Facebook Page
Old Time Trains

What's New ~ Articles ~ Stories ~ Archives ~ Photographs ~ Preservation ~ Library ~ Home

The Way It Was

By F. H. Howard

LIFE for a junior foreman in a secondary engine terminal may not have changed in principle since the last days of steam on the Canadian Pacific, but it must have changed in detail.

First of all, in steam days, each of your engines needed various rigorous examinations of its motion. Ah, yes, the motion, shaking itself as if to pieces with every turn of the wheel: inertia forces; unbalanced forces; centrifugal forces. In consequence, side rods had to hold the driving axles their precise distance apart, supplementing the shoes and wedges which couldn't retain their precision in spite of your constant attention. Pistons started to or tended to bump cylinder heads. Engineers reported pounding, or you anticipated their reports; and periodically you instructed that rods were not to be greased on incoming power so that you could fulcrum a great crowbar on a driver spoke and lift up each rod and then let it down to check the slack betwixt pin and hushing. You had to rebush the rod if the slack was excessive, or rebore the big end if it was split - all of which you hoped could be deferred until the entire affair had to be dismantled for white-lead testing.

That - the white-lead testing - had to be done in ever larger increments every 90 days and was climaxed by the yearly hydrostatic test. In this, not only was all the iron stripped off and examined for cracks under white lead but the boiler was delagged and tested for its own peculiar deterioration, Said boiler had to be washed out every month of its life.

Motion and boiler: These were what bestowed on the steam locomotive its reputation for high and labor intensive maintenance. Since all of the maintenance was mandatory on every engine, every day was scheduled for some of this routine, arranged as best you were able. Yes, and a daily examination of each smokebox netting had to be made by a boilermaker, and the engine-truck journal cellars had to be repacked by a helper. You were always aware of the flange condition, especially of the leading wheels, on your power, If you weren't, a government inspector might be. Blowing piston rings and piston rod packing were reported by engineers. Crosshead shoes were watched by you or by the fitters, generally to be fixed at washout time, when an engine was available for hours. From time to time, you could work in a Class 3 repair, which could tie up an engine for weeks if your men were needed elsewhere.

Your days now and then were enlivened by the breaking of a water glass and the essential but uncomfortable task of shutting off the gauge cocks so you could get the water glass replaced; or by the problem of how to dispatch 14 engines in the forenoon while your turntable was out of action for its own heavy, repairs (this just took planning). Your turntable was old, like everything else, and often required running repairs from your airbrake man, the only pneumatic authority on the property.

Passenger trains were sacred and always had to be protected by a backup engine; this called for careful assignment of power and accounted for its apparent underutilization. You could usually get a passenger engine washed out and well maintained in the period between daily assignments, unless it was a real troublemaker.

The company liked its passenger engines to look like passenger engines, which meant special attention from laborers, when you had them. Not all of the inspectors were as rigid as the Brit who used to run his gloved finger over the inside of driver spokes looking for grime but the 14-karat gold leaf had to be washed with Oakite, white walls on tires needed to look white, and side rods had to be buffed. Steam-locomotive grime was special and plentiful - a compound of coal dust and grease which dirtied overalls in two days if you climbed around much (as you were supposed to).

Delays in servicing passenger trains that were running through could, you were confident, be explained by "'loading express," even though no express had been tendered there for 10 years. The dispatcher knew that too, but you were all playing the same game in the end; the General Manager likely was a player as well.

And winter - winter on the glory road. Snowplow extras wore tarpaulins over cab and coalpile when they were out on the road; in the yard, two plows often went out back-to-back with the power between, up and down all the tracks as long as the snow was falling. Winter was the time to find where steam was leaking, a real menace if it was outside: frozen ashpans and ashpits, sand pipes and air reservoirs, turntables and coal chutes.

There must never be frozen water spouts, though; and never, never frozen injectors or delivery pipes. Simple devices protected against those catastrophes, and the punishment for failure to use them was so terror-striking that Lubjanka would seem like Malibu.

You liked new engines, but management was scrupulous in its distribution of such largesse and your share was minute. The effect of new engines on maintenance costs and peace of mind was as pronounced at your level of management as it was in the Boardroom.

You grew familiar with trade names that were to disappear if they did not adapt to diesel: Franklin: Sunbeam: Okadee; Waugh; Elesco: Worthington: Hunt-Spiller: Nathan; Signal; Barco; Ragonnet; Valve Pilot: Cyclone: Baker-Pilliod; Hancock; Sellers. Good night. Standard Stoker wherever you arc! The steam engine was, among other things, a collection of patented devices specified by designers but seldom proprietary to the builder or to the owner.

Antismoke laws came along to take another year or two off your life, what with needing special bits of piping to reduce smoke when lighting up (overfire air jets by another name). You had to monitor the bank firemen and the stationary firemen too, with Ringelman gauges. Pollution distaste is taken for granted now, but then it seemed a nuisance put upon you by a petty official at City Hall Would they rather see no smoke at all, from a deserted roundhouse full of laid-up power? Why, you were moving a nation's commerce; but people were beginning no longer to listen.

Some boredom existed, as in the Army during the war: and you needed luck and the obliging help of friendly men who could cover up your minor failures just as you covered up theirs. Which was as in the Army. In fact, a day in the operation of a railroad was like a military operation, as Fortune once observed; and the discipline had similarities - sometimes thoughtless, harsh, even ridiculous, with some management performed by intimidation and fear. But not all of it; not even much of it. And there were incidents involving people, their eccentricities, personalities, habits, and strategies for pursuing the aims of their employers or themselves; some humor; and some head-shaking (then just as there undoubtedly is now).

With the Canadian Pacific's diesel ownership limited thus far to a handful of yard engines (skepticism ruled most motive-power circles, and mainline power was unthinkable except on the Santa Fe and for a few streamlined trains), only a few sophisticated servicing facilities had been supplied. About the simplest way to fuel an engine was to call in a tank wagon from the local Shell distributor and have him fill the switcher on the crew's 20-minute lunch break. This method doubtless came at a high price per gallon but was a useful expedient in emergencies, especially at night.

This was one of those nights. The hogger ambled in about when you figured, as did a tank wagon, and you arranged for a big thick hose to join the two. No Cape Canaveral umbilical job, to be sure, but just some good, sound, practical railroading, with a gallon meter the entire instrumentation.

Good, sound, practical, and inspired - or "sinking-feeling" - railroading went on to say that the odds were good that another engine would come along and threaten to cut the hose because the yard hogger had, for some reason, come in on a track remote from the roadway and the man's hose had to cross the intervening iron.

This called for a flagman - namely, the turntable operator - to go out and protect the property of the Royal Dutch Shell Company. Foresight, a good safe operation. Time for your lunch.

A cursing Shell man found the bunkroom kitchen where you were dining across the table from the crew off the way freight, and suddenly you weren't hungry. One flagman hadn't been enough; this one had forgotten why he was stationed out in the dark and had let the very disaster occur that your foresight had envisioned. A one-piece hose was now in three pieces, the middle piece just 4 feet 8 1/2 inches long. You didn't get far with your learned argument that the tank wagon driver should have done his own supplementary flagging. He wasn't learned and wasn't listening anyway.

You should have put a flag on the flagman. And you never did find out how the account was settled between the two giant corporations.

ORDERS came down that each roundhouse was to have a fine big blackboard with a clock mounted at the top. This board was to be lined out in columns headed TRAIN, TIME OFF shop TRACK, ENGINE CREW, and REMARKS, all to be dated so everybody would always know the status of everything. A blueprint was supplied to ensure that all was standard.

Well, you got one made in due course. You had it erected in what seemed the right place, about 150 yards from the roundhouse clerk's chair and likewise from where the crews booked in; but somehow it didn't seem that the whole lashup would be perused or maintained with any great enthusiasm. Engine assignments had hardly changed at all in the last several years; and once crews bid their jobs at change of bill, it took only about a week for all concerned (and even a few not concerned) to have the lineup memorized. Almost everybody had a $100 watch too.

But you solemnly filled in all the spaces and dated it that day, then put the chalk in the ledge along with the brush.

That was that. Not a name or a number was erased or replaced, nor was anybody ever seen reading it. All of it was scrapped when the roundhouse was demolished several years ago.

A CREATIVE TYPE at a material-handling company once dreamed up a novelty, one of which your people bought. This was a snow-gatherer that, instead of wedging the stuff aside, picked it up with a kind of screw, carried it back, and dumped it into a tank to be melted. The machine took the biggest power you could find - requiring two firemen if it was a hand-bomber - not only to push the apparatus but to steam the snow into slush. When the tank was full, the slush was dumped into the river off the nearest bridge. The snow machine was a good way to clear snow from the passenger station and yard tracks - terminal equipment purely.

One night the "'extra snow melter" was assigned to a somewhat eccentric engineer, He started out normally and got his melter-cum-locomotive way down the shop track to the mainline switch, out of your sight and presumably out of your jurisdiction. But not so, as the dispatcher's phone complained.

"Where is he?"
"'He's gone."

"'Like hell he's gone. He's still on your shop track."
"I saw him go."
You hadn't, but at night your field of vision didn't extend as far as the switch.
"Find him and get him out."

So you did just that. At least you found his machinery and equipment and the fireman building up his fire and steam for the heavy draw to come; but he was by himself.

The engineer, you learned, weary of or bored by the delayed mainline switch, had gone away for a bite, evidently feeling that traffic would stay heavy enough to keep him on the shop track for a while longer.

His conscience impelled him back to his cab after 15 or 20 minutes, and the expected and respective opinions were exchanged. This took another minute or two. By now the fireman had used up 3 tons of coal; and since the rule was that a snow-melter's engine started out with all the coal it could pack, it was necessary to back up to the coal chute. All was fine, except that two more engines now had arrived behind him, waiting themselves to get out, and nobody was disposed to back up to accommodate anybody, even for 5 minutes.

And so on.

THE Sunday afternoon was sunny. The railroading was easy. Hudson No. 2810 was turned out for the Sunday-only passenger train east. She was a big engine and worn out in spots, as you eventually were to discover.

A foreman looks over passenger engines particularly closely: and in so doing this time, you heard a faint hiss of escaping air - a leaking union in the main reservoir pipe right behind the air pump.

Sunday afternoon meant little help, but you found somebody who could go to work on this without a grievance from the pipefitter. It took a 4-foot Stillson wrench with the two of you standing on a box out on the cinders, but you stopped the leak. No. 2810 left the shop track and left town with its varnish train, and you went home and took it easy.

The next afternoon, the master mechanic:
"'You're lucky. You're almost out of a job."
You said nothing.
"Do you know what happened to 2810?"

A rhetorical question, so you still said nothing. Anyway, you wanted to find out what he knew before you told him what you knew.

"The whole damn main reservoir pipe split open just as she stopped in the terminal last night. They couldn't release the brakes, so they bled the air and had to tow her back out to the roundhouse."

"All we did here was tighten up a loose union."

"You should have taken off the union. You know that pipe had to be split under the union. Do you know what would have happened if that pipe had split open anywhere else?"

Yes, you knew: passenger train delayed; single track; relief engine sent out: the whole railroad tied up for hours. Big trouble. The kind Vice-Presidents get involved in. "You can't Just tighten up a union, etc., etc.... "

You lit a cigarette and wondered how you and a solitary shopman could have changed out a 4-inch, 20-foot-long pipe, with seven bends, in the 17 minutes remaining be- fore 2810 was to leave the shop track. You didn't even know where to find that much 4-inch pipe.., and thread it?.., and bend it?.., even figure out exactly what shape to bend it in?.., even lift it?

It was not your engine anyway. It was maintained at the other end where they had all kinds of manpower and equipment and material. They should have discovered it. The crack didn't start just yesterday. It was not your engine, it was theirs ....

Even though it said CANADIAN PACIFIC on the tender.

You were lounging in the office door contemplating the cinder patch and wondering who, if anybody, had laid out the landscape around this roundhouse. McNiven appeared. There would now occur a little trouble.

McNiven was an engineer who had held down the 7:55 p.m. transfer since they drove the Golden Spike. He was about 144 years old and cranky. His engine usually was - and in fact for the last 91 consecutive nights had been - 5755, a loosely-fitted-together old bastard Decapod, all that was left of an unfortunate experience in motive power that took place before you were born, and good only for this kind of work. But earlier this night, for once, you had had to dispatch 5755 on an extra transfer since that was the only power in the house just then. Now you had given McNiven 3701, an equally decrepit Consol which shuffled in and got turned around just in time. It stood alone, unmistakably assigned to him.

"Where's my engine?"
"Right there."
"That's not my engine."
"It is tonight."
"Where's 5755?"
"I had to use her."
"5755 is my engine."
"The last time I saw her she had CANADIAN PACIFIC painted on the tender." Heavy sarcasm.

You went inside, but there was nowhere to hide. Anyway, McNiven knew all the places, and finding you took him about 1 1/2 minutes.

"I can't take that engine. It has no classification lights." "You know as well as I do, transfer runs don't use classification lights in the terminal."

"The rules say extra trains carry classification lights."

You were sure of the custom, but you weren't sure of the rules. You were not sure he was sure either.

"Your own engine has no classification lights." It was his engine again.

"I won't take this engine out without classification lights."

So, you resorted to the night supervisor on the company phone, a pedal-operated rig for those who need both hands and one mouth.

"McNiven won't take out 3701 on the 7:55 transfer."
"Why not?"
"He says he has to have classification lights. You know he doesn't need them. He's never had them before."
"Well, give him some now."
"What do you mean, give him some? The engine isn't even wired for lights. You can't just go into the stores and pick up a couple. We don't have any anyway."
"I don't care what you do - give him his lights."
"Look, this is a roundhouse, not a backshop, l can't rebuild the bloody engine."
"That's your problem. Get him some lights and get him out of there. He's due out right now."

Who's running this railroad anyway, the engineers or the management?

All you could do - and you were pretty smart to think of it - was to pinch a couple of crated oil-burning marker lights from the car stores and mount them on the brackets on the smokebox. They showed red or green, but not white. McNiven didn't care; he didn't even want them filled, let alone lit. No. 3701 tramped out, displaying unlit, meaningless rear-end markers on the head end.

You got on the Bell phone then to the Chief Supervisor. You didn't want every operator and towerman in the terminal to hear this, let alone the man who had let you down.

You described the discussion, explained how locomotives are designed and constructed, especially 3701 and 5755, confirmed the rules about displaying signals, proclaimed that you were right, wondered who was running the railroad, and pronounced the Supervisor as having no guts. The Chief agreed with everything you said and shut you up with a high opinion of your character and loyalty.

Then the company phone rang immediately.

"So, Mr. Howard, I have no guts... ?"

A grinning hostler, idle for the moment, had been holding his foot on the company phone pedal all the time, so everything you had said to the Chief had gone out all over the terminal, including - and especially - to your antagonist. What the Chief had said had not.

You left a note for the day man, who would return the markers to the stores. McNiven got his own engine next night; and as he booked on, neither one of you brought up the subject.

AND it came to pass that a religious congress was held In your town - a big one. It involved not the usual 2 or 3 special trains bringing in a local fraternal gathering, or the 5 or 6 for a service-club national convention, but about 100 trains, with ordinary people packing box lunches and riding in non-air-conditioned ears, many of the cars even wooden, hauled in from storage tracks and inspected. Engines were utilized off way freights and through freights - anything with steam heat that would move this one-shot traffic in and out over the weekend. The power was from not just your division, not even from your district, but from the entire region and even beyond. Only yard power was exempt. Quite a feat of organization for some brass-hat committee; well done too.

The weekend was a fine one for the spare board, with engines and trains deadheading back and forth making it even better. The weekend was a big one for you too, just finding places to store all this power, having their fires watched, and dispatching the locomotives back out in the crazy order the dispatchers called for them.

After the celebration was all over, the discovery was made that only 99 of the 100 engines that had brought a train in had taken one out. So you had an extra engine - an unmixed blessing, since it was a medium-size Mike in good shape. Not that a big engine or even a medium-size one was as much help to you as it was to the dispatcher, but this one was so much newer than most of what was in your charge that you happily supplied it as often as you could, as you reveled in the possession of some good power. Firemen likewise reveled, since the engine had a stoker. The card in the cab told you what you had to know about when to wash it out and when you could defer maintenance, since you knew your possession of it wasn't going to last forever; somewhere else a foreman would start looking.

After a couple of weeks, the District Master Mechanic rasped at you just as somebody had rasped at him:

"That's not our engine."
Oh? No, I guess it isn't."
"You know it isn't. Why didn't you report it was left here?"
Nobody asked me."
"They've been wondering back east when they were going to see it again."
Yes, I suppose they were."
You should have sent it back. It belongs to them."
We don't have any way to send it back unless you want us to put it on a passenger train. Then we'll have a passenger engine left over." Which was theirs too.

Or why didn't the dispatcher doublehead it back? It was not your worry anyway. It said CANADIAN PACIFIC on the tender, didn't it? It belonged to all of us.

A ROUNDHOUSE was credited with a dispatch every time it turned out an engine for a new assignment. Each time it merely turned an engine around or coaled and watered it, such as when a yard engine came in for a crew change, the roundhouse was credited with a half-dispatch.

The object of the exercise, as laid down by some remote scientific-type management, was to minimize the cost per dispatch, which was accomplished by reducing costs and increasing dispatches-simple fractional arithmetic, calling for considerable managerial skill, if not guile.

Now, if an engine which was maintained elsewhere arrived at your roundhouse and it had a new brake shoe, especially on the tender, it seemed quite reasonable to take off that brake shoe and put it on one of your own engines, substituting your old brake shoe for theirs. This gave you one more dispatch and allowed you to keep up your power without spending anything on that part. You could hardly do it with boiler tubes, and you didn't have time to do it with driver springs. Anyway, your distant counterpart would find out and questions would arise. Your colleague he wasn't.

Some experts who had spent the better part of a lifetime manipulating their cost per dispatch concluded that the rules of the game permitted such conduct as this:

Let each car of company coal, upon being spotted on the coal chute ramp, be examined for brake shoes; if one brake shoe was new, let it be exchanged for a tender brake shoe on one's own power. All to the benefit of the company, to be sure.

In fact, let each cinder car (in the unlikely event that somebody had applied a new brake shoe for the second time in 10 years) be examined likewise. Quite possibly a new shoe could be procured to go under a yard engine tender, both pieces of rolling stock having ancient archbar trucks but only one being subject to cost per dispatch.

Did some rip track have its own cost per dispatch? Did cinder cars ever see a rip track? Would a cinder car run 1000 miles over the rest of its miserable life? Who looked after them anyway?

But - was somebody else doing this to your engines?

Now, your railroad had never heard of John G. Kneiling and the proposition that bulk could be hauled cheaper in trains than by water, if only you ran your trains properly. Your railroad brought in company coal by boat to a point where its rails met the water and there established a big coal dump, whence fuel was distributed up and down the line into a half dozen chutes. To accomplish all this, a dock had been built out from dry land and a mobile ship-unloading rig ran back and forth upon it. The rig was of ancient lineage, ever-higher maintenance costs, and ever-lower reliability. When winter came and the water route couldn't be used (but enough coal had been stockpiled, so it didn't matter), this rig was stowed in a tied down position on the land end of the pier. Or was supposed to be.

One day you got a message from the General Superintendent to "proceed" to this coal dock and report on the condition of the unloader which, he informed you, had broken loose during a storm and had run down the pier to the water end, where it didn't stop. SO you proceeded there, looked over the edge, and reported by wire what you saw and what you thought:

"Have examined unloader. It is under only 30 feet of water with ice on top. It does not appear to be destroyed but probably can be salvaged in the spring with a crane, and repaired in a few weeks without removal from site." But that wasn't what this crafty official wanted to be told. "You were not asked for advice on what remedial action might be taken. You were asked to report on condition of machinery. Kindly provide report requested."

So you composed a new message with the advantage of a more sophisticated appraisal:

"Unloader, having crashed through ice, lies on bottom and appears to me to be beyond repair."

That was the report he needed to get authority for a new one and to remove that source of harassment from his weary daily rounds.

IT WAS another Sunday afternoon, and spring was start-bag to melt the snow - No. 3004, a Jubilee, was ready for her passenger train, having been looked over by the fitter and his helper earlier that day.

But the fitter and his helper hadn't seen that the coupler jaw was cracked. No. 3004 might go 100 miles this way or only 100 yards, which meant that the coupler had to be changed. You couldn't look the other way at times such as this.

To replace the part was a matter of bull work, but no more. The problem was to find a new one on Sunday with the storekeeper off duty. His front yard was decorated with spare couplers, like a graveyard with tombstones; - but even if they hadn't been half covered with snow, it was hard to distinguish their finer points and they didn't have part numbers.

So you had to phone him at his home in the suburbs and get him to describe the location. Like all good storekeepers, he knew such things by heart. You replaced the coupler, and the slight delay off the shop track would be recovered by an amiable engineer. Not bad for a late Sunday discovery with most men off duty.

Two weeks later the boss wanted to know who ran up the 15-cent long-distance telephone bill and why.

STOCK PENS weren't your responsibility, but you had friends who made their living there, fulfilling the Federal law which required that live animals in transit be detrained and certain amenities be provided them every so many hours. More hay was part of this hospitality, and a horse and cart distributed supplies up and down the galleries alongside these stock cars. The horse, naturally, was fed from the hay provided for the cattle.

One day an economy wave washed in from headquarters that ordered a stop to the feeding of this horse on company hay. The threat was clear: the manhandling of the stocktrain supplies. Of course a way had to be found to prevent that. So quietly was added to the payroll another extra gang laborer whose pay went to buy the hay that once was free. Since the horse knew how to pull a cart but not how to sign for a paycheck, the foreman had to oblige; and the station agent bent the rules to let him do it. Everybody, but everybody, was an accessory to this minor corruption.

Except the relief man who took over the station when the agent was sick. He felt that the book was written to be followed, especially when it mentioned negotiable paper. Nobody was going to collect a paycheck who couldn't first identify himself personally. This the horse had never learned to do either, but a friendly surrogate no longer was acceptable, even with the explanation, "'Harry had to go home for a few minutes and asked me to pick up his pay."

The new man was there only for that one payday, but that was enough. Arguments ensued, as they say, and the relief agent blew open the case. Officials at all levels threw up their hands in horror and disbelief that such chicanery could have taken place on their piece of railroad, and a general housecleaning had to take place. Men were "fired," but the Chairman of the Board didn't get to hear about it and gradually they were rehired. The horse was laid off permanently; and now stock trains scarcely run at all.

THREE O'CLOCK in the morning on a hot summer night. Not much was going on. An extra transfer was ordered in an hour.

A railway policeman came in to use your phone. It seemed that a tank car had derailed in the nearby yard and was creating more than a little excitement, so you wandered out to see why.

You saw why. It had been kicked with too much enthusiasm and appeared to have got its feet tangled up, which had turned it into something more than a mere derailment. It was lying on its side. Not only that, but a seam had opened up and gasoline was running out. There were 8000 gallons more left inside.

The Terminal Superintendent had materialized and was gazing at this distressing scene along with assorted switchmen, yard foremen, you, and the policeman. About the only decision made thus far had been the spontaneous and unanimous one not to smoke. Another decision - the Terminal Superintendent's - was to keep all locomotives well away; still another was to not perform any switching on adjacent tracks and to avoid the remotest possibility of some steel-to-steel contact that could strike a spark.

His next decision was to ask if you could find a bar of solder and a copper hammer Of course: this you were good at. In fact, you wished you'd thought of it yourself and wondered why you hadn't. After all, you were the senior mechanical officer in a radius of 5 miles that night.

The Superintendent lay on his back on the cinders and very carefully plugged the leak by driving the solder up into it tight and dry. Himself. Now operations could be resumed, and the car could be retailed and start behaving like any other car.That's superintending. It wasn't done from a swivel chair.

A TRANSFER had just delivered a brand-new B unit onto your property straight from the builder, and she was to be put into the house for the night. Tomorrow morning the diesel experts would put her into service. Neither you nor anybody else knew how to start and stop her, which could be a blessing. The doors were all locked anyway, so the hand brake couldn't be applied and you didn't have to try to find it.

Instinct told you that mysterious operations, such as pushing a brand-new diesel into a steam roundhouse, called for the utmost caution, not to say supervision. That's experienced railroading, You got the hostler to bring around something that was under steam and couple her up behind the diesel.

Now, the way to the turntable was downhill, which called for the utmost of that utmost caution. You were careful to couple the air hoses so that nobody could find any rule that you broke, in case Murphy's law prevailed. The hostler started pushing the mysterious valuable visitor down the hill to the turntable and soon had to slow his little train. But the diesel kept going, because the hostler, not being a trainman, had never thought of trying the coupling. The pin hadn't dropped and the knuckle soon had opened. You, being management, should have checked it, you quickly appreciated, along with envisioning a brand-new diesel going into the turntable pit. But, no - the table was lined up. But. yes - so the diesel would go right over the table, through the doors, and even through the wall into the street-derailed, if not wrecked, along with a promising career.

Bang! Air hoses parted and the diesel stopped in emergency. Equipment and career both saved. You looked smart, at least to yourself; and utmost caution was indeed again proven the right course.

But wait a minute. Even if the coupling wasn't made, why hadn't the damn thing stopped when the hostler had applied his brake? You discussed it with him and you found out. He had applied the independent brake, useless to the (supposedly) coupled-up diesel. He was a relief hostler, who had just been added to the firemen's spare board and had never been out of the yard; and he'd never seen a train brake used and never did know why you coupled the air. Innocent youth - now, you hope, wiser.

But he was never worried about his career.You were the boss.

HE was everybody's favorite Vice-President. He had started as a male stenographer, then had been chief clerk, trainmaster, assistant superintendent, and so on, until he was virtually running the whole railway. Such experience included an endless succession of investigations and taking of statements following derailments, run-through switches, cornered cars, engine failures, passenger-train delays, and similar misfortunes. Each case was to be sent upwards for review and disposition, with every officer at every level doing his best to balance discipline, encouragement, understanding, improvement, prevention, and education; covering up what he should or could; and cracking down if he must.

After 30 years this Vice-President's cheerful philosophy on all this emerged thus: "Now that we know the facts, what do we tell the management?"

F. H. HOWARD worked in Canadian Locamotive's erecting shop in Kingston, Ont., and in the machine shop of Canadian Pacific's Angus Shops in Montreal during vacations between college semesters. He wrote his Bachelor's thesis on steam-locomotive design, and upon graduation he went to work for Bert Mimms and Harry Bowen in Room 1000 in CP Mechanical Department's HQ in Windsor Station, Montreal. After a tour of duty in Northwest Europe as a Canadian Army Captain, he returned to design work in Room 1000, then went on the road as shop foreman in various roundhouses, steam and diesel.

Howard spent the years 1950 - 1970 in the employ of General Motors, working up to Coordinator of New Product Development at the locomotive plant in London, Ont. [see his "Piggyback and the Portager" articles in April and May 1977 TRAINS]; later he became Chief Engineer at Frigidaire.

He was appointed to his present position as President of Halicon and Halterm, operators of the Halifax (N.S.) container terminal, in 1971. He is a Registered Professional Engineer in Nova Scotia, a member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Canadian Railway Club, Transportation Research Forum, and Upper Canada Railway Society. His "two most recent interesting experiences": following abandoned rights of way in Colorado by car and by foot; and visiting the railway museum in York, England, with fellow TRAINS author Fred Margetts.

Trains July 1977 © Kalmbach Publishing reprinted with permission

CLICK HERE to see 5750 at Lambton, working the Parkdale Transfer, shown switching its own van to the other end of its train, the only switching transfers were required to do, making the Day Transfer a sought-after job for senior men. Use the BACK button to return here.

What's New ~ Articles ~ Stories ~ Archives ~ Photographs ~ Preservation ~ Library ~ Home

Old Time Trains © 2001