From The Archives Conrail MofW part 8
- I got bumped after a couple weeks and wound up going to T.E.Small's gang at
125th Street in Harlem. For those not familiar with the location, this is
the elevated portion of the track from the Harlem River down to 96th Street.
The track structure is essentially two tracks on a "bridge" which shares a
large girder on one side that is the outer portion of a second set of two
tracks on thier own bridge. If you are on the track structure you can move
only between two tracks, the center girdrer being too high to climb over.
The only place to get out of the way of an oncoming train on the viaduct is
to stand right up against the side of the viaduct where you had about 30
inches of clearance.
So we are in Al White's gang and the foreman comes up to us one day and says
we are being bumped. We did not really understand, (well I did but the other
guys did not). It turns out that I actaully kept some notes on what happened
that I did not remember I had.
Tuesday June 23, 1980. "Worked at B&G again. Same old stuff but today I got
bumped to 125th Street. So and so asked if I was leaving already. Tough luck
but we'll see what happens."
When we got to 125th street we wound up talking to the union rep and the
Assistant Track Foreman. We thought that perhaps we could all get to the
gang up in Brewster and after we reported to the Foreman we all went up to
the platform to take a train to Brewster to see about a job there (I think
there were three of us but at least two, myself and Chip, the ther college
guy). Then the Assistant Foreman a real shiny shoes, came up and said we had
to go downstairs. Now the gang lockeroom was in the basement of 125th Street
station about two two stories below the street. My notes say that it smelled
bad down there.
The good news is that the lockers, which were almost all empty, were lined
with blueprints of the right of way. More bad news. They were just bits and
pieces except for one that was a full plate or the railroad around Croton
Falls on the Harlem Division. I have it today.
My notes indicate that all the tools at 125th street were worn and or
Also according to my notes, often times if we were working on track 4, we
would try and get track 2 out of service as well. This did not always happen
and then it was much more dangerous. I spent some time describing the setup
on the Park Avenue Viaduct so this would make sense. What we did on the
Viaduct was dig out the cribs of ballast and all kinds of other crud that
had hardened into a concrete like mass. Remember this is essentially a
bridge but rather than just lay ties on I-beams there were long girders with
cross-members. in between the cross members there was a trough that wa
designed for the tie and into the trough went the ballast with the tie on
top. the ballast helped reduce vibration between the rail and the bridge
This is why we were lucky to do one tie a day. The process was that you had
to get the tie out first. This was accomplished with a track jack. Next you
started digging with a jack hammer. The hammer was powered by air and the
center beam of the viaduct, besides being high was also about 24 inches wide
and had an air supply running along the top with Chicago couplings every ten
or twenty feet. We had to take the hose, and get it under the running rails
on the adjacent track and then under the running rail on the out of service
track and then to the worksite. If the adjacent track was out of servixce no
problem. If it was not then the risk of an FL-9 or MU train with third rail
shoes increased the likelihood that an air hose could get "picked" and start
dragging it and the hammer down the right of way.
It was a dangerous environment. More so than the normal railroad right of
way because there was no place to run, M Form or not.
And with that I will close. Next edition we will talk about T.E Small,
getting to work on time, the time we started work, the man in the
delicatessen, riding the train and other odds and ends.
So let me ask.........What's in your archives???????????????????????