Monday, March 18, 2019

Goat Crossing: 03:28 – 04:07

Running #420, the Upbound Freight, on the Daylight Pass Railroad

October 20 1954: 03:28 – 04:07

The tiny sliver of moon is high in the eastern sky, but its light too feeble to reach into the shadows between the sparse and scattered electric lights of Daylight. It will be well over an hour yet before the sky brightens enough to start defining the ridgelines and peaks to the east, nearly three hours until sunrise, and longer than that before the shadow of the mountain is chased back far enough for the sun’s rays to fall directly on the streets of Daylight.

From town the distant notch of Daylight Pass, some 40 plus crow-miles to the east, is visible and there are 2 couple-three-week long periods during the year when the sun rises in the gap of the pass,* sending early beams down to the streets, but late October is not one of those periods.

*Originally the pass, notching the mountains to the east, and town, nestled down on the edge of a wide, arid basin, were both named Gunsight but around the turn of the century an unofficial alliance of business and civic leaders that pretty much controlled things; back then called Bishop’s Hiccups after their titular if not official leader, and now, half a century later and still pulling strings, known as the Shifty Fifty; felt that such a name, especially here on the fringes of where the Lincoln County Wars took place not all that long ago, didn’t send the kind of message they wanted for their community so the names of both were changed to Daylight, though it took almost 10 additional years to change the official name of the post office.

In the pre-dawn of this Wednesday morning the streets are mostly deserted as Tom Kelso rumbles through town long before most of its approximately 7000 citizens have slapped blindly at their alarm-clocks, but he doesn’t mind the early hour – well, he doesn’t mind it too much anyway.

Rolling out of his bed at 03:00 six mornings a week three mornings a week to run the Daylight Pass Railroad’s freight train either up or back down the mountain, doesn’t exactly top his list of favorite things, but having a steady, predictable call-out sure beats working the Southern Pacific’s first in, first out, pool out of El Paso with its wildly unpredictable call-times and mix of assignments and routes, including mainline trips that often resulted in outlawing at 16 hours out on some remote siding or other and having to lay over for 10 hours to become legal again, catching whatever accommodation, and food, might, or might not, be available while he waited out his time and could mark up on the board again.*

*If lucky he might “deadhead”, or ride company provided transportation, road or rail, to his next assignment. Lucky because, though the time spent doing so counted as rest even though it was often far from restful, it also, by union agreement, counted as paid time. But deadheading only happens if it suits the company’s needs, which isn’t very often.

No, compared to that schedule, which he worked for 16 of his 21 years* with the Southern Pacific, his regular assignment on the Daylight Pass freights, train #420 heading up the mountain every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and #421 back down again on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, is his dream job.

*His first 5 years with the SP was spent working yard turns, hard work, same boring scenery every day, and with low pay, as he built enough seniority to get on the road pool.

Sure, compared to working the Southern Pacific, (SP) the Daylight Pass (DP) route is short and the engines light, both of which lower his pay quite a bit, but he still takes home more than the average working stiff, more than enough to satisfy his modest needs, and now he has a routine to anchor his life on, more routine than he’s had most of his working career.  

So that’s why this morning, hours before most will make their first shuffling, snuffling, and scratching trip to the bathroom, he’s content to roll through the peace and quiet of the night as he drives the orderly, north-south, east-west grid of Daylight’s streets, occasionally cut through by one of the shallow, rock-lined dry-washes that handle (most) of the monsoon rain runoff coming down out of the mountains.

He’s soon out of town and with window down and elbow propped he drives through the overnight calm of the basin, headlights boring a hole through the dark as he transits a shrinking bit of desert scrub on the nicely paved road. The rumble of engine, and whine of tires keeps him from hearing the night-sounds, but there is, after the long basin summer, an unaccustomed hint of chill to the air and a bit of sweetness has been added to the usual earthy smells carried to him by the wind wiping and snapping at the open window. Just as the lights of Goat Creek Yard come into view he starts passing the looming shadows of commercial construction sites and partially built tract-houses that mark the burgeoning village, a bedroom community they’re starting to call it, of Goat Crossing.

Before Edward Bishop, who would eventually be majority owner and president of the Daylight Pass Railroad, bought the failing concern just after the turn of the century, Goat Crossing was a ranch with its headquarters perched on a flat above Goat Creek. There was just enough water and feed in the area to support goats through the winter, as long as they weren’t too thick on the ground and moved to the summer range in the hills above when the basin dried up under the intense summer sun, but the remoteness and the falling demand for goat-meat in favor of beef, which the parched land couldn’t support, eventually drove the Goat Crossing Ranch into selling everything cheap.

Though Edward was already planning on his railroad, at this point he was keeping that information to himself while he bought up properties along the route a few trusted, and highly supervised surveyors had mapped out. Knowing the potential value of his mostly speculative properties closer to Daylight, still called Gunsight back then, he bought the somewhat remote Goat Crossing Ranch because the ranch headquarters was sitting on the perfect location for his main yard and service areas. He didn’t necessarily want all the extra land that came with the sale, but it was a package deal.

Though highly successful, not everything Bishop did worked out the way he anticipated, and this was one of them. But in this case it was a good thing. After tearing down the ranch headquarters and building the Goad Crossing Yard in its place, for decades he held onto the surrounding land that came as part of a package deal with the sale of the ranch and did nothing with it, mostly because everyone, including him, thought it was pretty much worthless, but with the population of the area growing amid the post-war economic boom Edward’s son and successor found himself sitting on highly desirable land with easy access to Daylight.

Slightly modifying the business model his father had developed for Lincoln Holdings, the real-estate arm of the family businesses, Charles had platted out a township and was selling off residential lots to home developers while retaining ownership of the commercial land and leasing it for development as shopping, restaurant, and other service-type businesses.

But that is of little interest to Tom who is headed to the Goat Crossing Yard this morning because the only scheduled trains that run the full length of DP’s Daylight to Three Creeks route are the Expresses. Four a day, two of them originating at the joint Southern Pacific & Daylight Pass Depot in Daylight and terminating 65.3 miles away and nearly 4500 feet higher at the mining town of Three Creeks, the other two simultaneously running the reverse of that route, one up and downbound pair in the early morning and another in the early evening.  All the rest of the DP’s scheduled trains, the Ore Turn, Pipeline, and Freight, originate or terminate at the Goat Crossing Yard, 5 miles outside of Daylight.

 Overnight the busy switcher, a 2-6-0 mogul with a low tender for improved rearward visibility, in addition to assembling or breaking down the various consists at the Goat Crossing Yard, also does the transfer run to and from the SP interchange track near the Daylight depot at around midnight,* during which it handles any other freight switching necessary in and around Daylight, though there usually isn’t much since most of that business is handled by the Class-1 Southern Pacific Railroad with its connections to the rest of the country.

*Because every railroad has to pay per diem on any foreign car still on their property at midnight there is always a mad rush to get any outbound cars to the outbound interchange track, the other guy’s property, before midnight, and at the same time the other guy is shoving cars onto the inbound interchange to dump them on you. It’s like a game of tag being played for money.

Seven nights a week the overnight switcher also shuttles the ore loads, left at Goat Crossing late in the afternoon by the Downbound Ore Turn, through town to the Fresnel Processing plant on the north side, dragging empty ore jennys back to Goat Crossing for #310, the Upbound Ore, to haul back up to Three Creeks in the morning.

And three days a week the day switcher hauls the empty tank cars brought down the mountain by the Pipeline, over to the Bayley Fuels terminal, also on the north side of Daylight, dragging loaded tank cars back to the Goat Crossing yard to be made up into the Upbound Pipeline which departs just before midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, hauling the fuel needed for the Six Peaks Power Plant up there in Three Creeks.

* Mon, Wed, Fri   **Tue, Thu, Sat

At the end of his pre-dawn drive Tom leaves his 16 year old Ford pickup, once forest-green, now faded to more of a pastel lime with hints of russet around the edges, in the crew parking lot among a mixture of vehicles belonging to other railroaders. Because railroading is not a 9-to-5 job there’s always a mixture of vehicles here in the lot.

The truck was brand new when they bought it and cost almost as much as the El Paso house he and Mary shared.  The austerity of the nearly decade long depression was only just starting to ease at the time, so spending the money was a risky extravagance, but everybody that read a paper or listened to the radio knew war was coming and had heard the speculation that war would mean no new vehicles, at least not for civilians. Given the amount of time he spent away from home Tom didn’t want to have to worry about Mary trying to cope with their already old and mechanically sketchy car for that long as she shuttled back and forth to her teaching job at the elementary school on those days when weather, or her health, always a little touchy, precluded riding her bike, so they splurged.

Over those 16 years he has changed the oil 48 times, rebuilt the engine once, and replaced the clutch twice. And he will grudgingly admit that at higher speeds her running-gear is feeling a little loose and wobbly and the shifter is getting sloppy, but buying a new one, like some have suggested, especially fellow crew members catching a ride with him back to Daylight after completing a run, is something he is in no rush to get around to. When they bought the truck it was the first new vehicle for both him and Mary; and in the case of Mary, her last; so the thought of replacing the old green rattle-trap felt – well, disloyal. Like breaking his vows somehow. After all, he’d already given away much of their shared belongings and sold the El Paso house when he made the move back here to Daylight, so parting with the truck too just doesn’t bear thinking about. Not yet anyway.

Walking into the crew lounge tucked like an afterthought at the end of a hallway in the yard office, Tom drops his carryall unceremoniously on the worn and cracked floor with a heavy thud.

Calling this dim and stuffy space something as lofty as a ‘lounge’ might be gilding the pig since in reality it’s a cramped room that, in addition to a new floor, could have done with a coat of fresh paint years ago.

All it has going for it is one well-stained door, especially around the knob where work grubbed hands, bare and gloved, have left their mark, one window that looks out across the RIP track to the blank side of the roundhouse and only opens or closes with a well-placed thump from the heel of a hand, a groaning fridge that for the past year sometimes rattles like something inside has panicked and is trying to get out until someone gets up and gives it a good whack on the left side, a half-dozen miss-matched chairs, most with padded seats that have had the stuffing pounded out of them, one scared table that, despite its looks, has proven to be up to the abuse of several butts plopping down on it at the same time, (Sometimes there’s more people than chairs in here.) and an old gas stove with the ever-present coffee pot gradually distilling the liquid inside down to bitter mud despite being set on the smallest burner which is turned down as low as it will go without going out. (And for some reason, there’s always been an empty blue-enameled double-boiler pot with a ladle stuck in it sitting on the other back burner that, in the three and a half years he has been using this lounge, Tom has never seen anybody use.) In other words, a typical railroad crew-lounge not much different from the ones he used during the SP years.

For the moment there is plenty of seating since the crew of the Upbound Ore have just left to go get their train ready for its 04:40 departure. They have, in addition to a haze of cigarette smoke, left behind Jake Mills and Dean Short, both slumped with not-yet-fully-awake immobility in chairs pushed up against a wall.  Jake and Dean are part of the Freight’s usual crew, Jake being the fireman and Dean the rear trainman. (The fact that the head trainman, Ronald King, hasn't joined the crew in the lounge is not unusual. Ronald prefers open spaces.) This crew have worked together for quite some time now, (In fluid world of railroaders that means anything over three months.) though on the first run of the week, Monday/Tuesday, and the last, Friday/Saturday one or more of the regular crew will occasionally take themselves off the board in order to get a three-day weekend. When that happened someone off the extra board will be called to fill in, but it is almost always the core crew together for the Wednesday/Thursday run.

Ignoring the burnt coffee (The battered stainless-steel Stanley in his carryall is filled with his own hastily brewed concoction. True, at best it would be considered only halfway decent coffee, but it sure beats the crap out of the stuff in the crew-lounge!) he pulls one of the chairs up to the table and it squawks harshly against the floor as his weight settles into it. He shoves a couple overflowing ashtrays, one still emitting a thin streamer of smoke, to the opposite side of the table then flips through the paperwork Harold Sneed, the graveyard dispatcher, bock-operator,  and crew clerk all rolled into one wrinkled old package, (Harold has to be at least 80!) had handed him as he signed-on in the crew book.

As is his routine, he first checks the engine assignment and sees they have 1428 today. One of the C-14 class 2-8-0 Consolidations that are predominate on the DP. To a former Class-1 railroader the C-14’s seem like tiny little play-things with their diminutive, almost-pick-it-up-and-put-it-in-your-pocket, 46” drivers and compact 21” diameter cylinders, but with the DP’s sharp curves and light rail anything larger tends to tear the road up.

A month ago, while heading up the Downbound Pipeline, this engine had a flue failure right at the rear flue sheet.  Though it doesn’t really matter where it failed because the result of any kind of flue failure, as opposed to the more common and tolerable flue leak, is a doused fire and smoke, soot, water, and steam roaring with a sound only God could match, not only out the stack, but around the gaps in the firebox doors and through the peephole above. The fireman bailed out while the engineer slammed the throttle closed and grabbed for the brake, trying to push it through service and into emergency, even though there is no emergency on the DP’s old Consolidations.

Being a relatively light consist running slow on the gentle downgrade between Cutoff and Rockhouse, it didn’t take the train long to squeal, scrape, groan, hiss, shudder, and slide to a stop. The fireman, probably a little embarrassed that he bailed so quickly on his engineer, though no one blamed him because every engineman, whether they admit it or not, is scared to death at the thought of being steamed alive by a boiler failure, had to run around the head-end and climb the right hand ladder to pry the engineer’s hand off the brass lever of the brake whereupon he threw him unceremoniously off the footplate and jumped down after him. After all, there was still steam and hot water snapping and clawing around the edges of the fire-doors like an angry badger.

The engineer, protected by his gauntlet-gloves and heavy denim overalls and jacket, had some minor burns on his left arm and slightly more serious but not life-threatening burns on the left side of his face, (He wasn’t a pretty man in the first place so no big deal.) but was bleeding, a lot, from where his head hit the sharp ballast when he couldn’t keep his feet under him after being thrown off his own train. The fireman, despite jumping from a moving train, had nothing more than a sprained shoulder, and that was probably from trying to throw the hefty engineer like a baseball in his haste to get back off the engine.

The conductor, who had run up the train to find out why his coffee pot had been thrown clear to the other end of the house-car, quickly sized up the situation and had the fireman run back around the head-end to shut off the fuel flow in case the fire wasn’t completely doused and grab some fusee’s and the lantern from his seatbox. By now the steam was almost exhausted so the angry badger was reduced to a little spitting and some minor hissing.

With flagging equipment in hand the fireman headed down the track to protect the head end. (The pipeline operates with a four-man crew, so there was no head-trainman to do the flagging.) The conductor also sent the rear-trainman (The DP doesn’t have flagmen, switchmen, and brakemen, they’re all rolled into the single job title of trainman.) back up the track to flag the rear, while he himself tied down the hand-brake on several of the cars because the air-brakes, though set quite tightly right now, could eventually bleed down and release on their own if they were stuck here too long.

Fortunately the Pipeline, with its string of tank cars, dangerous enough at any time but most volatile when empty such as on this downbound run, not only stayed on the track during the hard stop, but is also scheduled during the midnight hours which made it the only train on the line for the next 5 hours, so traffic wasn’t tangled up too bad as a relief engine dragging a tool-car and some machinists was sent up from Goat Crossing* to get the crippled train down the mountain. But that was only after the conductor, now convinced the bloody engineer wasn’t going to die on him, walked the nearly two miles back to Cutoff to have the station agent call down to let the dispatcher know what happened.

*During the heydays of the 20’s and 30’s there would have been at least one helper engine sitting at Big Timber, along with a section crew which would have been much closer, but these are not the heydays of the Daylight Pass Railroad.

In the days of the telegraph he used to be able to scramble up the nearest pole, or more likely, send a trainman up the nearest pole, to hook onto the wire alongside the tracks and use his portable key to send and receive messages, but today, the age of the modern phone, that isn’t possible, at least here on the DP where portable phones have not been issued yet. Progress isn’t always for the better!

By the time the relief engine had gotten to the site and the machinists had removed the main rods and disconnected the valve gear so the crippled engine could be drug down to Rockhouse and shoved out of the way into the old Bishop Summer Estate stub track, most of that 5 hours had been used up, leaving just enough time for the relief engine to race back up to the stranded string of tank cars and shove them back to Cutoff where they could be tucked out of the way of the first of the morning traffic.

At Cutoff the engine could also be turned on the Y to run pilot-first as it worked the train down through traffic to the Goat Crossing Yard. They arrived nearly 10 hours late and it was two more days before the crippled engine was brought down to Goat Creek where it has been in bay 4 of the roundhouse since. Or rather, up until this morning.

Since it’s back on the active roster clearly the roundhouse crew have fixed 1428’s flue issue and have her road-worthy again, which on the one hand is good because it’s not like the DP has a surplus of spare engines on its roster, but on the other hand, Tom intends to do a more careful inspection than usual before signing for the engine this morning.

Otis Mann, thier conductor, walks into the crew lounge lugging his own, crisp and gleaming leather carryall, which makes Toms canvas version look even more shapeless and battered by comparison.

In addition to his thermos, Tom’s carryall holds pretty much the same as what’s in Otis’. Copies of the DP rulebook and timetable, the Alco RS-3 ring-bound operator’s manual, (Otis probably doesn’t carry this.) flashlight with spare bulbs rubber-banded to its barrel, extra batteries for the flashlight, (Otis uses one of the signal lanterns carried in the house-car instead of a flashlight.) goggles, heavy gauntlet gloves, a handful of glad-hand O-rings, a small bottle of aspirin, a big bottle of Tums, two PB&J sandwiches – heavy on the PB – just in case, clean shirt, socks, and underwear.

Like Tom, Otis is another SP transplant, only he moved over to the DP from the faraway Sacramento Division so the two of them never worked the same trains together until the DP.

Since the war the SP has been seeing an exodus of railroaders. Much of that has to do with the attitude of the new president who has been hiring Yale business grads, who know nothing about railroading, to fill all the supervisory positions while making it clear that he considers train crews a necessary evil to be used up and squashed-n-tossed like cigarette butts. But for both Otis and Tom a contentious management wasn’t their primary reason for leaving.

Whereas Tom’s motivation in coming back home to Daylight three and a half years ago was to escape the memories and get his life moving again, Otis came to Daylight right after the war to be close to his grandkids whose father was now doing something secret out here in the desert for the Army, or maybe it’s the Air Force.

Otis is plenty old enough to retire, but enjoys working the trains, though he does often take himself off the board on Fridays and Saturdays to spend more of the weekend at home with family. And arthritis is making filling out his reports a chore lately. His signature, once bold and flowing, is now labored and cramped to the point where it embarrasses him.

But he always shows up for work in his crisp and distinctive conductor’s uniform, complete with white-shirt, blue tie, and gleaming brass ‘Conductor’ badge on the front of his freshly brushed hat, as if he was assigned to a named passenger train slicing across the country on Class-1 rails rather than a slow freight on the largely unknown Daylight Pass short-line.

He brings an air of respectability to the job not always seen since most the other crewmen on the DP, including conductors, wear coveralls and flannel shirts under heavy denim jackets, and after a few hours out on the road don’t look much different from the ‘bos that might also be riding the train if the DP went somewhere, which it really doesn’t.

Fortunately for both Otis and Tom, the pool of railroaders in the Daylight area is shrinking.

Despite railroads being considered critical to the war effort, exempting its workers from military service, the war lured many of the younger men away anyways. This gave them a taste of other parts, and when it, the war, was over not many of them came back here. This left a preponderance of older men running the railroad, men that are, since the urgency of war has long faded, looking to take their retirements. And even for the Class-1 roads let alone a short-line like the Daylight Pass, the golden age of railroading is a thing of the past and attracting new talent isn’t easy.

Because of this the DP has allowed both Otis and Tom to carry half of their SP seniority over to the Daylight Pass (And for Tom, all of the 4 years he initially worked at the DP as a young kid before switching over to the SP) rather than making them start all over again. Though it did create some resentment from those that suddenly found these newcomers higher on the seniority list than them, this doesn’t give them enough seniority to successfully bid on the best job, the Ore Turn, but it is enough to allow them to hold down the freight job. This keeps them off the extra board where they would be picking up a variety of runs here and there. Of course this also lets them avoid the low-paying Pipeline.*

*As a through-unit train with no stops or switching, the Pipeline only takes about 4 hours to complete each of its six nights a week run. Add in an hour of ‘on-duty’ time at either end of the run and that means it only pays about 72 hours every half (two weeks.) and almost never any overtime. On top of that, like the freight, which at least pays better, the Pipeline crew has to lay over in Three Creeks three nights (days) a week. For this reason the Pipeline doesn’t attract many regular crews is often crewed off the extra boards.

Otis scrapes a chair up next to Tom and they compare their paperwork. Their orders are simple, their warrant (authority to be on the track) is the timetable which sets departure times and meeting points. Next they check for slow-orders, scheduled track-work, or any other changes from the norm. Today there is the long-standing speed-restriction when crossing trestle 39.6,* plus a slow-order because of a track-gang clearing brush between Mile Posts 48 and 54.

*Features such as bridges, trestles, culverts and the like are identified by their mile-post position. On the Daylight Pass MP 0 is at the depot in Daylight and MP 65.3 is the end of the mainline in Three Creeks.

Next is the switch-list showing them were to leave the various cars they will be dragging up the mountain today. And finally the way-bills, one for each car that shows where the car came from, where it’s going, and its weight. They have a 3 X 3 consist today, three loads and three empties, an unusually heavy train but not unheard of.

For loads they have a flatcar with machinery for the small sawmill in Big Timber, a tankcar for the Bailey Fuels depot in Downhill, and a 40’ boxcar of assorted goods for the Coop Warehouse in Three Creeks. The empties are an insulated boxcar for the packing house at Appleford, a gon for the quarry track at Rockhouse, and an ore-jenny to drop for the Jackson Brother’s mine at Cutoff. They have no pickups today, not a big surprise since most pickups up there on the mountain are made by the Downbound Freight

Including the engine and the house-car they have a train of about 365 tons, which in Class-1 railroading terms doesn’t sound like much,* but the DP is not a Class-1 railroad. It is a short-line with an average grade of just over 1.5% and a killer of a maximum grade, a knuckle whitening 3.1% around Wild Woman Loop on Mesa Hill.

*In railroad-ese the question ‘how many M's?’ is asking how heavy a train is. An M is 1000 tons. On the Class 1’s, especially those with flat territories where keeping the cars moving is easier, it’s not unusual for a train to weigh in at 10 or more M’s, 10,000 tons. Here on the DP the heaviest train will be about 1.2Ms and today’s freight is just barely a third of an M!

In the construction years, 1907 through 1911, the DP, a standard gauge railroad, was built to narrow gauge standards with light rail spiked down without tie-plates on untreated ties resting on dirt, as it was shoved quickly up the mountain. Since those days the line has been upgraded significantly. Now the entire mainline rests on a proper roadbed topped with treated ties and the rail is mostly ballasted and spiked down through proper tie-plates. But the curves are sharp, the grades steep, and the rail is still light, 60 – 65 pounds (per yard of length) compared to the 100 – 110 pound rail of the Class-1’s.

On top of that their motive power is a 50 year old steamer weighting in at a measly 70 tons.* Tom has seen a photo of 1428 in the railroad’s main office across the street from the Daylight depot taken when it first arrived on the DP sitting in front of the original ore-loader up in Three Creeks. Back then it had a wooden cab, old, pointy ‘cow-catcher’ style pilot, a kerosene headlamp, slide-valves, and a small, switcher-style tender. Since then, not only has the ore-loader been replaced, (The original used to sit where the Six Peaks Power Plant is now.) but on the engine a larger air-compressor has been added, along with a steel cab, electric headlight, (With generator of course) the original slide-valve cylinder assemblies have been replaced with more efficient piston-valve versions, and a proper road tender with larger water and oil tanks has been tagged on her. But none of that makes the engine any more powerful.

*Railroad engines, using slippery steel wheels on slippery steel rail, rely on weight for traction. The heavier the engine the more tractive effort it can lay down. In comparison the Union Pacific’s Big Boys used to hump freights up Sherman Hill weigh in at 594 tons.

Fortunately they will be dropping two of the cars, one empty and one load, before taking on Mesa Hill. With the train cut down to 230 tons they have a fighting chance at pulling the steep grades of the hill, especially up through the Wild Woman Canyon section.

Included in Otis’s paperwork is the order that the overnight yard-crew placed the cars when they built the consist and he confirms that all three empties are at the rear, which is where they belong because trying to pull a train around the DP’s sharp curves, especially the rail-kinking 20° curve (About a 285’ radius) of the steep Wild Woman Loop, with empties ahead of loads is a receipt for pulling lightweight empties, held to the track by a puny little 1” flange, sideways right off the rails as they are stretched between the pulling of the engine in front and the tugging of loaded cars behind. Besides, if they have to make a quick stop with an empty ahead of loads, the empty could end up being squeezed out of the consist like a popped pimple. Even with the cars in the proper order, load and empties wise, Tom still isn’t too keen on having that loaded tank car tagging along right there behind his tender. He’d rather they put the more beguine boxcar destined for Three Rivers in there instead, giving him a little more distance from the volatile fuel in the tank car, but then he’s just the driver.

Finished with the paperwork Tom and Otis compare their watches, both set this morning to the clock above the dispatcher’s desk, the clock that rules the railroad, to make sure they agree before going their separate ways. Otis to visually verify the consist sitting on yard-track 3 with the paperwork in his hand, then find his house-car and make sure it’s stocked up and ready to go. And Tom to the ready-track with Jake, his fireman, to inspect 1428.

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