Montour Railroad 

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Milepost 31 Hills - Montour #4

Read the details of the Montour4 Mine

West of the loaded yard at Montour #4 was a delrailment that occured on August 11, 1975. The photo is labeled that the derailment occurred at 7:25 AM, Engines 77-73-74-75. This scene looks west showing engines 75 & 74 sitting there, 1000 feet west of the loaded yard switch. The locomotives are un-coupled as the crew made a vigiliant attempt in putting em back on the 115 pound rail.

The rerailing process was terribly complicated as memory serves. The 115 pound rail, a train of coal coupled to the East locomotive with the derailment inside the curve of Kamps Cut. Wood blocks are scattered everywhere which illustrates to me lots of frustration was experienced that morning. Locomotive journal box's lids are open so the crew knows which friction bearing brass are out of place and will need adjusted once the locomotives are back up on the rail. (something I watched many times but never photographed - jacking a single journal box just a inch or so, the car department  using a steel bar, nudging the errant journal box brass back into its proper position so the axle isn't cut and the engine weight is resting properly on each axle...)
Now look into the shadows beneath the locomotive. Look at the rail, surrounded by a minature mountain of sand. The story is told, this railroad hauls tonnage, these SW-9's each day battled the elements of rickety rail,
hill and dale and tonnage coal trains.
On the Montour RR, during the last decade of operations, train crews had no chance at getting that head start at those hills. These train crews were restricted to 15 MPH and if you were in a slow order, now you were down to 5 MPH and best not even try to take a run at a hill. The rail was old and worn out. The roadbed was rotted and wide guage or broken rails were your enemy. Crews simply, eased into each grade,  throttled up as the weight of all that coal came off  the opposing downhill, and dragging brakes slowly released them selves as the SW-9's were put to task on taking that Pittsburgh Seam Coal back up the other side, sanders hissing away as traction motor blowers blew the dust off the pulverized sand out from under the locomotives.

Many times all went well. But many times those unique multiple...simply tore the train into 2. A broken knuckle...a pulled drawbar...a hi-low coupler. Sometimes a wheel slip from a low track joint or simply just the SW-9's loosing their footing starting back up the other side. Now the train was in 2 pieces and the process was about to begin all over. Replace the broken knuckle. Remove the defective car with the pulled coupler. Hi-Low couplers were dealth with by using ties plates or old track spikes. Sanders going. The train is back together...but don't just yet put the air back inside em. Not here on this hill, with head end slack in. Couple back up and step aside. And the "go-ahead" sign given. The engines throttle out gently. Squealing brakes  restrict speed to a terribly slow speed. Slack is removed ever so slowly. So not to again break another knuckle. Or pull yet another drawbar. Sanders are still hissing away as 3 or 4 SW-9's bite into sanded rail.. With slack removed, nerves tense on the right hand seat box. The brakeman steps between the cars. And ever so slowly puts the air back in em.

Moments later, exhaust sounds from releasing brakes.And the SW-9's are back at work keeping the train stationary as the weight of those 33 or 44 loads of coal burdens the brakes of the SW-9's. The train is supposed to go one direction. But the weight...and the nature of gravity suggests another. The brakeman returns to the engines. Air guages are watched and the radio crackles from the caboose, Air is releasing. The SW-9's are nursed forward. Driving wheels under the SW-9's attempt to start 3,000 or 4,000 tons of bituminous. The engineman tense as not to apply to much power to quickly. And tear this train back apart. Back and forth the throttle went. Small wheels slips are recognized by the wheel slip light in the cab. The rail below  reverbates from each slip. Each driver carrying roughly 16 tons of engine weight. Yes, those SW-9's are just 1200 horses each, and yes they weigh a measly 125 tons in comparison.

Slowly...ever so slowly...the SW-9's are throttled up. The melody of General Motors 567 diesel engines. Under load with rattling hood doors. And ever so slowly, that train of coal was taken from a dead stop. And put back into motion...ever so gently. The ear shattering bangs of car couplers being stretched and the determination of those quaint little SW-9's heading em back up the hill. And you wonder, a small mountain of sand, how meaningless, discareded there on the right of way. Used and forgotten, but in the eyes of many a much bigger story to tell about those days along the Montour Railroad Company...
Gene P. Schaeffer

Nick Jarina finds this Northern Pacific box car on the Hill Track, Pennsylvania Company Transfer Hills. Taken from the main track of the Montour R.R near the West End  Montour #4  Mine in  May 1967. - Gene. P. Schaeffer
From the collection of Nick Jarina.  Looking East, Kamps Cut,  August 1968.  Main track switch indication signal, 1,000 feet west of the West End Montour #4 loaded Yard at Hills. The wires for the wayside telephone system still exist.
This Nick Jarina 35mm slide is marked August 1981.  Looking East, West End Montour #4 Loaded yard being scrapped.. - Gene P. Schaeffer
Left Edge - Center of the picture - to the left of the main line tracks - is a post with what looks like a box attached. This is a bill box used for conductors to pick up the bills.  Look further east and you can see MP32 leaning toward the loaded yard. A couple of the wayside telephone pole can be seen, one with a loose cross arm. Note the new looking ties for the loaded yard.  Consol had done a fair amount of track work around 1979/80, Section #2 gang  assisted them with the switch tie work and lead to the main track. - Tim Sposato
This was the On Duty location for section Gang #2. Montour R.R. Section Gang #2 worked out of Hills Station In this scene the Canonsburg local (CB-5?) on Conrail passes the location where Section Gang #2   kept their Hi-rail truck and various work equipment along with a procured telephone booth which is where the concrete overpass (seen in the lower right corner) is located on Valleybrook right at the location  where the miners went to work each day. - Gene P. Schaeffer
This was the new location from the original location at #4 Tipple car cleaner shanty. The  change took place in summer of 1976. The phone booth was  located at the W.E.Hills , between the loaded yard and main track, about 8 car lengths east of the W.E. Switch.   I think I had posted a short article a few years ago, about  Section #2 needing a storage building for extra track tools and materials after the move to the #4 Supply Yard took place.   We manhandled the booth from its cross tie base and loaded it sideways across the sides of the RH-2 truck bed and hi-railed to Greer’s Crossing to set off.  Then drove it to the supply yard and mounted back onto new cross ties. As I recall, we always had more than enough extra tools locked in there as well as some tools “stolen” from other gangs, after we combined forces to work derailments.  This stealing was always a source of finger pointing amongst section and extra gangs.

I understood the booth stood there for quite some time after the MRR shut down…..being demolished after Consol Coal sold the property and the new owner had a lot of landscaping and grading done. Interesting that this new O.D. location change placed us across the tracks from the cute granddaughters of “Big”  Jim Lane that lived in the old company store at the underpass, one of them eventually become my wife. These Nick G. photo’s are really great to see, he did well on locations and subjects to allow us a look into the window to the past. - Tim Sposato

The metal “Hills” sign above the phone booth door was pretty well rusted away, but some one used a spray can and wrote Hills in its place….this can be seen in Nicks photo. - Tim Sposato
Its May 1967 as Nick Jarina aims his camera down the Washington Secondary. This is Boyce where the Pennsylvania Company Transfer Hills meets the P.R.R. main line. This track was rebuilt having Boyce siding (left) connect directly to the Interchangeenabling Montour R.R. crews the ability to pull empty coal hoppers directly off Boyce  Siding without occupying the P.R.R. main track. - Gene P. Schaeffer
Nick jarina aims his camera at the Low Boy switch stand on Hills Transfer in May 1967. This is the Hill / Creek track switch that is on the lead coming down off the Montour RR main track. the Montour R.R. main track is behind Nick Neat to know I have a identical and brand new - never used Montour RRkerosene switch lamp similiar to this here at home.  - Gene P. Schaeffer