Working on the
P. Schaeffer Stories
|The Montour R.R. train dispatchers are kept busy. Mines needing more
empties. Calling crews out on their rest. Taxi's to fetch outlawed
crews. Derailments. Inclement weather. A telephone that never quits
ringing. 24 hours a day... Weekends depending. From the radio base you
hear more trouble. Extra 77 East. A Mifflin Turn. Dragging 60 some
loads towards Jewell. And another pick up of 20 more loads. Now East of
Library Junction.The rain has now stopped. But the crew is in
two...again. You hope another pull apart back in the train. And the air
isn't coming up. Conversation between the head end and Conductor. Gonna
start walking...again... The head brake man starts back. The flag
drops off the caboose and starts forward. Listening for blowing air.
Low carring irons you hope. You can hear the trainmen talk. One comment
is heard about these train seperations. Something about walking to
Mifflin tonight instead of riding. About the Mile Post. You find the
seperation. Low couplers...low spot in the joint. The train is put back
together. And the slack stretched. Air starts back through the train.
Car numbers are recorded. For the delay report. Slowly...you hear in
the distance. SW-9's working to restart 60 loads of Pittsburgh Seam
Coal. Wet rail...covered in leaves. More jerks...lots of wheel slips.
Couplers bang. As the train inches back in motion. And you wait for the
next seperation. As you swing up on the caboose. Walking your way to
Oh yes, the mysterious night run to Mifflin on a Saturday. Always unpredictable...never knowing for sure if one was coming.
you remember reading several months back, Conductor Desko with Engineer
H. Wirth, with four SW-9's and 45 coal for Mifflin on a Saturday. Dave
L. and myself were just leaving our homes, mine on Marilynn Drive his
just up the street on Tracey Drive for the 6 P.M. St. Germaines church
service back about 1973 when a blarring air horn and gentle throttling
SW-9's came East through Horning road thus diverting our walk to St.
Germaines. We arrived the East End of Salida as the chant of 4,800
horsepower neared and began throttling down for the stop at Salida.
Desko was riding the 2nd unit on the head end as he had 2 unfamiliar
P&LE trainmen...as you mentioned most of the Montour men had
marked off for the weekend but there was coal backed up and if a crew
could be obtained, the Mifflin coal was moved to the Union R.R.
Desko climbed down off the 2nd SW-9's for the short walk to the wayside
telephone booth, he o.k.'ed us to ride with him that night. With
permission from the N&W Rook Train Dispatcher to proceed to Mifflin
over those 3 miles of joint trackage rights, we eased off Montour
rails and onto N&W's Mifflin Branch. 40+ car lengths later, Wirth
throttled down the SW-9's so the N&W connection switch could be
lined back normal and locked. Arrival at Mifflin Junction we showed
the P&LE trainmen were the Montour trackage was and pulled the
train up to the scale, cut away and sent the SW-9's back #14 track to
the rear. We then walked the loads bleeding off the air then stood in
the doorway as each car was sent on its own over the scale. The 3rd car
to go over the scale wouldn't roll on its own so Desko looked up
underneath it only to find it was off center. Desko then stated he
noticed sparks several times between Montour 4 and Brookside and each
time he bleed off the air. This shop car was shoved down into the yard
on a seperate track for shop men to work.
Sometime during this
process Dave telephoned home and told his Mom where he was. Needless to
say she wasn't too happy about this. After weighing the train
shoving the train down into the delivery yard to the Union, caboose
light with again obtaining permission from the N&W we headed west
to Salida. As we came to a stop at Salida, Desko was commenting on how
good a engineer H. wirth was. At that very moment Wirth slammed on the
Independent and the 4 of us nearly went out the door on the opposite
side of the caboose during that severe stop.
4 hours later we
were back at Salida. Desko had to pick up off Salida Siding and stated
he was gonna make the pick up behind the caboose so I asked him if he
could pull the caboose overtopt the N&W Yard so we could look down
and see if a N&W train was coming. Sadly the signals at Longview
were all red as we backed into the West End of Salida to make the pick
up. Dave & I bid our "Thank You's" and walked the short distance
back home. Dave's Mom was not happy with him and my Dad of course was
never happy with me but it was a memorable trip that winter's Saturday
night now 40 Years ago..............Gene P. Scaeffer