We left MILES and continued south. we came into a small town. I remember
wondering what the heck kind of place this was where the railroad goes down
the middle of the street on its own right of way. We got to the mainline.
Let me say that differently. THE MAINLINE ! There were four or more tracks,
well ballasted, superelevated signaled and there was traffic. We were on THE
MAINLINE! And we were facing WEST! That meant we were headed toward ALTOONA
As an aside I had managed to photograph every one of the ex New Haven FL-9's
except the 5011 and the 5032. They were supposedly in Altoona. I was excited
to say the least. Somehow being a Sperry Employee gave you a certain kind of
immunity when railfanning, as long as it was low key. A lot of this end of
the trip is cloudy for me or even forgotten. It was much busier. And we had
to pay a lot more attention. Trains were moving all around us all the time.
I believe we headed straight toward Altoona. There was some signal that we
were supposed to give to the rear end when a train was coming on an adjacent
track in the opposite direction but I have long since forgotten what it was.
At one point we were testing the main and there were few defects, but those
that we did find were pretty significant. I recall I was in the testing room
and we came upon a defect that should not have been there. There was
something back then called an Allegheny Joint. It was a field weld with a
funny kind of bowed bar on either side. I think there were only two bolts. I
recall having a debate about it, or rather Ivan having a discussion with one
of the railroad guys. I think the idea at the time was they did not entirely
trust field welds.
Anyway i am in the testing room and we get a sqwiggle of the pens. No joint
or anything but I look at Ivan and sense that something is not right because
he looks puzzled. He says something like "Junor what's that ?"
" I don't know, there is no joint."
"Think we better stop?" he asks somewhat retorically.
So we do the thing and as I back the car up he is already looking at the
rail. He has that look that tells me I am about to learn something.
"Junor, look here," he says. So I go over to where there is no joint and I
kneel over the rail.
"No look right there Junor" "In the weld."
Sure enough the weld has pulled apart.
Ivan calls the railroad guy down to inspect the pull apart. it is fairly
unusual but welded rail is a relatively new thing. Anything that happens is
well, new. The two rails just pulled right apart like they were not even
attached to each other. Of course this weld did not have an allegheny join
either so you could have taken a piece of paper and slide it between the
ends of the rails.
The railroad guy looked mystified. He did not know what to make of it. Ivan
said well you better get a welding crew because bars are not going to do it.
I think it was about that time that they decided to put the Sperry Car away
for the day.
I am up front. I get one to stop and see the carriage lights go out. I get
three to back up. I pull on the throttle. I am looking in the rear view
mirror. But I do not see anyone.
Then I get four. I have never had four before. The phone rings. "Junor pull
back on that throttle"
I do. The speedometer starts to climb, 20, 25, 30, 35 I get four again. I
pull back more. The speedometer goes to 40, 45, the phone rings. "Pull it
all the way" Ivan says.
Somewhere after 55 I stopped thinking. I am looking in there rear view
mirror because I can not get comfortable with the idea that I am backing up
so fast without seeing where I am going.
We are on the main and the dispather wants his track back. So we are
rumbling along backwards, at least to me it is backwards, and the Sperry Car
is sort of jumping around a little bit. I am very uncomfortable to say the
least. We go along for a good amount of time. Probably five or six miles.It
is unnerving to say the least. We are going along and then i get a strange
signal. At the same time the phone rings, "Slow down Junor." But they do not
want me to stop.
I put some air on, we begin to slow, 45, 35, 30, 25, I get four more which
in Sperry parlance means whatever you are doing, do more of it. In this case
slow down more.
The chief calls again, "Junor we are going to stop behind a signal. When I
give you one to stop stop past the signal".
Here we go again with signals I think to myself.
We go a mile or so at a greatly reduced speed and I get another four. We
slow to 15, 10 I pass under a signal brige. Stop.
Now I am looking at the mainline searchlight signals. We have an absolute
The railroad guy is looking out the back door and after some time I see the
switch go over in front of me. The dwarf goes yellow but the signal is still
red. The phone rings.
"Junor you have the signal." Remmebe I am not supposed to interpret signals.
I decide not to mention it. From the tone in Ivan's voice there is some
urgency with this move.
I get the yellow dwarf, see the switch has gone over and proceed onto the
adjoining main track.
Now we have to do a see saw kind of motion from one main to the next, the
back forward again so that we are on the extreme outsidemain tack. The plan,
as I would learn later, was to pu us in on old side track just to the
outside of the interlocking.
We get to the outside main track. I am now past the signal and am taking
instructions from the rear.
I get three to back up. We are at this time basically fouling two main
tracks. Don't ask me how, I do not remember the track setup but there was a
great deal of pressure to get the Sperry Car out of the way. I get three to
back up. I throw the reverser and pul back on the throttle (actually in may
be push forward on the throttle).
The phone rings, "Junor go backwards! Pull back and lets go." What are you
doing up there? Ivan demanded.
"I am ," I replied, "Listen to this," I took the phone and hung it outside
my window so he could hear the engine.
The next thing I knew Ivan was coming through the door. "JUNOR!!!!!!"
He sat down. He put the Sperry car into reverse. He hit the throttle. Te
engine roared. The Sperry Car stood still.
this was one of those increibily tense moments that niether Ivan nor I
I had also never seen him in the engineman's seat before.
"Junor, go get the bigest screwdriver you can find. It has to have a plastic
or wooden handle!" The sense of urgency was not lost on me.
When i returned he had the electric panel opened. "Put that screwdriver
right in there!" He ordered.
I did what he said.
"Now don't touch anything metal!"
I was alittle confused. But I did what he said. The Sperry car began to move
backwards. We did another see saw manuver and got into a side track.
I was then given the honor of replacing the offending electrical component.
Just remember don't touch anything metal.............
Whats in your archives ??????????????????