Thursday, July 4, 2019

Wrapping Things Up In Three Creeks: 18:29 – 19:17

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

October 20 1954: 18:29 – 19:17

As they drift past the brightly lit Three Rivers depot with its short, shed-covered spur that shelters the Express from weather during its overnight stay, Jake is still at the throttle. Tom is surprised but somewhat pleased that Jake has decided to stay at the controls as they work Three Rivers.

Rather than stop to have Ronald reline the west switch for the siding, Jake, as Tom usually does, takes the main down past the yard tracks where a few lonely looking empty ore jennys loom in the dark. If it was daylight they would be able to see that a few of the once busy yard-tracks now carry a coating of rust on top of the rails.

Normally taking the main past the yard dumps them right onto the reversing loop but tonight somebody didn’t properly line the switch at the end of the power company spur so Jake has to stop while Ronald jumps down and lines it to direct them onto the reversing loop and not send them crashing into the fuel storage tanks down there next to the power plant. The stop is a little abrupt, but it takes experience to get that right. Next time Jake will probably be a little better at it, Tom hopes.

The loop takes them around behind the ore-loader and as they pass under the overhead tracks coming down out of the basin and saying up high and level with the top of the ore-bins to simplify dumping the loads, the little narrow-gauge Shay with its rapidly pumping vertical cylinders clacking away is backing a string of small, empty tip-dump hoppers away from the loader bins and starting the journey back up the basin where the hoppers will be loaded with more of the ore coming down from the mines above. Tom would have slowed, or even stopped, his train until the hoppers above were clear but Jake drives right under them. Tom, and Ronald, make sure they stay under cover in case any stray chunks of ore come crashing down, but again, Tom doesn’t say anything because right now its Jake’s train.

By wrapping the whole train around the loop and coming back out on the main facing the other direction, not only do they save the hostler from having to turn the engine later, they also simplify spotting the boxcar at the Coop Warehouse since now it’s a trailing-point set-out.

When Jake couples back up to the house-car after dropping the box at the Coop he misjudges and hits it a little hard, but he’ll learn with experience, though Otis leans out the side and gives him the stink-eye to nudge that experience along a little faster.

Almost done, with Dean and Ronald throwing switches, both carrying lanterns for signaling now that it is dark, Jake backs down the lead past the service area and nudges the house-car, very carefully, well down the house-car track. There will be another one, from the Upbound Pipeline, sitting on the track by the time they get up in the morning, and that’s the one that will be tagged onto tomorrow’s Downbound Freight.

Their final move as Extra 1428 is to uncouple the house-car, gather their paperwork, (In the case of Tom and Otis, the rest of the crew have no paperwork to worry about.) grab their carryalls, and turn 1428 over to the hostler who will keep her simmering overnight* on one of the tracks in front of the two-bay engine-house, then top up the water and sand in the morning (Since the oil tank has more than enough capacity for round-trips, refueling is normally only done in Goat Crossing to avoid the expense of hauling fuel up the mountain) and leave her sitting on the ready-track waiting for her departure at 04:30 tomorrow as #421, the Downbound Freight.

*In order to reduce stresses it takes a good 12 hours to properly fire up a steam engine with a cold boiler, though that time can be cut down to 6, or even as little as 4, hours at the expense of the long-term reliability of the boiler, so the fire is rarely pulled on a steamer unless it is going to sit idle for several days or needs work that has to be done cold. In that case, once the fire is pulled a hose is attached to the blowdown valve and the hot water in the boiler is moved into insulated tanks just outside the roundhouse. When it comes time to fire up a cold engine the hot water from the insulated tanks is dumped back into the boiler to speed the process.

Tom writes into the comment line on the sign-over sheet his suspicions about the petticoat of 1428 hanging a little low. The shop up here doesn’t have the equipment, nor manpower, to do anything about it overnight, but the report will get down to Goat Crossing on the morning Express before they will so plans can be set in motion for shopping the engine for this relatively minor, other than having to pull the fire, adjustment.

Leaving their carryalls behind on the ground under the watchful eye of Barna, the crew of Extra 1428 East walks across the ready track, past the two large doors on the business end of the engine-house, one open on an empty bay and the other closed, and around to the wood-framed office stuck onto the other side of the stone building.

Inside they take turns signing off the crew sheet, each carefully listing the train number, both of them in today’s case, printing their name, adding the time, and finally signing the official document that will be used to calculate their pay. Tom and Otis also finish scribbling out the last of their separate reports.

Tom on how the engine behaved and any deficiencies or comments for the roundhouse foreman, and a separate one for the crew superintendent listing the time Jake took the right-hand seat and how he performed. Otis finishing up his trip report, though in the comments section he left out the track issues that held them up so long at Downhill because his hand could barely hold onto the pen by now. (Probably should have let someone else wrestle with that chain in Wild Woman Canyon!)

Finished they slide their paperwork into the proper cubbies. From there it will be sent down the hill on the Express, added to at every stop with the paperwork from each depot, and most of it will end up stored with all the rest of the paperwork kept for who knows what reason down in the DP’s head office across the street from the Daylight depot.

It’s 19:17, roughly 15 hours and 20 minutes since they signed on duty this morning, 8 hours of regular pay, 7 hours 20 minutes of overtime, and still 40 minutes to go before they would have outlawed.*

*Federal law sets the maximum hours a crew can be on duty in a single period at 16. If they are still on the road at that point they ‘outlaw’ and a relief crew, often called dogcatchers, must be sent to finish the run. A crew that has outlawed is required to be given 10 hours rest before they can go back on duty. If they have worked less than 16 hours they are allowed to go back on duty after only 8 hours rest. It’s amazing how many crew-sheets across the nation work out to 15 hours & 59 minutes of on-duty time.

Finished with official business the whole crew retrace their steps around the engine-house, pick up their carryalls, and walk the few steps down to the end of the house-car track where a former sleeper-car, a few of its windows showing a welcome glow of lit lamps, has been pretty much permanently parked. The old heavyweight car, it’s 80’ foot length gingerly eased around Wild Woman Loop as it was gently drug up the mountain, replaced the crew-boardinghouse that used to sit a little ways behind the two-bay engine house but was badly damaged in a fire in 1946, just weeks after VJ day.

Before making the trip up the mountain the car was customized with a small lounge at one end and two-up bunks lining the central aisle at the other with a porter’s area in between the two spaces. Because of plumbing and sanitary issues the car’s toilet rooms were eliminated during the customization. Instead a small, and frankly not very well heated, lavatory/shower house was built off the back of the engine-house to complete the crew-accommodations.

With its individually curtained beds, comfortable lounge for shooting the breeze, (No booze or women allowed which is why Dean normally only hangs around long enough to stuff his carryall into a bunk and grab a quick shower before he disappears into town, often not crawling in next to his carryall until shortly before crew-call time approaches!) a roof that doesn’t leak, and the steam-line and electricity fed in from the engine-house for heat and lights, the sleeper-car is actually nicer than the boardinghouse was. Which is good because the crews of the Freight and Pipeline spend 3 nights a week here in Three Creeks.

Having just eaten up in Downhill the crew forgo walking into town to use their meal-chits at the Regent House, instead they, even Dean who must have gotten his fill of wander-lust for the day up in Downhill, settle into the surprisingly plush seats in the lounge where Jake, Dean, and even Tom, though he limits himself to one, can’t resist Barna’s excellent coffee, always fresh, always served in china cups with saucers.

Barna is the grizzled, one-armed ex-hard rock miner that is the porter for the bunkhouse, keeping it clean, the sheets fresh, the beds made up, and producing a seemingly endless supply of fresh coffee.

Barna, who lost his right arm from the elbow down up in one of the mines, forcing him down to town for work, has obviously lived a hard, physical life and is seemingly alone far from home with a limited grasp of English. He is rumored to spend his Sundays (When there are no crews staying in town)in the bottom of a bottle, but he always has a smile on that ugly face of his. Barna is Hungarian and, oddly enough, his name means Son of Comfort, which is exactly what the crew needs right now because in just a little more than 7 hours Barna will rouse them from their bunks with fresh coffee and toast thickly slathered with heavily sugared applesauce dusted with cinnamon so they can climb up on train #421 well before dawn and wrestle it back down the mountain.

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