The Sperry experience was a great deal of fun as is evidenced by the fact
that I can remember it 27 years later. However there were some sobering
moments. If you forget about the time that one of us dropped the testing
carriage on the frog (it wasn't me) and the time that I ran the red (that
was me), and the sink hole that tried to swallow the Sperry Car whole, well
we really did not have much in the way of bad experiences (except for the
heart palpatation when I met the Conrail cop in Buffalo).
Let me explain about maintenance. the most simple example was the cleaning
of the detector room. Generally the detector room floor was swept and mopped
before we went in the hole. That is simple housekeeping.
One afternoon we went in the hole and I think it was while we were on the
Waterlevel Main. Ivan became aware that we were going to be in the hole for
several hours. So we used the slack adjuster to fix up the brakes. I can not
remember exactly how it worked but we applied the hand brake and then ran a
BIG nut up the adjuster. Somewhere along the line in the process Ivan looked
under the car and saw a whole lotta metal. There were two lining bars, three
large crow bars etc.... I think a lot of it was left along the Right of Way.
Anyway another one of the maintenance things was to fix rthe rubber tires
that held the transponders that were set at 45 degrees to the rail (did I
get that right Gordon?) This was a tough job when you were moving because
the wheels were put togther with hex bolts and they had to be filled with
this mineral oil like liquid and you had to get all the air out.
The other thing that you had to do was lengthen the brushs on the induction
equipment. These were metal brushes about half an inch wide and six inches
long. There was a bolt on the outside of the brush holder and you loosened
the bolt with a ratchet and let the brush down.
One day, it was a beautiful morning, bright blue Kodachrome skies, low
humidity maybe the mid seventies. Jimmy was up front while Rodger and I were
in the rear with Ivan. I was testing while Rodger was Rodgering and Ivan was
watching both of us. We heard one buzz indicating that we were at the end of
the siding. We stopped.
Ivan got up to get a cup of coffee. He told Rodger to relieve Jimmy up
I was of course sitting at the testing table. The railroad guy had to get
permission to back up on the siding. It was taking some time to get Lyko
Tower on the radio. I think we were somewhere south of Keating Summit
Well with all these people moving about the Sperry Car I decided that it
would be good to check the brushes. It was sort of like second nature. For
instance anytime you were in the hole or waiting for a signal you might go
around the car and open the cock on the bottom of an air reservoir just to
let the condensation out. You did not open it for very long, just long
enough to make sure the water was out. If you did it often, less than ten
So it appeared we would sit for a few minutes. I went into the engineroom
and got the ratchet, then slid under the chain by open baggage door and down
to the ballast. In order to lengthen the brushes you had your shoulder up on
the rail and reached around to the inside to get at half of the nuts while
the other half faced out on the opposite side of the carrier. I do not
remember how many brushes there were but I think it was on the order of ten
or twelve. You only had to adjust the short ones. So there I am under the
Sperry car and thinking this is a great day and sort of doing the job
Then I hear a very familiar sound.
The air is off.
I roll off to the side of the right of way.
The Sperry Car begins to move backwards.
From automatic reaction, to fear to anger, I guess that is how I could
describe the emotions.
One minute I am under the Sperry Car doing what I have been taught to do ("A
Sperry Man is always busy Junor ) The next thing I hear the air and roll
The SRS 145 rolls harmlessly past me and down the track.
Rodger, now going backwards is not really looking up as his eyes are in the
detector room. I gather myself and just lay there for a moment, the warm sun
shining on my face. I sit up.
The Sperry Car stops. Rodger has spotted me.
He climbs down. I stand up and start walking toward the car.
I do not remember the conversation but I am sure it went somehing like this,
"Are you allrigth?"
"Yeah I am fine".
By this time the whole car was aware of what had happened.
I must have left the inspection room after Rodger went forward `
Jimmy came through the car and should have asked ,"Where is junor?"
He did not and since he did not have a checklist it was natural that he saw
The railroad guy got Lyko Tower on the phone and gave the ok to back up on
the siding .
Jimmy gave Rodger three to go.
No one knew I was on the ground.
Someone should have missed me tough.
I walked back to the car and pulled the socket and ratchet off the bolt
where I had left them. i threw them up on the engineroom floor.
Then I walked back to the rear stairs and went into the detector room. I
announced that I was going for coffee and I would be back in an half hour or
Ivan did not say anything.
Jimmy probably tried to say something but I do not remember clearly.
Ivan understood what was going on and did not interfere. If you were going
to be a Sperry Man great! But he was not going to baby you.
About a half hour later I reappeared.
I sat in the kitchen the whole time trying to decide whether to be mad or
Life's a bitch. What goes around comes around. Or the Sperry Car can be a
very dangerous place.
That night Ivan came out with a new rule.
"The Sperry car shall not move until everyone is accounted for."
And that is another edition of "From The Archives"
What's in your archives?