and for his interesting and amusing anecdotes. Recently he compiled a scrapbook, which he faithfully brings to each meeting, of newspaper accounts he has collected through the years involving chapter members.

His trip reports have become legendary. In each issue of the chapter's newsletter, the Interchange, Bob supplies his Travelin' column, the chronology of a particular adventure: the people he met, where he stayed, where he ate, what he ate, how much it all cost, transit routes he covered, and visits to fire stations (another interest of his). The writing style is much as he had originally written it in his trip diary, with comments added. Here is an example of one paragraph from a visit to Philadelphia in January 1945:

Next, I rode streetcar route 56 - Erie Avenue. The streets were icy and the snow much deeper than in Baltimore. I got off at Broad Street and took the subway to City Hall where I changed to the Market-Frankford line which I rode out to 69th Street. I rode a round trip to Media for $.30. Then I ate supper at the restaurant in 69th Street Terminal. I had a meal of sausage, mashed potatoes, carrots, bread and butter and milk for $.60 including tip. I took a two-car train of the "bullets" to Norristown and rode in the lead car which was the 206. The round trip fare was $.55. The load was moderate on this route, but returning from Media the car had registered 121 fares on the one-way trip. I took the el back downtown to look for a streetcar map (without success) and then took a 13 car back to the B&O station. I came down on #523, the Marylander, at 6:49 PM. My fare home on the #17 and 19 streetcars was only $.05. As it was a Sunday, I evidently was using a two-trip slip and transfers were free in those days.

Travelin' has now been produced into a book, a time-honored way of preserving a part of history from one individual's perspective. It may be ordered by mail from Baltimore Chapter NRHS, c/o Publication Sales, P.O. Box 10233, Baltimore, Maryland 21234-0233. It retails for $17.95. Maryland residents add 5% sales tax. Add $2.00 for shipping and handling.