So I started my first day on the Sperry Car at Watertown NY. It was fairly
cool as is often the case in the Adirondacks in early June. As I said in the
earlier installment, I was shown the basics of how to set up the car. Then I
climbed aboard, had a cup of coffee and a cigarette and we began the day.
(By the way this was at a time when the real dangers and stupidity of
smoking were not as obvious as today).
Anyway I spent about 15 minutes in the detector room trying to figure out
what was going on. I recall the Chief telling me to "Stand there" to his
left and slightly behind him so I could see what was going on. I did not
know it right then but he did not expect me to last the week.
About 15 minutes went by and then I was taken up front to the enginman's
position. I had spent lots of time in the cabs of EMDs and ALCOs. The
control stand of a Sperry Car was, in comparison, simple. I took a
photograph of the engineman's position on the SRS 145 and I will use it to
describe the configuration.
First you sat right up front. The window looking forward was about 30"x 45".
On the right at about 2 oclock was a white phone that was the intercom
beween the engineman and the detector room.
At about 5 oclock was the throttle and in front of that was the reverser. At
six oclock was the brake handle.
To the left of that at about 7 o'clock was a square box with a speedometer
on the top left, and RPM gauge on he top right. Below this were three lights
that would tell you the position of the detector carraige on the rear truck.
There were toggle switches below that which the operator used to lift either
the right or left or both carraiges. Lifting the carraige activated the
light. Below that are two buzzers that you use to tell the operator in the
detector room what carraige you are going to lift.
There is a side window on the rigth with an arm rest and a rear view mirror
so you can see backing up.
The top of the box was where you put your cigaretes, coffee, soda
So we started off and I was allowed to watch the goings on in the detector
room for 15 minutes or a half hour then went up front. I sat down after
watching the operator and they stood behind me while I became the student. I
guess there was some conversation between the chief and the operator who was
tutoring me because after about 45 minutes I found myself alone. At least
that is what I thought. Every so often I would catch the operator hanging
onto the side ladder watching me. I was never so surprised as when I heard
something, turned around and saw the chief watching me from the kitchen
I pretty much spent the whole morning up front and there was always someone
there when we came to a frog to make sure I didn't ----up lifting the
carriages. This will be an important point later.
I did get a chance to sit in the detector room for a portion of that
afternoon and actually get on the ground and see how the hand wand test
worked. I guess that should be the next thing I could explain. When the
operator, looking at the main tape, sees a sqwiggle and there is no joint,
then he gives one buzz to the engineman who then stops. The engineman would
then look in the rear view mirror and see the operator on the bottom step at
the rear of the car giving the hand signal to back up. Perhaps somewhat
unlike the railroad's hand signals the speed of the movemet of the
operator's hand told you how close you were and to put the air on. This will
be hard to descibe but I will try. I am basically looking at the operator's
back and his left arm. He is backing me up with a circular arm motion. As we
got closer his arm movemenmt would slow way down and then there would be a
sudden clenching of the fist as you drew your fist from your left side about
shoulder height to your chest out of sight of the engineman. This was a stop
signal. At the same time the operator would drop to the ground and as the
car came to a stop, the operator would step behind the car.This is another
important point that will come up later.
The next thing would be to grab the bottle of soapy water and wet the rail.
Then you take the wand which was a hand search unit that you move along the
top of the rail. There was an ocsillascope in a yellow metal box hanging
just below where the coupler would be if the Sperry Car had one on the
detector end. Moving the wand along the rail would allow you to see up close
what the condition of the rail was. If there was a defect you marked it
with a yellow lumber crayon and a piece of green DY tape covered with a
piece of ballast so that the following railroad personel (usually in a high
rail, sometimes in a burro crane) could see it and figure out what to do.
I will stop here for a moment to explain something about how the detector
car interacts with the railroad people. If there is a serious defect
generally the railroad will change the rail on the spot. It is up to the
railroad not the Sperry people. The Track Supervisor usually rode the car
during the inspection. Sperry people explained the severety of the defect
but the railroad decided what to do about it.
As it is getting late I will close here. Tomorrow we will begin our trip
down the "Hojack" to places like Pulaski, the creamery track, Woodard and
the waterlevel mainline. We will hear about the sink hole, Memorial Day
weekend, washing the Sperry Car............
I had no idea the amount of detail I would go into so it appears that we
will discuss the M form, the carriage problem and the Pennsy Signal debate
along with garden hose incident and the Ossining Football Jersey. Later we
will talk about Franklinville, sliding to a stop on the grade, lookin out
for snakes and riding the GG-1s. Also flying high over the Susquehana,
Nuclear problems and running backwards, stalling on the crossovers and
cooking among the brakeshoes...................
Until then we will wait until the next installment of "From The