Okay. I believe we have covered enough of how the Sperry car works to launch
into the Sperry Car Rememberances..........
I worked on the SRS 145 from June to August 1979. Back then there were no
universal cash ATM's. If you had a cash mania card as we refered to the
Marine Midland cards of the day t only worked at Marine. This will become
importatnt later. Also we did not have cell phones. when you were on the
road you were on the road !
I interviewed with Gary at Sperry in Danbury Connecticut in May. He
explained that they had seveal cars in need of crews. One car in Arizona
needed a man and another in Canada needed a man. At the time I was just
completing my freshman year at SUNY Oswego, on the very eastern edge of Lake
Ontario. By May it was a great relief to see the bare ground again. The
prospect of going to Arizona on a Sperry Car sounded great.
When I got the call a few weeks later, I was a little dismayed when I got
the assignment. The SRS 145 was in Watertown New York, not far from Oswego.
How I got there was up to me but I was expected to be there Monday morning
at 7 am. having been home for a couple of weeks I told my then temporary
employer a cab company in 0ssining, N.Y. that I would not be taking the
Saturday night shift and that they better cross me off the list as I was
going to work for Sperry.
Sunday I took Amtrak to Syracuse and then got a bus to Watertown. It was a
nice day until I got into the North Country when the big black thunderheads
moved in. Arriving at Watertown I got a cab and asked the driver to take me
to the railroad yard. It is a little hazy exactly how far the yard was from
the depot but I do recall the yard looking largely abondoned. When we got
there we drove down a dirt road. I recall seeing boarded up yard buildings
and finally the yelow car with the black band aroud the middle with the
words Automation Industries.
The cab departed and I banged on the door. Nothing. I was also in a part of
the yard far from anything. It was getting cold and dark and began to
drizzle. The wind gently wistled through the brush. I ws not at all certain
about what to do. Some might even say I was a little bit scared. I hoofed it
back to a pay phone and called Gary back at Danbury. He then shared with me
a little known trick for getting into a locked Sperry Car. You will excuse
me if I do not share it with you all right here.
Now I went back to the car and was able to get in. I found an empty room and
put the conents of my duffel bag into the drawers in the empty bunk when I
heard a noise at the rear of my new workplace. I opened the door to the rear
engine room and the sliding baggage door slid open. The man that looked up
at me through the semi darkness wore glasses and seemed to be kind of
surprised to see me there. He climbed up into the car followed by another
man and another much younger fellow. The lead man was Chief Operator Ivan
Owen whom I later found out was Supervisor. I can not remember the second
man's name other then to say he lived in the same town as Ivan and was
folowed by Jimmy Langdon, who I would guess was just a little bit older than
me. After some introductions and being instructed to get out of Ivan's room,
I was then told that Jimmy would show me the routine in the morning. We then
retired for the evening.
The next morning I got my indoctination into preparing the Sperry Car for
operation. Jimmy showed me how to start the rear engine. He primed it and
then gently pulled the lever that engaged the pulleys to run the engine. He
then took me outside and showed me how to climb the ladder. There is a metal
cover that covers the steps near the top to keep you off the roof of the
car. It was locked and you had to unlock it, move the hinged cover to the
side and then climb up. Then you dropped down the garden hose and filled the
water tanks that were on the roof. Every morning the Sperry Car needed
water. The wheels that housed the ultrasonic equipment needed water in front
of them to get a good signal. Plus we needed to shower and have drinking
water. Our toilet also worked off that water.
The "computer" also needed to be calibrated every morning. frankly I do not
remember much about it and I would suspect that the tube technology has been
replaced by now. Calibration involved moving some dials until the needle on
the gauge was in the center or something like that. It appeared to me to be
Besides that there was the paint pot. Everytime there was a potential defect
yellow paint was squirted onto the rail and on the center of the tie. Every
morning I had to open the paint pot and pour in a little paint and a little
There were other chores as well but I do not remember them all. There were
some things hat were weekly and some that were monthly. Remember the garden
house. It will figure prominently into a later installment of "From The
Archives", that come as you please bit of railroad trivia that makes them
ask, "Where'd he get that"..........................