Well I took a few days off and today I finally got a good afternoon of
railfanning in so I am charged to hit the keys again.
I would also like to thank all of those who have provided good sidebar to
this discussion. For reasons that would be clear if I posted them, some of
the related but unpublished stories need to be kept unpublished.
And now without further delay.....
Lets see, we were headed down the Harrisburgh main and I had become
"familiar" with Pennsy position light signals. As we headed further south we
passed East Aurora and I called my friend Tommy B who lived accross the hall
from me at Oswego. Tom was surprised to say the least. We had a great
weekend visiting Ali Babab's which was the name of the bar in the basement
of an otherwise respectable restuarant.
As we proceeded south on theHarrisburgh main i was taken aback at how
desolate it was. We passed through Machias which (I think) was where the B&O
(now R&S) crossed at grade. We were getting closer to the Pennsylvania state
I was hoping to get onto the ex NYC lines into Clearfiled for no other
reason than they were Ex NYC lines.
One nigth we get a tie up in Franklinville NY. The MofW chief put us into a
side track that was not far off the main. Ivan did not really know the guy
and I remember he gave the Track suprevisor a little bit of a hard time.
Ivan did not want to be so close to the main. It was one of the few times I
saw Ivan look really uncomfortable. The upshot of it all was we were going
in on this track because there wasn't another track.
I asked ivan afterward why he did not like the tie up. "Junor", he said with
a long pause, "If there is something sticking out of the side of the train
it will cut right through the Sperry car."
We had chatted asbout that from time to time but this time it carried a
little more seriousness. In any event we went into the side track which was
right near the old boarded up station. I can not remember if it was the
passenger station or the freight station but it was of the board and batten
variety and definately not of New York Central design. I tjhink this was one
of those occassions where we cooked a steak on some brake shoes alongside
After a tasty repast we went for a walk downtown. In Franklinville there is
not a whole lot of downtown. I do have the distinct rememberance that in the
immediate vicinity of the station there were cobblestones or bricks. So as
was the custom at the time, we walked downtown and had a libation. Well that
was the plan. the bartender did not want to serve me. He did not like my ID
and he was not to be convinced otherwise. I recall that Ivan was a bit
peturbed at the guy. After a few minutes I said it was okay I would just go
back to the car. I think i may have been wearing Frye boots and that was
what made the cobblestones by the station so clear in my mind. (For those
not familiar, in 1978 or thereabouts Frye boots were very popular. They were
basically square toed cowboy boots. Very comfortable with a 2 inch heel).
Anyway I go back to the Sperry Car, slide back the door to the engine room
and climb aboard. I went into the living room (what did they call it on
other cars). An aside since it just came to mind. Ivan at some point
decided that we should start studying the Sperry instruction manual. This is
NOT the Sperry Manual that is distributed to visitors. it is a three ring
binder that has a bunch of "leesons" and questions. When you can pass it all
and have enough experience the Chief can recommend your promotion to
Operator. So I am sitting there at the dining room table reading the manual
and I hear it. I looked up and yes there it was, the definite rumble of EMD
prime movers. I closed the book and went back to the detector room. I looked
out into the fading summer evening light and see a headlight off in the
distance. HMMMMMMM to late to take a picture. I decide to leave the 35 MM in
I go back to the engine room and slide the door open and drop to the ground
in one motion sliding down the rail. Meanwhile the engines have gotten much
closer and they are rumbling loudly. The trio passes me as the gnats flee in
the onrushing wind from the train passing by. I watch and I guess there were
better than a hundred cars gone by when I realized there was a whole lotta
smoke coming from somewhere. the gondola that just went by is smoking like
you have never seen before. It looked like a hundred scouts at a camporee.
And it smelled bad.
I waited for the caboose to go by......(THAT IS CORRECT IN THOSE DAYS THEY
STILL USED CABEESE). On the rear was a pusher. I saw the big blue engine
(it looked like a Geep -30) and I decided to use hand signals to demonstarte
the message. As the engine passed by I held my nose and pointed down to the
rail. Besides the obvious problem (the guys on the rear might have never
seen the hotbox signal before) THERE WAS YET ANOTHER PROBLEM. Nobody was
looking when they pased me. I do not know if they were asleep or what but
they were nowhere to be seen in the engine cab.
The helper began to pass into the distance. The smoke was still heavy in the
I swatted the gnats that were reassembling around my head. It was almost
like there was no question about what to do next.
I climbed aboard the Sperry Car and through the Detector Room door.
I digress a moment. Let me explain something. The Sperry men NEVER USE THE
RAILROAD RADIO !
I enter the Detector room and turn to the "computer". I flick a couple of
switches and a bunch of red lights go on on the face of the computer. I am
drawing power directly from the battery.
"This is the SRS 145 to the southbound at Franklinville" I announced as
clearly as I could, " You have a hotbox 30 from the rear."
What do you think happened?
"This is the SRS 145 to the southbound at Franklinville, You have a hotbox
30 from the rear!"
Suddenly the radio came alive.
"Bill (I made the name up) is that you calling us? "
"No it is some SSS calling us."
"Aw i did see a Sperry Car in the hole back there "
"This is the SRS 145 to the southbound at Franklinville you have a hotbox 30
deep from the rear" I repeated.
Remember back a few I mentioned the word you did not want to hear
This was much worse.
"Yeah SRS are you sure about this?< the engineer asked," Have you ever seen
HMMMMMM now what to say. Actually I think it was more like holy cow what do
I say now?
"No I have never seen a hotox but there is a lotta smoke coming from under a
hopper about 30 deep from the rear!" I replied.
there was some conversation between the headend and the pusher. They decided
to stop and bak up. The rear end brakeman would drop off and ispect the
train. That is when the next worse possible thing could happen. I looked up
throught the detector room window and here comes Ivan and the crew. I turn
and flip the switches off. The radio goes dead.
Ivan climbs up. "Junor it looks like a god damn whore house. What are you
trying to do run down the battries?"
He did not wait for an answer but slammed the door behind him.
I went throught the detector room door and slid to the ground.
The train was backing up as I hit the ground. The summer air was warm and
humid and the mosquitoes were begining to bite. I walked down the roight of
way and watched someone drop off the now leading pusher. He walked away from
me about 200 yards down the track. Thepusher wa about to pass me when
another guy dropped off in front of me.
"are you the guy who called us" he asked?
"Yeah" I replied and pointed in the general direction of the Sperry Car.
just then the radio he had on his shoulder came alive. "Yeah Bill there's a
hotbox on here. God alive its hot.'
"Yeah did it melt the templestick, "the headend engineer asked.
"I did not even try Bill its just screaming hot. You better slow down
because its going to break off."
Then there was some conversation between the headend and LYKO tower
somehwhere to the south. The debate was where to set off the cripple. The
dispatcher was apparently unware of our (the Sperry car) presence on the
station track. okay then set it off on the creamery track the tower relayed
fromthe chief dispatcher. Yet another problem. the switch was spiked closed.
I volunteered a spkie puller from under the Sperry Car.
They backed the car off onto the spur right across from the SRS 145.
Standing still it was making more noise than a # 5 train going around the
corner at Fulton Street on the Lexington Avenue Line.
"We gave you a hard time because we went through a hotbox detector a few
miles back and there was no indication", the conductor noted.
"But its agood thing you stopped us because we have three cars of clorine
right behind that car and we would have gone on the ground for sure."
With that as a thank you the southbound departed and I climbed back aboard
the Sperry car. Ivan was sitting in the living room and asked what the
commotion was about.
"Hotbox" I replied and then turned in.
Ivan did not ask any more about it and I did not offer. But he was too sharp
not to have understood what had happened.
And thats it form the Archives.
Whats in your archives?