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From The Archives Part 6

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  • joseph Klapkowski
    Well now a rather thrilling start to my Sperry Career what with giant sink holes attempting to swallow up the whole Sperry Car. We tested south on the old
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2006
      Well now a rather thrilling start to my Sperry Career what with giant sink
      holes attempting to swallow up the whole Sperry Car. We tested south on the
      old Hojack and passed through places like Adams, Lacona, Richland and
      Pulaski. It was at this latter spot that I spent a weekend by myself on the
      car. It is funny the only clear recollection I have of that weekend was
      watching a frieght train go by. Pulaski was a division point of sorts.
      Coming south from Watertown the old "Hojack" went west toward Oswego along
      Lake Ontario. The track to the south went to Syracuse. Of course by the time
      I had arrived in 1979 the line between Oswego and Mexico had been pulled up.
      I do remember that there were still three tracks coming off of the
      Watertown-Syracuse main. I can not recall how far they went but I am looking
      at a photo I took of the Sperry Car there and it appears that this was the
      MofW deprtment's storage area.There was a wooden depot that was boarded up.
      I can not seem to locate a photo of that old depot either. I must have taken
      a picture of it though.

      Anyway we tied up at Pulaski for the weekend and come to think of it it must
      have been Memorial day weekend because I do remember it was a three day
      weekend. Anyhow somewhere along the line that weekend, and I do not remember
      seeing the train specifically but one of those trains had a six axel unit
      that broke the flange on the center axel. Tuesday we started testing and we
      tested 36 inches at a time.Seems the broken flange put a real dig into the
      one rail from Pulaski south. this made testing painfully slow and Ivan sat
      at the table for longer periods than usual trying to ferret out the real
      rail problems from the not so bad ones. as a consequence we did not get very
      many miles in for the next few days It seems the offending locomotive was
      dragged all the way to Dewitt with this broken flange smashing the rail.

      This caused quite a furor all up and down the railroad because we were
      finding too many serious defects each day. That in turn caused the railroad
      to slow order the track or take it completely out of service if the defect
      was too bad and not run any trains. I can not say exatly why i think this
      but I believe there were three "Road trains" each way each day plus at least
      one local. We were always in the way it seemed.

      I recall two specific occassions when we went into the hole for no apparent
      reason. At this point we had the Supervisor of Track on board. The first
      time we went in the hole, it was a track that went around the side of the
      depot while the main went around the other side. I want to say it was Lacona
      but I do not really know for sure. The depot was boarded up but the door had
      been forced open and I wandered in while we were waiting. It was like
      stepping back into time. The ticket agent window was there and the place had
      not been touched in a decade or more. ther was no junk onthe floor and
      except for some dust, it could have been open for business tomorrow.

      The next time we went in the hole it was a slightly more dramatic event. I
      was up front when we came to a switch. I gave the buzz then lifted the right
      carraige with the toggle switch. I got an acknowledgement that the operator
      in the rear had lifted his toggle switch and that was my signal to return my
      toggle switch to the down position. If either switch was in the up position
      the carraige was up. If my switch was up and the switch in the detector room
      was in the down position the carrage would be up. So when I lifted, the
      operator in the rear lifted, acknowledged that he was in control by giving
      me a buzz back. I then returned my toggle switch to the down position. The
      operator in the rear, looking out the window would see the frog as it
      appeared from under the car and return the carriage to the down position.

      So back to the story. The dispatcher apparently wanted the railroad back.
      There were few (if any) sidings but there were a few, very old side tracks
      that serviced businesses that were no longer there. Now remember the
      offending locomotive a week earlier was causing us to find 10 serious
      defects by 11 am. So I went over the switch, lifted the carraige and got the
      acknowledgement and gave the control back to the operator in the rear. We
      went a couple of sticks and then came the stop.

      I digress again. There was no hard and fast rule about staying in the
      engineman's seat. If everyone got off on the back and lets say mother nature
      called, you might drop down and run over to the brush and water the flowers.
      Frankly, as a practical matter the less water you used on the car the better
      because you always wanted to make sure you had enough water to test with. I
      always took the opportunity to drop to the ground and look over the car. It
      was also a liitle warn and uncomfortable in the engineman's cab because we
      had an exhaust leak in the exhaust stack. This is something else we will
      discuss later.

      So we stopped and then I got the signal to back up. Ivan and the railroad
      guy were on the ground and he gave me a quick clench of the fist as he moved
      it accross his chest signalling stop.

      I dropped to the ground. And I digress yet again. I loved sliding to the
      ground from the operator's cab. You grabbed the grabiron and with one hand
      hanging on i could slide to the ground in one swift but controlled movement.
      At 19 it was fun. Today I would probably break a bone. Okay now on to the
      point. I slide to the ground and it turns out Ivan and the track supervisor
      are talking about going in on this creamery track that had not seen a train
      in twenty or more years. Ivan wanted to know if the tack supervisor would
      authorize the use of the track and gauranty that we would not go on the
      ground. The track supervisor seemed a little reluctant to say okay but he
      eventually did. the ivan told me to get out of the way junior (gotta love
      that nickname) and he manned the throttle. I must have climberd up the
      ladder after him because I remeber standing in the middle of the car
      opposite the control stand as we began to move the jungle. A tangle of brush
      and vines and branches scrapped the side of the Sperry Car poking in the
      window which we left open. once we pierced the canopy the car moved forward
      slowly, slipping a little bit as we christened rail that had not seen a
      flange in decades. the side view mirror tuned flat against the side of car
      from the brush. remember the floor of the car was five feet off the ground.
      We had pushed against a tangled mass of vegitation that would make a spider
      proud. Then we stopped. We had not traveled 70 maybe 80 feet to get in the
      clear and not very fast. But now my Sperry Car looked like an arboritum. But
      we were still on the rails!.

      We then waited in the hole for the "train" that we were supposed to get in
      the clear for. We waited. And we waited, and waited and waited. Probably for
      four hours. If we knew it was going to be that long we would have taken on
      some maintenance project. But we waited. it is hard to remember exactly what
      we did but around 2pm after acouple hours of standing around in the brush
      the dispatcher called and he was going to give us the railroad to get into
      the clear for the night. I never saw a train. I think we went back to
      Pulaski. The point is that we were sidetarcked a few times during that next
      week all because of that broken wheel.

      In the next edition I will pick up the pace a little bit. Until then
      .......oh one thing I wanted to mention before closing. We had a sander on
      the Sperry Car. Never ever use the sander I was told. I am not even sure
      what the proper use of the sander is on a Sperry Car. And that brings us to
      the close of another edition of "From The Archives", that come as you please
      feature that makes them ask, where'd he get that?
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