Monday, April 15, 2019

Appleford: 05:35 – 06:26

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



October 20 1954: 05:35 – 06:26

Three minutes behind schedule, the train rolls slowly through the switch one car at a time until the entire consist is on the Appleford siding. As when they took the main at Goat Crossing, the slow speed gives Dean time to drop off the house-car, reline the switch for the main, and catch back up so he can ride the house-car rather than have to walk half the length of the siding.

When the railroad first came through here Appleford didn’t exist. There wasn’t even a siding. It was just a place the rails passed through on their way to the logging grounds around Big Timber.

Cornelius Ford was a surveyor for the Daylight Pass Railroad, but before that he grew up in and around his grandparent’s mid-west orchards.  While pulling down a paycheck from the railroad for tramping around the wilderness finding potential routes for the Daylight Pass, laying out the location and heights of trestle footings, and ensuring newly-laid track was in the proper alignment, Cornelius was also seeing the potential in the land and the climate up here above the basin floor. Perhaps because Edward Bishop wasn’t a Midwesterner he didn’t see what Cornelius did and Cornelius was able to purchase a significant tract of land from the US Government who was holding it in public trust for the then Territory of New Mexico.

It was a decade before the first apples started coming out of Cornelius’ orchards, a decade he funded by cutting the abundant hay in the area and shipping it to a stockyard down in El Paso. By the time another half-decade had gone by he had built the cider mill/packinghouse, the railroad had added a siding and two spurs, and a small village was growing up around him populated by orchard workers and railroaders. And, since the highway was put in, also by residents that work down in Daylight but commute back and forth to Appleford to live in the milder climate here above the basin floor.

Again, when Tom eases the train to a stop on the siding at Appleford he does it with a light touch of the independent brake, bunching up the slack. This time he’s not thinking of starting the train so much as his is of taking the pressure off the coupling pins, because now the work starts, and they could have used those lost 3 minutes because there’s a lot to get done before the Express rolls in at 06:16.

He has stopped with the last car, the empty boxcar destined for Appleford Packing, sitting short of the points of the switch to the packing house spur. With all forward motion stopped, and despite the time-crunch, he waits a moment to make sure the tank car has settled down because he isn’t using the car’s brakes, only the engine’s brakes, here in order to speed up the work, though he doesn’t have to look back to know that Otis is standing on the vestibule of the house-car cranking in the hand-brake.

Though it’s a lot of work, what with the stopping and starting and reversing and coupling and uncoupling that all the switching requires, one of the things Tom likes about holding this freight-job is that for most runs he has the same crew with him, and it is a good crew that knows what needs to be done and works well together.

With Tom keeping a close eye on him, Dean briefly disappears between the boxcar and the empty gon in front of it to close the angle-cocks on the rear of the gon and the front of the boxcar and gets back out from between quickly.  From a relatively safe position beside the cars, he then gives the cut-bar on the gon a quick jerk, which pulls the pin that has been preventing the coupler-knuckle from pivoting open.

At this point Tom whistles off, releases the brakes on the engine, and eases forward slowly. Once the slack is pulled out the un-locked coupler knuckle swings open, the air-hoses between the uncoupled cars stretch out, and then, as designed, separate at the glad-hands with loud pop. Because Dean closed the angle-cocks on both cars the air in the train-line under the moving cars as well as the section under the stationary box and house-cars is contained and keeps the brakes from setting, which will make a couple of the next moves easier.

Trapping the air under the cars left behind is called ‘bottling the cars’.  Because it’s inevitable that either the pressure in the train-line will eventually leak down enough to set the brakes, or the air in the reservoirs will leak out making it impossible to set the brakes, this is only done if the cars are going to be sitting there temporarily and with enough handbrakes cranked in to hold the string, which in this case is only two cars so requires just one set of brakes cranked in.

Tom continues to ease the train forward until the gon is no longer fouling the switch to the spur, then stops and repeats the throttle off, reverser centered, to safe the train.

While Dean ties down the brakes on the gon and the flatcar to hold this five-car section of their train, Ronald uncouples the tankcar, and with it the remainder of the train, from the tender by closing the angle-cocks on the tender and the tank car and pulling the pin on the tankcar.

When they are finished and standing clear Tom whistles off once more and eases forward. Again the glad-hands separate with a pop.

With the engine freed from the train Tom rumbles down the siding to the east switch where Ronald , who has been riding the foot-board on the tender, jumps down, runs forward, and lines the switch so the engine can take the main. Once Ronald has relined the switch for the main behind him Tom taps out his three shorts and starts backing down. As he comes by Ronald swings up onto the rear footboard of the tender again where he can be their eyes while the engine is backed all the way down the main past the depot where the unseen station agent has his feet propped up on his desk as he smokes his last cigar of the shift. Tom doesn’t stop until he’s clear of the west switch where Ronald has dropped off so he can line it for the siding.

Rolling forward into the siding with Ronald riding the footboard on the pilot this time, (the switch is left lined for the siding at the moment) Tom eases down the track under Ronald’s guidance and Otis’s critical eye until the coupler on the front of 1428 kisses the one on the rear of the house-car.

All the house-cars on the DP, even the little four-wheel bobbers used on the work and snow-removal trains, have steel frames. If they were wooden frames, as was the case in the railroad’s early days, Tom wouldn’t be allowed to push the boxcar into the spur with the house-car sitting between the engine and the box as crushing one of these wood-framed cars and turning it into trash by pushing too hard on it wasn’t unheard of.  Instead he would have to pull the house-car off the train and set it aside on the main before coupling directly to the box for the shove. But the steel-framed cars like this one don’t have that restriction which saves time and effort.

Since the angle-cocks have trapped the air in the train-line under the house and box cars preventing the brakes from setting there is no need to buckle the rubber. Otis just needs to unwind the handbrake on the house-car before they make the next move.

While Tom had been backing down the main Dean walked forward and lined the switch for the packinghouse spur so it is ready when Ronald, who is watching Otis to make sure the brakes are released, gives him high-ball Tom releases the independent brake, drops the Johnson Bar forward and gets the engine moving.

With Dean clinging to the ladder on the front of the boxcar he guides Tom down the spur until the car is spotted opposite the first set of loading doors at the packing house as the customer has requested.

The two-door railcar dock here isn’t near as busy now as it was before the highway made it through Appleford then all the way up to Big Timber, though calling the sometimes rough gravel track from Appeleford to Big Timber a highway might be a little optimistic.  Now most outbound loads of apples and apple products such as cider and pulped animal feed are shipped out on trucks and the new apple-boxes that used to come down from the factory in Big Timber by rail now make the short journey by truck along the new road. But once in a while, when there is a big enough load of apples or cider, or maybe both, going far enough, Appleford Packing will call on the railroads to get it there and when that happens the DP has a little piece of the action.

Because customers are rarely willing to pay the demurrage (which is a fancy way of saying rent) the DP charges for cars spotted at a customer’s location for more than 48 hours, (72 if they are spotted on a Saturday since there is no downbound service until Tuesday.) this car will probably be loaded by morning and they will be picking it up again with tomorrow’s Downbound Freight. Then the yard switcher will have it sitting on the SP interchange track down in Daylight before midnight.

This time Ronald closes the house-car angle-cock but leaves the one on the boxcar open while Dean cranks in the boxcar’s handbrake. With the boxcar tied down Ronald pulls the pin, and Tom backs away. When the glad-hands pop loose there is a roar and the hose on the end of the boxcar whips for a moment as the air escapes from the pipe under the car. This is called dynamiting the brakes and the air in both the auxiliary and emergency reservoirs* dump their contents into the brake cylinder, setting the brakes hard.

*On today’s consist only the gon and ore-jenny still have the older K brake system with no emergency reservoir, the rest of the cars have the newer AB brake system on them.

Both trainmen ride the house-car as Tom reverses back out of the spur, waits for the switch to be lined for the siding, and shoves the house-car back onto the end of the remaining consist, the open coupler on the rear of the gon just waiting for it.
Dean buckles the rubber between the house-car and the empty gon while Ronald uncouples the engine from the house-car and Tom backs west down the siding and onto the main. Once Ronald has lined the west switch for the main Tom, with Ronald casually riding the small footboard on the pilot with arms folded as if there wasn’t 70 tons of machine behind him that is just waiting to run something over and grind it up, runs forward past the depot again until just clear of the east switch, then backs through it into the safety of the siding as Ronald relines the switch for the main at 06:08. A full 8 minutes before the Downbound Express is scheduled to arrive.

Their final move here at Appleford, other than leaving once the Express is out of the way, is to back down and couple up to their train. Because the brakes were bottled it only takes a minute to pump the train-line back up to 70 pounds. Fortunately another terminal air-test is not required at this point since they have only dropped a car from the consist.

If you have been keeping track, this simple, single-car drop into a facing-point spur, has required running around the train twice, lining a switch 10 times, stopping or starting the engine 21 times, and coupling or uncoupling 7 times. A heck of lot of work to get done in a limited time.

But instead of kicking back and taking a break as they wait on the Express, Tom climbs down with his oilcan in hand and walks around 1428 topping up oil-cups, looking for loose or missing parts, and checking journals with his bare hand, looking for any excess heat.

While he is doing this Jake is turning on the blower and setting fuel-flow and atomizer to boost boiler pressure prior to their departure, then climbing up on the tender to look down the hatches and check the oil and water levels, Otis is updating his paperwork, and Ronald and Dean are back down the train cranking off the handbrakes and checking that the lashings on the flatcar are still secure.

Right on time the Express, an RDC combine driven by a pair of 275 HP diesel engines slung under its belly, drifts on up to the depot. It sits there for 5 minutes as passengers board, (none) un-board, (one) or stay put, (three) and the operator tosses two express packages down to the freshly on duty day shift station agent.

At 06:21 the Express, with it’s toy-like horn, toots off and buzzes, baggage end forward,* away from the depot as it heads up into the woods on its way to Big Timber.

*One of the efficiencies of the RDC’s is that they can be operated from either end so they are always ‘pointing the right way’ and don’t have to be turned. Here on the DP they run baggage end forward on their way up the mountain and passenger end forward on their way back down as this give the passengers a slightly better down-mountain view..

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