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
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?